3 Crucial Steps for Revising Your College Application Essay

Why is Revision Important?

Writing the college application essay is a challenging feat. It is one of the only pieces of writing you will ever write communicating all your greatest vulnerabilities, ambitions and hopes. As you summon every part of your mental strength to complete the essay, all the planning, scribbling, and agonizing can feel endless. This is why there is an indescribable relief to finally arrive at a draft of your college application essay that you are happy with.

And yet, there is still work to be done!

After you have completed a draft, it is proofreading and editing time. This is arguably one of the most important, and often forgotten or hastily done, stages in the writing process. It is important to carefully proofread and edit work in three stages, with each serving a different purpose: the first to see the bigger picture, the second to inspect its details, the last to understand it. 

The Bigger Picture

In your first proofreading stage, focus on the ideas, content and organization of the draft. It can be easy to lose sight of your overall structure when you are deep in the writing process. Zooming out and observing the college application essay for what it is as a whole can allow you to see whether the draft aligns with the vision you have for it. Remind yourself of what the essay question is and approach the draft from a reader’s perspective. Here are some big questions you might want to ask as you look at the bigger picture.

  • What are the keywords of the question and the corresponding themes I am conveying in my college application essay? 
  • Have I been actively reflecting on the experiences and how they demonstrate my values?
  • Do I have a consistent narrative throughout my essay with relevant experiences being shared?
  • Do the scenes I explore transition smoothly from one to another, or do I need to re-shuffle  and re-order the events?
  • Has my use of paragraphing highlighted the distinct sections of my essay, as well as created an organic flow between them?
  • What else could I discuss to make the essay’s message clearer? Alternatively, what could I remove or re-phrase to strengthen the essay?

Read through your draft at least twice, since the biggest changes and decisions will emerge from this first stage. Leaving comments or sticky notes with instructions for yourself can indicate how you might revisit the draft as new ideas, thoughts or concerns arise. This can ensure that when you begin re-drafting, you can dedicate time to developing those specific sections more.

Taking a Closer Look

You can now target the details of your writing in the second stage of proofreading and editing. Check if your writing is consistent, from how you use language features such as tense (past, present or future), to how you address your point of view (first, second or third person) in the essay. This is also a good time to notice any repetitive language and sentence structures that feel formulaic. It is from here that you might modify your essay’s language, word choices, and writing style.

In your last reading for this stage, work through and tidy the draft word-by-word. This process may feel tedious but it is necessary and can be more efficient if you make use of the resources available to you! Although you should not rely solely on them, softwares like spelling, punctuation and grammar checkers can help you to quickly locate and fix errors in your writing. If you ever find yourself unsure about your usage or whether what you are trying to revise is correct, cross-check potential areas of concern with an internet search. 

Finalizing Your Essay 

The last stage of your proofreading and editing process is all about finalizing your work for submission. Before you do your final readings, you might wish to put some distance between yourself and your draft. Ask someone who is familiar with the college application process, such as a school teacher or college counselor, to review your draft. 

Our team of expert college essay advisors can also offer you with detailed feedback on your draft. By signing up for our College Essay Review Service, you’ll receive in-line edits addressing mechanics and grammar, and comprehensive feedback focusing on bigger-picture components such as idea, voice, organization, and style.  A fresh set of eyes will also mean that your draft is being interpreted and understood in a different way, revealing any aspects of the draft that might need to be refined. 

After all your editing, the length of your college application essay may change. Once you have made your revisions in the first two stages, check the word count of your draft. It could be beneficial to have progressive word counts for individual paragraphs to monitor how much you are writing in different sections of your essay. From here, you can consider where else you may be more concise if you are over the word count and, conversely, where you may wish to elaborate on your experiences more if you are under. 

Finally, read through your work with the essay question in mind and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Have you successfully responded to and answered the college application essay question in its entirety?
  • Are there ways you can further integrate, or allude to its keywords to demonstrate to the college admissions team that you have directly targeted it?
  • Does the college application essay reflect you as a writer, prospective student and person? 

Writing the college essay application can be multi-layered, complicated and frustrating. Proofreading and editing can grant writers the ability to seek order, clarity and comfort in the process. While the review may feel never-ending, breaking these processes into three stages and investing in multiple read-throughs can help you navigate the review with greater concentration and care. Ultimately, proofreading and editing guarantees a more polished, meaningful, and rewarding college application essay that you can submit to the admissions team with confidence.

College Essay Review Service

With Write the World’s College Essay Review, you’ll have a college essay editor on your side – anytime, anywhere. Submit drafts to our team of Advisors for review, and receive fully personalized, multi-page reports within 48 hours.

About the Author:

Angelina Nguyen is a teacher and creator of a variety of educational resources. She proudly supports college applicants in their essay writing through our College Essay Program as an Expert Advisor.


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