Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Proofreading Is OK, but the Essay Needs to be the Applicant’s

Having someone else proofread an applicant’s essay is fine. There is not a writer in the world who cannot benefit from another set of eyes searching for the kinds of typos and basic grammar mistakes that are often blurred and missed in the course of countless rereading, rewriting, and editing efforts. However, outside reviewers—even parents—whose efforts go beyond that can produce an essay that is less the work of the applicant than the reviewer’s. This only serves to undermine the process and raise questions about the legitimacy and integrity of the whole application. Yes, the stakes can seem high, but it is ultimately the applicant’s record and work that is being evaluated and it should be theirs that is submitted as well.

Jolyn Brand
Owner & CEO Brand College Consulting

It's just not OK, it's mandatory to check essays

Yes, every student needs to have someone proofread their college application essays. The best choices are teachers, counselors or a college consultant. Parents and friends can also help, but be ware that they may not catch every mistake or even know what the colleges are looking for.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The College Connection

Make sure it's still you.

Not only is it OK to have someone proofread your essay, it is *highly* recommended. You should feel encouraged to have friends, family members, and teachers proofread your essay but be sure that your voice is not altered. Your essay should be grammatically correct with no spelling errors, but it should sound like *you*. Be open to suggestions that others might have, but be mindful of retaining your viewpoint and style.

Barak Rosenbloom
College essay mentor, guide and editor

Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

I always have one or more people proof important pieces of writing. The more important it is, the more eyeballs I get on it. I do this for a few reasons: 1. I'm lousy at proofing my own writing. And you probably are as well. It has to do with how our brains are wired, so don't take it personally. Someone else looking at your essay will see things that you will miss. 2. Spell check misses things. Believe me. I've been burned. Proofreading is not editing (I talk about that in detail in the answer about parents). Proofreading is checking for spelling, grammar and mistakes. It happens at the end of the process, when your essay is pretty much ready to go.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

This should be mandatory!

Not only should the essay be proofread it should be read out loud.

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner 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!

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.

Tyler Burton
President 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.

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.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

Yes, and it is expected, just as it is expected that the student will seek guidance when in college (this is what college Writing Centers are for). The proofreader can offer suggestions, but should not be writing/rewriting the essay. It always needs to be the students work and voice.