8 Tips for Proofreading Your College Essay
According to college admissions professionals, proofreading is the most important thing you can do to improve your college essay. Don’t overlook this key step in preparing your essay. Use these eight tips to proofread your college application essay.
1. Do spell check.
Okay, so the spelling and grammar check tool on your computer won’t catch everything (and sometimes can even steer you wrong), but it’s a good place to start for proofreading. It should catch the most obvious spelling or grammatical errors.
2. Set it aside for a day.
After you finish writing your essay, set it aside for an entire day before starting to proofread it. The time away from it will clear your head and allow you to better catch errors when you come back to it. (Oh, and if you started your essay at the last minute, you can still use this tip—just set it aside for an hour or two, and then come back to it.)
3. Read it aloud.
Yes, this works. Even professional writers do this. You can read your own essay aloud to catch errors or find places where your sentences are running on (and on, and on). Or, ask a parent, friend or teacher to read it aloud to you.
4. Go backwards.
You may have learned this proofreading strategy in English class: Start proofreading your essay at the end. Working your way from the end of the essay to the beginning forces you to pay more attention to the words on the page, so you won’t gloss over errors as easily as if you read it from start to finish.
5. Print it out.
It may be easier to catch errors in your essay if you print it out, rather than read it on a computer screen only. Print it out, mark edits on the paper and input the changes in your electronic document.
6. Proofread in a quiet place.
The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recommends finding a quiet place to work when proofreading your writing. That means turning off the TV, silencing your smartphone (or even putting it in another room or turning it off) and finding a spot away from other distractions.
7. Cover up lines you’re not reading.
The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recommends using a blank sheet of paper to cover up the lines below the one you’re reading. “This technique keeps you from skipping ahead of possible mistakes,” says the center’s website.
8. Double check college names.
If you use a college name in your essay, make sure it’s the right college name. “While we understand students will apply to multiple colleges and universities, it is always discouraging to see a student mention another university’s name in their essay,” says Hannah Bingham, first-year admissions coordinator at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.