Capstone College and Career Advising

Writing a College Essay – Tip #5 – Don’t Overdo it

December 28th, 2017 by
There is a common misconception that essays must use impressive words which you need a thesaurus for.  While it is important to use strong language and be descriptive, students have a tendency to over-use flowery language and go overboard on adjectives.  When writing, it is important to use strong verbs that connect and bring emotion and visually enhance the essay.  For example, instead of saying The cold north wind blew strong as we stood outside standing in the frozen terrain, you could say The wind sliced through our frozen bodies. While the first sentence is a good sentence (especially in a novel) and adds quite a bit of description, you can essentially create the same picture with the verb sliced.  The key is that you said essentially the same thing while using fewer words.  The reason this is important in your essay writing is because you want a strong essay while keeping within the word count.  Many of your essays will have a specific word count.  Often times, students work on creating very descriptive language and add many words to accomplish this. However, they go over the word count and find themselves taking out large chunks of their essay to get back within the guidelines for the application.  Or they may write an essay and have to end it abruptly because they are running out of words leaving the essay with a weak ending.  Colleges want to see writers who can express themselves in a concise and descriptive way.  They want you to say more with less. Colleges are also wanting you to be personal in your essay.  If you start forcing words you do not normally use and add too many of these words in the essay, it will seem forced.  It will appear as if you were trying to impress someone you are speaking to and they can easily tell you are not comfortable saying the things you are saying.  This will then give them the impression you are not being yourself.  Your words should flow on the paper as if they were flowing out of your mouth.  Certainly, you want to use good writing technique and use the tools for formal writing in your essay.  As a result, you may need to clean up your rough draft to take out some of the conversational language.  However, you can easily replace some key conversational words with a more formal vocabulary.  For example.  If you say I hated my history teacher at the beginning of the year but we became buddies by the end of the year.  You could say, I did not always agree with my History teacher early in our first semester.  However, he and I have now become close and I appreciate him more. Be careful when writing your essay to not try too hard.  Watch your word count and look back over it to make sure it reflects your voice.  Also, make sure you practice saying as much as you can while using the fewest amount of words possible.  This will help you get noticed in the admissions process and separate your application from the others.