Once you’ve completed your college application essay, it’s always a good idea to get feedback from other people. But who those people are, and how you manage their feedback, can often be the difference between a good essay and a great one. Here are six ways to manage that feedback, and use it to your greatest advantage.
1. Be sure you are reasonably happy with the essay before you show it to anyone.
This doesn’t mean that you think it’s perfect and won’t be open to making changes. Instead, it assures that you will be able to analyze feedback from a position of strength, not insecurity.
2. Be very careful about whose opinions you seek.
Many people consider themselves accomplished writers or editors and, although their intentions may be good, they simply aren’t. Even worse, they don’t fully understand what makes a successful college application essay. This won’t stop them from offering an opinion if asked so please, choose wisely. Remember, not all opinions are equal.
If possible, ask for feedback from people familiar with the application process, teachers or tutors, professional writers, college students who are attending good schools, or someone whose perspective you respect. These readers will offer more perceptive, valuable, and ultimately more achievable input about your essay.
3. Get three opinions per draft.
One is too few, more than three will only be confusing. Generally, if all three of your readers, or two out three, give you similar feedback, then there is obviously an issue in your essay that needs to be addressed. Make your revisions, further polish the essay, then look for three different readers to comment on the next draft. Continue in this manner until the feedback is almost unanimously positive. That’s when you’ll know that your essay is almost finished.
4. Don’t be defensive.
Listen carefully to everything your readers say, without rushing to defend why you used that example or what you really meant in that paragraph. Stay objective about your work, as if you’re discussing someone else’s essay. This will allow you to truly hear what your reader is saying and to decide whether you agree with it, which is still your prerogative, or not.
5. Ask questions.
If you think a particular bit of feedback is accurate and valuable, ask the reader why he or she feels that way, what is it in the essay that provoked that opinion? Sometimes a reader will have a feeling about the essay (“something is missing, I’m not sure what”) that he can’t quite articulate. By asking genuine questions, you can often pinpoint what the issue is, and fix it.
6. Trust yourself.
Readers will sometimes suggest sweeping changes that are good, but not compatible with what you want to say. They might also be coming from a more adult, rather than a high school student’s, perspective. Remember that you worked hard to develop an essay topic that reflects your values and personality. While other ideas certainly exist, this is the one you’ve chosen – the one you believe in – and it’s okay to stick with it.
People who give feedback on your college application essay are clearly doing you a favor, and it’s important to be appreciative. At the same time, however, keep in mind that your ultimate commitment is to writing the most effective application essay possible and to do that, you’ve got to use that feedback wisely
For more personal help with the college application essay, please contact Craig Heller directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 818-340-1276.