Last Minute Tips for Essays

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Dot Your “I”s and Cross Your “T”s: Put the Finishing Touches on Your Essays

Fall deadlines for 2012-2013 college applications are quickly approaching, and for those students applying for early decision or early action, that deadline is just a couple of days away.

For those of you putting the finishing touches on your applications and admissions essays, here are a few last-minute tips to make sure your work is in tip-top shape before submitting:

  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. It can’t be said enough. One of the biggest mistakes that students make is not double and triple checking their application and essays for grammar, style, and spelling errors. While the content of the essay may be solid, the presentation is just as important. Spelling and grammar errors do not go unnoticed by admissions officers, and will ultimately undermine the message of the essay. Sometimes it can be hard to catch those kind of errors when reading over a piece that you have looked at for days on end, so have someone else, a counselor or parent, read over it to spot-check for errors.
  • Make sure you thoroughly follow directions. Another big mistake students make is assuming that all applications are the same. While many students my be using the Common Application, some may not, so it’s important to make sure you carefully read the instructions and follow them to a T. Submitted applications and essays that are missing information or have components missing because a student didn’t read the directions will most likely go straight into the “no” pile.
  • Edit where necessary.  This partly goes in hand with following directions. You may have a lot to say, and it may be very interesting to read, but it’s important to not go over the word or page limit for any essay. No admissions officer wants to read more than two pages, and they rarely have time to go through pages and pages of just one essay. That’s why the length limit is there.  Edit where needed to meet the word count, but be careful to not take anything out that can ruin the flow of the piece. Your words are important and have a short time to make an impact, so make sure you’re letting the most powerful ones shine through.

What to do if you’re stuck

Application essays often cause students stress and extreme anxiety because they regard this piece of work as one of the most important essays they will write in their entire lives. For some students this anxiety can manifest an extreme case of writer’s block because no matter how many topics they come up with, it just doesn’t ever seem good enough.

Most seniors should be putting the final touches on their essays now, especially if they’re applying early. But for those students still stuck on what to write about, our biggest piece of advice is to just relax. . Take a deep breath and write what you feel most passionate about. College admissions committees want to know something about the applicant they cannot otherwise learn from the rest of the application. Avoid the gimmicks and write something that best illustrates you as a person.

For an evaluator, a great essay is a way to see the applicant as a living, breathing being, rather than just a series of numbers and statistics on a piece of paper.  So take the time to put the finishing touches on your application essays to ensure that admissions officers get the best representation of you and your writing. It can make all the difference between getting in, or getting left out.

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