Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

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Writing College Application Essays: 5 Editing Tips

You’ve chosen the topic for your college application essay and written a draft or two. It’s a bit longer than you’d like and feels like it rambles in places. Now what? Edit.

Editing your college application essay will help make your thoughts flow more easily and your ideas stand out. It will certainly make it a more enjoyable reading experience for the college admissions reader.

Here are 5 tips for good editing:

1. Be objective. Take a step back and pretend you’re the college admissions reader. You’re looking for how well the student (you) writes, organizes your thoughts, and presents a picture of what makes you unique.

2. Don’t fall in love with your prose. You may have written the best sentence of your life in your college application essay, but if it doesn’t fit it has to go. Just to be clear: If it’s not helping you make your point, let it go. Cutting a great sentence can be painful, but take heart in knowing that you’re not alone. All writers have had to press that delete key, and hesitated a long time before doing it. It’s tough, but it’s necessary. Just remember, it’s the strength of what’s left that counts, and how your essay finally comes together as a whole.

3. Read your essay out loud. Reading your essay out loud is a great way to see where you need editing. You should be able to read your college application essay easily, without stumbling or stopping. If you stumble it’s possible your sentence structure is too formal. Or perhaps you’ve gone overboard with a string of adjectives, or used words that sound like they came from a thesaurus instead of directly from you. Take note of the rough spots, work on those areas, and then read it out loud again. This is an editing tip that works wonders.  (For more tips on how to write in your own voice, read my previous blog post, “Finding Your Authentic Voice.”)

4. Editing can be about adding as well as subtracting. Often we think of editing as removing something that’s not wanted. But when you re-read your essay you might find that an idea or transition doesn’t work not because there’s too much prose, but because there’s too little. If that’s the case then you need to add a sentence or two. If you’re not certain, ask someone who hasn’t read your essay to read it and make sure they understand the points you’re making. If they’re not as clear as you’d like them to be, you may be missing something.

5. Sleep on it. Put at least one night’s sleep between you and your college application essay. Then go back and read it again. It will do wonders for your objectivity and your editing.