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Proofreading your College Admissions Essays

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Proofreading your college admissions essays is an important often undervalued step in the college application process. Whether you are wrapping up the last details for your Early Admissions application, or prepping for a Regular Decision submission, performing one last thorough scour of what you have down on the page is a crucial step before pressing that submit button. While we are confident you have all been toiling away by the light of your computers, debating the use of different adjectives, and scanning your essays for errant commas, we have a few last tips to help ensure you catch any tiny mistakes and submit the most polished essay possible.

  1. Employ spelling and grammar checks. Use the tools that are available to you, dear students. We hope that your drafting process has taken place, not within the Common Application’s unreliable text box, but rather within a trusty document on a word processing program like Microsoft Word. If not, transfer that puppy over right now and take advantage of the inherent spelling and grammar check tools. While these mechanisms are not foolproof, they will help you get a cursory survey of unrecognized grammar errors. Let your smartypants computer lead the way.
  2. When in doubt, look up the rule. So you don’t know which one is grammatically correct: “doctor’s office” or “doctors’ office.” Luckily for you, you live in the age of the Internet, where grammar snobs and language obsessives spend their free time expounding upon just this kind of minutiae for the benefit of the lost grammatical souls of the world. If you are unsure about the spelling or usage of even a single word, it is always best to double-check it on the World Wide Web. However, do keep in mind, this is the Internet we’re consulting. Be sure to confirm grammar rules via multiple, reliable sources before you implement any suggestions from friendly wordsmithing “experts.”
  3. Let mom and dad take a peek. We know for some of you, your parents have been involved in the essay process all along. You folks can skip this step. For others who requested that their parents remain more distanced from the process, showing parents a final draft can be a little tricky. It is your college application, not your parents’, after all; and no one has more to say than a parent scanning his/her beloved child’s attempt to synthesize a crucial life moment or lifelong aspiration in 650 words. Still, no one in the world knows you better than your mom and pops, and no one will be more invested in your overall success than the people who raised you. Show parents your essay with confidence. Let them find any random mistakes that escaped your gaze. Listen to what they have to say, take helpful advice, and ultimately, stick to your guns and submit the essay you believe in.
  4. Do not show ninety of your closest friends your final draft. Also refrain from showing your (admittedly, very smart) Aunt Suzy, your next-door neighbor who fancies herself an editor, and the family dog, who once ate your homework and now thinks he can read. The old adage of “ask a million people and you will get a million opinions” is absolutely true. Also true is that a million opinions swirling around in your noggin two days before your application is due will drive you absolutely insane. Instead, channel the opinion that is most important: Your own. Read over your essay. Love it. Believe in it. Trust yourself.
  5. Put it to bed. Once you have run through your final review checklist, save your document. Copy and paste the final essay into the Common App text box, and adjust spacing as necessary. Make sure there are returned spaces between your paragraphs. Take the application all the way through to the “Print Preview” step so you can check to make sure all proper formatting is reflected, save your application and go to sleep. Tomorrow morning, wake up and read the essay once more with a fresh brain. Don’t. Change. A. Thing. Revel in the glory of your hard work. Press send, and get yourself a cookie. You are on your way.

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