Your personal statement and essays are essential elements of your application and allow the adcom great insights into who you really are aside from your stats. However, no matter how extensive your experience or how accomplished you may be, all that can be lost if presented in plodding prose that no one has the energy to read.
Note the word “personal” in personal statement. It should convey something unique to you and not look like a robot put it together. Sometimes, in an effort to sound professional, applicants can go too far and come across as perfunctory or mechanical. At the same time, you might accidentally downplay your fabulous achievements by describing them blandly.
Using strong, vivid verbs in your essays is an easy way to liven up any less-than-riveting descriptions. Do yourself justice by displaying your talents in their best possible light – and you can even elevate mediocre elements with the right use of verbal dexterity.
So how can you make use of vivid verbs without coming across like you swallowed a dictionary? Take the following example:
I watched a candle burn a few nights ago. It happened to have a particularly nice flame that conjured up many different images:
- The flame stood erect.
- The flame danced.
- The flame cavorted.
- The flame pranced.
- The flame swayed.
- The flame flickered.
- The flame fluttered.
- The flame twinkled.
- The flame glowed.
- The flame glittered.
“The flame burned” sounds so dull next to the alternatives. It’s factual and gets the point across – true – but it’s just too pedestrian. Ordinary. Blah. It does not convey any of the images that the other sentences do because it doesn’t have the visual impact.
Making your activities and experiences come alive
In describing your activities, you want to use active verbs that convey sensory information and movement and that will transform your readers into observant and interested flies-on-the-wall of your stories. Those well-chosen, lively verbs will make your essays come alive.
When you edit your essays, examine at least some of your verbs. Evaluate replacing the humdrum ones. Choose muscular, powerful verbs that convey images, sounds, smells, and experiences.
Consider the following examples:
Did you “try,” “plan,” “strive,” or “struggle” to complete your project on time?
And what about that marathon you ran? Did you simply “run” it?
Or did you limp across the finish line plagued by blisters, or did an adrenaline surge at the end combined with earlier weeks of training carry you, propel you, or thrust you across that finish line?
Using a thesaurus (properly!) to transform your language
When editing your essays, take a minute to examine your descriptions. Do they bore? Are they common? If so, look at your verbs. Then use a thesaurus to upgrade any bland verbs. You may find descriptive options far better than the ones you are so used to using. Looking in the thesaurus is like going to the store to buy a new pair of thick-soled, walking shoes. It means making the effort to turn in your trusty, worn-out pair for new ones. Your walk will have new bounce when you pull just the right pair off the shelf. Your writing will also have restored vigor when you use the thesaurus to inject life into it.
Warning: To enliven your writing without making a fool of yourself, only use those words for which you know the meaning and connotation. Don’t choose words simply to impress. Choose them to convey meaning succinctly and vividly.
Could your essays benefit from an invigorating injection of lively language? Our experienced consultants at Accepted know just how to lift your writing so it jumps off the page and grabs the adcom’s attention. We also know how to balance your vocabulary so you sound intelligent but still authentic. Take action today and check out our application essay services. We’ll help you demonstrate your drive, energize your essays, and actuate that acceptance letter.For 25 years, Accepted has helped applicants gain acceptance to top undergraduate and graduate programs. Our expert team of admissions consultants features former admissions directors, PhDs, and professional writers who have advised clients to acceptance at top programs worldwide including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge, INSEAD, MIT, Caltech, UC Berkeley, and Northwestern. Want an admissions expert to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
- From Example to Exemplary, a free guide to writing outstanding essays
- First Drafts of Personal Statements: Let Yourself Go
- ‘Twas the Night Before Deadlines: A Cautionary Tale of Cliches