How To Edit Your College Application Essays
CollegeAdvisor Admissions Expert and Essay Review specialist Juliana explains how to edit your essays to perfection.
2021-11-14 How to Edit Your College Application Essays
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on how to edit your college application essays. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download the slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists.
Hello, everyone, and nice to meet you. Hope you’re having a great evening. Um, my name is Juliana Furigay. I am currently a junior at Columbia university studying financial economics and ethnicity, race studies. And I’m really glad to help you guys out today on editing your college apps.
Okay, we’re going to start off with the quick polls. So the first question is, have you completed your college application essays? So this can be like your personal statement, your supplements, or any short answer responses, just any part of [00:01:00] the application. Have you completed them? And then so your responses are, yes, I have completed all of them.
I’ve completed some of them or I haven’t completed any. And while we wait for those answers to roll in, uh, Juliana, what made you choose your major? Sure. So I was always interested in economics. Um, in high school I took a microeconomics course. I also took some economics courses at Northwestern, U Chicago.
So I knew that I was interested in the subject and I wanted to explore it more in college. So I decided to declare the major, fall in love with the classes. And then in terms of ethnicity and race studies, it’s a new concentration that I tacked on this year. And I was always involved in social justice work.
I interned for this organization called Asian Americans, advancing justice back in high school. And I knew I wanted to explore, you know, the subject in an academic setting. Wow. That is a lot. That is an interesting mixture. So it’s looking like we have 6% [00:02:00] say, um, they’ve completed all of them. 47% have completed some of them and 47% haven’t completed any.
Alrighty. So moving on to this first slide here, um, you guys may be wondering how does a strong essay impact a college application? And I would personally argue that a strong essay is one of the most important parts of your college application. You know, it allows your personality and story to shine through.
Um, it can also make yourself stand out among other applicants in the pool. I feel like the essay is the one part of your application where you can really add your own touch to it because you know, when you have your list of extracurriculars, all they see are, you know, those activities for what they are.
They don’t see your involvement within it. They don’t see your feelings towards it. They don’t see the specific anecdotes from your experiences that really add the extra [00:03:00] dimension to your personality. That’s important to differentiate yourself, but the essay can definitely do that for you. Um, and also in terms of test scores, a strong essay can compensate for lower test scores.
Um, meaning that if you have a good essay and you don’t have maybe the best scores, they can overlook that a bit by, you know, reading your essay and, you know, weighing that more. And additionally, more schools these days are becoming tests optional, which is a trend that we’ve been seeing, you know, with the onset of COVID-19 and people having different difficulties with taking exams.
Um, so as more schools start to adopt this policy, your essays will carry more weight, which is why it’s really important for you to develop that strongest.
Um, so why is editing your writing important? So to put it succinctly, I would say that the goal of editing and proofreading is to ensure [00:04:00] that your ideas are expressed clearly coherently and concisely. Um, and you guys may be wondering, I differentiated editing and proofreading. So what’s the difference between, you know, proofreading and editing.
So editing. Revising the content structure and grammar of your writing, whereas proofreading involves checking for accuracy and smaller details. So you’re looking at spelling punctuation, there’s more smaller, fine details in your writing. And the typical order that you would follow is to edit before you proofread proofreading should typically be the final stage of the editing process, where you focus on really fine tuning that surface language.
Um, and I would argue that you proofread last because you want to make sure that you have a strong essay and strong structure first before you prove. Because otherwise you’re spending too much time proofreading, you know, changing up your language, even though you don’t know that you’re going to [00:05:00] stay, stay with that structure that you have.
So it’s important to build that strong basis, make sure that your paragraphs are broken up in a way that, you know, is conducive to the understanding of your essay. You want to make sure that, you know, the order of your paragraphs is set as well. You have, you know, your conclusion really tying everything together and everything in between flowing naturally.
Um, so definitely editing before proofreading.
Um, and you guys may also be wondering how much time should you give, um, to edit these application essays. And so right here, I have the screenshot of a timeline from CollegeAdvisor, a student handbook. And, you know, in your junior year, March through June, you should really spend that time brainstorming topics for your personal statement.
Um, I would definitely suggest that you complete that personal statement before you complete your other supplemental essays, um, specific to colleges, just because [00:06:00] you don’t know if your college list is going to change also because the personal statement. No the most important essay that you’re going to set out since you’re sending that to all of your colleges and it’s something that’s really central to your identity, rather than like a school specific supplement where you’re just focusing on maybe like one aspect or, you know, focusing more on the school.
Um, and in terms of your June, July of your junior year, that’s when you should start drafting and workshopping your personal statement. So, you know, you already have these topics that you’ve brainstormed bullet pointed less of what you think you might want to write about. And then in the summer months you should start, you know, drafting that, seeing which topic you actually want to go forth with.
Um, and in July to August, you should be finalizing your personal statement, um, and preparing to write those school specific supplemental essays, uh, SU senior year, August to December. That’s when you should be we’re shopping and completing all of your required essays, because that’s when all the deadlines [00:07:00] are going to.
So what steps can you take to edit your essays? So the first thing you should do is to read through your first draft and as you do, so you should definitely ask yourself a couple of questions. The first is, does my essay clearly answer the prompts? You know, that’s really important. You want to make sure that you’re not going off topic, that all your ideas are central to this question that you’re answering, which upper prompt you end up choosing, um, on the common app coalition app, whatever it may be.
Um, you want to ask yourself is my essay. Well-organized. You have to see, you know, can I rearrange my paragraphs to more effectively convey my message? Can I split up my paragraphs differently? Because the organization of your essay is really important. You don’t want to have, you know, short paragraphs where the admissions officer kind of has to struggle to read through, but you also don’t want these large paragraphs where the reader can get lost in what you’re trying to say.
[00:08:00] So really make sure that your paragraphs are organized well, split up. Well, um, you should also ask yourself, am I on topic, which does fall under that first question that I talked about? Um, do I vary up my sentence structures and lengths? You want to make sure that you’re not repeating. You know, I am, I am.
I hope, I hope things like that and make sure that you’re varying up your sentences, um, because you don’t want the admissions officer to get bored, reading your writing. You want to make sure that you have, you know, some variants and your sentence structures, your lengths. Um, and then lastly, ask yourself, do I have me spelling or grammatical errors, which ties into the pre.
How can a student figure out what needs to be fixed? So I would say first, read your essay aloud to yourself and highlight any areas that sound awkward. You know, this is really important because sometimes when you’re reading in your [00:09:00] head, you don’t really see how those words will translate to another person.
So when you’re speaking it aloud, you can see, okay, this is how my writing will read to another person. Um, and you can just check and see which areas don’t sound super great and that you can edit. Um, and the next thing is just to ask someone for help. It’s always great to have, you know, second, third pair of eyes to look over your writing because there’ll be able to catch things that you don’t, you don’t see yourself.
Um, so if a student needs help editing, who can they ask? Um, so you have a lot of different people that you can ask different resources for us or any teachers, uh, peers as well. This is something that I personally did a lot back when I was doing my college applications, my friends, and I would always, you know, share writing with each other.
And it would really help since, you know, we’d all been editing our essays and we all had different ways of going about or editing and proofreading. And we also all have our different writing styles. So [00:10:00] being able to see that fresh perspective and having that to look over to your essay, that was really helpful.
Um, and it can also be less intimidating than asking, you know, a teacher, a high school counselor, um, Asking someone who’s been through the college application process is something that’s really helpful as well. Um, because you know, they’ve been through the process, they had to edit their essays. They’ve written these essays, you know, they know what to look out for.
They know what makes a good college admissions essay. So we could ask people who’ve graduated from your high school, uh, siblings, parents, if they went through the process. Um, like I said before, you can also ask your high school counselor and of course your CollegeAdvisor.com advisor, um, we’re all equipped to help you out with editing your essays.
A lot of us have been through the process or have been former visions officers. You know, we know what to look out for and we’re kind of experts in that sense. Okay, so now [00:11:00] we’re going to do another quick poll and I actually added in another one. So I’ll launch it after this one, but for the first question, um, which essay or essays D struggle with the most.
So your response can be the personal statement, supplemental essays, um, or also known as the school specific essays or the short response essays, which are also school specific, but they’re like the really short, like describe yourself in five words, type of essays. Well, not really even essays. And while we wait for that, um, okay.
I had two questions, but, um, so Columbia’s supplements are like really interesting. Like they ask what, what’s your favorite book to read? How did you go about answering. Yeah. So a lot of students struggle with figuring out how to answer these essays because you know, they’re really different from what you see in different colleges.
Um, how I personally went about it is I wanted to make sure it was authentic. Some kids think that, you know, admissions officers want to see these heavy [00:12:00] academic texts just piled on. And I’m telling you right now that that’s not what they want to see. They want to see books that you actually enjoy. They want to see your personality shine through, like I said before through these.
So I, you know, I’m personally a fan of fashion magazines. I put that in, you know, the texts and publications that I read, um, movies as well. I put them there, romcoms I’m interested in. Um, so I’d say definitely. You know, media that you’ve actually been interested in rather than what you think the admissions officers want to see, because, you know, there’s no set thing that they want to see.
They just want to see that you’re being genuine to yourself. They want to see, you know, what kinds of media you’re actually interested in because a lot of Columbia students, you know, on the side, read, watch shows, watch movies, um, go to different shows in the city as well, which I know is, um, a question they have.
Yes. And that goes for all essays. They just want you to be yourself. There’s no right [00:13:00] answer. Um, and then also what you were saying earlier about the, um, listening to your, um, um, or reading a lot of your essay. I like to put it in word or any sort of like audio or text reader so I can hear it. Cause even when I’m reading it out loud, I will read it and whatever, I think I’m seeing and stuff when I’m actually seeing.
So for this one is looking like 56% struggle with the personal statement, 28% struggle with the supplemental essays and 17% struggle with the short response. And now we’re going to do one more quick one that I kind of made up on the spot, but what aspect of the essay process do you struggle with the most?
So that can be the brainstorming and coming up with a topic drafting, the essay editing slash proofreading. Maybe you have completed it, but you just don’t like the flow of it. So it sounds funny, um, or, um, you have completed it, but you hate your topic completely and you can’t answer more than one response [00:14:00] for this one.
And while we wait for that, um, what did you write your personal statement about? Yes. So for my personal statement, it was a bit personal, so I wouldn’t get like too many details, but you know, it was about, I come from like an immigrant background. My parents are immigrants and I talked about, you know, the legislation that I passed with an Asian Americans advancing justice, which I talked about earlier.
So I like created and pass this policy that allowed English language learner students to waive the world language requirement, because otherwise they would have to deal with learning another language on top of English, since English is already their second language. So, you know, I made that policy change within Chicago public schools.
And I just talked about my experience, you know, speaking to city council and, you know, um, how fulfilling that was for me, just given my own family’s background as well. You know, it’s crazy. Like they say that kids can’t do anything and you literally press [00:15:00] legislation. Uh, it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough sometimes, but, uh, 33% of students say they, um, struggled with brainstorming or coming up with the topic 20%, um, struggle with drafting, the essay, 12% struggle with editing and proofreading.
32% say they’ve completed it, but they don’t like the flow. And 4% say they’ve completed it, but they don’t like the topic.
All right. So how will a student know when their essays are done and they don’t need any more editing? So kind of going back to those three initial goals I talked about earlier, it’s, you know, when your edits no longer improve your ability to express your ideas, clearly coherently and concisely. Um, some advice that I have is to keep a Google doc with multiple versions of your essay, draft one, draft two draft three, to keep track of [00:16:00] those changes and check for the above, because you know, when you’re making these edits, sometimes it’s hard to go back and see what you’ve edited, whether it sounded better before.
So if you have this running document, you can see, okay, you know, maybe this edit that I made actually shouldn’t have been made and it sounded better before. So you can kind of go back and edit like that. And it also, you know, Like the people I mentioned earlier, you can show them, you know, your different drafts and see, you know, what sounds best, what edits were worth it to them.
Um, so what was my experience of writing and editing college essays? So I followed the processes that I’ve discussed in the earlier slides. You know, I reached out to my peers and my friends. We all edited each other’s essays. I also made sure to just edit mine thoroughly, I’m kind of a perfectionist. So I would just constantly kind of add on these edits and see, okay, does this sound better?
This does not sound better. Um, and kind of go about it that way. So definitely I’d [00:17:00] say just like reach out to people, you know, make sure you can have like, as many people as you can look over your essay and also just make sure that you’re. You know, doing the editing on your part as well. Um, now I’m actually part of CollegeAdvisor.com essay review team, where my role is to edit and proofread students as essays.
So basically I’m an advisor and their client can decide they want someone else to look over the essay. So they’ll send it to our essay review team and we’ll send it back in a day or so. And through this role, I’ve kind of seen, you know, a wide array of essays that students have written. And I’ve also seen some common mistakes, uh, within these essays.
So one thing I’d say to look out for is like run-on sentences. You know, sometimes you get too caught up in your idea, your thoughts, and you’ll just ramble on, in a sentence and you know, it doesn’t become coherent to the reader. What exactly you’re trying to express. So definitely look out for [00:18:00] that. Um, and you can catch that when you’re reading your essay aloud, because you’ll run out of breath with.
Goes to show that’s a run-on sentence. Um, another thing the IFC is also failing to include enough personal anecdotes. And I think that this is really important, especially in your personal statement, since, you know, that’s the essay that’s supposed to portray you and you know, the most important experiences that you’ve had in your life.
And if you don’t include enough personal anecdotes and you say, you know, more generic things, like I experienced growth, I was inspired and you’re not really. Talking about how those experiences were transformative for you. And you’re just using these more like generic adjectives to describe that, like I’d say definitely include personal anecdotes in place of those more generic adjectives to describe your experiences.
Um, something I’ve also seen is failing to tie the beginning of the [00:19:00] essay together with the end and something that I’ve seen a lot in people’s essays is they don’t have this circular narrative structure. And it’s something that I, you know, give advice to. A lot of my essay review team clients, I’ll say that a circular narrative structure is really the best way to go with these essays.
You’ll want to tie the beginning and the end of the essay together with something clever. And it’s hard for me to give a specific example. Um, but it’s like if you mentioned something in the beginning, You know, meant, like add onto it and the end. Um, just so you have that cohesive kind of circular narrative structure and it doesn’t seem like you’re going all over the place.
Um, so what last piece of advice would I give to you guys and editing your college essays? So I would say definitely give yourself enough time to edit and proofread. Um, definitely refers to that timeline that I have in the previous slide. If you don’t give yourself enough time to, [00:20:00] you know, write out that essay, you won’t have time to edit and proofread.
So if you’re doing these all last minute, you won’t have time to do that. And it’s really important that you do because you know, the first graph is typically going to look quite different from that final draft that you end up submitting. So you’ve got to give yourself enough time to do that. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Like I said earlier, you’re all here to help you out. Everyone’s willing to, you know, read over your essays and you have a lot of people that can do that for you.
Okay. Okay. Sorry about that. Um, so that is the end of our presentation, the presentation part of our webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, moving onto the live Q and a I’ll read through your questions you submitted in the Q and a tab and read them [00:21:00] aloud before our panelists gives you an answer as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting me submit questions, just double-check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.
Um, and just as a quick point, um, I made a webinar the other day about, um, rethinking your personal statement, and it does have some tips about if you’re, um, on editing and proofreading. So if you want to check that out too. Uh, okay. So, um, for the first question, when students asking, when did you start. The essays, um, for the admissions process.
Uh, so I actually followed the timeline I talked about earlier. It was really my junior summer that I was, uh, cranking out those essays.
Um, so our next question is, um, is it necessary to update your essays for the early applications, um, to the regular decision [00:22:00] pool? Like if you already submitted for early, do you need to, should you like change it and then submit it, um, resubmit it for, um, like a new essay for the unregulated. So I would not say that it’s necessary per se.
Um, if you were, if you felt pretty rushed sending in those early decision, early application applications, um, and you don’t think that it’s your strongest essay, then I can say you can revise it. If you’re not really a fan of the topic that you wrote about, you could revise it. But I’d say if you follow the advice that I gave and you were, you know, good on that timeline, you were able to go through rounds of edits.
You don’t need to change your essay.
Uh, another student is asking, should you ever name drop people? You’re looking forward to interacting with on the college? Um, so advice that I give students about their college specific supplemental [00:23:00] essays is like to namedrop professors. That’s typically one, one good thing to do. Um, you don’t have to, you don’t have to do it, but it’s something that you can do to show that you’ve researched the college.
You know, there’s this specific professor that you’re interested in taking class with or conducting research with. So I think in that sense, it would be good to,
uh, just for even my clarification. Um, so what the essay review team do you need to be a part of college advisories that, or can you be like just a student and send your essays to them? Uh, so it’s just currently college advisor.
Um, okay. So, uh, next question is, um, how do I come up with a good topic to focus on in the essay, the personal state. Yes. So I did, as I just had like a running Google doc, you can even write it down if that’s more your style and just think about [00:24:00] what formative experiences you’ve had in your life, whether it’s your upbringing or an extracurricular that you are really dedicated to, um, maybe a family member had, you know, an impact on you that formed you into who you are today.
Think about all of those formative experiences as formative people and just write it down and see, you know, which of those you’d want to follow through with, I had a similar thing on that. Just like writing out all the topics and then just write each of them out as much as you can and see which one you just enjoy writing about more or, um, which one you have more to say about.
Um, and then also if you’re like writing about one and you end up going off on a tangent, maybe the tangent is more interesting than the initial topics. So seeing if you can go somewhere with that, Okay, so just going off of your experience, can you, um, talk about like some comments or, um, edits you made [00:25:00] when you were reading a particular student’s essay?
Like, can you explain, like, what was maybe not so good about it and how they, how you suggested they improve it? Um, so I can speak specifically to that circular narrative structure I was talking about earlier. Um, don’t want to give out personal details about different students as essays, but I will say that, you know, sometimes I’ve had students submit an essay and their conclusion kind of goes on a tangent.
Similar to what you said earlier, and doesn’t really tie into their introductory paragraph. So I always will suggest, you know, I’ll find a specific facet of their introduction that I find interesting and that they can tie back into their conclusions and on a clever note. Um, and I’d say that’s definitely something you can do on your own too.
You can look at your introduction and say, okay, maybe I referenced a specific quote. Um, maybe I talked about like a song that had influenced me. Like you can refer back to the [00:26:00] lyrics at the end, or you can expand on that quote in the conclusion. So basically just something that ties together, your essay, that is some feedback that I’ve given to a lot of students in my, um, essay review, team feedback.
Um, one thing that I. That is what my students is. Um, they’ll write their personal statement and it’ll just kind of be a list of different events or things that happen in their life, but none of them really get explained in detail and they just, um, it’s just sort of like, kind of like their activities list only about their whole life.
And it doesn’t really say anything in particular about who they are, what they’ve done, or how these experiences have shaped them. So I went through and I just had work. Uh, a new story started and ended on how many different things that they could go in deeper on if they had more to say about it or [00:27:00] finding a better focus in their essay.
And so, like an example of that would be, um, say a student that likes stands. I’m not going to talk about my actual students, but a student likes, um, dance. So they’ll say like, oh, I’ve been dancing since I was two. Um, I joined a dance camp and I’ve also been on the dance team in my high school. Um, and then I also started a dance club at my school to show young girls how to do ballet.
And then, um, I want to do dance as a career, but it’s like, there were five different stories there and I didn’t really learn much from anything. I just learned that you did a lot with dance, which while it shows you’re dedicated to dance, it doesn’t really say anything more than that. So like picking one of those sentences or topics and going with it in some more detail, um, So, um, since we’re talking about our jaws at CollegeAdvisor, let’s go into this.
So once work one-on-one with an advisor from our team of over 155 advisors and admissions officers sign up for a free [00:28:00] consultation with us, by going to CollegeAdvisor.com and clicking the green chat button in the right of the screen from there, just write in consultation and a live team member will get back to you to help with your free consultation with us.
And there are different services you can get at CollegeAdvisor, such as working with an advisor. You can ask for help from the S the review team. Um, you can all so, um, well with, uh, having an advisor, I know that like me and my clients, we meet up, um, either once a month or once a week, depending on the time of the year or what they need.
And then we just talk about different things. And from those meetings, I’m able to see the toxic about more to help brainstorm their ideas. Um, uh, having someone else listen to you and tell you what they see or hear about the topic that’s [00:29:00] okay.
Um, it editing if there’s a good place. Um, the only thing about.[00:30:00]
Hello, can everyone hear me? All right. I think McKenzie might be having some tech issues. Um, so we’ll just wait for her to come back.
McKenzie. Can you hear me?
Yes. I’m so sorry about that. No clue what happened. Um, uh, so I’m not sure if you were saying experience with [00:31:00] CollegeAdvisor, but if you want to share anything about like working with clients,
Sure I can. Um, so I have been with CollegeAdvisor kind of from the star, even when we were called bulls-eye missions. I’m not sure if anyone remembers that, but I’ve been with called advisor for a couple of years now. And, you know, helping out clients has really been so fulfilling. We really offer comprehensive services where, you know, we’re helping students build their extracurricular lists.
Um, we’re helping them edit their essays, brainstorm their essays. Um, we’re helping out with building your college list and decide, you know, if you want to apply to an early school and what school that should be. So we really offer these comprehensive services, um, that I honestly didn’t have when I was applying to colleges.
No, I’d never had a call to advisor.com account. I don’t think it existed [00:32:00] back then when I was applying to colleges, but, you know, I relied on, you know, my friends, high school alum, parents, teachers, counselors, I relied on different people to kind of help me out with the process. Um, so that was really helpful.
It’s always great to reach out for help if you need it. Um, yes. And on that note, yes, I am. I just turned off my camera. Sorry. Um, me, uh, okay. So, uh, another student student, um, uh, another student is asking, um, what should I add to improve my essay and make it unique and captivate. Um, so I would definitely say personal anecdotes are important for that.
So instead of having those more generic adjectives, like I was [00:33:00] inspired, I felt excited. Um, definitely referenced specific moments in your life that tie into this general theme that you’re talking about, whether it’s, you know, your experience with dance, like you said earlier with Mackenzie. So instead of just saying I liked dance, um, my schedule was busy because of dance.
Instead of saying those more generic sentences, you know, talk about a specific experience. Maybe you stepped up and became a leader on your team. You know, maybe you weren’t the best at dance before, but you worked really hard. You, you improve, you went to even like extra practices and now you’re, you know, trying to major in dance, something like that, that shows, you know, How specifically this experience has impacted you and why it’s been so formative in your experiences?
Definitely. And then, um, one thing that I had talked about was [00:34:00] going beyond just saying like, um, like if you’re saying something that you did, so maybe if you did start a club, maybe besides just saying like, oh, I started a dance club at my high school adding like, um, how, um, how you went about this. So maybe saying like, I started a dance club at my high school by getting together, um, a group of, um, 10 girls and we.
But meetup on Wednesdays, I’m spit balling at the moment. And then, um, besides just having leaving it there, that’s just like, okay, you did that. Great. So what, adding on something. So I started this dance club because I wanted to give other students a space to really express themselves because I know that when I’m dancing, I feel very free and I enjoy myself and I felt happy.
So creating this club would just bring another, um, place to feel those feelings. So, um, not only this, the show what she did, but it shows why you did it. [00:35:00] And it shows like different characteristics of yourself. Like, oh, you’re empathetic. You understand that? Okay. This makes you happy. So maybe it will make other people happy.
Um, your. And what’s the word initiator, um, or you have initiative, um, because you started the club, you founded it, you got the people together. Um, it shows different aspects of yourself without just straight up saying like, oh yeah, I’m innovative. Like I’m creative, I’m empathetic. Um, so yeah. Uh, so going on to the next, um, question, um, what, do you have any recommendations on the steps to complete an application essay?
Like, is there any sort of order you should follow? Um, cause sometimes people can get so caught up in the process. Yes. So kind of similar to hallway. Outlined before in that timeline, definitely. First thing is brainstorming your topics. So, you know, this goes both for the personal [00:36:00] statement and your supplemental essays, you know, brainstorm topics, um, that you might be interested in talking about for the personal statement.
It would be those formative life experiences. And then, you know, for the supplemental essays, it will depend on the prompt, but you know, a common prompt for these colleges is like the why school essay, like why Columbia, why brown essay, different colleges, and one way to approach that is, you know, it depends on the word count as well, but you know, you can do two things.
You can, you know, list out what parts of the college experience you’re most excited for. You know, is it the academics? Is it the social life? Is it the extracurriculars, you know, list those out and then. Do your research to figure out what specifically that school has to offer in those different areas that you’re interested in, um, and experiencing in college.
So have those brainstorms less, and then you would then move on to the drafting part of it. [00:37:00] So draft out your essays based off of that bullet pointed list, then workshop it, finalize your essay and, you know, do that editing proofreading, share it with your friends, family, other people that can help out and read over your essays.
Um, and yeah, once you’re done with the proofreading, then you’re completed. So those are definitely the different stages I would say. And within that, there’s more specifics, but those are the main things I’d say that you should do.
One thing that I have my students do is sort of like this, um, kind of, it’s kind of a formula that I created, but not something you have to Polish to a T. So the why, what and how, so your, why would be your passion or like your inciting moment? The thing that got you interested in it? Um, so like for me it would be like school counseling.
So I would say why I got interested in at my high school, um, the school counselors, weren’t all that. Um, [00:38:00] good per se. And at a lot of schools, a lot of counselors don’t necessarily provide the best service. Okay. To students for different reasons. And therefore students are at a disadvantage, especially, um, minority students or students coming from very large schools with very limited resources.
Um, so that’s my why. And then going into the what, so my, the, what is like, what are you going to do in college? What resources are going to use, what programs, um, so like talking about the major, talking about specific courses that you’d want to take talking about different researcher, internships, anything about the college experience that will be useful to you and.
A good thing to like add here, like not just saying like, oh, I wanna take a psychology course. Oh, I want to take a business course or an ethics course, but also talking about the skills and knowledge that you gained from them. Um, so like, um, from a psychology course, being able to learn how the mind works and, um, being able to take that information and that knowledge, uh, and then, um, take getting [00:39:00] an ethics course and understanding how to work with people.
Maybe even taking a public speaking course and understand, like building your skills of public speaking and then taking all those skills, knowledge, and information and talking about how that will help you fulfill your why or your passion. And then, so the last part would be saying like, um, anything with career or any project or anything you’re interested in.
So saying like, um, for me, uh, I would take like a psychology class. I would take a human development class. Um, what other. So I take, um, and whatever other classes that I’m taking right now, like Spanish. And then I would, how I would use those is like being able to do Spanish. I’d be able to work with students from different backgrounds that maybe don’t speak English.
Um, taking, um, human development courses will help me understand the growth process of my students and understand where they’re at and I’ll be able to use that to help with know why. So that’s just a good way to answer, [00:40:00] like, especially it’s more so for the why score, why major questions. Um, but you can use it in a personal statement also.
Um, okay. So going on to the next question is, um, what kinds of topics are acceptable in essays and what kind of art, uh, Okay. So I’d say you can pretty much write about anything. I don’t know if you guys have seen those different essays that are more quirky. Like I think there was one about Costco. Some girl just wrote her personal statement about her passion for Costco.
Just something that’s like menial that you wouldn’t really think you could write a full essay about, you know, sometimes college admissions officers like to see that since, you know, they can get bored by seeing the same topics over and over again. So, you know, if you offer a new perspective, I’m not saying you have to write about something, you know, more quirky like that, but you definitely can, um, things to stray away from anything that leans like [00:41:00] political, something that people can be divided on.
Try to stray away from that. Um, but you can talk about your religion, how that’s been formative for you. If that’s something that you’re interested in talking about, you can talk about your racial or ethnic identity. Those are definitely topics that you can talk about. I would say, just stray away from running, anything that could be considered controversial.
Um, have, do you have any examples of anything controversial you’ve seen or anything that may be a bit concerning, but it like came together well? Hmm. Um, not that I have personally seen. I think my clients have just aired on the safer side and I’ve given them that advice before they write out their essays.
But something I could see is, you know, supporting a specific political candidate and just reading like an ode to them. That probably wouldn’t be something that would appeal to all of the admissions officers, [00:42:00] reading your essays so best not to do that.
Okay, so going onto the next question. Um, so one student is asking you change your comment up, um, personal essay. Um, it’s a bit vague. Um, is there any point where you should change it or shouldn’t change it? Okay. Um, so I’m not exactly sure what the question is asking for. If you’d like to elaborate on that, feel free to, um, my interpretation of this question is like, whether you should change it between.
Like if you’re drafting your essay, like when you should change it, um, you know, if you don’t see yourself writing passionately about the topic and if you’re like writing it out and you’re like, you know, I should have gone with a different topic in my brainstorm lists. Maybe go for that, go for another one.
And [00:43:00] sad if you do have the time, I’m not sure if that’s exactly what you were asking, but that would be my answer.
Uh, okay. So another shoe’s asking, where is the line between promoting your achievements and sounding pretentious? Um, okay, so that is a fine line, I would say, but you do want to proudly show your accomplishments and achievements, but you don’t want to be like bragging. You don’t want to have like, you know, a superior attitude towards other people when you’re talking about these accomplishments.
So, you know, case in point maybe. Compare yourself to other people. And the essay saying like, you know, I was so much smarter than this person on the debate team, something like that, that could be perceived as negative, but it’s okay to show like, you’re proud of your accomplishments. Like I’ve achieved these awards in the debate team, you know, I’ve grown in [00:44:00] this way.
So I think the distinction there would be focusing on yourself versus focusing on comparing yourself to others. And it’s best to just focus on yourself and your accomplishments and being proud there and not feeling like you need to be competitive and compare yourself to other people.
One thing that I’ve told people is that, um, for your activities list, you can put like your awards, your achievements, if you started a business or did a fundraiser put like the dollar amounts that you earned, or like percentages that you gained from those endeavors, and then in the personal statement, worry less about like the objective.
Yes, you did win, but instead of focusing on like what you learn, how you about what the experience was like and the impact, and really expanding on that aspect of it, the things that numbers don’t really speak for. Uh, so going on to the next question, um,[00:45:00]
okay. While I look for another question, is there any other light tips or, um, general things that you want to talk about or anything from your own experience about writing. Um, so one thing that I didn’t talk about earlier that I’d like to elaborate a bit on now is including sensory imagery in your essays.
Um, so like, imagine you want to talk about a specific experience in your personal statement. Maybe it’s, you know, like, like a game, like if you’re playing a soccer game and you’re talking specifically to that experience, it’s best to kind of appeal to the five senses, you know, how are you, how are you feeling?
What are you seeing visually? What are you hearing? What are your teammates saying to you? Because you know, when you do that, you’re able to fully craft this experience and memory that the college admissions officer can envision in their minds as they’re reading it. [00:46:00] So instead of generically saying, you know, this happened and this happened within the game, you’re really.
Setting the admissions officer within that specific scene. And they’re more able to see your perspective and see it as an experience that’s personal to you. So I’d say incorporating sensory imagery in your personal statement and other essays is a really important thing to do.
Uh, so the student follow up, they said like, should you change your personal statement between applications? So I’m guessing that means like between submitting them or like the supplier. It depends if it’s the, oh, it is the personal statement, um, between submitting them or, um, yeah. So I think rule of thumb is you want your personal statement to stay consistent between the different colleges, because you know, this personal statement is central to your identity, not one specific school.
Right. And that’s something that’s not going to change no matter which college you’re applying [00:47:00] to. So I’d say. Keep with your personal statement. As I said earlier, if you want to change it between early decision and regular applications, then feel free to do that only if you felt like, you know, that first essay you submitted, wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t your best work, or you were like, you were short on time.
You didn’t like the essay that you’d sent in. Like that’s the only scenario I would say to change it. But typically you’re going to keep sending the same personal statement out to these different essays, to these different colleges. So like on the comment app, when you go into your, um, into the common out part where it says personal essay, um, it’ll show you the list of the schools that are asking for it.
And when you submit your application, it gets sent. So all. Does it get sent to all the schools at the same time? No, it isn’t. Okay. When you submit your home application, To each individual school, it’s going to send them that [00:48:00] same essay. So, um, that, it’s more for the essay to be kind of broad. Like this is not where you’re name dropping or saying like specific teachers or programs that you want to work with.
Instead it’s focusing on like, um, more
all your schools or things you’re interested in, or some sort of aspect about yourself rather than talking about X, Y, and Z, but then you’re also emitting the same essay to other schools. That’s more for your supplements.
Um, okay. So another, there are other question is also defined supplemental essays from the various colleges, um, can or do overlap. Okay. I don’t think I read that correctly. Um, I think, uh, okay. [00:49:00] Do you think that the supplemental essays from various colleges can or do overlap with the personal essay on the common app?
Yup. So to answer that question, I would say that sometimes they do, you’ll see that some colleges will have prompts that are similar to those common app prompts, but the rule of thumb here is. So a new perspective, which with every essay that you write. So if you’ve already spoken about something extensively in your personal statement, you won’t want to talk about it again in your college specific supplement, because they want to see a new dimension with each of these essays.
Right? And if you’ve already talked extensively about it and your common app, it’s not really doing any favors for you. You’re they see your essays like comprehensively, they see your personal statement, they see your college specific supplements and they want to see an added layer. So even though it’s a similar prompt, you should talk about a different topic.
[00:50:00] Um, I think a different variation of this question could be, do you find supplemental essays from different colleges overlapping with each other? And that’s something that has. A lot, as you can see. Um, so with your Y X college essay, you can see that that tends to be pretty similar amongst the different colleges.
And you can kind of have like a bit of a template there. It’s a bit of a cheat sheet, but you can have a template that you stick with for all of those Y X college essays, but you also have to manage that fine line between, you know, having that template, but also being specific enough to the school. So even if you’re, you know, talking about professors and specific classes, um, specific extracurriculars that you want to partake in, and you have those sentences laid out, you have to switch them out and be specific to the school, but you can still have that kind of template as well.[00:51:00]
Are there any new questions, Mackenzie?
Can you hear me Mackenzie? Plenty. It was my computer. Sorry. Um, did you hear the last question I had asked? No. Which, which question did you ask? Uh, do you hear it? The last question I had asked, [00:52:00] which question did you ask? Uh, the, uh, the stew, you find something.
Um, so these, your words were actually echoing. Okay. No worries. Um, but I did answer that question. I do see that there’s another question in the chat. Is there an issue with mentioning a personal obstacle, a disability yet showing how you overcame the issue? Um, and that’s not a problem at all. If anything, it shows, you know, the resilience and determination that you have as an individual.
And that’s what calls admissions officers love to see. They love to see that you’ve grown as a student. You’ve grown as an individual, you know, you’ve overcame obstacles to, you know, to have integrity, um, today. So definitely not a problem. Yes. And if you see any other [00:53:00] questions in the chat that you’d like to answer, please do my computer gave up.
Sorry. Don’t worry about it. Um, let’s see if there are any new questions.
Alrighty. Seems like I answered Finn’s question plot to help out. Does anyone have any other questions they’d like to type in the chat quickly?
Well, while we wait for other questions, if there’s any, um, either specific examples or ideas that came to mind about, um, essays or any [00:54:00] other tips and tricks to writing them, please feel free to share.
Okay. Let’s see. Okay. I got a couple of personal questions if you don’t mind me answering those first instead. Um, so this first one is if you feel comfortable, I’m interested in what major colleges you got into other than Columbia. So I actually applied early decision to Columbia. So didn’t get into any other colleges and apply to any other colleges.
Uh, what do you think of an upward trend in grades? Is it important to these Ivy league colleges? Um, yeah, I’d say that’s definitely something. It’s important having that upward trend. So even if your grades weren’t the best freshman and sophomore year showing that you’ve had that upward trajectory can definitely help out for how like and compensate for those lower grades in the earlier years.
Um, and then any other advice I have, let’s see, I did go over a lot [00:55:00] during this webinar. So I’m trying to think of that. What other piece of is of advice I have? Um, okay. One piece of advice I thought of is for the Y X colleges. So a rule of thumb that I like to tell my students is if you switch out the college’s name with a different college, say that you’re writing your why Colombia supplement and you command off, you replace it with.
NYU and every place that Columbia used to be, if the essay makes complete sense, then you haven’t been specific enough to that school. So you have to ensure that, you know, you are listing those specific professors classes, extracurriculars, you’ve shown that you’ve researched the college and you’re really passionate about attending that specific college.
So that’s definitely a piece of advice that I will give to y’all
that is definitely useful. And [00:56:00] a lot of students struggle to be very specific with those essays just because, um, specific is a, not a vague word, but sometimes can be vague in this context. So, um, if you see any other questions in the chat, please let me know. Otherwise we will be ending just a few minutes early to.
Uh, so I see one, that’s gotten to my personal chat. So it’s, how are you able to motivate yourself to write your essays? So I think my main motivation was that I knew I wanted to go to a college that I was passionate about. That was in a big city. So I made sure to send her my efforts on, you know, starting those essays earlier and making sure that I was the best applicant, the best version of myself that I could be as an applicant.
Um, so that was like my main motivation. I’m also someone that really likes having concrete schedules with things. So I like, you know, [00:57:00] list it out. I want to complete my brainstorming of ideas by this day. I want to complete my, you know, drafting and workshopping by this date. So having those more concrete deadlines to work towards that, aren’t just the deadline set forth by common app and your specific colleges you’re applying to giving yourself deadlines for the different stages of the essay.
Writing process was definitely helpful for me. Um, Also just writing about a topic that you’re passionate about, which feeds into what I said earlier with the brainstorming. You want to make sure that you’re choosing a topic that you are excited to write about something that has really been transformative in your life.
That you’re passionate about. That you’re excited to tell the admissions officer about yourself. So I’d say those were my main motivations. Um, definitely I all slow like to plan out my schedule and I always make sure to plan out with time ahead of the deadline. So if like the deadline is tomorrow, I would have written down that the deadline was [00:58:00] actually three days ago.
um, I still have that buffer, but it’s, especially with the essays. It’s good to have at least two weeks from the actual hard deadline, just in case you decide to change your topic or you realize you don’t really like what you said, or maybe you had a bit more writer’s block than expected. And then also, um, especially more so with the supplements.
Um, if you find yourself really stressed and not wanting to answer to the questions, maybe that’s a good way to decide which schools you really want to go to, because if you really want to go there, you’d be willing to do the work for it. And then also, especially with the Y school questions, um, if you can’t think of anything to write about in a why school or a why major question, maybe consider why you’re applying there, because if you want to go somewhere, you should have a lot to say about it more than it’s a good school.
And I think on that we’re gonna, and the web, [00:59:00] uh, can you switch the slide please? Yes. Thank you. So that is the end of the webinar. Thank you to our panelists and thank you everyone for coming out tonight. And one more quick. So we hope you had a good time learning about how to edit your college essay. And, um, here’s the rest of our November series where we’re doing an applicant, uh, taking your college applications to the next level.
So we have different webinars on editing your essay, figuring out, um, if you want to change your topic and then other aspects of the application process and the next month it’ll be, um, going over, like anything you can do to really solidify your application. And then we also have some stuff for, um, our underclassmen.
Uh, so yeah, and then we also have a few webinars with, um, AOS, if you’re looking for a more, um, insider look into the admissions process. So please do check out those. And we also have our blogs and our, um, supplemental essay [01:00:00] guides and other, um, webinars, um, throughout our series. So again, thank you everyone for coming out and thank you to our panelists, Julia.
All right. Well, thank you, Mackenzie. Thank you everyone for coming tonight. I hope everyone has a great evening.