Five Major Tips for Editing your College Essay

By: Caroline Koppelman

Editing is a necessary skill to ensure your essay is coherent and also communicates enough about you. A lot of students get stuck on the idea of telling the admissions officers exactly what they think they want to hear, which can lead to their submission of an essay that realistically says nothing unique. By revising your essay, you can see how and where your narrative fails. This allows you to fix your essay’s flaws and submit a version of the essay that best reflects who you are.

Debunking the Myths of Revision

  1. Don’t use a thesaurus. Sounding “smart” doesn’t mean using big words. If you start going thesaurus crazy, the admissions officer will know. They aren’t expecting you to spew SAT vocab in this essay, they want to hear what you have to say. This means that replacing your own words with ones that you think sound more “advanced” is not a good idea.
  2. Pick one idea and run with it. You shouldn’t use the essay to tell the college anything and everything about yourself. Your job is to focus on one of your characteristics, we recommend one that is not already listed in your application, and then develop it. The way in which you write your essay will say all of the things you want it to say. You don’t need to explicitly include them.
  3. Be realistic. In order to stand out, your essay doesn’t need to be shocking, funny, or more than what you think constitutes a traditional “essay.” Pick a topic that speaks to you, not a topic that you think will speak to the reader. Then develop it in a unique way. Your writing should do the talking; you don’t need to craft a Hollywood plot to make yourself stand out.
  4. Mind your metaphors. “Creative writing” doesn’t mean making everything into an analogy. You can get “creative” without employing every rhetoric term you’ve ever learned in AP English Language. Just be true to yourself and then you’ll see more sincere and genuine results.
  5. Write like you’re talking to a friend. No, this doesn’t mean that every sentence should end in “LOL,” but it does mean that your essay doesn’t need to be written in a formal tone. In the end, you want this piece to be personal, so write your essay as if you’re engaging in meaningful conversation, not like you’re trying to pitch a new app to a panel of potential investors. 

Your essay is supposed to be a reflection of your truest self -- a source that says more about you than your grades and what you did after school. Don’t let the pressure of the deadlines get to you. You have plenty of time to submit a good essay, so don’t rush the editing. We know you want to submit your applications and be done with it, but wouldn’t you rather submit an amazing essay on the day of deadline than a mediocre essay a few weeks before it’s due?