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50 Sophisticated Words to Trick Schools into Thinking You’re Classy

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Many students are intimidated by the essays that must be written to complete college or scholarship applications. The truth is, you don’t have to use big words or fancy words you don’t understand to write a compelling essay — a few well-placed, sophisticated words will do. College essays should be extremely polished and fluff-free.

sophisticated words

It’s time to get creative and make every word count, so be sure to use sophisticated words rather than slang or Internet acronyms (LMAO). Forget everything Urban Dictionary taught you and add a touch of class to your vocabulary with more sophisticated words in your writing and speech.

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  • Advantageous (adjective) beneficial; creating a favorable situation to give an advantage. My volunteer work puts me in an advantageous position over other applicants.
  • Alacrity (noun) pep in your step; lively, cheerful and eager behavior. She lit up the dull room with her alacrity; her energy was palpable. She was thrilled to have been chosen to help.
  • Amiable (adjective) friendly and good-natured. He was amiable and well-liked in the community prior to the discovery in his basement.
  • Aptitude (noun) talent or ability She discovered her aptitude for real life math at a young age, while shopping with her mother.
  • Assiduity (noun) dedication, diligence and great focus. I studied with assiduity for the exam and feel confident and fully prepared.
  • Candor (noun) open; honest; sincere. The senator’s candor during his speech won many voters over.
  • Cumulative (adjective) accumulative, all added together. Exercising for one day may not yield results, but the health benefits are cumulative over time.
  • Debase (verb) to corrupt or contaminate. I don’t allow mainstream media to debase my common sense.
  • Deferential yielding out of respect. The commissioner became accustomed to deferential treatment.
  • Diligent (adjective) attention to detail; careful and hard-working. My diligent work on the project was critical to its success.
  • Eloquent (adjective) fluent; having a way with words; perfectly said. Her eloquent speech moved the audience to tears.
  • Elucidate (verb) to explain very clearly. She was eager to elucidate the problem to the mechanic so that it could be fixed.
  • Emboldened (adjective) being made bold. We were emboldened by our success and ready to take it to the next level.
  • Ephemeral (adjective) fleeting or short lived. Summer romance is often ephemeral, as is the season itself.
  • Equitable (adjective) a fair division between all parties. My equitable share of the profit was 45%.
  • Extol (verb) to give high praise. He gave a speech to extol the benefits of online college .
  • Gratuitous (adjective) unnecessary; uncalled-for. Both parties hurled gratuitous insults at each other and nothing was accomplished.
  • Gregarious (adjective) outgoing; extroverted. The gregarious host made us feel welcome and comfortable in her home.
  • Hypocrisy (noun) the insincerity of pretending to believe something you do not believe. My mother’s hypocrisy was exposed when I caught her cursing and smoking after speeding home from a late night out.
  • Incisive (adjective) the ability to identify or draw sharp distinctions. Her incisive remarks were hurtful, mostly because they were pointedly accurate.
  • Industrious (adjective) hard-working and persevering. In order to stand out from others, you must be smart, polite and industrious at your job.
  • Innate (adjective) born with it. He has the innate ability to make people smile and uses it to his advantage.
  • Insular (adjective) isolated; an island unto itself. Small town life has many advantages, but can also be insular in many ways.
  • Intrepid (adjective) Bold or brave. The intrepid explorer has seen things the rest of us can only imagine.
  • Latent (adjective) there, but not there; having potential to be realized, but hidden. Since the virus is latent there are no obvious signs of infection.
  • Lithe (adjective) supple, bending easily. The dancers were lithe, yet also very strong.
  • Maxim (noun) a widely known saying that is accepted as truth. Gandhi’s maxim “be the change you wish to see in the world” is one to live by.
  • Meticulous (adjective) precise attention to every detail. She is always meticulous about her research, leaving no stone unturned.
  • Modicum (noun) a small token amount. We enjoyed only a modicom of success so far, but are optimistic about the next project.
  • Myriad (noun) a large amount; countless. With online college , there are a myriad of career possibilities.
  • Nuance (noun) a very subtle difference. The nuance of her voice added new dimensions to the song she covered.
  • Obsequious (adjective) subservient; brown-nosing. His obsequious behavior failed to flatter his boss and quickly became annoying to everyone.
  • Panacea (noun) a cure-all. Mom’s homemade chicken soup is the ultimate panacea.
  • Pellucid (adjective) clearly understandable. The assembly instructions were surprisingly pellucid, which made the desk easy to put together.
  • Penchant (noun) a strong preference or liking. He has a penchant for antique automobiles and frequently attends car shows.
  • Perusal (noun) studying with the intent to memorize. A perusal of the material the night before made me feel confident about taking the test.
  • Plethora (noun) an abundance or extreme excess. With the plethora of choices, making a decision about which car to buy came down to consumer reviews.
  • Pragmatic (adjective) realistic and practical. Her pragmatic approach offered no frills, but worked perfectly.
  • Predilection (noun) a preference or bias. Her predilection for the color blue was evident by her wardrobe choices.
  • Repudiate (verb) to reject or refuse to recognize as valid. He began to repudiate my excuse without even letting me finish.
  • Salient (adjective) something that stands out and is obvious. There may be some advantages to buying in early, but they are not immediately salient.
  • Staid (adjective) dignified and with decorum. I have lived a particularly staid life, so as not to embarrass myself.
  • Studious character trait involving diligent study. She was always quite studious; it was not uncommon to find her books lying about.
  • Substantiate (verb) to give facts to support a claim. He said he was robbed, but there is nothing to substantiate his claim.
  • Superfluous (adjective) in excess; more than is needed. Don’t waste your precious breath with superfluous flattery; it will get you nowhere.
  • Surfeit (noun) the quality of overabundance. Considering the surfeit of food in America it is amazing that we still have some of our population go hungry.
  • Sycophant (noun) someone who sucks up to others for personal gain. She often wondered if Bruce really liked her or if he was simply being a sycophant because of her wealthy parents.
  • Taciturn (adjective) reserved or aloof. I tried to talk to my mother about what happened, but she remained taciturn.
  • Venerable (adjective) honorable; highly regarded. I was nervous about performing on opening night because of all the venerable guests in attendance.
  • Zenith (noun) the highest point. Looking back, Bradley realized that winning the tournament was the zenith of his high school career.

Visit for more sophisticated words to expand your vocabulary — and always keep it classy.

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190 Good Transition Words for Essays

August 23, 2023

good transitions words for essays, college

Essay writing consists of two primary procedures: coming up with the content we want to include and structuring that content. These procedures might take place in either order or they could occur simultaneously. When writing an essay it is important to think about the ways that content and structure complement one another. The best essays join these two elements in thoughtful ways. Transition words for essays (including for college essays) are some of our most primary tools when it comes to structuring a piece of writing.

When beginning an essay it is often recommended to begin with a messy first draft. The purpose of this draft is to get everything out on the page. You should put down as many ideas and trajectories as you can without worrying too much about phrasing or whether they will make it into the final draft. The key here is to be loose—to get ahead of our self-editors and expel everything we can from our minds.

List of Good Transition Words for Essays (Continued)

While this is a good strategy for beginning an essay it will likely leave you unsure how everything fits together. This is where transition words come in. As you will see in this list (which is necessarily incomplete) the range of transition words for essays is vast. Each transition word implies a different relation, often in subtle ways. After accumulating content, the next step is to figure out how the elements fit together towards an overall goal (this could be but is not necessarily an “argument”). Consulting this list of transition words for essays can provide a shortcut for determining how one piece might lead into another. Along with transition words, rhetorical devices and literary devices are other tools to consider during this stage of essay writing.

Transition Words for College Essays

While this list will be a useful tool for all types of essay writing it will be particularly helpful when it comes to finding the right transition words for college essays . The goal of a college essay is to give a strong overall sense of its author in the tight space of 650 words. As you might imagine, it’s not easy to encompass a life or convey a complex personality in such a space. When writing a college essay you are working with a huge amount of potential content. Students often want to squeeze in as much as they can. To this end, transition words for college essays are essential tools to have at our disposal.

Here is our list of transition words for college essays and other essays. It is organized by the different types of transition words/phrases and their functions. While this organization should be convenient, keep in mind that there’s plenty of overlap. Many of these words can function in multiple ways.

1) Additive Transitions

These words function in an additive manner, accumulating content to build upon what has already been stated. They can be used to construct an argument or establish a scene through the accumulation of details.

  • Additionally
  • In addition to
  • Furthermore
  • Not to mention
  • In all honesty
  • To tell the truth
  • Not only…but also
  • As a matter of fact
  • To say nothing of
  • What’s more
  • Alternatively
  • To go a step further

 2) Comparative Transitions (Similarity)

  These transition words draw a parallel or bring out a similarity between images or ideas. They can be used not only in a straightforward sense but also to establish relations of similarity between objects or ideas that might appear to be dissonant.

  • In the same way
  • In a similar vein
  • Along the lines of
  • In the key of

 3) Comparative Transitions (Difference)

  While also functioning comparatively, the following words demonstrate difference between ideas or images. These transition words are useful when it comes to establishing contrasting points of view, an important component of any argument.

  • On the other hand
  • On the contrary
  • In contrast to
  • In contradiction
  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • In any event
  • In any case
  • In either event

4) Sequential Transitions

  The following are particularly effective transition words for college essays. They will allow you to order ideas chronologically or in a sequence, providing a sense of continuity over time. This is particularly useful when an essay leans into something more creative or involves telling a story.

  • Subsequently
  • At the same time
  • Concurrently
  • In the beginning
  • At the start
  • At the outset
  • Off the bat

5) Spatial Transitions

Rather than organizing ideas or images in regards to sequence, these transitions indicate spatial relationships. They are particularly useful when it comes to painting a scene and/or describing objects, but they can also be used metaphorically. Consider, for example, how you might use the transition, “standing in […’s] shadow.”

  • Standing in […’s] shadow
  • In front of
  • In the middle
  • In the center
  • To the left
  • To the right
  • On the side
  • Adjacent to
  • Around the bend
  • On the outskirts
  • In the distance
  • On the horizon
  • In the foreground
  • In the background
  • Underground
  • Through the grapevine

 6) Causal Transitions

These transition words for essays indicate cause and effect relationships between ideas. They will be particularly useful when you are structuring a logical argument, i.e. using logos as a mode of persuasion . Causal transitions are an important element of academic, legal and scientific writing.

  • Accordingly
  • Resultingly
  • As a result
  • Consequently
  • In consequence
  • As a consequence
  • For this reason
  • So much that
  • Granting that
  • That being the case
  • Under those circumstances
  • With this in mind
  • For the purpose of
  • For all intents and purposes
  • In the event that
  • In the event of
  • In light of
  • On the condition that
  • To the extent that

7) Examples/Illustration/Supporting Transition

  These transition words for college essays can be used to introduce supporting evidence, emphasis, examples, and clarification. There is some overlap here with additive transitions and causal transitions. These transitions are also useful when it comes to building an argument. At the same time, they can signal a shift into a different linguistic register.

  • For example
  • For instance
  • In other words
  • As an illustration
  • To illustrate
  • To put it differently
  • To put it another way
  • That is to say
  • As the evidence illustrates
  • It’s important to realize
  • It’s important to understand
  • It must be remembered
  • To demonstrate
  • For clarity’s sake
  • To emphasize
  • To put it plainly
  • To enumerate
  • To speak metaphorically

8) Conclusory Transitions

These transition words for essays serve to bring an idea or story to a close. They offer a clear way of signaling the conclusion of a particular train of thought. They might be followed by a summary or a restatement of an essay’s argument. In this way they also provide emphasis, setting the reader up for what is about to come.

  • In conclusion
  • To summarize
  • To put it succinctly
  • To this end
  • At the end of the day
  • In the final analysis
  • By and large
  • On second thought
  • On first glance
  • That’s all to say
  • On the whole
  • All things considered
  • Generally speaking

List of Good Transition Words for Essays (Final Thoughts)

Even when elements appear to be disparate on first glance, transition words are a great tool for giving your essay a smooth flow. They can also create surprising juxtapositions, relationships, and equivalences. The way a reader will understand a transition word depends on the context in which they encounter it.

Individual words and phrases can be used in a wide variety of ways, ranging from the literal to the figurative to the colloquial or idiomatic. “Through the grapevine” is an example of the colloquial or idiomatic. When we encounter this phrase we don’t interpret it literally (as hearing something “through” a grapevine) but rather as hearing news secondhand. There are, of course, a vast number of idioms that are not included in this list but can also function as transitional phrases.

This list of transition words for college essays (and really any form of writing you might be working on) is a resource that you can return to again and again in your life as a writer. Over years of writing we tend to fall into patterns when it comes to the transition words we use. Mixing things up can be exciting both as a writer and for your readers. Even if you don’t choose to stray from your trusted transitions, considering the alternatives (and why they don’t work for you) can offer a deeper understanding of what you are trying to say.

List of Good Transition Words for Essays (An Exercise)

As an exercise in self-understanding, you may want to try highlighting all of the transition words in a piece of your own writing. You can then compare this to the transition words in a piece of writing that you admire. Are they using similar transitions or others? Are they using them more or less often? What do you like or dislike about them? We all use transition words differently, creating different tonal effects. Keeping an eye out for them, not only as a writer but also as a reader, will help you develop your own aesthetic.

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Emmett Lewis

Emmett holds a BA in Philosophy from Vassar College and is currently completing an MFA in Writing at Columbia University. Previously, he served as a writing instructor within the Columbia Artists/Teachers community as well as a Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at Columbia, where he taught poetry workshops. In addition, Emmett is a member of the Poetry Board at the Columbia Journal , and his work has been published in HAD , Otoliths , and Some Kind of Opening , among others.

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Transition Words for College Essays

College essays, regardless of the topic at hand, are all about making connections. Whatever your main point, it must be seamlessly linked from one paragraph to the next to boost readability and provide cohesion. One of the best ways to accomplish this is with transition words. Sometimes called conjunctive adverbs, they can help a reader follow your arguments. Ignoring the proper use of transition words is to your detriment and can interfere with your college essay’s natural flow.

Common transition words

There are approximately 200 transition words in the English language. They are used to connect ideas, introduce a shift in thinking, contrast or oppose a viewpoint, provide emphasis or agreement, or signal a conclusion.

Here are some examples of effective transition words: 

Common Transition Words for College Essays

When and how to use transition words.

Understanding the importance of transition words is not the same as knowing when and how to use them correctly. If you find yourself struggling to shift from one point to the next logically, chances are you are not using transition words effectively. It also is possible that the concepts in your outline do not build on each other naturally. Before you adjust your copy, create another outline with the main topics and sub-topics. Does the order flow smoothly? If one topic is not a logical transition to the next, try shifting the order of topics, so they also make sense in your outline. 

Never use transition words alone and follow them with special punctuation. There are rules about which types of punctuation are most appropriate. In most cases, use semicolons and periods after the opening sentence. Never use a semicolon unless the group of words on either side of it are a complete sentence. Use a comma to denote how the clause relates to the previous phrase.

In this sentence, we are using the transition word consequently to signal we are concluding our thought: 

Single-use plastics pollute our environment and poison our wildlife. Large plastic pieces can break into smaller fragments, finding their way into the stomachs of more than 90 percent of the world’s sea birds. Consequently, they should be banned and replaced with an eco-friendly alternative.

Same-Day Editing Services

If you are struggling to use transition words effectively, consider working with a professional editor. At Editor World, we provide same-day editing services. 

Our  academic editing services  include:

  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation errors, and typos corrected
  • Suggestions for improved clarity, flow, and readability
  • Tracked changes markup so you can review original content and suggested changes
  • Formatting citations and references as instructed

Our editors are university faculty, published authors, professional editors, and retired professionals eager to share their love of words. In addition to college essays, they have experience editing a wide range of  academic documents:

  • Research papers
  • Dissertations
  • Journal articles
  • Conference proceedings
  • Class assignments and other materials
  • Other academic documents

Our professional editors are available when you need them most. Editor World provides proofreading and academic editing services at reasonable prices. Choose your editor based on his or her skills, qualifications, and previous client ratings.

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September 27, 2023

Word and Character Limits in College Essays

Word And Charater Limits In College Essays

Previously Published on September 2, 2011:

With every college essay comes a word limit. Some essays are 35 words, others 650 words. Some are 100 characters, others two pages. But for each of these essays, irrespective of the word count, there is one guiding principle that college applicants should follow: stick to the word count — don’t write more, don’t write less.

Essays Are Real Estate for Applicants to Make Their Case

Each essay — no matter its length — offers applicants real estate to make their case for admission. Some schools, of course, offer more real estate than others. For the 2023-2024 college admissions cycle, for example, Harvard University has five 250-word essays . Meanwhile, Brown University has three essays and four short answers: 200-250 words for the three essays, three words for the first short answer, 100 words for two short answers, and 50 words for the final short answer.

Applicants Should Write to the Maximum Word Count in Essays

So, when a school asks applicants to write a 200-250-word essay, how many words should they write? That’s an  easy  one: 250. When a school offers students the chance to write optional essays, should they write them?  You bet ! No  optional  essay in highly selective college admissions should ever be considered optional. Instead, it’s a chance for students to make their case. And applicants should always write to the maximum word count in all college essays .

A Word Count Test

To conclude, we’ve got a test for this year’s applicants. Applicants to Duke University ‘s Class of 2028 are required to answer one 250-word essay, and they’re given five optional essay options of which they can write up to two. So, how many essays should this year’s Duke applicants write? You guessed it — three! And how long should each of their essays be? You guessed it again — 250 words! Not more, not less.

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If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission by submitting the most powerful essays possible, fill out Ivy Coach ‘s free consultation form , and we’ll be in touch to outline our college admissions counseling services.

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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay

College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.

Pamela Reynolds

When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.

Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.

So, what does this mean for you?

Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.

A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.

A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.

Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.

Be Authentic

More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.

Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.

Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.

Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.

Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.

Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.

Grab the Reader From the Start

You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.

Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.

Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.

Focus on Deeper Themes

Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.

College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.

They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.

Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?

Show Don’t Tell

As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.

The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.

Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.

Try Doing Something Different

If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?

If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.

You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.

However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.

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Write With the Reader in Mind

Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.

Use transitions between paragraphs.

Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?

Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?

Write Several Drafts

Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.

Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.

Read It Aloud

Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.

Don’t Repeat

If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.

Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.

Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.

Ask Others to Read Your Essay

Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.

Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.

Pay Attention to Form

Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.

“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.

In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.

End Your Essay With a “Kicker”

In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.

It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.

So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.

While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.

Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!

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About the Author

Pamela Reynolds is a Boston-area feature writer and editor whose work appears in numerous publications. She is the author of “Revamp: A Memoir of Travel and Obsessive Renovation.”

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There are several ways parents can lend support to their children during the college application process. Here's how to get the ball rolling.

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words for college essay

50 College Words That Will Boost Your Writing

50 College Words That Will Boost Your Writing

If your professor has never talked to you about writing vocabulary, she should have. Too many students work for hours on their grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, but they still turn in mediocre papers because their language simply doesn’t meet college expectations. It’s no surprise, really – switching from high-school level terminology to college words can be quite a feat! In order to help struggling students out, I’ve compiled a list of college words that can help bring your writing from meh to ‘mazing.

Note: This isn’t a list of vocab words and their definitions! I’m going to choose college words that are specifically used to enhance writing , PLUS I’ll show you exactly how to use them.

Transition Words

Transition words are used to carry an idea from one phrase or sentence to another. Not only do transition words signify relationships between ideas, they also link your sentences and paragraphs together to form a cohesive paper with good flow. Here are a couple of transition words that you will need to know when writing papers or assignments.

#1: Additionally. Used to express adding. While this word is probably the most commonly-used among college students, that doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient. Make sure you don’t repeat this word too often; rather, search for more sophisticated ways of expressing addition.

 E.g. The Treaty of Versailles was a catalyst for an economic downturn in Germany. Additionally, it caused the German public to resent other Western nations.

#2: Furthermore. Used to express adding, but with greater emphasis.

E.g. Diversity is important in education as it ensures all students feel comfortable. Furthermore , incorporating diversity in the classroom creates a culture of acceptance for all students.       

#3: Moreover. Used to express adding. Signifies that this next idea is even more intense/important/earth-shattering than the first.

E.g. Poorly-trained officers are a societal problem because they are given responsibilities to society that they cannot fill. Moreover , they pose a hazard to those around them because they are liable to make deadly mistakes.

#4: However. Used to contrast. Signifies that your first idea is not perfectly true because of your second idea.

E.g. There is one article that claims that the intervention is successful at reducing depression in elderly patients. However , research on the topic shows otherwise.

#5: Despite. Used to contrast, and means “even though.”

E.g. Despite my heavy packages, I felt as light as a feather.

#6: Nevertheless. Used to contrast, and has the same meaning as “despite.” The difference? “Nevertheless” is used at the beginning of a sentence or phrase and doesn’t need to be paired with other words, while “despite” cannot be used alone at the beginning of a sentence/phrase.

E.g. He did state that he was not aware of the driving laws in that state. Nevertheless, he was convicted and sent to prison.

#7: Although. Used to contrast . You place the “although” at the beginning of your first idea, then state your second idea.

E.g. Although I tried my best to write well, I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of my college papers.

#8: While. Used to contrast. Yes, again – I’m sorry! There’s just so many good ways to contrast!

E.g. While Norma was sure that her son was perfectly normal, his friends and acquaintances believed otherwise. 

#9: Alternatively. Used to contrast, but also to suggest another option – kind of like using the word “or.”

E.g. A teacher might consider using the reinforcement approach to control his classroom. Alternatively , he could just punish the students for unruly behavior.

#10: Likewise. Used to compare. Remember: contrast shows difference, comparison shows similarity.

E.g. His theory posits that thoughts influence behavior. Likewise , Beck believed that thoughts and emotions were the root causes of behavior.

#11: Similarly. Used to compare.

E.g. Coca-Cola marketed themselves as a cheap, refreshing soft drink. Similarly, Pepsi branded themselves as an affordable option for soda lovers.

#12: Therefore. Used to show cause and effect. When you use the word “therefore,” you are implying that your first idea causes or explains your second idea.

E.g. He had a sweet tooth. Therefore , he always lingered by the desserts section of the grocery store, staring longingly at the treats.

#13: Consequently. Used to show cause and effect just like “therefore.”

E.g. There is limited research on the topic of risk assessment for patient falls. Consequently , the present review is comprised of only six articles.

#14: Accordingly. Used to both express cause and effect and to summarize or conclude. This is a great word to use in your essay’s conclusion!

E.g. Research suggests that hand-washing reduces the risk of contracting the flu. Accordingly , restaurants should require all employees to wash their hands frequently.

#15: Overall. Used to summarize or conclude.

E.g. Overall , World War II was one of the deadliest in the world’s history. 

Words That Persuade

Whether you are taking an English course or studying some other topic, you’ll most likely have to write persuasive or argumentative papers. Even if you’re writing a research paper, though, you’ll still need to persuade readers as to why your topic is important. Here are a couple of persuasive words that will increase the power of your argument.

#16: Regardless. Means anyhow or despite , and is used to demonstrate that your point is more important than a different point.

E.g. Regardless of Smith et al.’s findings, clinicians warn against using his proposed intervention.

#17: Nevertheless. Means anyhow or despite, and is used in the same way as “regardless”.

E.g. Poussey was the best-liked character in the show. Nevertheless , producers still decided to have her killed.

#18: Contrary. Means the opposite , and is used to counter or argue a statement.

E.g. Many see video games as being purely detrimental to children. On the contrary , they can be extremely beneficial to children with disabilities.

#19: Undoubtedly. Means obviously, and is used to establish the validity of your argument. It is difficult to argue with an idea preceded by “undoubtedly”!

E.g. CBT is undoubtedly the better choice of therapy for those with anxiety.

#20: Unquestionably. Means obviously, and is used in the same way as “undoubtedly.”

E.g. She was unmistakably an old woman, although her makeup belied her age.

#21: Indisputably. Means obviously.

E.g. The report was indisputably accurate.

#22: Evident. Means apparent or obvious.

E.g. It is evident that Jon Snow truly knows nothing.

#23: Visibly. Once again, this demonstrates that something is apparent or obvious.

E.g. Children in the Montessori school are visibly happier than those enrolled in typical educational programs.

#24: Purportedly. Means supposedly. Use this to knock down a statement you don’t agree with.

E.g. The Jews were purportedly the masterminds behind the Great Plague, although of course, later generations realized that the disease had spread due to poor hygiene.

#25: Maintain. Means to uphold or defend a position. Use this as a more powerful alternative to “stated” or “argued.”

E.g. Smith et al. maintains that Beyoncé is a better singer than Rihanna.

#26: Contend. Means to argue or assert.

E.g. In this paper, I contend that ketchup is the best sauce to use for your chicken.

#27: Posit. Means to put forth as the basis of an argument. It’s not as argumentative as “maintain” or “contend,” but great to use in all kinds of papers.

E.g. The authors posit that discrimination and prejudice derive from the natural human desire for power.

#28: Postulate. Means to put forth as the basis of an argument, like “posit.”

E.g. To that end, I postulate that religiosity is correlated with a higher incidence of eating disorders.

#29: Particularly. Means especially and is used to bring out a strong point.

E.g. The topic is particularly important because it affects the lives of millions of Americans.

#30: Notably. Means especially and, like “particularly,” is used to bring out a strong point.

E.g. The rule was notably absent from the guidebook, suggesting fraud.

#31: Significant. Means important.

E.g. A significant number of participants reported anxiety as they took the test.

#32: Crucial. Means of great importance.

E.g. It is crucial that policymakers adopt the new law right away.

#33: Critical. Means of great importance.

E.g. The navy was critical to the military’s strategy in the war.    

#34: Key. Means of great importance.

E.g. Assessment is key within the field of special education.     

#35: Vital. Means of great importance.

E.g. It is vital that we work with police to improve training of officers.     

Words that Show

words for college essay

Persuading is great, but what if the main focus of your essay to show rather than to argue? If you’re writing an informative essay or a research paper, you most likely will need to use words that show. Here are just a few that will help boost your essay.

#36: Illustrate. Means to explain or make clear. Use this to bring examples that support your argument.

E.g. To illustrate their point, Smith et al. discuss a case study of a girl with anorexia.

#37: Exemplify. Means to show by giving an example.

E.g. The case study exemplifies the success of this form of therapy.

#38. Emphasize. Means to give special importance to an idea.

E.g. She emphasizes that it is the chocolate chips rather than the dough that give the cookies such a delicious flavor.

#39: Demonstrate. Means to show .

E.g. Smith et al.’s findings demonstrate the effectiveness of the intervention.

#40: Indicate. Means highly suggest.

E.g. Results indicate that the Japanese are still resentful about the U.S.’s use of the atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Research Words

What if you’re required to write about real research? Whether you’re performing your own research study or writing about other people’s experiment, you’ll need to use research-related words. This is a super-short list, but it should be enough to get you started on your research paper.

#41: Incidence. Means rate or frequency.

E.g. The incidence of depression among nursing home residents is 20%.

#42: Prevalence. Means rate or frequency.

E.g. Clown phobia is especially prevalent among young children.  

#43: Correlate. Means associate or relate.

E.g. An obsession with man-buns is correlated with living in Brooklyn.

#44: Population. Means a group of people with similar characteristics.

E.g. The population for this study is seniors struggling with obesity.

#45: Hypothesis. Means an explanation of a phenomenon with limited evidence. It’s kind of like an educated guess that will serve as the basis for a research study, which will prove if the guess is true or not.

E.g. We hypothesize that it is the salt on the potato chips that causes weight gain, and we will conduct an experiment to find out the validity of this suggestion.

#46: Data. Means facts and statistics. Data is used to support a statement.

E.g. Our data suggests that it is not the salt in potato chips, but rather the fat, that causes weight gain.

#47: Construct. Means an idea based on a concept. It’s kind of like a wider set of ideas.

E.g. Identity is a construct often found in the field of psychology.

#48: Effect. Means result or consequence.

E.g. The intervention had a positive effect on the children.

#49. Effective. Means successful in producing a desired result. Don’t get confused between “effect” and “effective”!

E.g. The improved levels of depression demonstrate that the treatment was effective.

#50. Empirical. Means based on observation or experience. Is largely used to describe something that is based on evidence.

E.g. The review includes five empirical studies on veganism.

Using College Words

There you have it – 50 college words that will help you transition, persuade, show, and discuss research in your writing! How do I use these words, you ask? First, always try to find several examples of these words used in sentences before you place them into your own paper. You don’t want to know what a word means, but use it incorrectly. Second, look up different variations of each word! The words I presented here may be in a different tense or form than the one you need. You aren’t limited to the exact word I used; look up variations, and have fun spicing up your paper!

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College Application Essay Format Rules

words for college essay

The college application essay has become the most important part of applying to college. In this article, we will go over the  best college essay format for getting into top schools, including how to structure the elements of a college admissions essay: margins, font, paragraphs, spacing, headers, and organization. 

We will focus on commonly asked questions about the best college essay structure. Finally, we will go over essay formatting tips and examples.

Table of Contents

  • General college essay formatting rules
  • How to format a college admissions essay
  • Sections of a college admissions essay
  • College application essay format examples

General College Essay Format Rules

Before talking about how to format your college admission essays, we need to talk about general college essay formatting rules.

Pay attention to word count

It has been well-established that the most important rule of college application essays is to  not go over the specific Application Essay word limit .  The word limit for the Common Application essay is typically 500-650 words.

Not only may it be impossible to go over the word count (in the case of the  Common Application essay , which uses text fields), but admissions officers often use software that will throw out any essay that breaks this rule. Following directions is a key indicator of being a successful student. 

Refocusing on the essay prompt and eliminating unnecessary adverbs, filler words, and prepositional phrases will help improve your essay.

On the other hand, it is advisable to use almost every available word. The college essay application field is very competitive, so leaving extra words on the table puts you at a disadvantage. Include an example or anecdote near the end of your essay to meet the total word count.

Do not write a wall of text: use paragraphs

Here is a brutal truth:  College admissions counselors only read the application essays that help them make a decision .  Otherwise, they will not read the essay at all. The problem is that you do not know whether the rest of your application (transcripts, academic record, awards, etc.) will be competitive enough to get you accepted.

A very simple writing rule for your application essay (and for essay editing of any type) is to  make your writing readable by adding line breaks and separate paragraphs.

Line breaks do not count toward word count, so they are a very easy way to organize your essay structure, ideas, and topics. Remember, college counselors, if you’re lucky, will spend 30 sec to 1 minute reading your essay. Give them every opportunity to understand your writing.

Do not include an essay title 

Unless specifically required, do not use a title for your personal statement or essay. This is a waste of your word limit and is redundant since the essay prompt itself serves as the title.

Never use overly casual, colloquial, or text message-based formatting like this: 

THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT POINT!. #collegeapplication #collegeessay.

Under no circumstances should you use emojis, all caps, symbols, hashtags, or slang in a college essay. Although technology, texting, and social media are continuing to transform how we use modern language (what a great topic for a college application essay!), admissions officers will view the use of these casual formatting elements as immature and inappropriate for such an important document.

How To Format A College Application Essay

There are many  tips for writing college admissions essays . How you upload your college application essay depends on whether you will be cutting and pasting your essay into a text box in an online application form or attaching a formatted document.

Save and upload your college essay in the proper format

Check the application instructions if you’re not sure what you need to do. Currently, the Common Application requires you to copy and paste your essay into a text box.

There are three main formats when it comes to submitting your college essay or personal statement:

If submitting your application essay in a text box

For the Common Application, there is no need to attach a document since there is a dedicated input field. You still want to write your essay in a word processor or Google doc. Just make sure once you copy-paste your essay into the text box that your line breaks (paragraphs), indents, and formatting is retained. 

  • Formatting like  bold , underline, and  italics  are often lost when copy-pasting into a text box.
  • Double-check that you are under the word limit.  Word counts may be different within the text box .
  • Make sure that paragraphs and spacing are maintained;  text input fields often undo indents and double-spacing .
  • If possible, make sure the font is standardized.  Text input boxes usually allow just one font . 

If submitting your application essay as a document

When attaching a document, you must do more than just double-check the format of your admissions essay. You need to be proactive and make sure the structure is logical and will be attractive to readers.

Microsoft Word (.DOC) format

If you are submitting your application essay as a file upload, then you will likely submit a .doc or .docx file. The downside is that MS Word files are editable, and there are sometimes conflicts between different MS Word versions (2010 vs 2016 vs Office365). The upside is that Word can be opened by almost any text program.

This is a safe choice if maintaining the  visual  elements of your essay is important. Saving your essay as a PDF prevents any formatting issues that come with Microsoft Word, since older versions are sometimes incompatible with the newer formatting. 

Although PDF viewing programs are commonly available, many older readers and Internet users (who will be your admissions officers) may not be ready to view PDFs.

  • Use 1-inch margins . This is the default setting for Microsoft Word. However, students from Asia using programs like Hangul Word Processor will need to double-check.
  • Use a standard serif font.  These include Times New Roman, Courier, and Garamond. A serif font adds professionalism to your essay.
  • Use standard 12-font size. 
  • Use 1.5- or double-spacing.  Your application essay should be readable. Double spaces are not an issue as the essay should already fit on one page.
  • Add a Header  with your First Name, Last Name, university, and other required information.
  • Clearly   separate your paragraphs.  By default, just press ‘ENTER’ twice.

Sections Of A College Admissions Essay

University admissions protocols usually allow you to choose the format and style of your writing. Despite this, the general format of “Introduction-Body-Conclusion” is the most common structure. This is a common format you can use and adjust to your specific writing style.

College Application Essay Introduction

Typically, your first paragraph should introduce you or the topic that you will discuss. You must have a killer opener if you want the admissions committees to pay attention. 

Essays that use rhetorical tools, factual statements, dialog, etc. are encouraged. There is room to be creative since many application essays specifically focus on past learning experiences.

College Application Essay Body

Clearly answering the essay prompt is the most important part of the essay body. Keep reading over the prompt and making sure everything in the body supports it. 

Since personal statement essays are designed to show you are as a person and student, the essay body is also where you talk about your experiences and identity.

Make sure you include the following life experiences and how they relate to the essay prompt. Be sure to double-check that they relate back to the essay prompt. A college admissions essay is NOT an autobiography:

Personal challenges

  • How did you overcome them?
  • How or how much do past challenges define your current outlook or worldview? 
  • What did you learn about yourself when you failed?

Personal achievements and successes

  • What people helped you along the way?
  • What did you learn about the nature of success

Lessons learned

  • In general, did your experiences inform your choice of university or major?

Personal beliefs

  • Politics, philosophy, and religion may be included here, but be careful when discussing sensitive personal or political topics. 
  • Academic goals
  • Personal goals
  • Professional goals
  • How will attending the university help you achieve these goals?

College Application Essay Conclusion

The conclusion section is a call to action directly aimed at the admissions officers. You must demonstrate why you are a great fit for the university, which means you should refer to specific programs, majors, or professors that guided or inspired you. 

In this “why this school” part of the essay, you can also explain why the university is a great fit for  your  goals. Be straightforward and truthful, but express your interest in the school boldly.

common app essay format, essay sections 1

College Application Essay Format Examples

Here are several formatting examples of successful college admission essays, along with comments from the essay editor.

Note: Actual sample essays edited by  Wordvice professional editors .  Personal info has been redacted for privacy. This is not a college essay template.

College Admission Essay Example 1

This essay asks the student to write about how normal life experiences can have huge effects on personal growth:

Common App Essay Prompt: Thoughtful Rides

The Florida turnpike is a very redundant and plain expressway; we do not have the scenic luxury of mountains, forests, or even deserts stretching endlessly into the distance. Instead, we are blessed with repetitive fields of grazing cows and countless billboards advertising local businesses. I have been subjected to these monotonous views three times a week, driving two hours every other day to Sunrise and back to my house in Miami, Florida—all to practice for my competitive soccer team in hopes of receiving a scholarship to play soccer at the next level. 

The Introduction sets up a clear, visceral memory and communicates a key extracurricular activity. 

When I first began these mini road trips, I would jam out to my country playlist and sing along with my favorite artists, and the trek would seem relatively short. However, after listening to “Beautiful Crazy” by Luke Combs for the 48th time in a week, the song became as repetitive as the landscape I was driving through. Changing genres did not help much either; everything I played seemed to morph into the same brain-numbing sound.  Eventually, I decided to do what many peers in my generation fail to do: turn off the distractions, enjoy the silence, and immerse myself in my own thoughts. In the end, this seemingly simple decision led to a lot of personal growth and tranquility in my life. 

The first part of the Body connects the student’s past experience with the essay prompt: personal growth and challenging assumptions.

Although I did not fully realize it at the time, these rides were the perfect opportunity to reflect on myself and the people around me. I quickly began noticing the different personalities surrounding me in the flow of traffic, and this simple act of noticing reminded me that I was not the only human on this planet that mattered. I was just as unimportant as the woman sitting in the car next to mine. Conversely, I also came to appreciate how a gesture as simple as letting another driver merge into your lane can impact a stranger’s day. Maybe the other driver is late for a work interview or rushing to the hospital because their newborn is running a high fever and by allowing them to advance in the row of cars, you made their day just a little less stressful. I realized that if I could improve someone else’s day from my car,  I could definitely be a kinder person and take other people’s situations into consideration—because you never know if someone is having one of the worst days of their lives and their interaction with you could provide the motivation they need to keep going on . 

This part uses two examples to support the writer’s answer to the essay prompt. It ends the paragraph with a clear statement.

Realizing I was not the only being in the universe that mattered was not the only insight I attained during these drives. Over and over, I asked myself why I had chosen to change soccer clubs, leaving Pinecrest, the team I had played on for 8 years with my best friends and that was only a 10-minute drive from my house, to play for a completely unfamiliar team that required significantly more travel.  Eventually, I came to understand that I truly enjoy challenging myself and pushing past complacency . One of my main goals in life is to play and experience college soccer—that, and to eventually pursue a career as a doctor. Ultimately, leaving my comfort zone in Pinecrest, where mediocrity was celebrated, to join a team in Sunrise, where championships were expected and college offers were abundant, was a very positive decision in my life. 

This part clearly tells how the experience shaped the writer as a person. The student’s personality can be directly attributed to this memory. It also importantly states personal and academic goals.

Even if I do not end up playing college soccer, I know now that I will never back down from any challenge in my life; I am committed to pushing myself past my comfort zone. These car rides have given me insight into how strong I truly am and how much impact I can have on other people’s lives. 

The Conclusion restates the overall lesson learned.

College Admission Essay Example 2

The next essay asks the reader to use leadership roles or extracurricular activities and describe the experience, contribution, and what the student learned about themselves.

As I release the air from the blood-pressure monitor’s valve, I carefully track the gauge, listening for the faint “lub-dub” of  Winnie’s heart. Checking off the “hypertensive” box on his medical chart when reading 150/95, I then escort Winnie to the blood sugar station. This was the typical procedure of a volunteer at the UConn Migrant Farm Worker Clinic. Our traveling medical clinic operated at night, visiting various Connecticut farms to provide healthcare for migrant workers. Filling out charts, taking blood pressure, and recording BMI were all standard procedures, but the relationships I built with farmers such as Winnie impacted me the most.

This Introduction is very impactful. It highlights the student’s professional expertise as a healthcare worker and her impact on marginalized communities. It also is written in the present tense to add impact.

While the clinic was canceled this year due to COVID-19, I still wanted to do something for them. During a PPE-drive meeting this July, Winnie recounted his family history. I noticed his eyebrows furrow with anxiety as he spoke about his family’s safety in Tierra Blanca, Mexico. I realized that Winnie lacked substantial information about his hometown, and fear-mongering headlines did nothing to assuage his fears. After days of searching, I discovered that his hometown, Guanajuato, reported fewer cases of COVID-19 in comparison with surrounding towns. I then created a color-coded map of his town, showing rates across the different districts. Winnie’s eyes softened, marveling at the map I made for him this August. I didn’t need to explain what he saw: Guanajuato, his home state, was pale yellow, the color I chose to mark the lowest level of cases. By making this map, I didn’t intend to give him new hope; I wanted to show him where hope was.

The student continues to tell the powerful story of one of her patients. This humbles and empowers the student, motivating her in the next paragraph.

This interaction fueled my commitment to search for hope in my journey of becoming a public health official. Working in public health policy, I hope to tackle complex world problems, such as economic and social barriers to healthcare and find creative methods of improving outcomes in queer and Latinx communities. I want to study the present and potential future intervention strategies in minority communities for addressing language barriers to information including language on posters and gendered language, and for instituting social and support services for community youth. These stepping stones will hopefully prepare me for conducting professional research for the Medical Organization for Latino Advancement. I aspire to be an active proponent of healthcare access and equity for marginalized groups, including queer communities. I first learned about the importance of recognizing minority identities in healthcare through my bisexual sister, Sophie, and her nonbinary friend, Gilligan. During discussions with her friends, I realized the importance of validating diverse gender expressions in all facets of my life.

Here, the past experience is directly connected to future academic and professional goals, which themselves are motivated by a desire to increase access among communities as well as personal family experiences. This is a strong case for why personal identity is so important.

My experiences with Winnie and my sister have empowered me to be creative, thoughtful, and brave while challenging the assumptions currently embedded in the “visual vocabulary” of both the art and science fields. I envision myself deconstructing hegemonic ideas of masculinity and femininity and surmounting the limitations of traditional perceptions of male and female bodies as it relates to existing healthcare practices. Through these subtle changes, I aim to make a large impact.

The Conclusion positions the student as an impactful leader and visionary. This is a powerful case for the admissions board to consider.

If you want to read more college admissions essay examples, check out our articles about  successful college personal statements  and the  2021-2022 Common App prompts and example essays .

Wordvice offers a full suite of proofreading and editing services . If you are a student applying to college and are having trouble with the best college admissions essay format, check out our application essay editing services  (including personal statement editing ) and find out  how much online proofreading costs . 

Finally, don’t forget to receive common app essay editing and professional admissions editing for any other admissions documents for college, university, and post-doctoral programs.


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  7. Keywords To Use In Your College Application Essay

    There are certain words that can make your college essays stand out to a college admissions team. Keywords inside!

  8. 190 Good Transition Words for Essays

    Transition Words for College Essays · 1) Additive Transitions · 2) Comparative Transitions (Similarity) · 3) Comparative Transitions (Difference).

  9. Transition Words for College Essays

    Transition Words for College Essays ; Clearly. Along with. Conversely ; Definitely. Apart from this. Despite/In spite of ; Especially. As well as. Differing from.

  10. Word and Character Limits in College Essays

    Word and/or character counts in college essays are not suggestions. Do not exceed these limits.

  11. 12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay

    Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students

  12. Blog

    One category of college words that you should know are transition words ... This is a great word to use in your essay's conclusion! E.g.

  13. vocabulary-for-essays.pdf

    Words that link ideas, helping to create a 'flow' in the writing. Many conjunctions can be used at the start of a sentence and/or.

  14. College Application Essay Format Rules

    ... essays, we need to talk about general college essay formatting ... The word limit for the Common Application essay is typically 500-650 words.