Common App Essay Editing

Since 2015/16, applicants can edit their Common Application essay as many times as they would like after submitting it (in previous years a maximum of three edits was allowed).

Does this mean that you need to edit it for each separate College you’re applying to and create separate essays?

With the amount of time and effort this will take against the benefit gained, our recommendation is that you just submit the one essay.

If a particular college such as a highly orthodox religious one, a very conservative one or a very liberal arts one wants to focus on specific behaviors and activities, they are likely to ask for this in a supplementary essay anyway. 

Ultimately it is your choice but whatever your decision, if you find you need to edit your essay after submission (e.g. you’ve just noticed one of your facts is slightly incorrect or the circumstances you talked about in your essay have substantially changed) you really have a limitless opportunity to edit.

Before submitting your essay we really recommend editing it as much as you can to save post submission changes. Editing can be broken down into a number of key steps.

1. Spelling and grammar

It’s a cinch to use the spell checker on your word processing package but this may not pick up every single spelling.

For example ‘their’ and ‘there’ are spelt correctly but have completely different meanings.

Certain words although plural have a single verb which your grammar check may not pick up either e.g. ‘the news are good’ is incorrect and should be ’the news is good’.

Therefore please read and re-read your essay for spelling and grammar and ask at least one other person to read it purely to check for this.

2. Punctuation

Are you sure you have full stops and capital letters in all the right places?

Have you used any commas where there should be full stops?

What about apostrophes being correct?

The advice is the same as for spelling and grammar; check, re-check and ask a second person.

3. Linkage and flow

In your essay do each of your paragraphs flow in chronological order and does each introductory sentence link back to the outcomes of the previous paragraph?

Is the main content of your paragraphs reflecting what you’ve introduced in your opening sentence?

If you’ve added a sentence at the end of the paragraph as it was an extra idea you had, could the flow of your essay work better if you moved it to another paragraph or even into the introduction?
Your essay topic should tell a story from start to finish and not ebb and flow backwards and forwards.  It’s worth editing and then editing again until you’re happy with it.

4. Emphasis and impact

Has your introduction set the scene and focused on what your essay will be about?

You then need each paragraph to relate back to this and show the impact that you’ve made. If you write about evidence and statistics, you need to be 100% certain of your facts. Have you checked them against a reliable well known source?

In your conclusion always make sure you summarize and focus back to your main topic.

It’s very easy to meander off on a tangent, so at the end of your first draft of your essay when you start editing it, have the prompt and the topic you’re writing about in front of you and review each sentence separately and check it relates back accordingly.

5. Word count

The 250 to 650 word count is mandatory and you won’t be able to submit your essay unless it is within this limit.

Always try to write more in your first draft and edit the words down to reach the word count.

You'll find it's easier to remove a few words when you’re editing than it is to start thinking of a new idea to increase the word count.

6. Choice of words

This is very important as it can help you personalize your essay and showcase how individual you are.

Try to avoid ‘get and got’ as they are passive verbs which don’t add any value to your sentence.

Instead ‘gain, believe, achieve, run and wish’ all express emotion or action and show how you feel.

7. Proofreading

There are two types of proofreading; spelling, grammar and punctuation checks and sense checks for facts, flow, accuracy and understanding.

You need to ask other people to proofread your essay and if possible ask different people to sense check to those proofing for spellings etc. You can ask family and friends and also your school teachers.

Editing your Common Application essay is fundamental to your application and is a necessary part of the process. It really doesn’t matter how many times you edit, it’s the final version that matters.

Editing and editing again will help you hone your final essay to be the best you’ve ever written.

Further information

For more tips and advice on putting together your common application for college, please see: