This post probably should’ve been written a long time ago.
On the one hand, nobody should need instructions on how to receive feedback. You’re adults. You’ve been getting input on your performance in the professional context (we hope) for at least several years now. Heck, MIT even has a whole essay for you to write where you talk about places you can improve.
Still, getting the first round of feedback on your first drafts submitted for EssaySnark review can be unnerving.
It’s called the “Essay Decimator” for a reason.
Just like Neo in The Matrix: Everybody falls the first time.
Your drafts are likely to come back with comments in nearly every sentence telling you why the ideas you’ve got down there aren’t nearly as effective as you thought they were.
So what do you do with all of it when you receive this feedback?
Here’s a simple guide to help you walk through the process and manage your output.
- Open the feedback only when you’re in a place you can deal with it. You need to be physically available – not about to run into a meeting – and emotionally available – not just had an argument with your partner. You will need time and space to absorb the feedback. If you open it when you’re not able to deal with it, it may send you into a tailspin way more than necessary.
- Understand that the comments are directed to what’s presented on the page – they are NOT directed at you as a person. The feedback is reacting to how you have presented your ideas. It is not a commentary on your worth as a human being. Don’t take this stuff personally. People say silly things in essays and it often triggers EssaySnark’s “WTF??” flag. Obviously you want to know about that, right? If your adcom reader is sitting there groaning with each passing sentence, then you’re not going to have a strong chance of having them say yes to you. When the writing makes us groan, our comments reflect that (we try not to be too snarky but the silliest writing does bring that out in us). Knowing how a reader may react is useful input to your process. YOU are in control of the response that your reader will have, based on how you present your ideas – so this is an opportunity to change direction and redirect your messaging.
- Read through the report first. All first-draft Essay Decimator reviews include a write-up of our impressions on a macro and a micro level. Go through that and see what you’re dealing with. You will need to read this more than once – over multiple days, ideally – for the feedback to actually sink in.
- Read through the essay advice in the relevant SnarkStrategies Guide for your school. (Hopefully this will not be the first time you’re reading that.) Even if you studied that advice while developing your first drafts, you will likely understand it differently now that you’re also getting our personal take on those essays.
- Read through all of the inline comments, one by one. Read through all of them before you start to make any changes – all comments in a single draft, and all comments in all of the drafts. We offer those in sequence as we go through each essay, showing you how a reader may be reacting to every sentence. In most cases, you won’t need to change individual sentences, though; you’ll likely need to do more holistic changes, either structural to fix the flow and balance of content in the entire essay, or thematic, to change your messaging and better answer the question. You need to get the big-picture view in your head before you start any of those edits.
- Study the question. You’d be surprised how many essays fail to respond to the question that the adcom has posed.
- Capture your ideas for what needs to change. Don’t just start revising, but step back and consider your strategy. A lack of clear thinking is one of the most common causes for essay disarray. Don’t perpetuate that problem by flailing ahead without a plan. Many people would benefit from writing (or rewriting) outlines at this stage – even if you don’t have EssaySnark review them, it is still going to be a valuable step for you to complete, in order to structure your ideas.
- Now, write your new drafts. In most cases, writing an entirely new essay – from scratch – is going to be way more effective than trying to do surgery on the original one. There are some exceptions where targeted revision is appropriate, or maybe you can pull in one sentence here and one sentence there from your first draft – but this is rare. Generally speaking, you will benefit the most by just starting fresh. You have (hopefully) evolved in your thinking from the place where you wrote that first
catastropheattempt. You’re a different person now. You want the writing to reflect that. If you simply try to force the old words to work (when they so clearly did not before) then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Give your creative mind full opportunity to breathe by opening up Word – File – New. (If you don’t do it this way, then you need to turn off revision marks, delete all comments, and Accept All Changes before submitting; we need to see clean drafts only, please.)
- Re-read the report, re-read the essay guide, and re-read the inline comments. Everything should be clicking for you now. As you go through the original marked-up draft, review each of the comments that EssaySnark left for you, and actively verify that you have fixed the issue with how you have written your new essay. Delete the comments as you go – but only when you are certain that they are either no longer relevant, based on the new direction you have taken, or that you have 100% addressed the issue or corrected the error being identified. One of the most frustrating things to happen on this side of the relationship is when we see second drafts come in with the exact-same issues present. If you choose not to accept our advice, fine – but we offer it for a reason, based on many years of experience with what works in bschool essays, and why are you asking for our input if you are not interested in taking it?
- Take the necessary time that this process requires. Good essays are developed through a thoughtful process of study and revision. If you rush through it, then you’re likely just to make the same mistakes all over again. Also, if you rush and don’t bother to make it as perfect as possible – including strict attention to the mechanics of good writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation) – then we’re going to be unimpressed and less motivated to try to help you. Please do not submit sloppy drafts just to get them into our hands more quickly. If we’re stuck at the level of correcting you on grammar, then that means our mental energies are consumed with addressing very low-level problems, and you will get less valuable input on what matters most: the overall theme and quality of presentation. Help us help you by taking the time you need to do the best job you possibly can before sending things back to Snarkville. You’ll gain significantly more from the process that way.
Finally: Gummi bears are helpful!
This process is different than what you’ve likely ever done before. It takes time to figure this stuff out. Be patient with yourself. You will get there!