Editing College Essays Can Test Your Last Nerve

To the Senior (i.e. novice college essay author), the college essay editing process–especially when the editor is a third party–can be expletive provoking, feeling like a nit-picking critique of a final product spawned from a laborious drafting process, which can cause tension (or exacerbate it), and get on Senior’s last nerve.   Seemingly “together” seniors have been known to shed some tears, causing alarm amongst parents or the Senior unfurls a long diatribe about all the ills in the world, when asked a seemingly ordinary question, like “Do you want gravy with your mashed potatoes?”, or the Senior may lock themselves in a room for what seems like days or hours on end, barely grunting when there are knocks at the door or anxious pleas for a sign to ensure they’re still alive.  Quality ImageAt some point in the editing process, we often receive nervous phone calls or emails from parents, something like, “My daughter’s stressed and crying.  I thought the essay was good.  Why isn’t it ready to submit?” or “How much longer? I mean, I want him/her to submit the most competitive essay possible, but this is taking forever and its Thanksgiving in two days.”  Editing the college essay can test any family.

Editing is often overlooked or thought to be simple.  Yet, to edit is to literally reconsider every word written–to be sure the writer’s meaning is not lost between what s/he is thinking and what is actually written.  One of the difficulties of editing for the writer, is that she/he is naturally making connections between their thoughts, since she/he actually lived the experience being discussed in the essay.  When the writer understands this condition, and opens up to an outside, objective editor, then the “fun” begins.  Since the editor is on the outside of the writer’s head, those same connections between thoughts that come naturally to the writer aren’t being made, so the editor may ask questions in order to clarify the writer’s (aka the Senior novice college essay author’s) meaning, given what’s written may not convey the meaning that’s intended.  The editor’s objective feedback–although the writer has willingly opened up to criticism, AND the author and editor agree that the goal is an improved essay–may touch a nerve in the author and Wah,Lah!  Tension; thus, the tears, snippy-ness, stress–possibly further complicated by the pressures of applying to college, the nerves from awareness of possibly being denied admissions, the upcoming holiday–which can be a stress all by itself–and Senior teachers continuing to assign homework and research projects and novels to read at the “normal” pace and amount, as when college applications weren’t due.

Everyone–parents and students–wants to submit the most competitive college application possible.  And, why not, its taken a 12 year-long effort of school work, driving all over tarnation for this and that activity and tournament, back and forth about when to get school work done to even qualify to apply.   But, there’s always the temptation to be done once and for all, especially in the face of stress and the previously mentioned misperceptions of the editing process, as well as the person editing, and submitting the essay and application as is.  Feel free.  You’re the author and the applicant.   However, in my decade of experience, this momentary impatience can lead to “what ifs…” later and especially if there’s a denial letter received in the spring.  So, if you’re feeling the need to stop short, take a break.  Walk around the block.  Get a drink of water.  Know its normal to hit the “writing wall” at some point.  And, reflect, why the heck (or stronger language if you’re so inclined) am I doing these college applications in the first place?   Refreshing your view and seeing the bigger picture can be helpful to re-motivate yourself and find the stamina to make the final edits for the most competitive essay possible.  Then, no matter the admissions decision in the spring, the applicant can be sure s/he did EVERYTHING possible to compete.   Doesn’t that sound better?

For more, see our short video about editing or contact us.  Our team of editors can grammar proof, critique the flow, and be sure (because we study the college essay prompts and know the purpose of the essay within the application) the content answers the prompt–no matter the deadline.

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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