Editing is a specific, hard to master skill that students are rarely taught, but are still expected to know. Self-editing can be even harder, as writers of every level can struggle with objectivity. Add the built-in stress of trying to get accepted to your first choice college, and editing your college application essays can be nothing short of terrifying.
It would be difficult and probably counter productive to teach a crash course in editing skills within the narrow confines of my college application essay blog. What I can do, however, is give you a simple and practical method for improving your essays from draft to draft.
#13. Ask these ten questions about every sentence in your essay.
- What do I want to say?
- Does the sentence say it clearly?
- If not, how can I fix it? Or, is it better to start over and rewrite the sentence?
- Do the subject and verbs match?
- Are there any expressions or phrases that might be misinterpreted? How can I make them reflect my intended meaning?
- Can the sentence be shorter? Have I used more words than I need? Which ones can I cut?
- Can I combine this sentence with the one before or after it? Or, can I omit this sentence completely?
- Have I used the correct pronouns (he, she, it, they, etc.)?
- Have I varied the structure of this sentence from the sentences before and after it? Have I repeated words in this sentence that I have used in the previous or following sentence? What other words might I use in their place? (Author note: I know I have covered this before but it is worth repeating. I also know that it’s three questions.)
- Does this sentence “flow” from the one before it and to the following one? Have I used the appropriate transition?
Bonus Question: Does the sentence make an irrefutable point? Or might it lead readers to question or challenge it? And if it’s not irrefutable, how can I make it so?
Bonus Tip: If you have a known area of weakness in your writing, add a question of your own, that will help you catch those errors.
Carefully applying these questions to every sentence will quickly reveal the places in your essay that require refinement, and help you make those improvements. It might feel a bit painstaking but the time put in will definitely be worth it.
For more personal help with the Common Application essay, supplemental or any other college application essays, please contact Craig Heller at www.CollegeEssaySolutions.com, or 818-340-1276.