The top 10 most overly, wrongly, and (at times) annoyingly used words in law school applications


With more than 100 years of law school admissions experience between us, we have read over a hundred thousand law school essays and applications. That is an incredibly rewarding experience, but there can be times when you start to see the same words used, or used out of context, again and again. The following list of words includes some of the most overused and/or at times aggravating usage of words we see in applications. Keep in mind that not all of these words annoy every admissions officer — and if you already submitted your applications with one of these words included, it's certainly not the end of the world — but if you're in the process of putting together your applications, it's probably best to avoid using them.

1. Unique. The singularly most overused word in law school admissions. Things are rarely, truly one of a kind across law schools. "I am applying to your school because of your unique international law program" is about as painful as it gets. Actully, there is a higher level of pain. If you qualify unique such as "my extremely unique background." Nothing anyone has ever done is more unique than just unique.
2. Privilege. It just doesn't work. When people come to us from previous cycles with underperforming results we often see the word "privilege" in their essays. I'd try to avoid using at all costs.
3. Plethora. It just feels like you're trying to impress with your SAT words from high school.
4. Hone. Any form of the word "hone" hurts some admissions officers' eyes. This word doesn't usually help the essay, and it is usually attached to "honed my skills," which is overused. "Developed" or "further developed" are preferred.
5. Revert back. It's redundant.
6. Literally. Often used improperly.
7. Delve. Let’s delve into why the word delve is often annoying to admissions officers. Do I need to say more? Assuming the right tone in a PS can be difficult. Some applicants try a little too hard to utilize more academic sounding phrases and they literally go too far. Sometimes it is better to simply avoid a plethora of SAT words and instead write in a way that is more natural. So revert back to a more natural style in your writing.
8. Very/extremely. The English language is rich with specific words for various situations. Think about what you are trying to convey and use a word that communicates that specific emotion/situation. Using very or extremely to describe a more common word is taking the easy way out. However, don't feel the need to pepper your essays with fancy, flowery, or formal language that you don't typically use.
9. "Diverse," in the context of, "I am diverse." You can add to diversity, you can be part of a diverse community, but diverse means differing from one another or being composed of unlike qualities, so you yourself are not "diverse."
10. Justice. This one depends on context, but it can often seem cliche and/or naive, e.g. wanting to "fight for justice for X" without having the personal statement or resume to back up that claim.

Note: One of our very first Spivey Consulting Group blog posts, written by Karen, was on this very same topic. Check it out here.