Vocabulary in College Essays

There’s an expression among admission counselors: If you have to click on a thesaurus to find a better word, chances are we’re going to have to click on our thesaurus to figure out what you meant in the first place. A good vocabulary is important not only in college admissions but in life. But there’s a difference between having a good vocabulary and flaunting vocabulary in college essays.

The fact is that just about all college applicants recently completed taking the SAT’s or ACT’s. A person may well know more words during their SAT studies than they will at any other point in their life. There are lists and lists of vocabulary. Card after card. Those words don’t just disappear after you take the SAT. Many of them stick with you.

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Too many students drop words like "plethora," "superfluous," and "copious" in college essays. Extraneous SAT vocabulary should not dominate college essays!

But that doesn’t mean you should be using all of this SAT vocabulary in college essays! It will come across as showboating your vocab! And few college admissions counselors are impressed that you can drop the words “replete,” “plethora,” and “copious” all in one sentence. If you did happen to drop plethora and copious in one sentence, it would also be redundant not to mention superfluous (another SAT word)! College admissions counselors know these SAT words. They’re not going to think you’re super smart because you can actually use them in sentences.

So, basically, don’t showboat. Be yourself. Write in your own voice rather than in the College Board’s voice! Just be you. And while you’re thinking about college essays, check out our blogs on College Admissions Essays and Common App Admissions Essays.


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