Posted on January 5, 2015

Helpful Proofreading Tips for Non-Native Applicants

Round 2 applicants! I am sure you must have spent the last couple of weeks writing, rewriting, revising, and editing your essay multiple times making sure that you have addressed the essay question effectively and persuasively within the prescribed word limit, and are now all set to submit your essays.

Wait!!!  If you are a non-native applicant applying to the US Business schools,  you also need to make sure that you have not used any words/ phrases/ expressions that your readers, the Admission Committee members,   are not familiar with.

There is no denying the fact that English is an international language used as a means of communication by people all around the world.  However, it is also true that English spoken by people in India and UK is different from that of American English in terms of spelling, grammar, usage, and of course, accent.  Therefore, it is critical that after finalizing application essays for the US B-Schools in the areas of content, organization, and sentence structure, the non-native applicants should identify words/ phrases that American English speakers are not familiar with and replace them by their American English equivalents.   I would like to bring to your attention some of those words and phrases that I have consistently come across when reviewing student essays for US B-schools.

To begin with, B-schools often require their applicants to write ‘life experience’ and ‘background’ essays for which they need to recall their childhood/teenage experiences.  Having done their schooling and under graduation in India (just like I did), they obviously use the terms popularly used in the Indian education system.  For example, in India we use the term ‘higher secondary’ for 11th grade, ‘senior secondary, or ‘intermediate’ for 12th grade and ‘middle school’ for 6th-8th grades.  In America, however, 9th- 12th grade schools are called ‘high schools’, and ‘middle schools’ are called ‘junior high schools’.  Therefore, instead of saying ‘I passed or passed out intermediate’, you should say ‘I graduated high school’; instead of saying ‘I went to a primary school’, you should say ‘I went to an elementary school’.  Some other words that you may want to replace by American- friendly terms are ‘10th or 12th standard’ by ‘10th or 12th grade’, ‘hostel room’ by ‘dorm’, ‘class mate’ by ‘batch mate’, ‘fresher’ by ‘freshman’, and ‘topper’ by ‘number 1 student’ or ‘honor student’. Please note that in India, students ‘pass out’ college or university, but in America, students  ‘graduate’ school or college and interestingly ‘passing out’ in American English means ‘fainting’ or ‘losing consciousness’.

Let’s take a look at some other terms used in American Education system that you may want to know when sharing your background or life experience/ stories for American B-Schools.  For example, in American schools, they have ‘lunch’ break as opposed to ‘recess’ in India.  American students ‘turn in’ their papers while Indian students ‘submit’ them; they ‘check in’ and ‘check out’ the books from the library, while their Indian counterparts ‘issue’ and ‘return’ them.  Again, American students are marked ‘tardy’ when they ‘show up’ late to the class, while Indian students are marked ‘late’ when they ‘turn up’ late to the class.  The teachers in American schools and colleges ‘grade’ student papers, while their Indian counterparts ‘check’ them, and at the end of the term, teachers in the US pass out ‘score sheets’ while Indian teachers announce ‘results’.  Indian students opt for different ‘subjects’ in their undergraduate, while their American counterparts opt for different ‘courses’.  Lastly, and most importantly, Indian students ‘write’ or ‘give’ the GMAT, while American students ‘take the GMAT.’

Another common usage that I have come across in a majority of essays is the use of the phrase ‘bring up’ in place of ‘raise’.  For example, ‘I was born and brought up in XYZ town in India’.  Please note that ‘brought-up’ is British English usage, and its American equivalent is ‘raise’.  Hence you may want to say ‘I was born and raised in a XYZ town in India’ to make yourself more comprehensible to the US Ad Com.  It is interesting to note that in American English, the phrase ‘to bring up’ means ‘to mention’, whereas in British English (and by default in Indian English, too) it means ‘to raise’ the kids.  Furthermore, if your story requires you to say that you ‘shifted’ to a new house or apartment, replace ‘shifted’ by ‘moved’.  Also, if you need to write plural of ‘person’ write ‘people’ instead of ‘persons’.  Moreover, while discussing your professional history, replace the word ‘fresher’ by ‘new hire’.  Instead of saying ‘I was a fresher at XXX company’, you may want to say, ‘I was a new hire at the XXX company.’  Also, I will encourage you to replace ‘I was recruited by XXX company,’ by ‘I was hired by XXX company’.

Furthermore, some verbs have a different past and past participle form in British and American English.  Verbs such as learn, burn, dream, smell, spell, lean, spoil end in   ‘d’ or ‘ed’ in their past and past participle forms (learned, burned, dreamed, smelled, spelled etc.) in American English, whereas the past and past participle forms of these verbs in British English is learnt, dreamt, burnt etc.; therefore, we Indians are accustomed to ending these verbs with a’t’.  Since most essay prompts expect the applicants to discuss the lessons they learned from their professional or personal experiences, the most common verb form that I have replaced by its American English usage in student essays is ‘learn’.


When applying to US Business schools, be mindful of words and phrases that are common in your native translation of English and replace them by their American English equivalents. I hope that the above-mentioned tiny tips will assist you in making your essays more free-flowing, comprehensible, and Ad Com friendly.

Good luck on your applications 🙂

Note: For more details on the differences between American English and British English, refer to my article ‘American English vs. British English.’

For more MBA articles, visit myEssayReview blog.

For questions, email me at

Poonam Tandon, Ph.D. English

Founder & CEO, myEssayReview

Partner-GMAT Club

Consultant-  AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admission Consultants)

Contributor- Valley India Times

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