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Admissions Tip: Essay Polishing

The deadline is looming and you’re making one final pass through your application before hitting submit. This isn’t the time for drastic changes – but there might still be an opportunity for small improvements.

Read on for three big picture, “crunch time” tips!

Keep It Professional

It’s true that many schools ask “fun” questions and most urge applicants to be themselves rather than submitting “overly polished” material. But it’s important to remember that this is a graduate school application, and you should approach your essays with a degree of formality.

You do want your unique narrative voice to come through, but even professional writers know to vary their tone based on their audience. Before you submit, scan your materials for slang or overly conversational speech patterns in your writing.

Emphasize Action

Lapsing into the passive voice is a common essay-writing pitfall. This means constructing sentences about how some unseen force or agent acted upon something or someone else (e.g. “we were required to” or “the project was completed”).

Instead, make sure that you’re putting your own thoughts and actions at the fore. By making a conscious effort to write “I/he/she did x” rather than “x was done to y” you can make your comments more informative, dynamic and, often, more concise.

Avoid Repetition

It’s often a good idea to give the reader a sense of an essay’s direction through an introduction, and to sum up the key ideas through a conclusion. Ideally, though, each sentence of an essay will add some new information to the document or build the reader’s understanding of what you’ve already written. And for shorter essays (e.g. 250-300 words), you can probably dive right into the content rather than giving the reader a detailed road map at the outset of your response.

So if a sentence isn’t saying anything new, it’s probably safe to cut it. This rule can be particularly helpful with last-minute edits if your responses are running over the word limit. It also helps to ensure that you’re including as much relevant information about your candidacy as you can within the allotted length.

Good luck with those finishing touches!

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