When Writing your College Essay, How Much Proofreading is Too Much?

It has been said that the Shakers deliberately introduced a tiny mistake into everything they made.

Why would they do this?  As furniture-makers, they were renowned for the integrity of their work and the excellence and precision of their craftsmanship.

The answer is that they did this to illustrate that man should not aspire to perfection – that perfection belonged only to God.

I’m no Shaker and, truth be told, I think perfection can be found in the first bite of a well-made maple-frosted doughnut; but I do think there’s an important lesson to be learned and perhaps even applied to the writing of the college application essay.

Applicants and those advising applicants place too much emphasis upon proofreading.  Now, I’m not here to suggest that proofreading isn’t important and valuable — but I think that by placing so much emphasis upon proofreading, we send students the message that their only goal is to produce a perfect essay.  In pursuit of this perfection, students often shy away from a riskier but perhaps more rewarding writing style.

In college admissions, the reality is this — every year, there are applicants who forget a comma or misspell a word in their essay yet still gain admission to their dream school; and every year there are applicants who submit flawless essays but are still not admitted.

We’ve just recently seen this example played out in the Olympics.  Gabby Douglas won the all-around gold medal for women’s gymnastics not because her routines were flawless (which they weren’t) but because she took chances and because her performances were inspired.

Leave behind the obsession of your essay being immaculate and take some chances – you just might stick the landing.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions