Overused Adjectives in Personal Statements


Words, Words, Words: Overused Adjectives and Phrases in Personal Statements   

Most of the adjectives below are very general adjectives. When used in an essay, they are so nonspecific that they do not adequately describe an emotional response or experience. Others are sufficiently descriptive, but are used so often that they become generic descriptors.

When students report, “I feel great when working with children,” what does this really mean? Do the students mean that they feel elated? Does it mean that they are energized? Or could it mean that they feel amused? A more specific adjective would make the reading more interesting and descriptive and complete. The adjectives are sometimes referred to as “flat” since they don’t adequately describe an event, feeling, or condition.

This is not to say that these adjectives should never be used, but be aware of their limitations. Several have adequate descriptive ability but are overused in residency applications. If you can find another way to express yourself, it would help you stand out among the other applicants.

 Some overused adjectives and nouns in personal statements include:

Bland/Overused Adjectives More Specific But Overused Adjectives/Nouns
bad amazing
big awesome
dedicated passion
excited desire

 Some frequently seen phrases in personal statements include:

(One or two of the phrases below you should not use in formal writing, but most of the examples are used so often that it would be pleasant reading to find a more unique substitute, while still staying genuine and real. If your substitution sounds too awkward or ostentatious, then stick with the tried and true.)

Overused Phrases in Personal Statements
“helped care for”
“catch a baby” (not formal)
“I will always remember”
“I will never forget”
“I look forward to”
“I believe”
“meant to pursue”
“is my passion”


Here is a List of Substitute Adjectives

Adjectives to substitute for "good" or "great" ("I feel___") Adjectives to substitute for "good" or "great" (continued) Adjectives to substitute for "excited" Adjectives to substitute for "excellent" Adjectives to substitute for "dedicated" Adjectives (to substitute for "interesting") Adverbs/ Adjectives (to substitute for "very") Nouns (to substitute for "passion" and "desire")
agreeable kind agitated accomplished attentive alluring absurdly adoration
amused lively animated admirable committed amazing amazingly affection
brave lovely ardent bright devoted appealing astoundingly ambition
calm lucky attentive brilliant dutiful astonishing enormously ardent
charming nice avid commendable dutiful attractive especially ardor
cheerful obedient burning creditable enthusiastic bequiling exceedingly attachment
comfortable perfect committed dazzling faithful captivating exceptionally commitment
cooperative pleasant dedicated deserving loyal charming extraordinarily craving
courageous proud devoted estimable staunch encouraging implausibly crush
delightful relieved dutiful exceptional wholehearted engaging inconcievably dedication
determined silly eager exceptional single-minded enthralling incredibly delight
eager smiling emotionally aroused gifted steadfast enticing particularly devotion
elated splendid energized highly regarded enduring extraordinary terribly drive
enchanting successful enthusiastic inspired unwavering fascinating tremendously eagerness
encouraging thankful fervent laudable veracious incredible truly ectasy
energetic thoughtful impassioned luminous intent inspiring unbelievably enthusiasm
enthusiastic victorious keen marvelous inclined intriguing vastly exaltation
excited vivacious keyed up outstanding resolute likable fancy
exuberant witty loyal praiseworthy resolved mesmerizing fascination
fair wonderful overwrought radiant set motivating fervor
faithful zany passionate skillful firm moving inclination
fantastic zealous provoked sparkling firm noteworthy infatuation
fine stanch splendid out of the ordinary intensity
friendly stimulated superb remarkable joy
funny surprised superior rousing longing
gentle thrilled talented significant object of enthusiasm
glorious upset terrific stirring obsession
happy wholehearted tremendous tempting prediliction
healthy willing venerable propensity
helpful wound up worth rapture
hilarious zealous reverence
jolly thirst
joyous yearning

4 Responses to “Overused Adjectives in Personal Statements”

    • DIT Team says:

      Thank you for the feedback. It made me look at the post and I must apologize. This blog article was supposed to include a long list of substitute adjectives for the flat adjectives listed above and was overlooked during posting. However, it must be noted that hundreds of applicants unintentionally overuse adjectives in their personal statements. Medical students don't get many opportunities to write creatively as undergraduate science majors followed by four years of deep study in medicine. I think they are a bit out of practice in creative writing and sometimes find it difficult to manage the personal statement. Our blog manager will try to get the rest of the post up tomorrow. Thank you again for bringing the lack of vigor and information to our attention.


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