Or maybe even those for whom English is a first language should do this!
When we give feedback, we capture comments on EVERY dimension:
- Does this answer the question?
- Does it make sense?
- Is it a GOOD answer?
- Does it fit what the adcoms are looking for?
- Is it grammatically clean?
Often the feedback can be a little overwhelming at first! There is always a lot to absorb. And what you can do is to help yourself manage all of that advice in a few simple ways.
One way is to spend time with the feedback on multiple different days. It’s very common for the comments we make to not make much sense at all, mostly because you’re learning new techniques of writing and presentation and you know how hard it is when you’re learning something brand new! But also because often the brain closes down or freezes up when faced with criticism. We are never TRYING to criticize, but it is at its core a critique. And the ego doesn’t like it! So often, when someone originally receives this influx of (seeming) negativity, they shut down and have trouble taking it in.
So coming back to it repeatedly will help. It allows the sting to soften and the ego to relax its guard and start to accept the idea that change may be needed, and to better understand where those changes can be done.
Lost in all of this may be corrections in that last category, about grammar.
If you’re an international applicant where English is not your first language, then it’s likely we will be pointing out some common patterns or repeated instances within your draft where you make the same mistakes in your writing. The most frequent issue is a dropped article (missing the word “a” or “the” when writing a noun). Another is improper capitalization (words that are not proper nouns are still capitalized). There are others, too, but those seem to be what we see the most frequently.
You’d never be rejected over something like this; the adcom readers are tolerant of writing errors from candidates coming from other languages. They’ll also in most cases have a TOEFL score for you and they’ll be using your interview to further evaluate your ability to communicate in English. So a writing error or two like this on an essay is not going to prevent your acceptance. (If you’re an American, native speaker or not, that’s less likely be true! Making your essays absolutely perfect is obviously much much better — and remember, you need to do this work on your own! Hiring an editor or having a writer friend do a red-line review on your essays is not appropriate!! That’s too much input into your work and it’s a violation of the standards that the schools are expecting you to meet with your apps.)
Anyway, so what are we suggesting you do?
KEEP A LIST.
If you get feedback from us and we point out these errors in grammar or writing that you have a tendency to make, jot them down. Make a checklist of issues that you will do a pre-submit review to hunt for.
If you know that you often drop the article, then before you upload your essays, after you are sure that everything you’re saying is sound and that the content is exactly as you want it, then do one more pass through them where you look specifically at every single noun, and make sure it has an article identified correctly.
You’re noun-hunting. You’re not reading for content. You’re not checking for spelling. You’re only looking at nouns, and examining each one to make sure that it’s referenced correctly.
Here’s a tip that everyone should use regardless of your native language:
You already know that spellcheck sucks and will betray you all the time.
Specifically though: Spellcheck often does not check words that are written in all capital letters. So, on your resume, if you have headers or have used ALL CAPS for the names of your companies or the name of your college, you must go look at each of those all-caps entries individually. Very often we see ridiculous typos in these headers that are totally face-palm worthy. In just the past few weeks we’ve seen someone who graduated from SMITH COLEGE and another person who had a section on her resume showing she was SELF-EMPOYED.
Can you say “ouch”?
Talk about a way you can instantly un-impress your reader!
Having a separate proofreading step — or several! — is really important. Your essays become too familiar to you; your brain stops seeing what’s literally on the page. (This is actually why it’s so helpful to have a qualified third-party reviewer, to make sure that what’s in your head is what’s literally being said!)
This is in the category of “avoidable
misteaks mistakes” or unforced errors.
You don’t want to discover them later, after the app is already in!
You may also be interested in:
- 3 Last Minute Mistakes That Will Make You Feel Totally Stupid
- Nobody’s perfect. But your app needs to be.