There are so many things to think about when writing your college application essay: the right prompt, the right topic, the length, the content, the mechanics! Phew! And, these are all important. However, just choosing the right topic for the right prompt and writing an interesting essay with proper grammar and punctuation are not enough to ensure you have the best essay. There are still more things you should think about in order to REVISE your essay to make it the very best you can proffer. This is your college application, after all.
The following list will help you polish the essay after it’s done—well, sort of done.
Abolish clichés: We speak in clichéd ways, and there are certain phrases that are familiar and easy. But, you should not use them for your college essay. This is a formal application, and the essay section should be done in a more correct prose. That is not to say your writing should be stiff and formal, but you should get rid of any phrasing that is old, tired, or just too familiar. “The best I can be,” “I want the best education I can have,” or “better than average” are examples of writing you should cross out and simply omit or try to restate in a fresh manner. The best I can be… might become “I intend to travel beyond usual expectations.”
Use Magic Verbs: Verbs are the work horses of your sentences. They make them sing. You should use verbs that SHOW. To say something is this or something is that makes a lame statement. “My dad is a big influence in my life.” should become: ”My dad models behavior, shows me how to reason and consider before I make decisions, and demonstrates kindness. Passive verb constructions are also to be avoided, I mean, you should avoid passive verb construction! Verbs that act on the subject instead of doing something are passive. “I was dragged into a bad situations by my peers.” could become “I blindly followed my peers.” or “My peers sucked me into situations that made me uncomfortable.”
Be Exact: Vagueness is blah. Certain words invite vagueness. If you read them in your writing, get rid of them. “Things are good.” I like so many aspects about research.” “I hope to acquire skills and abilities from my college experience.” Everything italicized is vague. Can’t you be more specific? Say what you mean. For example, what things are good, and good in what way? What experiences in college are you think about?
Streamline: The word limit might invite you to be wordy, but that is a no-no! Get rid of filler words: there is, that, it seems are fillers. Make sure you are not repeating phrases, pronouns, or subject words. Look for overly descriptive words, especially those ending in –ly. Pare down. “I feel that taking extremely academic courses will teach me to push myself.” This sentence could be streamlined to “I plan to take academic courses to push myself.”
You must re-read your essay to polish it into a gem. The four guidelines above will help you reread with a more critical eye. It is always wise to have several people read your essay even after you polish it. Have a teacher, a parent, AND a peer look it over. Writing is really never done…to perfection.