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Do You Edit College Essays?


That is a question I am often asked and yet I hesitate to answer. Maybe I should just get used to answering “Yes!” first, but I often feel the need to explain.


What stops me from just saying yes? Well every person who might ask me knows plenty of folks who can simply check spelling and grammar. In fact, that may be all they do. Editing itself is not the highest skill I bring to the table. Not commas, not capitalization, not matching tenses or pronouns correctly. What is uniquely available from a professional college admissions consultant is context, the ability to look at the essay as an essential component of a larger process.


By the time a student is writing essays, I have learned much about the young person who is about to commit themselves to paper. I know what is on the student’s transcript and in the student’s brag sheet. We have talked about the teacher recommendations the student will seek and why those teachers were chosen. There may have been an Interest Inventory completed and the student hopefully has academic or vocational aspirations. I know what activities have most engaged the student during high school. I know the students’ standardized test scores. Additional testing, beyond SAT or ACT might have been shared with me. I know a thing or two about the colleges on the student’s list – I’ve checked my available resources, and it’s very likely I’ve visited the colleges in person.


When the student starts writing, I am not focused on the editing part at first. I am focused on the concept. I ask myself, “how will this essay advance the candidacy of the student?” I test the work for its authenticity – does it likely dovetail with what will be in other parts of the application. Will the student who is revealed in the essay sound like the same young person described by the high school counselor, teachers, and others. Does the essay add to the integrity of the application?


When this is right, I start on the routine editing that every high school student needs in order to, “reveal the character of the applicant in the writer’s own authentic voice.” The goal is to have the student jump off the page for the admissions reader.


Do I edit college essays? You decide.

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