Final Edits: Making Your Essay GRAND
Updated: Mar 11
Regular Decision deadlines are just a few weeks away. Your personal statement is one of the few things in your application you can control. Not only should you take time to proofread and edit during the revision process, but you should also ask probing questions to make sure your story is authentic and engaging. In the final editing phase? Let’s make your essay GRAND!
When I work with students, we typically go through 3-6 revisions. During the first one, I ask them to imagine they are the admissions counselor: What did you learn about this applicant? What is your overall impression of him/her? I then ask them if that is the impression they want to leave on the person. Most of the time, it’s not. So I follow up and ask, what do you want the admissions counselor to learn about you? What impression do you want him/her to have of you? These questions often reveal stories and unique characteristics, which ultimately make for a great essay.
Read Out Loud
To be honest, my students initially hate doing this. They usually fight me on it at the beginning, but it quickly becomes a habit. I feel like this is so important because there is often a disconnect between what we wrote and what we think we wrote, especially when we type. When my students read their essays aloud, I make notes of any discrepancies, like omitting words/phrases, and redundancies (like the word passion 6 times in one paragraph). This process will also help students notice if their essay flows well or if there is a better place to start their story.
Answer the Prompt
This one seems like a no-brainer, but trust me, it’s something to double-check. I have seen more multi-part questions this year than ever before, and it’s easy to overlook a question within a question. For example, one of Virginia Tech’s essay prompts this cycle is:
“Virginia Tech’s motto is “Ut Prosim,” which means ‘That I May Serve.’ We are interested in learning more about your interests and how you have been involved and/or served. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with. Is this a special area of interest for you, and why? How long have you been involved? What role did you play? What contributions have you made to this group? Were you able to influence others and/or influence decisions for the good of the group?”
There are MULTIPLE pieces to this question, and by the way, you only have 120 words to answer. For a question like this, I recommend brainstorming for each section and then work on the actual structure. Make sure you cover all aspects and fully answer the prompt.
Reflect on the information you’ve already provided in your application. By the time the admission counselor reads your essay, they will have seen your transcript, test scores (if applicable), activities list, and recommendation letters. If the school requires supplemental questions in addition to the personal statement, you will want to make sure that each one is bringing a unique aspect to your application. There is a reason for each question on the application, so be sure not to reiterate topics that have already been covered.
Once you are happy with your essay, mark it as “done.” Don’t ask others for opinions because it’s easy to start seconding guessing what you wrote. Personal statements are 100% subjective, and everyone will have different thoughts on what you should do. I recommend picking one or two trusted people to review, and I’ve found it’s helpful to give them specific objectives, like grammar or a section you are struggling with. If others ask, politely tell them that you are no longer seeking feedback. Too many cooks in the kitchen never make for a good essay.
We hope these tips help you make your essay GRAND! Grand Fit Educational Consulting is here for you! Seniors, still working on your essays? Juniors, want a jump start on your college process? Let me know how we can help!