Nov 3, 2022

Best Words to Use in Good College Essays

Why is using good vocabulary so important in an essay?

Using strong vocabulary in college admissions essays is crucial to articulating your skills and competencies, but also central in showing admissions officers that you can express yourself clearly in written English. Although vocabulary may not be the main aspect of your essay that the admissions committee pays attention to, using appropriate and sophisticated vocabulary will nearly always make your essay more compelling. 

Choosing which vocabulary or words to use can be difficult for anyone but it can be even more challenging if English is not your first language. This article suggests some useful words to effectively describe yourself and your experiences when writing college admissions essays.

Table of Contents 

  1. How to Choose Vocabulary for College Admissions Essays
  2. Most Commonly Used Words in College Admissions Essays
    • Adjectives
    • Verbs
    • Nouns

How to Choose Vocabulary Terms for College Applications Essays

Writing a college essay is all about describing who you are and how you fit into the school you are applying for. Therefore, an important question to ask yourself here would be “Who are you?” rather than trying to boast with elevated and “sophisticated” words that do not quite fit in your essay. It is recommended to first brainstorm and outline the aspects you would like to highlight about yourself in order to choose the right words to use.

adjectives for college applications, word cloud

Best Words to Use in College Admissions Essays

The following list of adjectives, verbs and nouns are the words commonly used in college admissions essays. Using these words will help you to effectively express yourself in a short essay of about 650 words. Let’s find out why they are effective terms using some specific examples within admissions essays. 

Adjectives to Use in Essays

Adjectives are words that provide information about a noun. When it comes to formatting college admissions essays, using strong adjectives will not only make your essay more visual and distinctive but also help you demonstrate that you can communicate well in English. The following adjectives signal to admissions officers that you are both a good college candidate and a capable writer.


Definition: Able to express ideas and feelings clearly in words

Example: I am an articulate writer and I always aim to intrigue audiences with my message using precise words.


Definition: Able to do things well

Example: Having part-time jobs during the semester helped me become capable at handling multiple things at once. 


Definition: Interested in and paying great attention to detail

Example: When working on a scientific report, taking a detail-oriented approach is crucial.


Definition: Giving a lot of attention to one particular thing

Example: My mentor encouraged me, saying that I would do well in college because I am very focused on my studies.


Definition: Laser-focused on achieving good results on given tasks

Example Today’s society is goal-oriented, requiring problems to be resolved quickly.


Definition: Making people feel full of hope or encouraged

Example: Students who share their stories of how they successfully completed degrees in foreign country are often inspirational to those who are planning to study abroad.


Definition: Very enthusiastic or determined out of a strong desire to do something

Example: Colleges often seek highly motivated people who will not readily drop out of courses.


Definition: Arranged according to a particular system

Example: My father is one of the most organized people I know, and there is no doubt that I inherited this attitude from him.


Definition: Based on or acting on good judgment and practical ideas or understanding

Example: My colleagues strongly agreed to adopt the sensible suggestions I made. 


Definition: Giving encouragement and/or providing support in the form of action

Example: Knowing that I am a supportive member of the student council, the teachers used to ask me to advocate on behalf of other students.

Verbs to Use in Essays

Verbs are used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. In college admissions essays, it is essential to choose verbs that would most appropriately describe your past experiences. Similar to verbs in resume and CVs, using appropriate verbs in your admissions essay can add to the detail and action, enthralling your reader and improving your chances of acceptance.


Definition: To succeed in finishing something or reaching an aim, especially following a significant amount of work or effort

Example: I aim to achieve my goals through continual academic and extracurricular efforts. 


Definition: To express a thought, feeling, or idea so that it is understood by other people

Example: I carefully chose my words to convey the proper amount of urgency about the matter.


Definition: To effectively organize so that all the parts work well together

Example: My role was to coordinate the reports from each department in school and send them to the principal.


Definition: To clarify something by way of doing it in front of others

Example: As the leader of the after-school cooking club, I demonstrated each step of the recipe to introduce new menus. 


Definition: To improve or increase (especially a skill, feeling, or metric)

Example: Studying abroad was a great opportunity for me to enhance my communication skills.


Definition: To examine a crime, problem, statement, etc. carefully, especially in order to discover the truth

Example: It is always important to investigate the terms and conditions before signing any contract.


Definition: To succeed in doing or dealing with something, especially something difficult

Example: After engaging in numerous debates, I managed to learn how to effectively communicate.


Definition: To (cause to) work, be in action or have an effect

Example: Having the ability to operate machines and systems is crucial for systems engineers.


Definition: To take part in an event or become involved in an activity or group

Example: Students are encouraged to actively participate in discussions and decision-making during the student council meeting.


Definition: To watch a person or activity to ensure that everything is done correctly, safely, and/or according to the rules or guidelines.

Example: I was responsible for supervising students during the event to prevent any possible accidents.

Nouns to Use in Essays

Many strong nouns exist that can be introduced in college admissions essays to help students better express their abilities, talents, achievements, etc. The following nouns will help you articulate the valuable experiences you had in the past and the abilities you gained accordingly. Be careful not to use nouns that you do not understand or that might not sound natural in your essay.


Definition: Something that needs great mental or physical effort in order to be done successfully and therefore tests a person’s ability

Example: My challenge was to motivate the survey participants to provide honest responses.


Definition: Understanding of or information about a subject that you get by experience or study, either known by one person or by people generally

Example: Having relevant knowledge in a given field is a power that can only be unlocked through extended hands-on experiences. 


Definition: An occasion or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to do or have to do, or the possibility of doing something

Example: I am honored to be given the opportunity to apply for this faculty position.


Definition: An ability to do an activity or job well, especially because you have practiced it

Example: Through various projects, I learned that communication skills are key when working with others. 


Definition: The action of working together in a group with other people; especially used when the action is successful

Example: Seamless teamwork can drive the most satisfactory outcomes.

If you are currently writing a college admissions essay, see our Admissions Resources page for articles on writing application essays to get into any school, including How to Answer the Common App Essay Prompts. And don’t forget to receive professional English proofreading services, including essay editing services for any of your application documents.

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