Last-Minute Tips for Completing Application Essays

By Ryan Hickey + updated on January 16th, 2014

With deadlines past or looming, the holiday haze still hanging over most of us, and applicant stress levels nearing maximum, I thought that today’s post would be a perfect opportunity to provide some tips for those who find themselves rushing to get everything about their applications, essays included, finished and submitted within the next several days or weeks. Even if you complete your essays at the last minute, consider the following five tips before pressing the “Submit” button or sealing the envelope:

  1. Spell check doesn’t work if a word is misused but spelled correctly. Consider the following sentence: During my junior year, I spent countless ours volunteering at my church. The miscue in that sentence, though glaring, would be completely missed by traditional spell-check functions. Thus, while spell check can be a useful tool, it is unwise to rely on it too heavily. Nothing can replace a couple good old-fashioned read throughs.
  2. Whether you finish your essay a week, day, or hour before your deadline, try to take at least a short break from it before your final proofread. If you have time, the best thing to do is put the essay aside for a full 12 hours, preferably 12 hours that include a good night’s sleep. Don’t work on or even think about the essay at all during that span. If you don’t have that much time, set the essay aside for as long as you comfortably can and do something else. Make a meal/snack. Tidy up your room. Watch some Netflix or a YouTube video. Whatever you do, take your mind off the essay for as long as possible. Doing so will give you fresh eyes, so to speak, when you return to the essay and help you polish it as effectively as possible.
  3. Another proofing tip: try reading the entire essay starting with the concluding sentence and working your way back to the introduction. Since you’ve probably got much of the essay memorized by this point, whether you realize that or not, you may be looking at the words but actually reading from memory when going from start to finish. Working backward will help you examine each sentence individually to eliminate small errors you may have overlooked.
  4. Don’t forget about the word limit. Sometimes essays can grow slowly throughout the editing and proofing process. A draft that starts at 480 words can end up close to 600 after a revision or two. Thus, it’s just as important to use the word count feature in your word processor as it is to use spell check before finalizing your draft.
  5. Watch out for formatting artifacts when cut/pasting your essay into online text boxes. Some online applications ask you to place your completed essay into a text box for submission. Because you probably wrote your essay in a program such as Microsoft Word, cut/pasting from document to text box can cause unwanted characters to appear in your essay. Punctuation marks such as apostrophes, quotation marks, ampersands, and semicolons are particularly susceptible to such formatting problems. To ensure that your pasted essay is as clean and polished as the version in your document, take time to read through the entire pasted version before submitting it.

If you have a day or two before your deadline, why not have an EssayEdge editor take a last-minute look at your essay. We offer 48-hour turnaround standard on all Proofreading and Standard orders, and 24-hour turnaround is available on those types of orders for a small additional fee.

Lastly, once you submit your applications, don’t forget to treat yourself to some well-deserved relaxation. Whether your favorite meal or snack, a movie with friends, an entire weekend of sleep, or whatever else appeals to you, you most definitely deserve it for making it through the grueling college application process!

 

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Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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One Response to “Last-Minute Tips for Completing Application Essays”

  1. Helen Evans says:

    Thanks, very nice article! I liked all your tips, the tip about word limit is the most useful for me. Several times my work was returned as I didn’t meet word limit requirement. I think that it is bad practice – students should not be limited, the story should not be too short but what’s wrong when it is a little bit longer?

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