How to Proofread Your College Application Essay

Key Takeaway

Proofreading your college application essay is not just about fixing typos. It’s also about ensuring your essay aligns with the prompt and showcases your unique voice. By including specific examples, checking for errors thoroughly, and getting feedback from a parent or teacher, you can submit your best work to colleges and increase your chances of acceptance. A well-proofread essay can truly set you apart and make a lasting impression on admission officers.


Like this pen and notes, proofreading your college essay can be messy but rewarding.

Flickr user Nic McPhee

Typos can sneak into our writing when we least expect them. Yet, their impact is often underestimated. Imagine submitting your college application essay only to find out you’ve spelled the college’s name wrong, forgotten to capitalize a proper noun, or went extremely off-topic—not good! Therefore, proofreading is essential.

Proofreading Checklist for Your Essay

Submitting your college application essay (or scholarship application!) without first proofreading can cost you big time. When proofreading it, review it through the lens of these questions and tips.

1. Does Your Essay Follow the Selected Prompt?

Focus on the topic at hand. You don’t want to veer off into unrelated topics that might leave the admission officers scratching their heads by the end of your essay. Think about it this way: if the prompt asks you to detail an accomplishment and you choose to talk about running a marathon, you wouldn’t want to start discussing your mastery of video games halfway through the essay.

2. Did You Abide by the Word Count?

Sticking to the word count showcases your ability to express yourself clearly and concisely. It also demonstrates your ability to follow guidelines well and effectively convey your message.

3. Include Specific Examples and Personal Anecdotes

Bring your story to life by adding specific details and interesting anecdotes to make your narrative relatable. There is no one else who has lived your life, so help your reader understand your experiences and viewpoints in a way that only you can.

4. Does Your Essay Showcase Your Unique Voice and Personality?

This essay is a reflection of you, so make sure it sounds like your voice! Colleges want to hear from real, honest students—not robotic responses. Focus on expressing yourself clearly and genuinely without worrying about using complex language. Just be yourself; that’s what they want to see.

5. Check for Spelling and Grammar

Even the greatest writers slip up and make some typos. That’s why you read, reread, and scan your work for mistakes. While spell check can assist with obvious errors marked by red and blue squiggly lines, it’s not always foolproof, so double-checking is necessary. You can also take advantage of digital spell-checking and grammar sites to catch errors and refine your writing style.

6. Is Your Essay Organized Well?

First drafts can be rough in many ways. Sometimes thoughts can change halfway through a sentence, resulting in a bizarrely worded idea that doesn’t make sense. As you read back through your essay, ensure that everything flows well, paragraph to paragraph, and sentence to sentence. A well-organized essay will begin with a strong introduction, stay centered around the topic at hand, and end with a memorable conclusion.

7. Proofread Out Loud

Reading your essay aloud is a simple yet effective trick to improve your writing skills and catch mistakes that might otherwise go unnoticed when reading silently. By listening to your words, it becomes easier to spot areas needing editing, like awkward phrasing and run-on sentences.

8. Revisit Your Essay After a Break

After spending a considerable amount of time working on your essay, step away from it for some time. Returning to your essay with fresh eyes and a clear mind can give you a new perspective. It should allow you to be more effective at spotting errors or improving your work overall.

9. Focus on One Thing at a Time

Being meticulous in your proofreading is not only okay but encouraged. Read your essay multiple times, concentrating on a specific aspect each time. For instance, focus on structure and clarity during one read-through, then shift to punctuation in the next. You may even want to try reading your essay backward. It might sound silly, but this technique helps you focus on individual sentences and words without being distracted by the content.

10. Let Someone Else Proofread

Even the best writers have help. While self-editing is important, getting a second opinion is always valuable. Ask a parent, teacher, classmate, or counselor to read your essay. Fresh eyes can often catch mistakes you might have missed and provide constructive feedback that can enhance your writing.

Proofreading Is Vital

Proofreading your college application essay can not only improve your writing but also ensures that you present your best work to colleges. By taking the time to review and edit your essay, you demonstrate your commitment to excellence and show that you value the opportunity to attend that school. This level of dedication can leave a strong impression on colleges and increase your chances of acceptance.

Ready to put your proofreading skills to the test? Start applying to schools today by using College Raptor to discover personalized college matches!

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