Guest Post from Leslie Anglesey, Professor at California State University, Sacramento
Writing an application essay is no easy task, but reading it should be. College admission boards consider a number of things when reviewing an application. While most students understand the importance of extra-curricular activities and GPAs, the admission essay often gets overlooked. As a result, admission boards may skip reading the essay altogether or, worse yet, actually read the entire thing and determine you never made it past English 101.
In order to clearly get across to students everywhere just how important it is to proofread your college application essays, I’ve put together a list of eleven hazards of poor editing that could negatively impact your chances of being accepted to the school of your dreams.
1. No One’s Going to Read it!
That’s right. At the first sight of egregious grammatical errors, or issues with syntax and coherency, admissions offers will send your essay straight to the paper shredding machine. Competition to get into top schools is fierce, and it is important to do all you can to stay in the running.
2. You Miss a Moment to Shine
Your application essay is an incredible opportunity to speak directly to admissions officers at your dream school. Don’t take this lightly. This is your chance to show the college who you are, what you’re made of, and how you’re a great fit for the school. By not proofreading, you’ll blend into the background and get lost in the shuffle of other applicants.
3. You’ll Undermine Your Hard Work in Other Areas
You ran track, volunteered at soup kitchens, ran for student council and participated in drama, chess, and sports throughout your high school career. On top of all that, you did it while maintaining an impressive GPA. You’ve worked hard for four straight years and turning in a poorly written admission essay can derail all that hard work. It won’t matter how many extra-curricular activities you have under your belt if your essay is riddled with misspelled words, poor grammar, and word choices that are on par with a junior high writing level.
4. You Seem Less Than Serious
If your writing is sloppy or incoherent and messy, what does that indicate about how serious you are? Application boards look at essays not only to determine how well you can communicate, but also how much attention to detail and independent work you can put into a small assignment. Your admission essay is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the work that will be expected of you. If you slack off and rush through even this simple assignment, it implies you’ll treat subsequent assignments the same way.
5. Your Abilities Look Amateurish
Maybe in the passionate drive to write an epic essay you forget to highlight certain skills that you’ve garnered over the years that would be a perfect fit for your intended area of study. By proofreading your work, you can go back and showcase these skills more effectively. It also gives you a chance to polish your writing, making you look as professional as possible.
6. You Increase Your Waiting Period
Applying to any college is time consuming. First you have to take the time to produce an application and an essay, then send it off and wait for a reply. What happens if you get denied? How much longer will you have to wait and how much will this set back your education or career goals? By proofreading your essay you’ll increase your chances of acceptance and fast-track your application through the admissions process. Poorly written essays may earn a debate among admission boards, but that time to discuss a student takes additional time. Polish your work, put your best foot forward and you’ll be a clear-cut winner.
7. You Are Not Being Concise
One of the most powerful tools that proofreading provides is the ability to be concise, critical, direct, etc. There’s only so much room in any essay, and you need to make a great argument/presentation without overtly weighing it down with too much abstraction. Choose your words wisely!
8. Your Opener is Weak
Often, potential students focus far too much on the body of their essays. The two most important parts of your essay are the opener and the closer. Proofreading gives you a chance to really home in on both of these sections. Your opener should engage readers, while presenting them with an overview of the topic you plan to cover. Your closer should seal the deal.
9. Avoid Cliches Like the Plague
Don’t proofread your essay directly after you write the first draft. Give yourself some time to disengage and refresh. Sleep on it. When you return you’ll likely find all the more generic or cliché statements that sounded brilliant yesterday are not as witty today.
10. You Devalue Future Applications
First impressions are a big deal. That’s no joke. You only get one . . . so don’t risk ruining it with a college you’re really trying to get into. Most people know they need to dress a certain way or present themselves in the best possible light at a job interview. When it comes to applying to schools, however, it won’t matter how well you do your hair or how great you look all dressed up. Your essay is your first impression. How well or poorly it’s written gives the admission board their initial impression of you, so make the most of it.
11. You’re Wasting Application Fees!
Didn’t anyone ever tell you money doesn’t grow on trees? Most applications have an ever-so-lovely application fee that comes along with them. Should you be denied, your second application will include another fee. Don’t throw money away on something you could have easily avoided through a quick proofread.
Your admission essay carries more weight than you may think. Simply put, your essay is your first impression. As such, it’s something you should put energy, time and focus into, just as you would for your first appearance at a job interview. Proofreading your essay to ensure it is error free and showcases your ability to communicate effectively is your best bet in convincing your school of choice that you are the kind of student they want and the professional of tomorrow the world needs.
About the Author
Leslie Anglesey, Ph.D., is a writing coach and a professor in the University of Southern California.
She blogs on her website and has been featured in Chicago Tribune, Business Insider, Live Write Thrive and other publications.