Keywords To Use In Your College Application Essay

When you are applying to super competitive colleges, high grades are considered a basic requirement and are not enough by themselves to guarantee you will get accepted. In fact, you will need to use every trick in your playbook to catch the attention of the admissions committee. You need to show them that you are more than just an ace student and that you also have the transferable skills that make you an asset to any institution. One way to show college authorities that you have the qualities and skills they are looking for is by using certain words in your college application essays.

These are a few winning keywords that you must use to give you the edge over the other applicants:

Keywords to Use in Your College Application:

  • Here's a list of keywords to use to stand out.

    Flickr user Marco Verch


  • Improve
  • Passionate
  • Reliable
  • Enthusiastic
  • Opportunity
  • Supportive
  • Knowledge
  • Future
  • Teamwork
  • Grounded
  • Challenge
  • Imaginative
  • Success
  • Research
  • Community
  • Skill
  • Optimistic
  • Balanced
  • Strong-willed
  • Genuine

While using the right keywords or adjectives is important to your college essays, they shouldn’t be entirely made up of the words listed above. They should be used sparingly, but appropriately. Don’t shoehorn them in. They should come up naturally and fit what you’re talking about.

College Essays Need to Go Beyond Keywords, Too

So since you can’t stuff all the above keywords into an essay, what else should you be looking to include? There are a few factors you should display in your college essay. These come from you, not just your word choices:

1. Emotion

Your college essay has to showcase emotion. Write from the heart to display what you’re truly passionate about, what matters to you the most, and what has impacted you over your lifetime.

This is why it’s so important to write your essays yourself, too. While someone else (or even an AI program) can certainly write a college essay for you, will it really show the impact it had on you as a person? Likely not.

2. Sincerity

Sincerity is also a must-have in college essays. You should mean what you say and say what you mean throughout the entire piece. Simply going through the motions as if it’s an essay for your history course won’t work for a college application essay! Your writing needs to display sincerity in what you’re trying to say. This means showing your passion for the subject, building on your emotions, and making the reader feel your emotions and the sincerity behind those emotions.

3. Creativity

College admissions departments receive a lot of essays every year, and a lot of it is reading similar essays over and over and over. It’s important to make your writing stand out among the crowd. Whether it’s writing about a passion of yours (not sports related!), something you overcame that most people don’t face, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you experienced, make sure it’s unique. You want every edge you can get to come out on top of the application pile, and a unique, creative essay is part of that.

However, in most cases, it is recommended you stay away from “flashy” writing styles or inappropriate topics, such as drugs or illegal activities. You don’t want to stand out for all the wrong reasons. There are several ways to invoke creativity in a college essay without going so far into left field that it is no longer recognizable as a part of your application.

4. Follow the Rules

And, of course, students should always follow the rules and requirements for their college essays. While you may want to talk about a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience, the school may be asking for a very specific topic, such as, “What is something you overcame that most students don’t face?” Always write within the confines of the topic if one is supplied.

Most colleges will also have word minimums and limits on applications. Do not ignore these. Your application could be thrown out if you write a 2,000-word essay when they asked for no more than 200. If you’re having trouble staying within the word limits, or getting to the minimum required amount, make sure to have a trusted teacher, parent, or another adult in your life read over your piece to give you suggestions on what you could subtract or add.

Colleges look for certain qualities in the students they accept. Using the right words throughout your college application essays will show you have the skills and experience the admissions department is looking for in future students. Keep in mind that your essay is so much more than just the “right” words. Sincerity, creativity, and emotion should all shine through in your piece – keywords or not.

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