Application Essay Evaluation Guidelines

Evaluation methods vary somewhat among colleges. Some schools, particularly larger educational institutions that process many applications, use a scoring system in which each essay receives separate scores for content, style, and mechanics. Other schools take a more holistic approach, relying on written comments from evaluators as well as discussion among admissions committee members.

Most college admission officers evaluate application essays based on five key areas-

  1. Voice;
  2. Major themes and ideas;
  3. Tone and style of writing;
  4. Coherence- does it make sense? and
  5. The mechanics of proofing and editing.

1. Voice

Being able to convey your personality through your writing is essential for an essay to be effective. The reader has to be able to identify with you and get a sense of who you are. Use an "active voice" that shows your excitement, your feelings and your ambition. Don't slip into "passive voice" to describe yourself. The "active voice" paints a picture of who you are and brings the reader closer to you. In addition, make sure to explain your thoughts and ideas in your own words. Look for ways to express yourself based on your feelings and values.

2. Major Themes and Ideas

Content is very important. Be sure your essay answers the question being posed. All your paragraphs should contribute to the major theme or ideas of your essay. A good essay should have all information needed by your reader to understand your point of view. If your words don't stick to the topic and contribute directly to your reader's understanding, remove them from the essay. This can be painful if you have a sentence that sounds really good. However, if the sentence does not help clarify your ideas it should be tossed. On the other hand, always be willing to add a bit more detail or background information when needed.

3. Tone and Style of Writing

Your essay should present the appropriate relationship between yourself and your audience. If the essay is meant to be a serious discussion of your personal growth do not lapse into humorous anecdotes about your childhood. Look for and correct any choppy , run-on sentences, or any other stylistic problems that can cause your audience to be confused and interfere with their understanding of your essay.

4. Coherence

Does it make sense? Your essay should have a strong structure that helps lead your audience effortlessly through your writing. Make sure the reader can easily identify your thesis statement and can follow the flow of your thoughts through well developed transitions. Rewrite any unclear statements. Admissions officers may not be willing to try and decipher what you are attempting to say. They simply want you to say what you mean!

5. The Mechanics of Proofing and Editing

The last step of writing your essay is very important. Proofread for any and all errors in punctuation, spelling and sentence structure. Even the most minor mistakes can be distracting to your audience. Admissions officers may be willing to overlook an occasional error here or there, but if there is a consistent pattern of mistakes they will doubt your seriousness in applying to their school because you did not take the time or effort to proof read.