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For more information, please see full course syllabus of Application Essays
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  • Before you revise your work, take a break! Even if it’s just for a few minutes or hours, go do something else. You will come back to see your writing with fresh eyes.
  • Revision vs. Proofreading: revision (“seeing again”) is the process of reexamining your work to see whether you started with the right idea and correctly followed the steps of the writing process. By contrast, proofreading is the process of finding mechanical errors in your writing (mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.). You’ll do that in Lesson 8.
  • Deep Revision: Ask yourself these questions:
    • Did you answer the prompt? Did you identify its type, main idea, and theme?
    • Did you choose the right topic? Is it something you remember well, something that reflects well on you, and something that answers the question?
    • Did you organize your answer well? Do you have a compelling hook, well-ordered details, and a strong conclusion with echoes and callbacks?
    • Did you leave out anything important? Did you skip a step, fail to explain yourself thoroughly, or leave out information you think everyone knows?
    • Did you pad your response? Did you add unnecessary words, quotes, or explanations? (If you did that, delete the padding!)
  • Get a Second Opinion
    • How to choose a beta reader
    • Choose a beta reader who reads a lot—both fiction and nonfiction—so he or she has a good sense of how good writing sounds.
    • Choose a beta reader who knows you well enough to give you good advice but won’tbe tempted to sugar-coat his or her response for you.
    • Choose a beta reader with a strong grasp of English mechanics (preferably a native speaker)
    • If you know others who are working on similar essays, consider creating a writing circle to critique one another’s work.
      • Choose a moderator in case there are conflicts.
      • Read everyone else’s work (including the prompts!) and offer polite recommendations on how it may be improved.
      • Begin your remarks with praise, then move to constructive criticism.
      • Never ever copy a fellow circle member’s work.
    • The 90/10 rule of second opinions: 90% of the advice you get from amateurs will be less than helpful. Your job is to find the 10% that rings true. The more you practice, the better you will get at hearing it.
  • When in doubt:
    • Take a break.
    • Go over the steps again. You can’t do this too many times.
    • Choose a knowledgeable beta reader who writes well.
    • Trust your fellow writers to see the strengths and weaknesses in your work that you can’t see yourself.
    • Remember the 90/10 rule, and trust your instincts.
    • Have fun!


Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:07
  • Take a Break! 1:02
  • Revision vs. Proofreading 1:27
    • Revision
    • Proofreading
  • Deep Revision 2:25
    • What Is It?
    • Did You Answer the Prompt?
    • Did You Choose the Right Topic?
    • Did You Organize Your Answer Well?
    • Did You Leave Out Anything Important?
    • Did You Pad Your Response?
  • Get a Second Opinion 7:36
    • Beta Reader
    • Writing Circle
  • The 90/ 10 Rule of Second Opinions 12:11
    • What Is It?
  • When in Doubt 13:49