Current Students Share Top Editing Tips for College Application Essays

When writing a college admissions essay, there are typically three phases or steps that students must complete: brainstorming, writing and revising. For some, the last step can seem like an irritating after-thought, but the revision phase of the writing process is just as important to a college admissions essay as it is to a high school English assignment.

But how do you proceed? How can you ensure your editing is top-notch and you impress admissions committees? Below, two current college students share their top editing advice.

[See: Infographic: What Makes a Strong College Essay.]

Approach the editing phase with a professional mindset. Whether you are preparing for an Early Action deadline in November or a regular decision deadline in January, you are likely overwhelmed with academic, extracurricular, familial and social commitments. As a result, you may be tempted to conserve your college application time by rushing through the editing phase.

This, however, is a mistake. You should instead approach your admissions essay edits with a professional mindset. One senior at Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville, Megan Grove, describes this technique as active editing. “Don’t be lazy in your editing,” she wrote in an email. “You must be an active editor in order to have a successful and professional-sounding essay.”

[Read: Top College Officials Share Notes On Great Application Essays.]

For some high school students, this may mean completing multiple rereads and rounds of revisions, as Grove did. For others, it might mean identifying “work hours” during which they will edit, and committing them to a calendar. You may also find it advantageous to create an editing “office” that is quiet and will allow you to solely focus on the task at hand. The quality of your revisions is likely to be much higher if you can avoid distracted editing.

Utilize all available resources. Grove and Lauren Stanciel, a freshman at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, both advocated for asking others to read your admissions essays. Whether you choose a parent or a teacher to act as your second pair of eyes, Stanciel suggests students should use all the resources available to them.

[Read: Ways for Parents, Students to Revise College Application Essays Together.]

“I used online grammar editors for basic small errors, and then I had people who had written lots of college essays before read them,” she wrote in an email. Even the best writer or editor may not notice every mistake in your college admissions essay, which makes digital tools like grammar checks a wonderful first step.

When identifying which resources to use, consider your weaknesses. Are you prone to relying on passive voice? Are your sentences very long or unclear? Once you know what you would like to improve, choose at least two different resources for doing so.

As Stanciel says, “You want colleges to read your best essays so that they can get an idea of what you at your best looks like.” The final crucial step in achieving this “best essay” is to thoughtfully edit your work.

With these revision tips, you can enter editing season confident and prepared.

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