College Essays: Too Personal to be Peer-Edited?

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Mamadi Jallow

Sam Forman ‘17 works on his college essay during his English class.

Whether it is for the early or regular decision, seniors are rushing to finish arguably the most crucial part of their application: the personal statement. The personal statement essay allows students to write about something that is important to them or something that they feel describes them. It gives colleges a chance to get a feel for what kind of people their applicants are; it allows them to see a side of the student that is not defined simply by test scores or grade point averages.

“At first, I was unsure about sharing my essay with people whom I did not really know too well. But, after bringing it to class and having it edited, I was able to grasp what other people’s perspectives may be. I especially liked that the editor was someone who is also a student and can relate to the process of writing this type of essay,” Liam Meissner ’17 said.

Most college essays are very personal. Topics range from family identity, special talents, or pivotal childhood memories. At Bronx Science, senior English classes typically spend some time during the first few months of school working on college essays. Students analyze model essays to outline important aspects of the personal statement and work to incorporate similar mechanisms while writing their own essays.  

While we encourage peer editing with most writing tasks, we do not require students to peer edit college essays, as they are often highly personal,” Ms. Mann, Assistant Principal of the English Department, said. Despite this, teachers still like to incorporate peer-editing into their college essay units and give a grade for completing various stages of the college essay process. This makes students uneasy as many are reluctant to share such personal stories with random classmates.

“I think that the peer-editing process is unnecessary and should not be required of students. Most students, like myself, write about very personal topics and do not want to share that with classmates,” Koyuki Yasui ’17 said. “I like to be selective in who reads my essay because it is a piece of writing that I only trust those closest to me to read.”

Some students think peer-editing still has its benefits. Allowing students to receive feedback on their writing gives them a new perspective. “At first, I was unsure about sharing my essay with people whom I did not really know too well. But, after bringing it to class and having it edited, I was able to grasp what other people’s perspectives may be. I especially liked that the editor was someone who is also a student and can relate to the process of writing this type of essay,” Liam Meissner ’17 said, after having his essay peer-edited in class.  

However, new alternatives to peer-editing have been introduced and are becoming more popular among students. This year, the school has partnered with the online service, Story2, to provide professional editing services. “We are now able to offer students one round of feedback from consultants at Story2, which assures them of privacy, being an online service. Most seniors also meet with English teachers during SGI to get extra help as they write the college essay,” Ms. Mann explained.

These alternatives offer more personal feedback, which is fitting for the type of essay that students are sharing. Students should feel comfortable sharing their essay and therefore, should have the choice in whom they share it with. Peer-editing does not allow this freedom of choice for students and should be used less in classes.

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