Laura Berlinsky-Schine 3 min read 12th Grade, Common App, Essay FAQs

Can You Change Your Common App Essay After Submitting?

The essay is a vital part of your college application. It’s not only a place to showcase your writing skills, but also demonstrate your personality — the qualities you can’t reveal through your grades and test scores.

 

If you make a mistake or realize your essay isn’t quite what you want it to be, it’s nerve-wracking. What can you do? Is it possible to change it after you click submit?

 

Can You Change Your Common App Essay After Submitting?

 

You can make any number of changes to your Common App essay — and any other component of your application — once you’ve submitted it. However, these changes will not be reflected in applications that have already been submitted; they will only appear in future submissions. (The Common App likens your submission to dropping it in a mailbox.)

 

If you want to make changes to an essay you’ve already submitted to an institution, you will need to contact that school’s admissions office to see if it’s possible. We only recommend doing this if there’s a major error with your essay, as it won’t reflect well on your proofreading skills to try to slightly modify your essay after submission.

 

When Should You Change Your Essay?

 

The best course of action is to ensure that your essay is polished and written to the best of your abilities before you submit it to any college. However, there are some circumstances under which you should make changes.

 

If you made a mistake, for example, you should try to fix it for future applications. (That doesn’t mean you should call up an admissions office over a misplaced comma — we’re talking major errors.) You also might want to change your essay if you plan to cover a similar topic for a specific school supplement. Or, if you got deferred, you may want to try to improve your essay for the regular admission cycle.

 

Tips for Changing Your Common App Essay

 

1. Save the older version somewhere else.

 

Before you do anything, save your current version elsewhere, such as in a Google doc. You don’t want to make changes and not be able to access your previous version, should you decide you preferred the old one more.

2. Reflect on flaws in the older version and target them in your revisions.

 

When revising your essay, focus on what was missing in the old version. You don’t want to go crazy with the revisions — more than likely, there were some strong pieces in your previous draft. Instead, just focus on what really needs improvement, and focus on this when editing.

 

In some cases, you may actually want to start from scratch, especially if you feel that your essay topic didn’t properly capture your personality. It is okay to start over, but make sure it’s something you 100% want to do before proceeding. 

 

See our tips for editing your college essay to get inspiration for your revision.

 

3. Make sure the changed essay complements the rest of your application and supplements.

 

Your application is a cohesive representation of you. The pieces should go together to present a clear picture of you as a student and a person. When you make edits, ensure that the essay still complements the rest of your application. Avoid having it overlap with other pieces, such as your school-specific supplements. At the same time, you should ensure that you’re addressing every part of your background and personality that you want the adcom to see.

 

4. Double- and triple-check before submitting.

 

This, of course, is something you should do before you hit send in the first place. Read your essay over several times. Read it aloud, too, because this can help you spot errors you may miss reading it silently. Get another set of eyes on it if you can.

 

See our college essay checklist to make sure you’re ready to submit.

 

And with CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review tool, it’s easy — and free! You can get your essay reviewed by students, and improve your own writing skills by reviewing others’ essays. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.