What it is: The circumlocutory essay you meticulously endeavored to author as a means of exemplifying your exhaustive vocabulary and academic savoir-faire. Alternatively, it’s the essay you wrote in which every other word was right-clicked and replaced with a synonym.
Sample: At a decidedly fledgling point in my otherwise blissful childhood, I became acutely aware of my humble station as an ill-equipped scholar. I can effortlessly recall my first day of second grade, a day fraught with exceptional challenges such as arithmetic, elementary reading, and profound classroom colloquy. As I stared listlessly at the teacher, letters and numbers swirling erratically around her in white dust on the blackboard, I could feel the discomfiture swelling inside me like a molten pool of emotion in the crucible of unknowing. I was in a new school that exceeded the rigor to which I had grown accustomed. Shortly, the tears crested my lower eyelids and silently poured down my cheeks that had grown splotchy and heated. I wanted to flee but was paralyzed by the almost suffocating tension mounting around me.
Over the course of one protracted summer, my father was impelled to relocate with his job from Maine to Florida, a veritable new world of culture shock and experiences for which I was not well prepared. The move meant new friends, a new home, and new pedagogic trials. While I initially met each day after the move with prodigious dread, I soon found my scholastic stride and was forged into the academician I am today.
Why you wrote it: By virtue of applying for admission to an academic institution, it’s in your best interest to appear intelligent. While test scores and grades serve that end, many applicants use the essay as a platform to showcase their vocabulary—one of the most obvious indicators of aptitude. So, every word becomes an opportunity to show off.
Why admission counselors hate to read it: Vocabulary is only half of the battle when it comes to writing well; the other half is composition. These essays are difficult to read not because the language is too advanced for reviewers, but because they’re so convoluted and unnecessarily modified. You’ll notice most of the advanced vocabulary in the above excerpt is comprised of adjectives and adverbs. While modifiers are not to be avoided, you should curb your use of them so they have an impact when they’re really needed.
Solution: One of the best pieces of advice a writer ever gave me—record yourself telling your story orally before you write it. Because your mind has to quickly put together coherent sentences and narratives, you’re less likely to employ extraneous modifiers. Use this recording as a template. You’ll find your sentences are more varied, your story more concise, and your themes less muddy. All that’s left to do is carefully polish the piece so that it reads like a well-crafted essay, rather than an overly crafted one.