Writing College Essays: Final College Essay Draft

Michael Gao
December 28, 2023
College Essays

This blog post is part of a series where our writers discuss their experiences writing their personal statements. In this installment, they answer the question below.

What were the edits you made to your final college essay draft? What were the easiest and hardest parts of the whole process?

Chase: On the one hand, the edits to the final college essay draft are usually some of the easiest; at that point, you should just be making final tweaks to elevate vocabulary, add more voice, and do the work to “make it sound good.” On the other hand, the initial edits to any essay are typically the hardest for me, as these involve high-level decisions like cutting and adding content, rearranging sentences and paragraphs, ensuring that the essay is cohesive and flows well, and making sure the essay fully answers the prompt.

Cory: I agree with Chase. The hardest part of the final college essay draft is definitely when you have to cut content that would change someone’s perception of you. If this situation arises, my advice is to revisit the question. Ask yourself: why am I writing this essay? What’s the big point I want to demonstrate about myself? What’s the most important thing these colleges must know about me?

Maria: People tend to write above the word limit on their first essay drafts, and it can be hard to cut things out on the final college essay draft. A common trend I have found is that people spend a lot of time setting up their story with descriptions and details when they could really start their essay a couple paragraphs in. You want to spend more time reflecting and explaining who you are.

Chase: One of the hardest steps in finalizing your essay is making sure it follows the mantra,  “show, don’t tell.” You want to make sure you don’t directly describe your personality. Instead, let the actions you describe speak for themselves. For example, don’t say “Since I was young, I’ve been extremely interested in cars,” because it would be more powerful to describe how you have grown your passion for cars through anecdotes– “showing” instead of “telling.”

Cory: How about– “the first car show I went to was in New Jersey. Snowflakes drowned in their own glacial melt from the heat of the car engines. I was 5, and when I approached the iron sternum of the Bugatti Chiron edition noir I thought– well this is cool. Later in my life, I remember it as the beginning of a lifelong passion.”

Maria: Although Cory says his passion for cars is lifelong in the last sentence, he does a great job of showing this first. He describes in-depth what seeing his first car show is like. From the age and attention to detail we get the sense it was an important moment in the author’s life and a lifelong hobby. This is the kind of showing you want to do in an essay: subtle, yet rich in detail.

For more guidance on how to finalize your personal statement, get into contact with a Dewey Smart tutor today!

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