Ask Your College Counselor: How To Edit Your Application Essay

When writing college application essays, you can expect to write at least a few drafts. If you find yourself struggling with stiffness, try to let go of the idea of formality in early drafts. Write casually at first, maybe as if you’re writing to a friend. This can help loosen you up enough to find your authentic voice for your admissions essay and get your ideas out.

In the end, your college essay shouldn’t read like a letter to a friend, but in early drafts, taking a more casual tone can be helpful for establishing a fluid narrative and a cohesive structure. You can formalize and polish your essay in later drafts. And if you need more help, our college admissions counselors can help you with your college essay, applications, scholarships, and more.

Here are some of the things that may require you to edit your college application essay or even rewrite it entirely:

You Didn’t Write From The Heart

Passion is important in writing your college admission essay. You want to present yourself to the school in a favorable light — but if you tried to write about something that you don’t have strong feelings about, your college essay shows it. And you probably need to start over.

Once you’ve picked a topic, theme, or moment in your life to write about, sit down and write for about an hour. This is as long as it should take to pen the first draft. When you’re writing from an honest place, the words for your first draft should flow smoothly.

Then, put it away for a few days and come back to it, but only complete this process once. Rereading your essay or asking for endless opinions is not the college admissions essay help that you need. Instead, it will only drive you nuts!

If you’re having trouble getting started on your essay, or letting go of the last “final” draft, let our admissions counselors advise you on the essay help that’s best for you. Our counselors have decades of experience across hundreds of colleges and universities. That’s just the edge you need.

You Pretended To Be Something You’re Not

You may have picked a great topic for your college application essay, you may have written from the heart, but somewhere along the way, you became too conscious of your audience and your writing became stilted and false.

Yes, some colleges do give a little extra attention to disadvantaged students as a way to even the playing field. However, “roughing up” your background won’t help your case–in fact, it will hurt you in the long run. The purpose of a college essay is to give a peek into how your mind works, your goals, worldview, and perspective. If you have never had an earth-shattering experience or struggled with socioeconomic issues, for example, don’t pretend that you have. This will make your insights sound forced.

Remember that’s its less about the topic and more about what you have to say about the world. Beautiful insights can happen in the smallest of moments just as often as they can happen in crisis. Pick a moment that is true to yourself. And if you find yourself too nervous and conflicted to think clearly at times like this, our college admissions counselors can help with test and essay anxiety, too.

You Overused Your Thesaurus

You picked a great topic, you wrote from the heart, you were sincere and forthright in your college admission essay about who you really are as a student — but then you opened up your thesaurus and poured out a lot of long or unfamiliar words.

Your voice in your college admissions essay should sound natural. There are designated portions of your application for showing off a huge vocabulary.

Write how you speak. Using “SAT words” and literary buzzwords can distance readers — and you don’t want that for college admissions! Aim for a slightly polished version of your own speaking voice. You want to edit for things like grammar and punctuation, but you don’t want to add in a bunch of words you wouldn’t normally use.

It can feel difficult to find your voice when you feel pressure to market yourself for college admissions, like a weird blend of writing a diary entry and a press release at the same time! That’s why our college admissions counselors can be indispensable to your application process. They can manage all your paperwork (and deadlines!), review your coursework and make recommendations for strengthening your background, provide college essay help, and so much more. Let us help you present the best “you” you can be!

You Didn’t Get Fresh Eyes (An Editor) On Your College Application Essay After A Few Drafts

After writing several drafts of your admissions essay, it can be difficult to see it objectively. You know what you mean to say, but is your message coming across clearly? The best way to answer this question is by getting a fresh set of eyes on it.

While a relative or best friend may be able to give you some helpful feedback, it may not be what you can get from college admissions counselors who can advise you on what schools expect to see in an effective essay. Teachers, tutors, and other editors may be able to specify what works or doesn’t work — but is your essay persuasive for the right school for you?

At the end of the day, the personal essay is just another piece of the bigger picture of your college application. The holistic application will cover a prospective college student’s entire academic and extracurricular career, which includes academic achievements, volunteer work, sport, internships and many other unique stories. 

While it’s important to take the college essay seriously and present the most polished version possible, college essays alone will not determine a student’s college acceptance. Working with a college application specialist will provide your student with the appropriate guidance to walk them through the essay and application process. The goal is to alleviate stress, clarify tasks, meet deadlines, and produce quality essays that showcase your best qualities.

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