Three questions that lead to better college essay feedback

I’ve written many times before about the importance of taking college admissions advice from people who are qualified to deliver it, and this includes giving feedback on a college essay. You don’t need to be an admissions officer or a counselor to correct grammar and spelling. But if your family, friends, and neighbors have never been trained to guide or evaluate students during the process, they likely don’t understand the purpose of the college essay, which stories stand out and which are like all the others, or the many ways in which strong college application essays are not at all like strong academic essays.

Still, some non-admissions experts can give you great advice if you ask the right questions. Instead of simply asking, “Can you read my essay and tell me what you think?” try asking for feedback in three specific areas:

  1. Which parts of my essay are confusing or make it hard to understand what I’m trying to say?
  2. Which parts don’t sound like me?
  3. Are there any parts that just didn’t hold your interest?

Someone who knows you well is qualified to answer those questions. It’s still your responsibility to seek out the right people who care enough to feel invested in your success. But sticking to specific questions won’t just give you feedback you can actually use to make changes–it also lets you receive feedback at the reviewer’s level of expertise.