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The Best Way to Proofread a College Essay

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college essay contest runner up 2If you have happened across this article, then congratulations! You’ve finished a draft of your college essay! Now is the time to make sure your essay is fit for submission. To initiate the proofreading process, put your detective hat on. It’s time to search the dark corners of your essay for mistakes.

Errors are your enemy, big and small. Hunt those errors down. Scare them out of their little hiding places. (And there are sure to be a few of them hiding in plain sight.)

Your computer’s spelling and grammar check exists for a reason. Use it as a preliminary guide to help identify potential errors. But keep in mind that the tool has limitations. We know. It’s sad. Sometimes technology fails us. Luckily for you, we live in the age of the Internet, where grammar snobs and language obsessives spend their free time expounding upon the difference between “I could care less” and “I couldn’t care less” for the benefit of the lost grammatical souls of the world. When in doubt, look up the rule. And be sure to confirm proper spelling and grammar via multiple, reliable sources before you implement any suggestions from the internet’s many friendly wordsmithing “experts.”

This is also a good time to do a quick fact check and make sure any claims your make or data points you reference are correct. Are you sure you were 10 when the original Jurassic Park movie came out in theaters? (You actually weren’t born yet.) What state is Augusta in? (Yes, there is an Augusta in all of these places: AR, GA, IL, KS, KY, ME, MN, MI, MT, NJ, NY, SC, WV, WI.) It’s not a bad idea to check general timelines and order of events to make sure things piece themselves together properly. Factual errors can be distracting to admissions and make you look careless and lazy. Again, it’s so easy. Check yourself before you wreck yourself!

One of the final checks in the editing process involves bringing back those Common App essay prompts you have learned to love so much. If your topic is truly effective you have most likely been able to seamlessly back it into one of the six set prompts. Still, this is the time to check and make sure you have tried your best to answer the question you’re being asked. Often a few small tweaks will ensure an essay hits the question’s target dead center, while preserving your central message. We still stand firm in the philosophy that an enlightening story well told trumps all – but if you have the opportunity to tell a great story and nail the prompt in the process, which you most likely will – take the winning shot. If all else fails, you can always count on the choose-your-own-adventure prompt (#7).

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