Students often want feedback on their college admissions essays, but are not sure where to turn. Here’s my advice:

1.Be very selective who you show it to. Remember, writing is subjective: one person might love your essay and another might hate it. Parents can be great sounding boards, and so can teachers, counselor and friends. Watch out for parents, teachers and counselors who don’t understand that real-life stories make the best essays, and try to take out the best parts (Many mistakenly believe students should only include “impressive” achievements and experiences. This is not true.).

2. Ask for specific feedback. Hand the reader a print-out and red pen and ask them to underline the parts they like and put stars by the parts they find dull or confusing. Don’t ask for anything more. If you agree with their feedback, keep the good stuff and work on the bad—either change it or cut it.

3. Be your own editor. Read it out loud to yourself to spot places where it bogs down. Trust yourself. If you like what you hear, chances are others will, too. If it sounds awkward or too wordy, it probably is—so fix it!

4. Ask your readers specific questions, such as:

1. Does this essay grab your interest at the beginning?
2. Do you get an idea of what I care about and value?
3. Are there any parts that are confusing or don’t make sense?
4. Do I come across as a likeable person? (Are there any specific words or sentences that make me sound unlikeable?)
5. Can you tell what personal quality or characteristic I’m trying to showcase in this essay? 

5. Always make sure you proofread one last time. Once you are done with your essay, and want someone to proofread, tell them you only want feedback on errors, not content. Also, you need to proofread it yourself right before you push the button to send it off—often students make last-minute changes and accidentally add errors.