Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

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Writing Successful College Essays: Revise, Revise, Revise

write a successful college essay: reviseToday’s post is a guest blog from my good friend and colleague, Debra Wilburn. For more than two decades, Debra has facilitated student development through career advising, first at Antioch College and now as Assistant Director of Career Services at Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio.

When I asked Debra what she’d like to write about, she knew immediately: the importance of revising your essays.

Here is Debra’s post:

I work with top-achieving students on essays for a competitive internship program. Along with a résumé, the student’s essay is circulated to hiring managers for review. This package is the first impression the students make: it either opens the door to the next step (an interview), or leads the manager to believe the student is not the right fit.

When that first door opens and they make good professional contacts, the students find other doors opening, and step by step they build interesting, rewarding careers.

It all starts with their essay.

And yet – they often complain about the work of writing it.

Specifically, they complain about my requirement for revising the essay.

They say things like:

I don’t think I need to revise it. I get As on all my papers.
Professors have never complained about my writing before.
Is this really necessary?
It looks good to me.

Me is not the audience for the essay!

After they’ve revised the essay, they say things like:

I thought I was a good writer, but now I know there’s always room for improvement.

I wish someone had challenged me like this before.

Thank you for pushing me.

These top-achieving students do not bring me solid and winning essays on the first go-round. They get there by doing the work of revising.

An experienced reader can tell when revisions have been made in a written essay. Revising makes for a better quality piece of writing, but what may be more important is how evidence of revision speaks to the quality of the writer’s character: taking pride in what they produce and having conviction about the importance of their story. Even more significant is how evidence of revision lets the reader know that the writer truly values the opportunity that is in front of them and has worked hard to make a meaningful connection.

If you really want the opportunity, then do the work of revising the essay. Remember what my students say: Thank you for pushing me.

– Debra Wilburn has assisted her own and other students applying to and fulfilling internships, co-ops, study abroad, and career positions in New York; Washington, D.C; Boston; Los Angeles; San Diego; Miami;  Atlanta; Cork, Ireland; London, England; Paris, France; Sydney, Australia; Greece, and other destinations.  Prior to working at public institution Wright State, Debra was a faculty member in the co-op department at Antioch College, a private, liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Since 1998, she has been a campus liaison to the Disney College Program and The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. She is the parent of a National Merit Finalist and founder of FilmDayton. Debra earned her B.A. from Cornell University, and her M.A. from Wright State University.