Should I edit my 650 word Common Application Essay?

The short answer is, “Yes, one can always clarify their sentences to more accurately reflect the meaning intended, all in the quest to be understood by the admissions officer.” 

Students can use the definition of “to edit” as a guide when considering any changes

  • Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it
  • Remove unnecessary or inappropriate words, sounds, or scenes from a text correcting

Yet, to “prepare (an autobiographical college essay) for [re]publication”, students must first consider the original story and meaning of one’s experience intended to be conveyed. Otherwise, in revising, students can unwittingly break their narrative, requiring more rewriting

For example, amending the topic sentence of a paragraph, students may need to also change the supporting sentences. Then, depending on the placement of the body paragraph in the development of the essay, students may need to revise the other body paragraphs. And so on and so on. 

Thus, before changing any words, students should first read their essay from start to finish, considering if the meaning of their essay is clear. Prudent students will also enlist the assistance of an objective reviewer, not necessarily a peer, to test if the meaning of their essay is clear to a third party. 

Students can consider questions like, “Did I use unnecessary words to explain my idea?” or “Upon additional self-reflection, is there another dimension of my experience which needs to be explained?” Then, especially when working with an objective editor(reader), students can discuss any potential changes to be sure the narrative is intact and the reader will understand the meaning of their lives


Creative Marbles was founded by teachers who appreciate helping students (re)discover their aptitude, first in the academic classroom, now as part of the complex college admissions process. For more information, please contact us

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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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