Tips For Editing Your College Essay

College Essay Editing Steps:

  1. Take a break first
  2. Captivate your reader
  3. Read the essay aloud
  4. Have someone proofread it
  5. Double-check spelling, grammar, and sentence structure

Crafting your college application essay, a challenge that extends to scholarships, fellowships, and specific grant programs, can be one of the most daunting tasks in your application journey. As a prospective student, your goal is to authentically represent yourself in a way that resonates with college admissions. However, the journey doesn’t end with the initial writing. Once you’ve poured your thoughts onto paper, a crucial step awaits: editing.

Editing is pivotal in transforming your essay from a good piece of writing to an outstanding one. It polishes your narrative, refines your message, and ensures that your unique voice shines through.

To streamline this essential process, we’ve compiled a list of practical tips for college essay editing. These insights are versatile, proving useful across various essay types. Keep them close as you write your essays, ensuring that your final submission reflects the best possible version of your story.

1. Take a Little Break After Writing Your Essay

Resisting the urge to immediately dive into editing or submit your essay is crucial. After investing significant energy into crafting your essay, it’s essential to give your mind a chance to reset. Take a step back from your work for a few hours or even a day. Close your computer, set aside the pencil, and engage in activities that provide mental distance—whether it’s taking a walk, reading a book, or spending time with friends.

This break is more than just a pause; it’s an opportunity for your thoughts to evolve. When you return to your essay, you’ll bring a fresh perspective, potentially unveiling new ideas and insights on how to enhance it. What might have been overlooked in the midst of the writing process could become clearer, allowing you to identify areas that need strengthening or adjustment.

Here are some tips on writing unique college application essays.

Flickr user Jacqueline Torres Lopez

2. Captivate Your Reader

College admissions people read through many different applications and essays from prospective students all over the country and even the world. Every person is different and may have a different essay, but there also can be some common themes that come up for high school students who are applying. This is why it is so important to grab your audience’s attention from the start.

Think of your first few sentences or even words as the beginning of a movie. They set the tone and draw your reader in, but if they are uninteresting you may risk losing the attention of your reader before you even get to the purpose of your essay. As you edit, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Does my first sentence captivate the reader’s attention?
  • Does it set the stage for the rest of my essay?

3. Read Your Essay Out Loud

Reading your essay out loud can help you recognize issues in sentence structure, sentence order, and overall flow that may need correcting. Read your essay aloud as if you were giving a speech.

As you read, listen to the rhythm and pacing of your sentences. Consider this:

  • Does the essay flow smoothly, or are there awkward transitions?
  • Is the first sentence a little boring?
  • Did the end of that last paragraph “wander” into the distance, without really making a point?
  • Did you use language that is too simple?
  • How about language that is too complex?
  • Are you bored as a reader after your first paragraph?

From reading aloud and considering these questions, you can correct what you catch and make it better.

4. Have Someone Else Read It

Having an outside perspective is very important during the editing process. Enlist the help of a friend, family member, or teacher. This person can find places for improvement that you may not have seen.

For instance, if there is a hole in your story, they may be able to spot it more easily because they haven’t been as immersed in it all as you have. Understand that what they are suggesting is for the improvement of your essay. Be okay with constructive criticism and use it as a tool to become a stronger essay writer.

5. Do All the Checks!

  • Spell Check
  • Grammar Check
  • Sentence Structure Check

As you come to the final stages of editing your college essay, it is essential to check for proper spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. These may seem like minor details, but they play a huge role in how you and your essay are viewed. Having no grammatical errors in your essay will let the reader focus solely on the content without having to question your competency with grammar and spelling.

If you struggle with spelling or grammar or worry that your essay may have some errors, utilize spell-check resources such as Grammarly or even AI by providing a prompt such as, “proofread my essay for spelling only.” Keep in mind that automated tools may miss small errors or suggest changes that change the meaning so it’s important to still take the time to carefully review each sentence, paying attention to all the details.

Once you’ve made what you consider to be the necessary corrections, read through your essay again—out loud if you have to. How does it sound? How does it flow? Did a word or a sentence make you stumble as you read it out loud? At this point, after following all of the steps we’ve discussed, you can upload your essay and hit submit.

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