Revising and Editing College Essays
“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Truman Capote
“The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” — Neil Gaiman
Handy revision advice From a Stanford Graduate, Ishan Puri
Tip #1: Reality Check
One of the most effective and easy revision processes is the reality check. Is my essay conveying who I am to my audience? Is it realistic? Most of the time, the answer probably is "sort of." In this case, we have work to do. Read the prompt again and see what it is asking you to consider. Are you answering the question? ...Most essay readers spend a few minutes on each essay, so directness is important. If the essay answers the prompt but does not feel like it is conveying you, try to see where the voice or tone of the essay becomes inconsistent. Are there sentences that just stick out or that you know are false? Remove them, if they are untrue to you, they will stick out to the reader. Finally, use this tip to help you reach a final draft of your essay. If you feel satisfied that each essay truly shows who you are... then you are ready.
Tip #2: What's the Point?
Does your essay show a specific characteristic about who you are? In one sentence, what is that characteristic or personality trait? If you cannot answer this question, then your essay is too broad in scope. Try to address the prompt directly, but also point to how that shows something about your personality -- it is a delicate balance. When looking over all of your essays, see if they prove a different aspect of your personality. You want to convey the multi-dimensional person that each of us is! Enthusiasm throughout is very important -- nobody likes to read dry, monotonous work. Also, when reading through your application, make sure that your theme is shining through, instead of just an enthusiastic, multi-dimensional person. Through your activities and the way you answer each prompt, show who you are as a person.
Tip #3: Line Edits
Probably the most boring, but very important revision method is line edits: reviewing every line of your essay near the end of your revision process. Because essay readers spend a few minutes on each essay, every line they read should convey something about you and pull the reader in to read more. In addition, there should be no grammatical or stylistic errors in the essays -- this is a showcase of who you are and all of your hard work over the last four years! From my experience, most students write between 50 and 100 essays for the admissions process. Making sure each of these essays is grammatically sound is a task that should be planned for. It was one of the most rewarding experiences looking back now and taught me so much about writing and about myself. Approaching the process at the start with this perspective can help, especially with the line edits.
Revising is more than just editing an essay, as it is commonly believed. It is about understanding what the prompt is asking, what you are trying to convey, and then making necessary changes...
View these essays as a window into who you are and all of the hard work you have put into your high school years. The admissions process as a whole is a showcase of your talent and achievements, and more importantly, a process of development. The revision process puts a refined polish to your essays and application in total and ensures thoughtful responses. In an ideal world, students should spend at least a one-fourth of their time revising essays. With the right mindset, these essays and the revision can be game-changing in the admissions process.