6 Quick Tips for Editing Your College Essays

Have you finished writing your college application essays? Before you hit submit, read through your essays using these quick editing tips.

1. Check if you got your point across

Does your college essay have a purpose? It should. By the end of your essay, the reader should learn something about you. What do you want them to know? Make sure your essay is focused to get this across.

2. Look for ways to show instead of tell

You could say (telling), “I felt embarrassed by the way I acted towards my sister,” or you could say, “My cheeks flushed red after I snapped at my younger sister (showing).” The latter paints a picture for the reader and allows for the reader to piece together that you felt embarrassed. According to Pixar director, Andrew Stanton, an engaging story lets the audience figure things out on their own. It sends a subconscious message to the reader, "Hey, I know you're smart enough to figure this out."

3. Cut the crap

There are sentences you wrote that have nothing to do with your essay's purpose. You’re keeping them because you “like the way they sound.” When you do a final edit, read and ask yourself line by line if each sentence is serving a purpose. Another way to think of this is to ask if a sentence is "engaging" or "distracting." Does the same idea get across if you got rid of the sentence? If it does, then get cut it out. 

4. Look for overused words

There’s nothing more distracting to me as a reader than to see a distinct word used repeatedly throughout an essay. A distinct word is one that stands out. If someone curses a lot, you notice it. So, if you’re using a word like “serendipitous,” it’ll stand out if you use it 3 times in 650 words.    If you’re writing about a specific topic like camp, you’ll want to check that you didn’t write “camp” in every sentence. Monitor distinct words and use them sporadically.

5. Write a stellar hook

If your essay isn’t engaging from the first line, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Did you ever have to read a book for school that you weren’t into? You wound up skimming the pages and lost focus, and you didn't retain the information. When a college admissions officer has to read through hundreds of essays, the boring ones aren’t memorable. Start your essay off by getting the reader’s attention.

6. Read each sentence starting from the last line

When you read your own writing, your brain sometimes fills in the sentence based on what you think it says rather than what it actually says. That’s why you miss typos. One way to go around this is to read your essay line by line; start from the last line and work your way to the first line to check for errors.

Happy Writing!

This article was written by Jaclyn Corley, the founder of TheCollegeEssayCaptain.com.  Her mission is to empower college and career applicants tell their stories powerfully.