Admission, application and entrance essays: writing, editing, proofreading

Creating an Application Essay: throw out your Thesaurus

It’s finally time to start applying to universities. You’ve gathered your letters of recommendation, your transcripts, your scholarship applications, and you’ve filled out your forms. One final hurdle stands between you and being accepted to the university of your dreams: the application essay.


Unfortunately for many dedicated students, their admissions essay turns out to be a true stumbling block. Many an otherwise great application packet has been rejected thanks to a poorly conceived admissions essay. While there are many mistakes students could make with these essays, one in particular is the most common. This article will help you avoid this common pitfall. Too many students have learned bad essay writing habits in their grade school English classes, based upon unfortunate misconceptions that teachers frequently encourage. These misconceptions can lead poorly written admissions essays.

Cut the Fluff

Grade school instructors place a heavy emphasis on minimum word count and pretentious vocabulary usage. Doing so causes the great majority of students to embrace “fluff” when writing their application essays. What is fluff exactly? Fluff refers to two things: being unnecessarily verbose (using too many words to say something simple) and being fearful of writing in a simple, brief, clear style.

Stick to the Limit

The maximum limit, that is. Nearly all application essays will suggest a maximum word count. Hitting it exactly or going over is going to make a poor impression on admissions counselors who must, by necessity, read astonishing numbers of admissions essays daily. They do want to know what you have to say, but they want you to say it without beating around the bush or adding words just to add them.

Emphasis Content, Not Vocabulary

Your standardized test scores are more than adequate at illustrating your command of vocabulary. Using your thesaurus to come up with a fancy alternative for every common word is painfully obvious to admissions counselors. The reason it makes a poor impression is because it seems to indicate that the actual ideas you’re expressing aren’t enough—they have to be “dressed up” with unusual terminology.

Be Sincere

Be yourself and be sincere. You don’t need to use SAT vocabulary words to do that. Your admissions essay isn’t about knowing the dictionary from front to back, it’s about presenting who you are as a person. It’s about expressing how you, as a person, can be an asset to their school.

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