How To Edit Your College Application Essay

Writing and editing are the yin and yang of producing an essay.  First you write. Then you cut, add, juggle sentences, clarify, make words more specific.

Edit #1  Get Your Message Across

•Make sure your essay answers the entire question

•Ask yourself, “What does the reader learn about me from this?”

•Be willing to revise the structure or toss out and start over

•Main points near the beginning or in first sentence of a paragraph

•Show, don’t tell” and reflect wherever possible

•Your first sentence should draw in the reader

•Let the essay “marinate” between edits

•Eliminate “Red Flags” — words that make you feel uncomfortable because they are too personal, emphasize your weaknesses, give the wrong impression, distract people from the big picture

Edit # 2   Ask For Feedback

•Read out loud from paper

•Describe the kind of feedback you’re looking for

•“Thank you for reading” is one option

•Ask listeners to recall:

-exact phrases

-what they learned about you

-parts of the essay that confused them, intrigued them, made them uncomfortable

Edit #3  Smooth It Out

•Print and read out loud

•Listen for awkward phrasing, inconsistency, don’t write “you” when you mean “I”

•Delete generalities and clichés

•Make verbs specific, e.g., “went” can be flew, walked, drove, skipped

•Smooth transitions between paragraphs

•Use a spell checker

Edit # 4  Use Another Set of Eyes

•Print two copies, ask the other person to read out loud

•Mark up your copy with changes he or she suggests or errors you notice

•Don’t hand or email your essay to others and ask them to mark it up and send back—why?

•Don’t use words unless they feel right for you

•Use a spell checker, grammar checker

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