How to Write a Solid Personal Statement: Avoiding Fancy Words

Admissions committees will read hundreds if not thousands of personal statements from college applicants each year. To say the least, sometimes they get a little bored with bland writing that doesn’t reflect the core requirement of the essay: being personal.

To separate themselves from others, applicants will employ a number of writing tricks. But one trick should be avoided at all costs: using fancy or long vocabulary.

Don’t confuse or distract the reader.

Avoid fancy words - this is classic advice that every college applicant – and every writer – should live by. Nothing can be more distracting to a reader than coming upon language that causes him or her to pause, break rhythm, shift in their chair or otherwise requires a reader to pick up a dictionary.

Most of the time choosing fancy words over conventional and concise language will detract from a personal statement. Word play is enjoyable in some contexts but has no place in this assignment. You will be limited by word counts, so it’s best to use language that conveys your message in the most direct way possible.

Don’t misuse a word.

One of the worst things that could happen when trying to use fancy vocabulary is misusing a word. In addition to being extremely embarrassing it could greatly affect your chances of getting in, since it implies that you not only look towards ineffectively writing with a thesaurus but also indicates that you didn’t take the assignment seriously enough to proofread your work.

This isn’t to say that having a large vocabulary is a bad thing, but you should know when and where to use your words. A great piece of advice is to stick to words you would regularly use in conversation. Don’t converse when you mean to talk. Don’t triumph when you mean succeed. And if at any point you need to look up the word you are thinking of using, you’re better off skipping it altogether.

As with all kinds of writing, you will rarely impress your audience by using long, fancy words. On the contrary, you might unwittingly confuse and distract the reader. You should always write in a natural and unforced tone, presenting yourself authentically and not pretended you’re someone you are not for the sake of the admissions committee.

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