Three Rules of Rewriting

Some people get their essay almost right on the first draft. Most people, however, need to do at least one complete rewrite. Here’s how.

1. Put your essay in a drawer.

When you read your own writing, your brain fills in missing bits of context and smooths out the logical kinks. In order to revise well, you have to read your essay like a stranger.

An important part of the revision process is not revising, or even looking at your essay, between sessions. Leave your personal statement alone for as long as you can—at least a day or two—before you tackle each rewrite.

2. Make sure you answer the question.

Before you polish your essay, you should make sure it answers the questions of every school to which you plan to apply. Reread the directions.

In most cases, you’ll be able to adapt the same personal statement to every school. If a school asks about something you don’t answer, however—such as why you want to go to law school—you may have to write a new personal statement. See my answers to four big questions.

3. Start with a blank page.

When you finally take your essay out of the “drawer,” you should start a new draft on a blank page. Keep your old draft open in one window and type in a new one. You should do this even if you wind up retyping large portions of your essay. It’s important to feel the rhythm of your sentences as you change them.

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