Am I Done with My College Admissions Essay Yet?
By SARAH ZASLOW
I think writing is wonderful. But even I know that it can be terribly frustrating, and never more so than when you’ve worked on something for weeks. You’ve written, re-written and re-read so often that you can’t even tell if you’re using a proper human language anymore. You’re starting to realize that it’s possible to tweak your writing infinitely.
So how do you know you’re done, really done, hit-the-submit-button-and-never-look-at-that-essay-again done? Maybe it is easier to tell when you’re not done, so let’s start there.
How You Know You’re NOT DONE with your College Admissions Essay:
- You fantasize about being done, but you haven’t actually started writing yet
- You’ve written a first draft and it seems okay
- One other person reviewed your draft and said, “Well, at least you didn’t spell anything wrong.”
- You wrote it and then fixed all the squiggly underlined stuff in Microsoft Word
Your essay needs to go through at least two revisions. If possible, you should “sleep on it” at least once and re-read it in the morning to see if you’re still as charming and witty as you seemed at 2 am. At least three people need to read it and offer you revisions. None of them are allowed to say, “It looks fine” and hand it back. Then you should make the changes they suggest.
By now, if you’re doing it right, you’ve stared at your essay so long it’s honestly hard to tell if it’s done. Things that sounded good when you first wrote them seem boring and cliche because you’ve read them so much. You’re attached to a sentence or a joke that you think is perfect because it’s just so funny—but no one else thinks it works. (This is why it’s so important to have other people read your college essays.)
So? What’s the verdict?
How You Know You ARE DONE with Your College Admissions Essay:
- You’ve gone through three revisions and three other people have helped you
- You’re mostly happy with how it sounds, and even proud of the very best parts
- You’ve done the most careful proofread in the history of mankind
- You're sure there’s not a single comma, period, or apostrophe out of place
- Your most trusted reader assures you that your essay really is good
- Your application is due in 30 seconds. 29. 28...
About Sarah Zaslow
Sarah Zaslow graduated from Princeton University in 2008 with degrees in Religion and Public Policy. While at Princeton, Sarah tutored both undergraduate and graduate students in writing at the Princeton University Writing Center. After graduation, Sarah taught English at Abraham Lincoln High School in west Denver as part of Teach for America. She currently lives in Evanston, IL.
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