You well know that editing your college application, graduate school application, or other academic essay is a critical step in the writing process. While hiring a professional editor to guide you through the process can be invaluable, there are certain things you can do on your own to make sure your essay is in top shape. Using an essay editing checklist, like the one below, will help you evaluate where you can improve, what’s good to go, and what you can scrap entirely.
Try not to get too attached to your first draft, but rather try to look at it from a fresh perspective every time you edit. You can achieve this by taking a break from it for a few days, then coming back to it – if you have the time of course. If you really love an anecdote you included, but know that it doesn’t enhance your overarching theme or add much to show your personality, then ditch it. The same goes for anything that seems commonplace or cliché. You want your essay to show your passion, demonstrate your skills, and highlight your unique voice. If you use language and stories that make you sound like everyone else, your readers will likely forget what they read.
A tried-and-true editing method is to pass your essay to an editor or even a friend. But another editing method that can work on its own or in conjunction with a second editor is to take a step back from your writing, and look at it with a critical eye. Here are a few questions to consider as you start the editing process and go over your first draft:
- Is this your unique voice? Does it sound like you?
- Does the writing feel sincere and personal?
- Have you kept the tone feeling conversational, rather than overly formal?
- Will the reader be able to tell you are passionate about what you are writing?
- Do you think the introduction will grab the reader’s attention?
- Are you showing rather than telling?
- Is the writing clear and specific?
- Does your conclusion leave an impression?
- Are there any grammatical errors or typos to fix?
- Have you avoided clichés?
- If you are writing a college or graduate school essay, have you avoided duplicating information about yourself that can be found elsewhere in your application?
- Does the content reveal something meaningful about your character?
- Can you think of anything relevant that you may have omitted?
- Does the writing flow, or are there any gaps or jumps?
- Does your essay clearly articulate its overarching theme?
- Is your essay under the word count maximum?
- Have you responded to the prompt fully and in detail?
Edit, edit, and edit some more. Don’t be afraid to change things! Just be sure to step back and get some space between edits so you can approach it each time with fresh eyes. Is there one passage you wrote that doesn’t jump off the page as much as you thought it did the first time you read it? Rework it until you’re satisfied. Replace boring, general, and/or lengthy passages with crisp retellings of your experiences that will make you more memorable. Do this, and you’ll reach your academic goals in no time.