Tips for Crafting Your Best College Essay

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Teenage boy using laptop and doing homework

Written by Elly Swartz

Congratulations! You’ve completed the first draft of your college essay.

You do the requisite victory dance around your room because you’re finally finished with your essay! You tell your mom, dad, college counselor and essay adviser that you have finished your college essay. High-fives fly. Then you share your essay. Everyone is certainly proud, but the consensus is that you’re not quite done. It’s important to realize this wonderful tapestry of words is the foundation for the house, but not the house itself. It needs polishing, details, stories and, of course, spell-check.

Here are 5 revision tips to help you polish what is sure to become an outstanding college essay.

1. Do away with the first draft syndrome

Realize your wonderful first draft that meets the word count and shares your story is just that – a first draft. You have every right to feel proud. You have accomplished a lot and are well on your way. But you’re not done. The first draft is the framework from which you build your house, but there’s no address on the door, yet. You have some more building to do.

2. Share

Best way to know how effectively you are communicating your story is by sharing it. Give it to your best friend, mom, cousin, college counselor or essay adviser. It doesn’t matter who you share it with, just share it. Then wait. What’s their reaction? Feedback? Input?

3. Listen

Now comes the hard part. Listening and taking advice. It’s important to know if you’ve successfully answered the question, shared your voice, and told your story in a thoughtful, effective manner. Remember, constructive feedback is just that, constructive. It is not an attack on your efforts, your draft or you. It’s just a suggestion or two to help you best share your voice and your story. Be grateful for the input and take what resonates with you.

4. Edit

You’ve shared, listened and now it’s time to dig back in. Let the feedback you received guide your revision. Your stories will engage the reader, if she feels a connection to what you are sharing. Bring the reader into your moment. Be specific.

5. Look out for the Big 3

While a spelling mistake and a shift in tenses midway through your essay will surely raise an eyebrow, the number one quickest way to lose the attention of the admission’s officer reading your essay is by referring to the school by the wrong name. There are horror stories every year about a student who has submitted his essay for University of A, but continually refers to this amazing institution as University B. Bottom line, the top mistakes to avoid are: spelling mistakes, tense changes, and referring to the school by the wrong name.

Now go back to your essay and revise, so that the next victory dance you do is when the draft is final and the house is built.

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