Though there is nothing wrong with a little stylistic flourish to liven up your essay, extraneous words need to be cut out. It’s often difficult to identify words or phrases that don’t need to be in your essay, which is why it’s important to get other people (preferably those who are good writers themselves) to read your essays and provide feedback. Here is an actual sentence from an essay that I submitted that would have benefited from a little verbal liposuction.
“Right now, my goal for the future is to one day…”
I almost barfed on my laptop when I saw this sentence — and yes, I actually submitted an essay with this sentence in it. Whoops.
For those of you who aren’t sure why this is an absolute and unmitigated disaster, let me explain. A goal is something that is inherently understood to be in the future; therefore there was no need for me to explain that it was “my goal for the future.” To add insult to injury, I decided to tack on the phrase “one day,” which is yet another way to say the same thing. And was it necessary to say that it’s my goal “right now?” Come on, Past Jason!
Overall, this phrase contains seven unnecessary words that add absolutely nothing to the meaning of the sentence. It could read “My goal is to…” and mean the exact same thing.
2. Remember your goal (for the future!)
It is NOT to demonstrate your writing abilities! Obviously, a well-written essay will leave a great impression, but the primary goal of application essays is to convey your interest in the program. The more directly and clearly you articulate why you want to go to graduate school and why you would be a good candidate for graduate school the better. Admissions officers will be impressed by your ability to clearly elucidate your goals, interests, and qualifications, not by your ability to use complex sentence structures and high-level vocabulary.
Not surprisingly, this point is related to the above point. If a sentence or paragraph is not demonstrating your interest in a program or shedding light on who you are as a student, then it’s probably doesn’t serve a particularly important purpose. Hard as it may be, consider removing or replacing it.
3. Start early
No, but seriously, cutting the fat from your essays takes time. The drafting process is like making a fine cheese — it stinks, but the longer you take doing it, the better the final product will be.
(Can I get a high five for that analogy???)