Now that you have at least a week of drafting essays behind you, you are ready to tackle the next phase of the writing process – revising. Revising is its own art, so our tips and tricks this week focus on how to do it well. (Need to get caught up with Weeks 1-5? We've posted them on our blog here.)
Revise content first. You will save loads of time if you revise your essay for content before you move on to revising it for things like flow and voice. An easy way to check for whether you have the right amount of content in your draft is to let the word counts guide you. Most application essays have both a minimum and a maximum word count (or character count). These word counts signal how much content your essay is expected to have.
Check your essay for flow. An essay that flows well carries the admissions officer who is reading it effortlessly from one idea to the next. She never stumbles, gets lost, or has to reread particular sentences or the whole essay to figure out what you are trying to say. A logical order and smooth transitions are the keys to an essay that flows well. As you are revising, pay close attention to these aspects of your essay. Is there a logical order to your ideas? If not, stop and reorder. Are there smooth transitions between your ideas? If not, take the time to rework your transitions. After you’ve revised, a good way to check that your revisions have solved your flow problems is to read your essay out loud. You’ll hear missed connections or bumpy transitions long before you see them.
Make sure your voice comes through loud and clear. When an admissions officer reads your essay, he should feel as if he were talking to you and only you. In order to leave the admissions officer with that feeling, your essay must have your voice. Most applicants have plenty of voice in the first drafts of their essays, but strip it all away when they revise. (Or their parents strip the voice out for them thinking that that’s the safe way to go, and that safer is better. But safe is not the way to make an impression.) Guard against doing that as you revise your own essays. For example, keep the quirky phrase that you are well known for using or hold onto your signature staccato writing rhythm of short, emphatic sentences. These are the aspects of your writing voice that make it yours and yours alone.
Once you’ve revised your first application, you’ll be ready to finalize it next week. And that means you’ll have one application done by the end of September and a second one well underway. Can you see how you are starting to build momentum and get ahead of the curve? We hope so, because you are! Keep it up.
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the book How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.