Framework to Resolve Conflicting Essay Feedback
Shveta Bagade, Independent College Counselor, Bay Area, California.
College Applications are in full swing. You are probably seeing and dreaming Common Application everywhere you look! You have been writing, re-writing essay drafts. Based on an Alma Matters survey, over 40% of the applicants go through 5 or more drafts of their essays! One way or another, you finally get to the point when you feel you are ready to get feedback on the essay. You feel great!
You then want to go ahead and share it with a few people to get their feedback on your essay.
So first, How do you decide who should review your essay?
You should get input from ones you care or whose opinion you value, and set some review guidelines to help them and yourself. The reviewers could include:
- Professionals who know you - Teacher, Coach,...
- Students you know who are currently studying at Target College(s) you plan to apply to.
Recommended No of Reviewers: 3.
Essay Review Guidelines
First, provide the Reviewers with Guidelines to evaluate your essay:
Essay Prompt: Does the essay respond to the chosen question or direction posed by the Essay Prompt?
What is the main Theme/Message coming through from the essay? Did they learn something (new) about you? Does it make an impact? Is it effective? Are they blown away? Is this covered elsewhere in your Common Application?
Tone of the Essay - Positive/Negative, Appealing, Inspiring, Depressing, etc.
Style - how does it flow? Does it tell the story effectively?
Language and Structure
Wordsmith - choice of words and phrases
Framework to Resolve Conflicts
When you start getting feedback, you realize there are a number of comments from different reviewers that contradict each other. How do you resolve these conflicts?
To answer this question, here is some guidance:
1. It is your essay. You need to own it. The essay should reflect you! Be sure it sounds like you and not the adults or others you have reading it. Use your words and your phrasing. Don't put anything in the essay that is not you, or you are uncomfortable with.
2. You have to be clear about your message. You need to enunciate it for yourself.
3. If you have a Counselor, you should trust the counselor. There should be only ONE person helping you make decisions on your application. It is like your family doctor. You have to put your faith in their medical opinion and that they are acting in your best interests.
That said, here is how you evaluate the feedback.
Figure1. Framework to Score Reviewers Feedback
We recommend that you pick 3 Reviewers. Assign the reviewers a score based on the weightage to each review parameter(except “Relevant to Prompt”) - starting with "5" to "1". (See Figure 1 above).
For example, for Theme/Tone/Style - factor their background, expertise, how well they know you, and objectivity. More weightage to feedback someone who knows you less or not at all - re Theme/Message, and Tone.
Leave Language and Structure feedback to counselors, teachers, coaches,
Organize the feedback from each one of your reviewers in this quasi-structured manner and note it in the above matrix.
Note about “Relevant to Prompt”: The essay should stay on point, the response is about you and/or what how you were impacted. E.g., no story about the role model or a beloved family member.
As you review each piece of feedback,
You have to determine what you would like to accept or reject.
In the event of conflicts, consider the weighting factor for the parameter in deciding which feedback gets priority.
Hope this helps you all as you go through the Essay review process to get the best possible benefit of the reviewers’ feedback.
If you have any questions, Ask your Questions on the Alma Matters Forum.
Good Luck! May your essay rock!
Shveta Bagade is an Independent College Counselor based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.