Well, it’s that time of year. You’ve toured your schools, narrowed down your list, and, hopefully, written (most of) your essays. At this point, you’re probably ready to submit those apps and bring this yearlong process to a close. As tempting as it is to finally be done, don’t click submit yet—you’ve still got one important step left: editing!
Chances are, you’ve gotten lots of advice on college essay writing, some good and some bad. One piece of wisdom that often gets tossed around is the warning against over-editing. Guidance counselors are quick to remind you that your parents could easily strip your voice and message from your essays, rendering them impersonal and ineffective. Some applicants may have private tutors helping out with essays, adding in yet another source that could potentially dilute what you’re trying to say. But editing is a vital part of writing anything, so where should one turn when it comes time to revise those college essays? The best editors, I think, are those who are going through or have just gone through the process: your peers.
Peer editing is something that many have been doing since middle school. Back then, you’d pass your paper to another person who’d then correct it for spelling errors and comma splices. In high school, it seems, peer editing can get left behind. When it comes time to college apps, though, take advantage of your friends as an awesome resource. Here are a few reasons why your homies (especially those one or two years older than you) are the best people to edit your essays.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when writing a college essay is to “keep it real”—colleges want to see who you actually are, after all. But it’s also true that a little exaggeration here and there can improve an essay. Balance is key, and friends are the best people to tell you when your exaggeration has gone overboard. They know you super-well (maybe even better than your parents), and will help you slice through the fluff and keep it real.
Been There, Done That
When did your parents apply to college? Yeah, I thought so. Your peers are going through (or have gone through) the exact same process as you, so they know what colleges want. I’ve seen cases where parents with good intentions have butchered their child’s essays, urging them to suck up to a college and not talk about themselves. This leaves your essay flat and without any real insight into who you are. Talking to another savvy teen is a good way to ensure that you’re headed in the right direction and adding a strong element to your application.
On Top of Their Game
Chances are your classmates are doing a lot more writing than your parents. While it’s very possible (and a huge advantage) to have a parent whose writing skills are on point, a trusted peer may be even better at making sure your syntax, structure, and diction are the best they can be. Plus, if you’re interested in taking a risk with your essay, a friend’s opinion can let you know if the idea is a winner or not.
So, finish up those essays and get into editing mode! Commenting on documents or using Google Docs is hugely helpful in the editing process, ensuring the utmost clarity in your revisions. And it’s still a good idea to avoid too many editors; two or three trusted peers is definitely enough to get your paper on track.
If you’re worried about showing your essays to others in your grade who are applying to similar schools, it may be wise to turn to some older friends. They’ll likely be more helpful and less frustrated by the college application process. Either way, getting another opinion on your essay can only help—whether it provides you with new insights or reaffirms what you’ve already written, peer revision is a crucial part of the writing process.