Words to Avoid This College Application Season

3 Seemingly Innocuous Words to Avoid This College Application Season: Really, Very, All

Actually, avoid them every college application season and in any written document that you undertake! Think of these words, especially when used as adverbs, as extraneous. They’re the empty-calorie snacks of grammar that don’t restore depleted energy-levels or maintain/increase muscle-mass.

Why? Though they’re little words, students rely on them to garner big impact. The intention with the “little three” is to communicate drama, but instead the effect is hyperbole, exaggerating an emotion instead of effectively expressing one.


“This summer, I did a summer program at Brown which really changed the way I see myself.”
What I love about this sentence is that it’s specific and self-observant. The student knows where they experienced a moment of insight and it was at Brown’s summer program. The “really” is unnecessary. The student either did or didn’t have this personal aha moment; there’s no need in emphasizing it. We get it.


“After three years auditioning for the leading role in my school’s spring musical, I was very happy when I finally got the part.”
Again, kudos here for clarity and specificity. And for tenacity. The student didn’t just audition once or twice, but three times! However, the “very” isn’t adding much to the sentiment of “happy.” I suggested the student rethink that part of the sentence. Didn’t they have a more nuanced response than “very happy”? The student rephrased it as “I was proud of the way I embodied Mame in the try-out, singing from my heart as well as my mind.” This re-write gives the Admissions reader a deeper sense of who the student is through memorable details.


All of the classes I’ve taken in high school have been rigorous.”
There’s nothing grammatically wrong with this phrase; it’s just a tad blah when it could be bold. What were the classes? I asked the student. Can you wedge in a few names within the word count? The result: “I’ve taken challenging high school classes such as AP Physics and French 4.” Just this tiny tweak provides depth and character to an otherwise ho-hum sentence.


For more information about College Counseling and Essay Coaching, please drop me a line at Elizabeth@eecollegecoach.com or give me a holler at 917-863-2424. Also, for “news you can use,” please check out my blog, videos, Facebook, and Instagram.