Editing Your Application Essays: The Final Checklist

November 1st marks the last possible day to submit your early application. Tinkering with your words to that 11:59 PM deadline? Here are some last-minute tips to consider before uploading your essay:

Aliens Abducted My Essay

Attempt to look at your essay as if another person wrote it. It’s normal to feel too “close” to what you’ve written, like you can’t possibly change it anymore. So take a break from it. Print it out, read the hard copy, and mark it up with pencil. Make the physical object of your essay feel strange. Read it out loud to hear how it sounds. Read it backwards to catch any typos you may have missed. Trick yourself into thinking this isn’t your essay.

Attack of the Robot Essay

You want your essay to feel alien, but you don’t want it to sound like a robot! Avoid over-editing. Your voice should sound genuine, and your language should feel natural. An essay that’s perfectly polished but utterly mechanical won’t stand out to admissions officers. After revising and proofreading with care, you’re allowed to leave some idiosyncratic grammar and rough edges in your essay—in fact, you might be more successful that way.

Edited to the point of exhaustion? It’s time to do a final review.

Below is a sample checklist you can use. Note that your essay needn’t hit all of the boxes. Instead, consider the checklist a guideline.

If you’re afraid your essay isn’t perfect, pause a minute. Have you done all you can? Have you spent so much time on it you can’t bear to read it through again? Have you read it out loud at the kitchen table over so many dinners your family is starting to complain?

Do you, sometimes, when you’re in the right mood, when the stars align, feel maybe just a little proud of what you’ve accomplished?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” it’s time to click “submit” and step away!

For more editing tips, check out our essay editing guide:

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