CollegeAdvisor Masterclass: Editing Your Essays

One of CollegeAdvisor’s Essay Review Experts Hannah will walk through a step-by-step essay editing process to help you refine your essays.

Date 12/08/2021

Webinar Transcription

2021-12-08 CollegeAdvisor Masterclass Editing Your Essays

[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor masterclass on editing essays, To orient, everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start up with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab. Now let’s meet our panelists.

Hi everyone. My name is Hannah. Um, I went to Williams College. I was class of 2020, and I majored in music and English while I was there. And among several hats that I wear at CollegeAdvisor, I’m a member of the essay review team. And so that’s what we’ll be talking about.

Okay, so, sorry, my bad. So we’ll start off with a quick post. So where are you in the college application process? Haven’t started, I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my [00:01:00] application materials together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And while we wait for that, Hannah, can you tell us about, um, one of your favorite essays that you’ve read, um, while on the team?

Absolutely. Um, I read an essay a few weeks ago. I believe it was for a U Chicago prompt along the lines of, um, I don’t remember the exact wording of the quote, but the question was a Muhammad Ali quote about like envisioning the world that you want to live in. And basically the question asks, what would, what’s the perfect world that you want to manifest?

Um, and. The student wrote this incredibly moving essay about, um, being able to go to one day, being able to set foot in a free Palestine, um, [00:02:00] and, and, and managed to very masterfully, bring in all of their personal experiences. Um, and yeah, the first essay that I’ve read while working at college adviser that I cried while reading, um, where I was just like, oh my gosh, this is fantastic.

Um, and I didn’t really have any notes, so it wasn’t really, I, I, I kind of felt bad, but, um, pretty much every other essay I’ve had notes for. And that one, I was just didn’t have it. Oh, wow. That imagine getting it right the first time. Okay. So it’s looking like 40% of the audience hasn’t started. 40% are researching schools.

20% are working on their essay and 0% are getting stuff together. Almost done.

Okay. So, uh, I want to [00:03:00] tell you first, a little bit about our essay review team. So we’re one of CollegeAdvisor’s, internal teams. We have a bunch of teams that CollegeAdvisor or financial aid team, a mock college interview team, and even more, um, and for students that have an advisor already with their company, they can, um, ask their advisor to submit a request for any essays that they want additional reviews on.

So, or sometimes the advisor will ask her request as well. Let’s say you and your advisor have gone over a draft of your essay 10 times, and both of you are just sick of looking at it. And you’d just like someone completely different who specializes in essays, um, to come in and do a review of it and, um, really look at it from an outsider’s perspective.

Uh, so that’s what we do. And we provide in depth, meaningful edits returned within 24 hours. Um, unless there’s some [00:04:00] kind of holiday or something, but generally it’s 24 hour turnaround, which is pretty awesome. And one thing I want to emphasize, if you, um, are thinking of submitting at some point, uh, the sooner you submit your essays, the longer you give yourself to edit them once they’re given back.

So I have been in the uncomfortable situation before of getting an essay that I thought needed relatively significant edits. But by the time I get it back to the student, there’s only 12 hours before that student has to submit their essay. And so it sort of puts both me and you in an uncomfortable place of saying, well, should I tell them everything that I think they should fix if they might not be able to fix it in the allotted time?

So we can avoid that all by, um, submitting essays earlier, if possible. Um, all right. So what we’re looking for, um, and, oh, I also want to make clear, you [00:05:00] don’t have to work with our se review team, particularly if you don’t have an advisor at CollegeAdvisor. Um, so this is also helping teach you what you can do to edit your own essays.

But these are also, if you do want to work with us, we’re here and we’re always happy to help. Um, so this is what we’re looking for in an essence. First of all grammar, are there any patterns or consistent grammatical mistakes we’ll also provide, provide line edits. Um, so if I see a mistake, all correct it, and I’ll show you how that works in a minute.

But if I’m seeing, you know, you misuse a comma, um, 10 times in an essay, I’ll make a note of that. The bottom of the page as well. Um, writing quality is the writing clear and engaging. Are there different sentence, sentence structures? Is it, um, is it easy to read? Is it enjoyable to read all of those things are really [00:06:00] important?

Um, I think clarity is the one that I think about the most, um, because the kind of horrifying statistic is that an admissions officer spends on average five to 10 minutes with an application that includes your essays, your activities list, your transcripts, your test scores, everything. So that means they’re not going to go back and try and do three or four free reads.

If they’re confused as to what’s happening in the essay, they just want to be able to read through it and get what you were trying to say at the first time. So I really focus on making sure that tone and, um, and everything about a right, the writing quality is really clear. Next is narrative arc and clarity.

So do I feel like there’s a clear arc throughout the essay? Is there a place that I feel like an essay is missing? Like, you know, I, you talked a lot about [00:07:00] this one area, but I really wanted to know about this other area of your story, or did it jump around a lot in a way that made me confused about what was happening at different points in time?

Um, sometimes it’s about cutting material down and sometimes it’s about. Adding in material that will make the story clear and sometimes it’s about moving stuff around. Okay. So our next one is theme and central message. So while you don’t have to have an essay that says, and I learned this from that experience, um, often there, there is sort of a central theme in any good piece of writing.

Um, and we walk away from a good piece of writing, feeling like we understood what the person was trying to tell us. Um, and also, is it unique and engaging or is it the kind of essay that I’m going to be thinking [00:08:00] about? Like, I I’ve listened to admissions officers talk about essays that they read five, 10 years ago.

That’s still, they’re like, oh my gosh, that piece of writing was amazing. Um, and it’s not that everything has to be unique or different from everyone else, but, um, was it engaging to read and do I get a sense of who you are? Voice? Okay. Voice is a little difficult that has more to do with, um, someone’s writing style.

It’s a combination of writing style and what they’re writing about, but, um, do I get a sense when I put down an essay of who this person is, um, often through the pros that they use. So, um, one of the things we’re going to talk about is that it’s really important to use words that you use in your regular life.

Uh, we’ve all read [00:09:00] essays where we’re like this person just pulled up the because they wanted to sound smarter. Um, and. That obscures your voice. And we want to make sure we’re hearing your actual voice come through. And lastly is what the essay reveals about this student. So this is often more focused on content than, you know, style like pros or grammar or anything.

But if you know, someone who writes a personal statement about how great it felt to, um, win the state championship basketball tournament, because they were so excited to yell at the other team that they won, they won. They’re so glad that they won they’re better than you. Like, I would be like, maybe I don’t want that person to come to this school.

They seem really, uh, that doesn’t seem like a particularly [00:10:00] sportsmen thing, sportsmen, like thing to do. Um, so that’s an extreme example, but. Another thing might be, if you mentioned five times on your activities list that you did, um, you know, fencing then does writing an essay about fencing genuinely have something new to say that you’ve not said anywhere else in your application.

So that’s something to think about. Okay. So now for the rest of this, I’m going to go through and actually demonstrate how I will edit, how I would edit these two samples. So our first sample is the Yale supplemental essay, which is 125 words or fewer. And the question is what is it about Yale that has led you to apply?

So the passage is, uh, actually I’m going to share my screen and we’re going to see it on, [00:11:00] uh, Google docs. Here we go. When I first stepped on the L’s campus, I knew immediately that. I met so many brilliant students and faculty member members who are at the top of their field. My favorite part of the tour was visiting the rare books library, or just the smell of old paper.

And leather made me feel stimulated to learn. I wasn’t able to hear Scola Cantora perform while I was there, but on the plane ride home, I listened to all of their music. I could find online. It’s always been a dream of mine to sing with a world class class choir like that. I’ve always wanted to go to school on the east coast.

So Gail will be perfect. I can’t wait for the leaves to change and snow to start falling so different from my home in Southern California. I know that Yale is going to be the perfect place for me. And we can see that this is 153 words, which is over the 125 word word limits. So that’s one thing I’ll be keeping in mind is that we need to cut some stuff down, [00:12:00] the good thing.

So we’ll always read through the whole essay first to make sure we get a sense of what’s going on in the whole essay. And then we dive into line edits. Um, so the first things I think when I look at this essay is that there’s a lot of really general statements that are not specific to Yale. So when I first stepped on Yale’s campus, I immediately knew that I was home.

I’m gonna ask that student, what specifically made you feel that way?

Um, I met so many brilliant students and faculty members who are at the top of their field. I’m going to say, you should cut this sentence because it could apply to any school. Um, there’s so many amazing schools out there that have brilliant students and [00:13:00] faculty members who were at the top of their fields.

Um, and because that’s not specific to Yale, I would just say we got an exit it’s the, the admissions officer is going to say, okay, so you copied and pasted this from your, why I’m going to apply to Princeton. Well, I’m going to apply to brown while I’m going to apply to Harvard, whatever. Um, it’s not specific enough to Yale and, uh, a faculty member is gonna kind of think that.

Um, on the other hand, my favorite part of the tour was visiting the rare books library where just the smell of old paper and leather made me feel stimulated to learn. I’m going to say this is great because it’s specific both to Yale and also in terms of, um, strong imagery. So I love that when I read my [00:14:00] favorite part of my tour was visiting their books library, or just the smell of old paper and leather made me feel stimulated to learn, I think, oh wow.

You, I can imagine the rare book library in my head and probably any admissions officer at Yale has been to the rare book library. So they are going to be transported back to their experience in there. Um, so that’s great. I really liked that. Another thing was, um, I liked that they mentioned Scola Cantora, which is, um, one of Gail’s choir’s through the divinity school and, um, is specific to Yale.

But when they say it’s always been a dream of mine to sing with a world-class choir like that, I’m thinking, I liked that this person says they listened to all of their music. They could find online, but maybe these words would be more [00:15:00] useful. If you mentioned one of the songs you liked best or, um, something else about the recording or another reason, another thing that’s specific to Scala.

So one of the things about Scola Kantar I’m as they specialize in early music and early music performance practice. Um, so maybe, or something about early music, performance practice.

Okay. Um, but I like that school of Kantar in specific,

uh, again, we’ve run into an issue. I’ve always wanted to go to school on the east [00:16:00] coast. So Yale will be perfect. There are a lot of schools on the east coast. Um, I love that this person wants to see the leaves change and want snow to fall. Um, but I think this whole section could be cut or at the very least adapted to something that’s hail specific.

Um, And then admissions officer reading, these two sentences would say, okay, well they could go here or they could go to Bowden or MIT or, you know, any of thousands and thousands of schools that are on the east coast. Um, so this is not specific enough to Yale. Can you make it Yale only? If not, please cut.

Um, I’m going to cut it anywhere here because they would probably change this, [00:17:00] um, regardless, and I know Yale is going to be the perfect place for me. It’s nice. But again, I, I’m not sure that I think that this essay proves this, um,

Your essay as it stands, proves this point. So I think you should change your final sentence. Um, so this essay is a bit rough. It needs some work. Um, I’m going to change this 14, um, and this is where I would at the end. We’re going to go through this kind of fast. I would usually do a little more in depth, um, tweaking of grammar, but, um, the grammar and this is pretty good.

Uh, there aren’t really any issues. It’s just about making sure that, um, [00:18:00] it’s more about issues of content than issues of, um, of grammar or pros. So I’m going to say hi, I wrote this one, so hi Hannah. I’m good. We’re not good work. Um, good first draft. Um,

and then we’re running a little low on time. I want to make sure that we can get to both of these, but I’ll say something along the lines of, you know, here’s what you did. Well, your voice and pros are strong, um, as is your grammar, but a lot of your content isn’t Yale specific.[00:19:00]

That will be a big red flag to NGOs admissions officers. So you need to make sure. That every sentence in this supplement is specific only to you. Um, I’d write more, but again, where, uh, I want to make sure we get to the other sample as well. So, um, but you get the, get the idea. So I’m looking at, you know, when we’re going back to that checklist, uh, I’m going to go back to the slides real fast.

Um, when we’re looking back to the checklist, you know, grammar is pretty good. Uh, there aren’t any major pros issues and the writing quality is pretty good as well. It’s understandable. It’s clear, um, narrative, narrative arc and [00:20:00] clarity. Isn’t super clear. There isn’t much of a narrative arc, but in one of these types of supplements, you don’t necessarily need one.

Um, The theme and central message. Again, it’s a little different in a supplement like this. You’re not sort of this, isn’t a personal statement. You’re not saying this, uh, grand thing about, you know, who you are necessarily. Um, but it’s not unique to Gail and it’s not particularly engaging because the thing that makes writing engaging is when it’s specific.

And so much of this, uh, essay is really general, um, voice, the student’s voice sort of shines through. But again, I don’t get a great sense of who they are because there are a lot of things that are very general, um, saying, you know, I knew I was home or there are so many brilliant students and faculty members, or I know that Yale is the perfect place for [00:21:00] me.

Those are all super lovely sentiments, but they don’t tell me anything about who this person is. Um, And what the essay reveals about the student. Again, the moments when we do get really specific stuff, I learned what the student values. I learned that they loved old books and that they love the smell of paper and leather.

That tells me a lot about the fact that they’re probably a bookworm and they love to read. And I learned that they love choir and they really they’re, you know, willing to listen to 10 hours of, I mean, potentially they’re willing to listen to 10 hours of, you know, music that was written in the eight hundreds that tells me a lot about them too.

Um, everything else doesn’t really, there are a lot of people from Southern California who want to watch the leaves change. Um, that’s not super specific. Um, so I really want to see this get more specific because the parts that are specific really shine and the parts [00:22:00] that aren’t specific don’t really tell me much about this stuff.

Okay, so we’re going to do another quick poll. Uh, so what grade are you currently in eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, or other. And this could be for a student or parent sitting in on the call or students. They can have gas while we wait on that. Uh, can you tell us a little bit about what your experience writing supplements was like?

Sure. I actually only wrote like three or four supplements because I applied early to, I applied early decision to Williams where I ended up going and I applied early action to two other schools where once I heard back from Williams, I rescinded those applications. Um, but I wrote at the time the Williams supplement that was when I really worked in the hardest time, um, was on.[00:23:00]

Williams has something called a tutorial where it’s a class with only two students and one professor. And, um, the supplemental essay was on who you would want to be tutorial partners with. Um, and I chose another student who I went to high school with, and I wrote about the way that we thought very differently and that he was like the smartest, the smartest math and stem guy.

Um, and I was someone who really loved math and stem, but had a much more kind of like Englishy artistic brain. And the fact that we often worked really well together because we, um, had very different ways of looking at problems. Um, and, and we were often partners in, uh, calculus or physics or. That was fun.

That sounds great. And that does sound very specific [00:24:00] and it sounds like me and my best friend only we cannot work on a project together because me and him conflict, it was, yeah. It definitely helped that. Um, I think it was, again, it was fun because it was specific. And because I had known this person for the past seven years of school and, um, and also I felt like a lot of people were going to write, like I do tutorial with Obama.

I do one with like, I don’t know, someone like really famous. And, and I was like, well, I don’t really feel as strongly about any of those. So it might not work. So it’s looking like 5% are in ninth grade, 5% are intent. 55% are in 11th grade, 20% are in 12th grade and 15% are.[00:25:00]

Okay, so we’re going to move on to the second sample here. So, um, I got I’m to screen share and, uh, here is the sample. Um, what song? So this is the one of the Princeton short answer supplements. Uh, what song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? 50 words or less? So that’s the first thing I’m going to look at.

This is 83 words. We’ve really got to cut this down. The 50 words or less questions are difficult because you got to pack a lot of information into a really short amount of space. So here’s the supplement. I already listened to cute boys. The short haircuts from vanity is three times today. First when I roused in the morning and it was my alarm clock.

Second, when I listened to it on my drive to school, third, when I auditioned with it for my school musical, it’s been one of my favorite song for years, but it also surprises everyone who hears it because [00:26:00] the title doesn’t foreshadow, the melancholy and acrimony that comes out by the end of the song.

Okay. So, um, I like that this one is super specific. Um, I can tell this person really does have a relationship with this song. Um, and I like that. I think it’s funny that it’s their alarm clock and they listened to it and they auditioned with it. Um, but now the main issue of this is just going to be cutting down the word count.

Um, and. Really trimming the fat, making sure that there’s nothing here. There’s not a word here that doesn’t need to be here. Um, and there’s also a few things here of, you know, I’m not sure the student knows what acrimony means. Uh, like melancholy and acrimony [00:27:00] are, are ones where I feel like the students said, well, I need to make the sound fancier.

Um, but we’ll do it from the top. So I already listened, listened to cute boys with short haircuts from vanities three times today. First browsed also, it doesn’t quite sit right in the sentence. It feels like this was a decision. Okay. I will say, as a writer, I use the you know, no shame, but don’t ever use a word from the in an essay that you had never used before in your normal life.

That’s it’s not going to end well. So I’m going to say this word choice is awkward. Um, maybe woke or woke up in the morning. Something like that. Also, the other thing is if you change it from roused in the morning to [00:28:00] woke, not work cheese. Okay. There we go. Um, then you’re already down three words. Good job.

Um, uh, okay. And it was my alarm clock. Second, when I listened to it. On my drive to school. And third, when I addition with it for my school musical. So I like the first, second, third structure of this. I think it’s fun. And we get an insight into the student’s life, um, working to see if it can stay. I’m hoping it can, um, given word count.

So it’s been one of my favorite. So this should be either it’s been my favorite song or one of my favorite songs. Uh, I’m gonna say that. Um, but I think it’s also, I think I’m going to end up cutting all of this because I love [00:29:00] that it has been one of this part, this person’s favorite songs for years, but, um, I don’t think that’s quite as interesting of a phrase as a lot of the other material.

So. Actually now I’m going to say why I did that. Um, this is not as interesting as the other material, so let’s cut it.

So I’m going to change this because they also sort of corresponded to the, but there I’m going to change this too. It surprises everyone who hears it because the title doesn’t push out at the knee. Again, melanoma, melancholy and melancholy. It might make sense here, but I don’t think the student knows what acrimony is, um, or knows how to use it in a sentence and just feels awkward with the rest of the pros.

[00:30:00] So I’m going to say this word choice also feels a bit awkward. Could you. Adjust it to a word you might use in your every day life. Um, so let’s do anger instead, which is what acrimony means by the way in case you didn’t know. Um, I did not until recently. Um, so let’s see, we’ve cut. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14 words.

We’re going to need to cut more. Um,

[00:31:00] we’re, let’s change the step I already, too. I’ve listened to cute boys. The short haircuts from Ben and these three times.

Or we could change the order of this, so that it’s today I’ve listened to vanities, to cute the short haircuts from vanities.


know, I kind of like I’ve already listened to,

I might not cut this all the way down on this session because I always take a long time to really cut things down is kind of slow fiddly work. Um, but it’s very satisfying. I actually edited a friend’s essay the other day where I cut it down a hundred characters and it was so clean before I started [00:32:00] working on it.

It was really challenging, but it was really fun. Okay. So, um, yeah. Uh, no I’m going to, I’m going to keep this. Listen to keep wanting her to her husband vanity. First one, I woke when I woke.

Um, I might just say when it was my alarm clock, um, it’s not quite as descriptive, but again, we’re just trying to cut down as much as we can. Um, I’m going to change this to on my drive to school. And then third, when I auditioned with it for my school musical, um, it surprises everyone who hears it because the title doesn’t foreshadow, the melancholy and anger that comes out by the end of the song.

Um, I think that’s pretty good. So this one was also written by me. So we’ll say, hi Hannah again. Hi Hannah. [00:33:00] Um,

again, Good work with this as I’m sure, you know, the main issue was getting the word count down beneath the limit. Um, just in general, if you’re having difficulty getting the word countdown for something, there’s sort of two main ways to do it, which is larger sections. So the section for example, is a larger chunk of text that you can just cut out.

But sometimes it’s really helpful as you saw me doing in here just to slowly take three to four words out of almost every sentence and you can really cut down a lot of words that way it’s just takes a bit more time. Um, uh, [00:34:00] are not the main issue is getting the word count down to the law was going to say it was that the.

I say was well above the word count. Um, take a look and see if you’re happy with these edits. Um, I’m going to say you also used a few words that didn’t sound like they were in your natural voice.

So make sure to, um,

read through it and replace any words you don’t use. [00:35:00] In your normal life words that you do again, if you submit an essay to us, our final comments will be more extensive than this, but, uh, where, um,

we are, uh, going to try and finish up soon. So again, this is a, when we look at this, uh, looking back on what we’re looking for, um, the grammar is pretty good. There was one, um, technical mistake, uh, which we edited, but then we ended up cutting that section anyway. Um, writing quality, the writing was pretty good.

Um, other than a few word choice issues, um, it, it flowed for the most part. I did like that there was a clear narrative arc. [00:36:00] Um, and so I tried to preserve that as much as I could, even though 50 words is a very small amount to, um, to write an essay, a central theme or message. Again, this is a very short supplement, so there’s, doesn’t have to be like a moral of the story.

But, um, we got that, you know, this song is a really important part of this person’s life. They love new school theater. They enjoy performing and they enjoy listening to music. Um, the student’s voice did shine through in the moments where they weren’t using, uh, words that were in their normal vocabulary.

Um, but sometimes their word choice got in the way of their voice. Um, and this essay actually reveals a lot about the student. So that’s a great, um, that’s a good example of that. Good work here is that we understand what the student’s day is. Like. [00:37:00] We understand that they both listen to musicals in their spare time, but also audition for them.

And, um, you know, it’s a big part of, of what goes on in their day. Um, we understand that they enjoy surprising people because you know, it’s a song called cute boys or short haircuts. And then it turns out to be a really dark song about, you know, growing older and thinking that you’re never going to be loved.

Um, that doesn’t say that in the essay. But again, I wrote this and I like that song. Um, but, uh, yeah, so we do learn a lot about the student and it’s possible that there’s a lot of material there. This could really supplement other parts of the application where you might not see. This represented. Okay. So overall takeaways, um, every essay can [00:38:00] be improved.

Um, so sometimes small changes are needed and sometimes there are large changes needed. So for the first sample, I said, um, you know, you might have to rewrite a lot of this, sometimes that has to happen, but I’ve never read an essay that was past saving. I’ve never read an essay that there wasn’t something good or interesting in that material.

Um, you can, uh, this should say you can absolutely edit your essays yourself. Um, but sometimes it can help for someone else to be objective to do around editing as well. I definitely, um, when I’m editing my own work, I make sure to sort of give it a few. If I have the time a few weeks, um, and sometimes even just 24 hours so that you can kind of come back to it more objectively and think about, um, almost edit it more like it was something that someone else [00:39:00] wrote.

Um, but sometimes it really does help to just have someone else look over something. I do that all the time as well for my own writing. Um, and that can be, you know, a member of our essay review team, but it can also be a member of your family or one of your teachers. Um, someone who you think is just a really strong writer, uh, as long as, as you feel that there’s someone who isn’t going to try and get in the way of your process.

And lastly, just think about grammar, writing, quality narrative arc, uh, themes, central message voice, and what the essay reveals about.

Yes. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. Moving on to a lot of Q and a I’ll read the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab Islam in the public chat. So you [00:40:00] can read them aloud before our panelists gives you an answer as a heads up.

If your, um, Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure you join the webinar through the custom link sent to your email and not from the webinar landing page. If you joined through the webinar link page, you won’t get all the beaches up big marker. So just make sure you join through your email late.

And so to start. Ah, I would like to just point out that yes, having a fresh pair of eyes does help with the process. Because even with me working with my clients, after a certain point, I had spoken with them and seeing their essay so many times that I knew what they were talking about. But then having someone from the essay review team look over it, they pointed out some things that even I had missed, just because I knew what the point was.

So having someone else look over it can really help give a different perspective because you may already know, or your advisor may already know what point you’re trying to make, but if. You have someone else read it, they may point out something you missed. And this is really important because the [00:41:00] admissions officers, aren’t going to have that relationship with you, like your advisor or someone you, or yourself or someone that’s been reading your essay consistently.

Um, so they might miss something also. So it’s just good to have some fresh eyes looking on it, but also don’t have a million people look over it because everyone’s opinion really mess up your essay, especially in terms of voice. Yeah. That’s, that’s a great point. Um, don’t have, you know, everyone in the kitchen and sank, uh, read your essay.

You really want to make sure that, um, and also if someone gives you a piece of advice and you’re like, absolutely not. Um, there’s a, I think it’s a Neil Gaiman quote. Um, who’s only sold about a billion books ever, um, about, you know, when someone gives you a note. This isn’t totally true. But when someone gives you a note, they’re usually wrong about the solution, but they’re always right about the [00:42:00] problem.

Um, so I wouldn’t say they’re usually wrong about the solution. I think that’s more true for creative writing than, um, essay writing. But if, you know, several people say, well, I don’t understand this aspect of your essay. You should change that aspect of your essay, but if they all tell you how to change it, they might be wrong and you might be right.

Yes. So to start us off, um, we have a few questions. So, um, this one is more of a technical, but is CollegeAdvisor still offering the two hours of review for a hundred dollars? If so, how and where do they sign up? Um, are we still offering the two hours of review for a hundred dollars? I’m not sure. Um, I’m not sure when that deal was from, but I can.

I’m not sure if that was like, um, essay review or, um, [00:43:00] something different. I hadn’t heard about that offer for essays in particular. I think it might’ve been something like when the old website had, like, you could book an advisor for like our, it might’ve been that. Um, I, yeah, I, I wish I knew the answer to that.

I apologize. Uh, okay. So the one student’s asking, sometimes I feel like my essays are too simple. So when do I know, I need to change words? Um, that’s a great question. Um, I think that, as I said, I really urge you not to use words that you’ve never sort of said out loud to a person before. Um, but something that can be an issue is if you are repeating words a lot.

So if you know, you’re writing about, um,[00:44:00]

team building on your basketball team, and I’ve used a lot of basketball examples tonight, um, and you keep saying team and team building and our team, and you’re like, well, I just keep saying team in every sentence. And it’s really repetitive. That might be a moment where you sit down and like find synonyms for team that you have used before in your life.

And you know how to fit into a sentence. Um, just so that the word choices are a little less repetitive. Um, another thing is making sure that your sentence structures are varied. So what that means is an example of something that’s not varied is I went to the store period. I got a cup of milk, pure. Cup of milk.

I don’t know that is, um, I took it home period. I baked a cake with it, period versus a varied sentence structure would be [00:45:00] last Tuesday. I was on my way to the store to get some milk for my cake. It was really rainy outside. The most beautiful thing happened. Colon a rainbow came out from behind a cloud, whatever it doesn’t matter, but sentences are different lengths.

Um, some have, um, dependent clauses in front, some have dependent clauses at the end. You don’t need to necessarily know what all the words mean, but, but each sentence has a different rhythm. It feels different. And so the, the, the rhythm kind of keeps you on your feet and keeps you interested and keeps you reading while still.

Yeah. So on that note with like, um, not using fancy words that you’ve never used, what if a student cause like some of my students are just kind of poetic and how they speak. If a student usually uses words that seem like kinda over the top of that is how they speak. [00:46:00] Um, should they still include those since that is their regular voice and wouldn’t admissions officer be able to tell yes, they should include things.

If they, you know, use things in their regular length language and they’re using those correctly. Um, I can absolutely tell the difference, reading an essay between someone who is using the word melancholy, because that’s a word they use in their life and they’re using the word versus someone who’s using the word melancholy because they thought sad.

Wasn’t a smart enough word. Sad is a good word. So you can use sad, but you can also use melancholy. I use. A lot of big words, uh, when I write, but, um, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s never a bad thing. Um, but it really does.

I hate to break it to you, but I don’t know any high school writer, who’s a strong enough writer to make [00:47:00] themselves sound natural at things that they’re not natural at. Like, I think that’s something that writers in their forties and fifties struggle with who have been re like professionally writing for decades.

Um, so I really urge you to use like the, the, the language you use, whether that’s really fancy or not, um, is enough. And it’s going to come off enough to admissions officers. Mm. Uh, so going onto the next question, I’m going to pull one from the pre panel. So how does someone retain their voice? Um, when editing and like, how do you make sure you don’t lose your voice in your essay when you or others are editing your essay?

That’s a great question. Um, voice is one of those things where it’s a word we throw around a lot and no one really knows what it means. Um, but you can tell it when [00:48:00] you read something and you’re like, oh, that had a strong voice. I got a sense of who that person was from the way that their prose read to me.

Um, I think when you’re editing your own stuff, your own voice is gonna sound pretty natural to you. So if something sounds awkward, this is also a thing I, I write at the end of almost all of my reviews is. Stand in front of someone that you like and trust and read your essay to them out loud. This is not to get notes from them, but every time you’re, you sort of stumble over the words or you feel awkward about a way something was phrased, that’s a sign that you should change it.

Um, and everything that sort of just flows off the tongue is in your voice. Um, and so I often recommend that that’s the last thing that someone does to do edits before submitting their essay. Um, so if you give yourself like a day from that to submitting the essay, [00:49:00] um, to in your application, then, you know, you can do whatever, little fiddly last edits based off of that.

But, um, it’s a really, uh, if something sounds natural coming out of your mouth, it’s in your voice. Um, and with other people, that’s kind of a more complicated thing. Because everyone has preferences in terms of pros. Um, I think that if you look over someone’s edits and again, if you read them and they no longer feel like they’re in your voice, if you’re just like, oh, that pros sounds different and it doesn’t sound like me.

Don’t take all of those edits. Um, that’s okay. You’re allowed to say, you know what, I disagree with some of these. Um, and you can also be like, well, I see what they said, what they meant about the grammar in that sentence, but I’m going to change it in a way that still makes it sound like me as opposed to the way that they [00:50:00] changed it.

Okay. And just before we do the, um, the watch, which I call it, can you tell us a little bit about active and passive voice and like how, um, how students can, um, fix that in their essays? Absolutely. Okay. So, um, active and passive voice is like, it’s one of those things. It’s one of those rules. That’s like not ironclad, but it does make a good point.

So an active voice is, um,

I was hit in the face. I was punched in the face by or no, no. Um, active voice is Miranda punched Jessica in the face. Passive voice is Jessica received. Uh, [00:51:00] Jessica got punched in the face by Miranda. Um, active voice says Miranda did this thing. Why would Miranda do that? Passive voice makes it sound like Miranda was just incidental.

Like she just happened to be there even though she was the one that punched Jessica in the face. Um, And so, um,

the D the difference between active and passive voice is that when you’re talking about yourself, the things that you’ve accomplished, your own experiences, you want to sound like an active participant in those experiences. You want to say, um, I did this thing. I achieved that. Like, I am awesome. You should love you to call it.

Um, as opposed to this thing was achieved by me, or, you know, I happened to be making it sound like you happen to be there as opposed to [00:52:00] I accomplished this thing. And that’s awesome. Um, so again, it’s passive voice is like, people make it sound like it’s this like, horrible thing. It’s not, it’s just that you want to make sure that yeah.

That you are the main character of your own experiences when you’re writing about them. Another thing that I tell my clients with that, especially for word count issues in the really short essays, I’m saying sentence, like I would like to study biology because it will be, it will help me become a great doctor.

Um, instead they should say studying biology will help me become a great doctor. Like they don’t have to say, I would like to study just because it’s assumed you would do it. Um, and you don’t necessarily have to say I, or like, even when you’re writing essay, especially for like why school essays, you don’t have to keep repeating the name of the school in an essay to the point, [00:53:00] just to save on word count.

Cause it’s already implied that you’re talking about yourself and you’re talking about this school. Yeah. And that’s what active versus passive is active, is just getting to the point and making sure that your, the main. Character of your essays. So one to work one-on-one with an advisor from our team of over 155 advisors and admissions officers sign up for a free consultation with us by going to and clicking the green chat button in the bottom right of this screen.

From there, just write in consultation in a live team member, we’ll get back to you, uh, to help coordinate your free consultation with us. And CollegeAdvisor, we have a lot of great resources, not only our blog or a free webinars, where you can find different, um, resources and information about various topics or essay guides for specific schools.

But we also have our amazing essay review team that can look over your essays within a day. [00:54:00] Um, we have our amazing advisors that have. Sorts of different experiences and expertise in different areas, and they can provide you a lot of help and support throughout this process and help you to make the best application you can for your, all your schools.

So getting back to the Q and a, um, okay. Uh, so one student is asking what’s the average number of essays in the college application. Um, so for not all applications, but most applications, um, anything, I think everything you’re submitting through either the common app or the coalition app, you’re going to submit to all of those schools, the personal statement, which is the sort of one big, uh, what is it?

Six 50 words, 650 word or less essay. Um, and so that’s one that might be one essay for [00:55:00] like 10 schools. Um, And then, or less, but, um, however many schools you’re applying to, and then some schools have no supplemental essays. Um, so I think quite a lot of schools have no supplemental essays. And then, you know, Stanford has what, like eight something ridiculous.

Um, so it, it really depends. I don’t know what the average is. I’d say somewhere like two to three, depending on the, um, generally schools that have a higher like ranking or a more selective have more supplemental essays than schools that are less selective. Um, but it really is going to depend. And that’s also something you can be strategic about is saying, you know, well, I like Stanford, but I’m not sure if I like it a lot.

Do I like. It’s supplemental essays worth or [00:56:00] however, I don’t know if it’s actually, I just know they have a lot, um, versus, well, this school, I only have to write one, 100 word essay, so that might be so I’d maybe don’t that maybe doesn’t have to be like my only dream school for forever. That’s not that hard to apply to it because I can knock that essay out in a day.

And then there we go. The application’s done. Um, so I’d say probably two to three, but again, it really depends on the school. Uh, so going off of that, how can a student be specific, especially for those why score or why major questions? How can a student be specific in a very limited way? That’s a great question.

Um, I think figure out like one to two to three, maybe four details where you’re like, these are the details I want to hit. So in the Yale essay, You know, the two ones that stood out to me [00:57:00] where, um, they rare books, library and, uh, Scola them. And, uh, you could write a really solid YL essay just around those two topics.

Um, and how each of them, you know, sort of represents two sides of you. So if you’re, if you, because you were secretly me writing that supplement where someone who loved music and English, um, then you know, you could talk about that. You could, um, through those two elements, um, but you really want them to be specific and because those word counts are short, you don’t want to waste any words on anything that isn’t either very specific to you or very specific to the school or both preferably.

And on that note, like with being very specific, sometimes you may want to list out your whole major’s name. If you have a really long major, you [00:58:00] can use the acronym most of the times where you’re talking about if it’s their school. Um, and then also if it’s like a specific department, you can shorten the name.

You don’t have to say full names of everything just because that can be very costly. Yeah. I would say if it’s something that is school specific and relatively obvious to someone who had gone to that school, you can use acronyms. If it’s something just from your life, you should say out the, like, write out the acronym and then put in parentheses QSP I dunno if that’s an acronym for, um, and then you can just use the acronym everywhere else in the essay.

Uh, okay. So, um, one student in a pre panel was explaining how they don’t have a lot of activities on their activities list because they had to take care of their mother, um, who was sick. And they wanted to know how they could write an essay that highlights who they are and why they don’t have [00:59:00] many activities.

But they’re also scared about if it comes off as an exaggeration, like I took care of my mother, like can admissions officers tell, like, if there’s like exaggerations, um, I would say they can tell if there’s exaggerations, but I also think that’s, uh, even if, even if it’s not, you know, even if you weren’t home every hour that you weren’t at school, that’s still a serious part of your life.

Um, I would say don’t feel that you need to use something like the personal statement to, um, Explain a way other parts of your application. Well, one first of all, you can say in your activities list, one of those activities can be, I was at home this many hours a week, taking care of my mom. That can be one of your activities, a hundred percent.

There’s also the additional information part of the application where you can share that information. [01:00:00] Um, and you could write an essay about it. And it sounds like it would be a very moving essay. Um, but don’t feel like you need to use one of your essays as a way to explain what you feel like are deficiencies in other part of your application.

That’s not a deficiency. Um, but yeah, I would say, write an essay about that.

Even just the way that you phrase that question tells me that you have a lot to say about that and what that experience was like. Um, so write the essay from that perspective from saying, you know, this had a huge impact on my life and my childhood and who I was growing up. And yet I’m, sometimes I’m not sure how I feel about it, or I’m not sure if what happened was it’s hard to compare and decide how [01:01:00] complicated it was or how much it got in the way of my life.

Um, that sounds like a fascinating essay, but it doesn’t have to be about I’m writing this essay so that you know why I have fewer activities. There are places you can put that on the application, um, and you don’t necessarily need to use one of your essays to.

So since the webinar’s coming to a close, is there any last minute advice or tips to writing these essays, into editing them, editing them, um, that you feel like every student should know maybe even to ease their tension? Absolutely. Um, one editing is hard. Like it’s really hard. Um, and you’re probably going to have to edit, like I, on any piece of writing that I’m really serious about editing, I can do anywhere from two to 10 rounds of editing.

[01:02:00] Um, and so give yourself the time for that really give yourself as much time as possible. Um, that’s why a lot of seniors try and finish their personal statements early on because that’s the biggest chunk of writing and it’s going to need the most editing. Um, and you want to give yourself ideally like weeks or months to be able to put something down and not look at it for awhile and then come back to it and look at it with fresh eyes.

So you aren’t staring at the same words that like the night before you were like beating your head against the wall, being like what’s a better word for, you know, upset, whatever. Um, so give yourself time to edit, start things as early as you can. Um, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Uh, that’s really what, like everyone, everyone, all professional writers [01:03:00] have like other people who read their, their stuff.

So it’s and you guys can too. Um, yeah. So give yourself time. Be aware that, um, you might need rounds of editing, have other people read it, who you trust and who have your best interests at heart. Um, and you’ve got this. You guys can all write some great. When was the one thing that I did when I was writing my essays and I’ll do sometimes with my clients, um, some people advise against this using contractions and stuff, but if it gets the last minute and everything sounds perfect, but it’s just word count.

I’ll go in and change contractions. My only thing is I won’t change a strong sentence or like the beginning and last sentence. Um, the contractions to like, if you’re saying, um, I would go to the store, I would do this. Just say, I’d, I’d add. But if you’re saying something like, I want to [01:04:00] be a doctor, don’t try and make a contraction with that, or I will change the world.

Don’t say I’ll change the word. Cause that doesn’t sound nice. Just keep it as a straightforward. Yeah. Um, there are lots of little ways to edit stuff down. Um, but again, give yourself as much time to do that as possible. So you can really let the words breathe. Hmm. So that is the end of our webinar. Thank you everyone for coming out and thank you to our panelists, hand up.

I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from, um, the handouts tab and here’s the rest of our December series, where we’ll have different topics on how to increase your admissions odds. And remember that you can watch this video again later because it is being recorded and will be posted, and you can watch our other webinars where we talk about, um, brainstorming the supplement, or there are other, um, essay editing gods, if you want it to see those as well.

And then we also have our blog with different, um, [01:05:00] essay writing guides too. So thank you again. Thank you everyone for coming out and good night, have a great night, everyone.