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The Essay

Our counselors answered: Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

We Asked College Students:
Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

Charles Slany

College Advisors,LLC

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that in my experience, parents are NOT the best source of editing or proofing a student's essay. Most parents don't really know what the admissions office is looking for, and many parents are sufficiently removed from writing that their proofing/editing skills are not helpful. I think in today's world it's probably unbelievable to an admissions official that someone--parent, English teacher, essay coach, college counselor --DID NOT read and help "proof" the student's essay. That DOES NOT mean that anyone should write it for you, or dictate it to you while you copy it down word for word and say you wrote it. It simply means that most students today are having some adult help proof itheir essay. Having said that, I would believe that the admissions professional may find your essay refreshingly imperfect and forgive the the occasional spelling or grammar gaffe, if the essay is highly unique, insightful or humorous, or just demonstrates great writing and self perception, The reason independent college counselors or essay coaches--and this is a generality-- could be more helpful is that often (not always) they spend more time and effort up front on COACHING the essay for topic, originality, creativity and HOW to approach writing. What many parents (who may love you, but often just are NOT good writers themselves) or an overworked guidance counselor does is to take a trite, or unoriginal or hackneyed essay and dwell on punctuation and spelling. It's like going to the junk yard and waxing a rustly heap.

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Dr. Bruce Neimeyer

Global College Search Associates, LLC

A second pair of eyes

It is always a good idea to have someone else proofread your work. All of us as we write tend to see what we intended to be written on paper and our brains fill in the missing words or thoughts. As a result, words are missing, misplaced or the thought has not accurately been completed. A novice reader to your work brings a free pair of eyes and someone who is reading your work trying to follow your argument/statement. If it isn't clear then they will not get it. Even if you re-read your work and think..."How could they not understand this...?" It doesn't matter that you think it is clear. The point is that you can run the risk with the admissions officer not getting your point either so making a more simple or clearer argument would be highly recommended. It can be challenging and tedious work but I guarantee you that you will be much happier with the end result and it will only bring your closer to your goal of successful admission to that institution!

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Evan Forster

Forster-Thomas, Inc

Abolsutely. Having someone proofread your essays shows you care enough about the school to not make careless mistakes. And one thing's for sure: your computer's spellcheck is not good enough. "From" and "Form" are both spelled correctly, but have vastly different meanings. If for some reason you can't find someone else to proofread your essays, the best way to proof them yourself is to read them slowly--OUT LOUD. Your ears can hear what your eye will not pick up. Lastly, if you do have someone else proofread your essays (whether a relative, friend, teacher, or someone else), be very clear that you don't want feedback, or else you'll get unsolicited advice and comments. And that's a slippery slope that leads to "essays by committee", which is a big mistake. They only serve to make you question yourself. So write your essays yourself, go with your gut, speak from the heart, and be your own personal barometer.

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Tyler Burton

Burton College Tours

Do not lose your voice.

Presenting a well written and grammatically correct essay is a key component to your college application. Your essay needs to be error free. When you select your proof reader politely ask them to help you with proof reading, but not re-engineering your essay. Be sure that your writing is formal. You are not submitting a text message. Use capitalization, punctuation and paragraphs. Do not use words that you would not normally use in an essay. Admissions readers will know if you have pulled out the thesaurus to alter every other word. A common mistake that international students make is allowing someone else to write their essay for them. This practice is viewed as a poor choice by American admissions officers and they are able to tell if the essay was written by the student. Students who submit false essays will not be admitted. Trust in your abilities to write a beautiful essay.

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Tana Taylor-Juko

English Instructor

It is VERY important to have someone proofread your essays. In addition to proofreading your work yourself (and I always recommend proofreading out loud), it is important to have a new set of eyes that can proofread your work for errors which pertain to grammar, structure, and/or ideas. When you have someone else proofread your work, they can tell you where you have made a mistake or where something is unclear. This will give you an opportunity, as the writer, to make corrections to your essay before it is reviewed by a committee or your instructor. Proofreading can help you avoid being overlooked by college admissions or help you avoid receiving a poor grade on an assignment, so make sure to allot time for proofreading. ALWAYS have someone (a peer, roommate, parent, sibling, teacher, mentor, or tutoring instructor) proofread your essays prior to submission.

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Susan Weber

Find your spelling/grammar nut and put him/her to work!

It's crucial that your essay be free of spelling and grammar mistakes. Since you will spend hours with it, your own eyes can easily skip over errors without seeing them, even if they are obvious and something you would normally catch. I suggest that you make clear to this reader that you are ONLY asking for proofreading. It's also useful to have someone read your essay who knows you well and can answer the question "Does this sound like me?". Again, give this reader clear instructions about the feedback you are requesting. Last, if your essay deals with a technical field with its own jargon (like computer programming or ballet), you'll want to have a reader familiar with that language read your essay to make sure that you've used technical terms correctly.

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Heather Tomasello

Writing Coach
The EssayLady, LLC

I'm biased, because that is what I do for a living! But I talk to admissions officers as well, and they always inists that students should have SOMEONE ELSE read their essays! Another set of eyes helps catch errors and not just the grammatical kinds. My theme as the Essay Lady is, “Your words, only better.” I don’t write essays for students. Not only is this plagiarism, it’s actually very unfair to both you and your prospective college(s). They want to get to know you, not me! I try to help students take their own essays and make them more clear, concise, and compelling. Whenever I make suggestions for changes or revisions, I always keep that student’s own voice in mind. I would not advise sending in an essay without having someone proof it first.

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Daniel Kramer

College Advisor
The Wight Foundation

Not only is getting someone to proofread your college essay ok, it is essential. Making the little mistake (writing "then" instead of "than") or the big mistake (writing "Harvard" instad of "Yale") can leave an impression you do not want to make. An extra set of eyes to make sure you avoid the pitfalls spellcheck does not pick up on or the 5 line run-on sentence is invaluable. Remember...sometimes proofreaders like to make comments on substance and content versus just style. Suggestions are great but you should feel free to ignore them. The essay is your chance to be you in the application process. Make sure you do not use suggestions that might take away from the admissions representative ability to find out about YOU in your essay.

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Chip Law

Co-founder Managing Director
Educational Avenues


Almost all writers need another set of eyes to review their work. We are only human and when we do a lot of writing we may lose our ability to spot our mistakes no matter how many times we read and reread a passage. There are times when even a spell checker will not be sufficient as a proofing tool because words can be spelled correctly in your written work but the meaning may not make sense-for example: we went to there house is not picked up by the spell checker and what you meant to say was: we went to their house. So proofreading for the checking of spelling, grammar or clarity of thought is a good idea. Just don't let the proofreader become a re-writer of your essay because then it becomes someone else's work and not your own.

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Janet Elfers

Not only is it ok to have someone proofread your essay, it should be part of your planning! If you have a high school counselor who is willing to help, use him/her. If that person is too busy, try an English teacher. But those teachers are typically overloaded with reading essays, so perhaps a family member, or even a good friend. If you have a friend proofread your work, choose one who knows grammar and knows good writing conventions. Your proofreader should be able to caution you about gramatical errors, but also should be able to tell you if the essay reads clearly and logically, if it gives a true impression of you as a person and as a student, and if it is interesting.

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