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Articles / Applying to College / Essay Editing for International Student?

Sept. 5, 2017

Essay Editing for International Student?

Hi! I'm an international applicant applying for universities this year. Do you mind to help me in editing my expression errors for my essays? I'm really desperate because I can't get much help from the school and my English is quite weak. Thank you so much!

Sorry, but "The Dean" doesn't do essay editing. I get hundreds of such requests and couldn't possibly take on all this volunteer work.


But don't stress too much about your writing. If English isn't your first language, admission officials won't expect your essays to be error-free. And if you submit edited essays with no mistakes, then the college folks are likely to wonder just how much help you had and even if you wrote the essays yourself in the first place.

So don't be shy about sending in writing with English-usage mistakes. This will make your applications seem authentic. The colleges will expect a TOEFL score from you and probably SAT or ACT scores as well (depending on where you apply). So if your test results indicate that your English is good enough for you to handle the college workload, you don't have to worry about mistakes in your essays. Conversely, if your essays are perfect but your test scores are low, then the essays won't help you at all and will just make the admission committees suspicious.

If you have an English teacher at school (or even a friend who is fluent in English), then it's fine to ask him or her to take a quick look at your writing just to make sure that it doesn't include any phrasing that might completely confuse the admission officials so that they can't understand what you're trying to say. But, otherwise, the writing should be in your own words ... flaws and all!

Also, keep in mind that US college admissions is typically highly competitive for international students, and this is especially true for those who are applying for financial aid. The bar will be set higher as well if you live in a country where many students apply to US schools. (If few students from your country aim for American universities, this will work a bit in your favor.) So make sure you choose your colleges wisely and focus most heavily on those where your GPA and test scores put you at the top of the applicant pool, not at the bottom or even in the middle. Your writing is not likely to play a starring role in your admission decisions, but it could work against you if it doesn't sound as if it's truly yours.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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