Well that sounds mysterious. The meddlers in college essays. But some of you may know what we’re hinting at. Likely because you’re a meddler. Every year, we have one or two. The students who work on draft after draft of essay after essay with us and yet make some minor changes here and there at the very last minute. In almost every single case, these minor changes — indeed this meddling — is to the student’s detriment. They do not make the essay stronger. They don’t even maintain the strength of the essay. They make the essays weaker. Almost every single time out of ten.
So to the meddlers out there, don’t meddle. We will always argue that good writing is about rewriting. Every good writer knows this — from television and feature writers to journalists and novelists. But there comes a point (and TV writers know this all too well with the notes they receive from television executives) when changes actually make the material worse. There comes a point when you put down your red pen. Not that anyone uses red pens these days. Except teachers. Teachers still use red pens.
We often tell our annual meddler or two that meddling isn’t a good idea. And eventually they get it. But we should also stress that it’s not just a bad idea in college admissions essays because meddlers likely meddle in other matters. Like when they make nit-picky changes to red-lined agreements. Or when they decide to go to the Apple store only to gauge the weather and decide instead to go to Banana Republic. Just go to the Apple store. Forget about the light drizzle, meddlers.
We sure did say the word meddle a lot. Meddle.