You want to make sure your MBA application essay has no errors, so you run spell check on your computer, get rid of all those squiggly red and green lines, save your essay as FINAL, and then submit.
But wait! Your essay isn't really complete until you do a solid job proofreading…with your eyes and ears. Your word processor's spelling and grammar editor is excellent for catching obvious errors (the ones you'd catch anyways), but it is less than perfect (and in some cases a lot less than perfect) at finding the more obscure mistakes.
The best way to proof an essay is to print it out, move to a different chair or desk, and read it aloud slowly with a pencil handy so you can write in corrections that you will later enter on the computer. Reading aloud will slow you down and allow your ear to catch what your glassy eyes will miss. As you give your essay its final proofread, stay on the lookout for the following:
- Check for the proper school name. There are few things worse than submitting an essay to HBS that begins with the words "I want to go to Wharton because" (and that's putting aside the fact that an essay opening like that is pretty bland). Not only does it show the adcom that you didn't do a good job proofing your essay, but it also shows that you sloppily lifted your Wharton essay, without writing a new essay specifically geared toward HBS. Actually, here is a trade secret: Before you get to the proofreading stage, use your computer's "Find" function (Control-F for PCs) and search for "Wharton" – make sure you replace each one with "Harvard." And then, since you should never rely on your computer alone, your read aloud proof will serve as a double check .
- Check spelling and usage. Your computer's spell checker may catch obviously misspelled words, but it won't catch words that are spelled correctly but that are used incorrectly. "Illicit feedback" isn't the same thing as "elicit feedback" (which is probably what you meant). Your computer – amazing as it is – can't read your mind!
- Check grammar and style. I recommend turning off your computer's grammar checker and instead relying on your own eyes and, and in this case, EARS as well. Grammar errors are often easier to identify when you hear them read aloud. Something may look right, but if it doesn't SOUND right, then it probably isn't. Before submitting your essays, do a final read through and LISTEN for mistakes and awkward phrasing.
You may also find that now, during the final proofreading stage of your MBA essays, is a good time to recruit a friend, family member, colleague, or professional editor to read through your essay. After looking at your essay 4,557 times, you may simply gloss right over errors, reading what SHOULD be written rather than what IS actually written. A fresh pair of eyes and ears can catch what your exhausted and biased eyes and ears missed.
Explore Accepted’s professional MBA essay editing options. You’re a professional applying to a professional program. Have seasoned pros edit your critical MBA essays. They’re simply too important for you to rely on anyone else.
This post is part of an ongoing series, MBA Admissions A-Z, that offers applicants insightful tips on every aspect of the business school admissions process. Join us as we explore the ABCs of the MBA!
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This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of Accepted.com.