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Final polish before you submit

Do a close walk-through

This is

Some very important information about how you can help your friends and family help you in the process, instead of getting you off-track with their well-intentioned, but maybe not relevant advice.

You’re also at the point where someone can do a line-by-line walkthrough with you.

People can help casually (like family and friends) or someone can take a more active role in mentoring you. No matter what, you’ll want them to know how best to help you.

You don’t have to get another perspective or do a walkthrough—but if you’re going to do one, this is your last chance. We recommend it!


Do this because

It can be hard for us to see the value in our own stories and writing. It’s in our nature not to give ourselves credit, to miss what’s best in our own work and thinking.

You may be surprised (and amazed) at what you can create just by talking through your stories, your intentions, and the many ways you can structure your essay with someone else.

By doing a line-by-line walkthrough, you can also find opportunities to refine language, clear up ambiguites, and catch subtle mistakes.

Now, do this


Two main ways:

For both — give what to listen for/look for (language, puppies, vagueness, Tina Fey doesn’t care, choppy, missing information, ambiguous statements, something that makes you look bad

1. On your own
Listen with text reader
Read aloud
Grammarly (?)

2. With someone else
Video of me doing a close read


Pick a good person to talk to.

This step is about wordsmithing and bringing language to life. A good mentor will help you do that.

A mentor may be a neighbor, teacher, coach, religious leader, relative, or family friend.

The most important traits for a mentor to help you grab attention, have smoooooth transitions and end like a pro are:

  • The ability to listen deeply
  • The ability to ask questions that get you thinking
  • The ability to think creatively 
  • Some talent with language

What You Don’t Want
You don’t want to choose someone who will push their ideas on you, take over the conversation, tell you what to write, or think like an academic. A person like that may care very much about you and want to help, but they just don’t have the personality you need for this.

If you end up in a conversation like, just that thank the person, get what you can from them, and trust yourself and the process you’re learning. We call this the “smile and nod” approach (it’s useful for other stuff in life too). 😊


    Bounce ideas off someone.

    You can talk with a parent, friend, sibling, teacher, college counselor, coach, or a complete stranger. Make sure you’ve set them up to give you useful feedback, though!

    At a bare, bare minimum, make sure…

    They know your audience
    a college admissions officer, undoubtedly friendly and outgoing but frazzled from reading essays, who just wants to know who you are

    They know your intention
    You’re writing an engaging, authentic short story that shows who you are (and shows at least five of your top ten strengths). This isn’t an academic essay, a sales pitch, an overview of your life, etc.

    They know where you are in the process
    Make sure you tell them that you’re making your essay flow start to finish and are working on howstart and end your essay and your transitions. Show them whichever page you’re struggling with and have them go through that with you.

    Better yet send them to the mentor resources page
    Better yet, have them read a few sample essays or look at some of the support material for this section.


    You can use the Self-review as a starting point for diving in deeply to your material and structure. It’s the same set of questions as in the feedback form, but in much more detail.


      Do a line-by-line essay walkthrough.

      There’s nothing like walking through your essay line-by-line with someone who can look closely at your language.

      The mentor guide has detailed instructions for the person taking you through the walk-through. What they’ll do is:

      Read each line with you
      Point out anything that that catches their eye, including:
      spelling and punctuation mistakes
      nitpicky details
      unclear language
      opportunities to improve your writing or clarify your message
      They won’t tell you what to do or how to fix your language. You may have a conversation about the language, but it’s your job to make changes.

      When we do these walk-throughs with our students they fix small issues on-the-spot; we make comments on anything that will take more than a minute for them to handle.

      You may do another walk-through after you’ve made the edits and changes.


        You're ready to move on when

        • You’ve done a full self-review and can answer yes to all of the questions. They may not all be an exuberant yes, but you’re confident that you’ve checked all the boxes.

        • you’ve addressed any issues you found.

          We recommend that you’ve gotten at least some outside feedback, whether talking with someone about your essay, getting written feedback, or doing a line-by-line walk-through.

        If you’re struggling to find Story Starters, you can go through the questions with someone who knows you. They’ll think of things.