Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

As if college apps don’t feel enough like a massive, awkward, and vain brag sheet, you’re also going to have a ton of short essay questions in supplements or sections of resumes that ask you to describe yourself. If I were to be completely honest my go-to self descriptions would probably be:

  • Awkward
  • Clumsy
  • Problematically Ambitious

…and so on. But none of those entice colleges. There are plenty of small words that carry a lot of meaning, and that are appealing to admissions officers who are looking to see someone who will improve their college just by being there.


This is one of those words that says a lot in a small space, and I love sticking it wherever I can. Enthusiasm means more than just being bubbly. An enthusiastic person is most importantly not apathetic. Colleges want to see the potential for you to make their campus an active place, not just within the confines of your major, but in the various activities that student organizations or the university itself may host in the future. Enthusiasm also tends to spread. Positivity is infectious, and one peppy person can be the difference between a dull event and a fantastic experience.


Like enthusiastic, this word is important because it suggests a strong sense of caring about particular subjects. A person who is passionate about what they do is bound to be much more successful than someone doing something just because they have to, or because they feel like they need to. Express a real fascination for whatever you consider to be your true “passion” in life.


To do something well, you need to have more than just a fondness for it. One of the major factors in admissions decisions is how likely the school thinks you are to commit to them, and once you are in how likely you are to commit to being a part of the community. They want to see that you will find your niche in the school and give all you can to it. Once you’re graduated and go off to pursue a career, it would be great to think that you’ll want to give back to the school that supported you for so long. Dedication is the force behind the enthusiasm and passion.


Never underestimate the importance of self awareness. Metacognition is perhaps the most uncommon word on this list, so if you use it, it will stand out. Your ability to look back on your own thoughts and actions and how you work and problem solve lets the college know that no matter what mistakes you make, you are conscious of them and will know how to avoid making the same mistakes again later on. It’s also indicative that you are aware of how to study and learn, leading to greater rates of success in your classes. Hopefully, your high school transcript reflects that, too.


No one is under any illusions that your academic career has been smooth sailing the whole way through. It is also a basic truth that at some point during your college career you will face some frustrating and discouraging moments among all of the amazing times you will have. If you have evidence that you are strong enough to learn from and move past the obstacles that will occasionally try to block your way.

There are whole dictionaries of adjectives that are fantastic contenders for you to use. Just don’t try to get fancy for the sake of getting fancy. Readers will know when you are not perfectly accustomed with how to use a word right. Use the most appropriate word for the situation, but one that has a ton of meaning when you have strict word limits to follow.

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