So you’ve planned what you want to write in your college application essay. You’ve brainstormed the best examples and personal highlights that will showcase who you are, and convince the Admissions Officer that you are the perfect fit for their school. You’ve thought about how you will sequence your story, starting with the most compelling vignette to draw the reader in, and ending with a strong statement on how you will make a positive impact in the student body and the wider community.
Now for a small, but pivotal step that is oft-overlooked: thoroughly proofreading your essay. You don’t want your chances jeopardized by a spelling error or the accidental repetition of a word.
As part of my work at automated online proofreader Grammarly, I spend a significant chunk of my time researching – both offline and online – how people write. I’ve noticed that all writers, no matter how skilled, are united by one common denominator. They all succumb at some point to the dreaded typo.
Here are three tips that will help ensure your college application essay is in perfect form when you send it off to the college(s) of your dreams.
1. Check for context.
For most of you, social media short forms like IMHO and ICYMI are probably part of your everyday vernacular. And you and your friends likely pepper your conversations with references that you all understand and can joke about. But extend your conversation wider, and you’ll notice that even the commonly-used “LOL” may not mean the same thing to everyone. Not convinced? Check out this clip from The Ellen Show and see for yourself!
So, back to your essay. Make sure you have one or two people who are not in your circle of friends or from your generation read through your essay. Their job is to check that you haven’t inadvertently made any cultural or social references that may not be widely understood.
2. Like a good driver, always check your blind spots.
Remember your driving instructor saying time and again to make sure that the road was clear and safe before moving off?
Same goes for your essay. To push the driving metaphor one step further, your regular word processor is a bit like your rearview and side mirrors. You can rely on it to spot mistakes 80% of the time, but not for the other 20%. So make sure you get a relative or a friend to cast their eyes over your essay to offer a fresh perspective. Or run your essay through an online proofreader like Grammarly to help with those blind spots.
3. Use plain English.
George Orwell, in his powerful 1946 essay titled “Politics and the English Language” said, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”
In other words, if you feel connected to the subject matter, the words will flow, and you won’t need to resort to embellishments. And using plain English means less room for mistakes.
So remember, the aim of your essay isn’t to impress Admissions Officers with the extent of your vocabulary. It is to convince them that you are the right fit for their school. And regardless of the content of your essay, good grammar and error-free, accurate writing will give your essay an edge over shoddier pieces of work.
All the best, and good luck with your essay!