Choosing the right words for your college application essays can be challenging even for the most masterful, motivated writers. How many times in your life have you thought to yourself or said to someone, "The word is at the tip of my tongue," "I know what I want to say but I can't think of the right words to explain it," or "It's like (word/phrase) but that doesn't quite fit what I'm trying to tell you"?
Now, imagine all the people in this world each having moments like this as well. That's a lot of instances where words are stumping humankind!
Just as in verbal communications, written words have the power to create opportunities for people to connect with each other at any time and for any reason. Whether for school assignments, college applications, letters to friends, business deals, or invitations for parties and other social events, making wise decisions about the words you use to express yourself can make a world of difference in the results you receive.
The Goal: Finding and choosing appropriate words based on context
Making the decision to share knowledge, insights, and feelings, to name a few, is one of the first key steps to forming connections with others. Of equal, if not more, importance is the step of choosing the right words to accurately relay the message you're trying to send.
While it may be quicker and easier to use terms straight out of a dictionary or thesaurus, always be sure that they flow and work within the context of your message. There's a very fine line between vocabulary used and the sense of sincerity reflected in one's words. College admissions officers, employment recruiters, and others who review applications regularly are usually practiced and skilled in their roles; know that they can easily spot when applicants hide behind the contents that come straight out of these types of reference materials.
With this in mind, when turning to writing resources, remember to do your very best to remain true to yourself. Select words and phrases that are genuine to who you are and what you stand for. If you do use an uncommon term straight out of a dictionary, for example, take the time to craft your sentence and/or paragraph in such a way that blends with your personality and the message you're trying to send. Be sure to also check that the word flows within the sentence so it's not awkward or distracting to the reader.
A Few Essential Resources for College Application Essays and Statements
Dictionaries: Use a dictionary to make sure you know what a word means and are using it in the proper context with the correct spelling. Dictionaries also offer synonyms and antonyms, both of which can be helpful in adding style and punch to your writing.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com
Oxford English Dictionary: https://www.oed.com/
Thesauruses: Use a thesaurus when you want to avoid repetitive use of words and/or if you're trying to add more feel or color to your essay. For example, instead of the commonly used word "great," a thesaurus can offer suggestions such as enormous, huge, or tremendous. If you're not trying to describe the size of something, it'll help you to realize that a different word is in order. Maybe terms such as amazing, extraordinary, or spectacular would work better in getting your message to come through clearly and succinctly.
Merriam-Webster Thesaurus: https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus
Roget's Thesaurus (purchase a hard copy at your local bookstore or online)
Grammar and Punctuation Guides: Always make and take time to proofread your writing! Nothing will take you out of the running of consideration faster than poor grammar and incorrect use of punctuation. If you're not comfortable with the conventions of writing, check in with your English teacher at school or hire someone who is skilled in this area. The editing process is essential and worth your time (and money, if necessary)!
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html
The Punctuation Guide: https://www.thepunctuationguide.com/
The struggle to come up with effective words when writing is not a new or uncommon challenge for anyone. The abundance of online and hard copy dictionaries, thesauruses, resources for proper writing conventions, and more, directly reflect that there are others seeking assistance in these areas. So as you tackle your college application essays, school assignments, or any other writing tasks, don't settle for generic words or simply hope that you're writing correctly. Access some of the many available resources, apply what suits your personality and writing goals, align your choices with your overall context, and aim high for the results you're striving for!