Many students are intimidated by the essays that must be written to complete college or scholarship applications. The truth is, you don’t have to use big words or fancy words you don’t understand to write a compelling essay — a few well-placed, sophisticated words will do. College essays should be extremely polished and fluff-free.

sophisticated words

It’s time to get creative and make every word count, so be sure to use sophisticated words rather than slang or Internet acronyms (LMAO). Forget everything Urban Dictionary taught you and add a touch of class to your vocabulary with more sophisticated words in your writing and speech.

When you are ready to choose a school, we recommend you use our ranking of the top 100 best online colleges as your starting point.

  1. Advantageous (adjective) beneficial; creating a favorable situation to give an advantage.My volunteer work puts me in an advantageous position over other applicants.
  2. Alacrity (noun) pep in your step; lively, cheerful and eager behavior.She lit up the dull room with her alacrity; her energy was palpable. She was thrilled to have been chosen to help.
  3. Amiable (adjective) friendly and good-natured.He was amiable and well-liked in the community prior to the discovery in his basement.
  4. Aptitude (noun) talent or abilityShe discovered her aptitude for real life math at a young age, while shopping with her mother.
  5. Assiduity (noun) dedication, diligence and great focus.I studied with assiduity for the exam and feel confident and fully prepared.
  6. Candor (noun) open; honest; sincere.The senator’s candor during his speech won many voters over.
  7. Cumulative (adjective) accumulative, all added together.Exercising for one day may not yield results, but the health benefits are cumulative over time.
  8. Debase (verb) to corrupt or contaminate.I don’t allow mainstream media to debase my common sense.
  9. Deferential yielding out of respect.The commissioner became accustomed to deferential treatment.
  10. Diligent (adjective) attention to detail; careful and hard-working.My diligent work on the project was critical to its success.
  11. Eloquent (adjective) fluent; having a way with words; perfectly said.Her eloquent speech moved the audience to tears.
  12. Elucidate (verb) to explain very clearly.She was eager to elucidate the problem to the mechanic so that it could be fixed.
  13. Emboldened (adjective) being made bold.We were emboldened by our success and ready to take it to the next level.
  14. Ephemeral (adjective) fleeting or short lived.Summer romance is often ephemeral, as is the season itself.
  15. Equitable (adjective) a fair division between all parties.My equitable share of the profit was 45%.
  16. Extol (verb) to give high praise.He gave a speech to extol the benefits of online college.
  17. Gratuitous (adjective) unnecessary; uncalled-for.Both parties hurled gratuitous insults at each other and nothing was accomplished.
  18. Gregarious (adjective) outgoing; extroverted.The gregarious host made us feel welcome and comfortable in her home.
  19. Hypocrisy (noun) the insincerity of pretending to believe something you do not believe.My mother’s hypocrisy was exposed when I caught her cursing and smoking after speeding home from a late night out.
  20. Incisive (adjective) the ability to identify or draw sharp distinctions.Her incisive remarks were hurtful, mostly because they were pointedly accurate.
  21. Industrious (adjective) hard-working and persevering.In order to stand out from others, you must be smart, polite and industrious at your job.
  22. Innate (adjective) born with it.He has the innate ability to make people smile and uses it to his advantage.
  23. Insular (adjective) isolated; an island unto itself.Small town life has many advantages, but can also be insular in many ways.
  24. Intrepid (adjective) Bold or brave.The intrepid explorer has seen things the rest of us can only imagine.
  25. Latent (adjective) there, but not there; having potential to be realized, but hidden.Since the virus is latent there are no obvious signs of infection.
  26. Lithe (adjective) supple, bending easily.The dancers were lithe, yet also very strong.
  27. Maxim (noun) a widely known saying that is accepted as truth.Gandhi’s maxim “be the change you wish to see in the world” is one to live by.
  28. Meticulous (adjective) precise attention to every detail.She is always meticulous about her research, leaving no stone unturned.
  29. Modicum (noun) a small token amount.We enjoyed only a modicom of success so far, but are optimistic about the next project.
  30. Myriad (noun) a large amount; countless.With online college, there are a myriad of career possibilities.
  31. Nuance (noun) a very subtle difference.The nuance of her voice added new dimensions to the song she covered.
  32. Obsequious (adjective) subservient; brown-nosing.His obsequious behavior failed to flatter his boss and quickly became annoying to everyone.
  33. Panacea (noun) a cure-all.Mom’s homemade chicken soup is the ultimate panacea.
  34. Pellucid (adjective) clearly understandable.The assembly instructions were surprisingly pellucid, which made the desk easy to put together.
  35. Penchant (noun) a strong preference or liking.He has a penchant for antique automobiles and frequently attends car shows.
  36. Perusal (noun) studying with the intent to memorize.A perusal of the material the night before made me feel confident about taking the test.
  37. Plethora (noun) an abundance or extreme excess.With the plethora of choices, making a decision about which car to buy came down to consumer reviews.
  38. Pragmatic (adjective) realistic and practical.Her pragmatic approach offered no frills, but worked perfectly.
  39. Predilection (noun) a preference or bias.Her predilection for the color blue was evident by her wardrobe choices.
  40. Repudiate (verb) to reject or refuse to recognize as valid.He began to repudiate my excuse without even letting me finish.
  41. Salient (adjective) something that stands out and is obvious.There may be some advantages to buying in early, but they are not immediately salient.
  42. Staid (adjective) dignified and with decorum.I have lived a particularly staid life, so as not to embarrass myself.
  43. Studious character trait involving diligent study.She was always quite studious; it was not uncommon to find her books lying about.
  44. Substantiate (verb) to give facts to support a claim.He said he was robbed, but there is nothing to substantiate his claim.
  45. Superfluous (adjective) in excess; more than is needed.Don’t waste your precious breath with superfluous flattery; it will get you nowhere.
  46. Surfeit (noun) the quality of overabundance.Considering the surfeit of food in America it is amazing that we still have some of our population go hungry.
  47. Sycophant (noun) someone who sucks up to others for personal gain.She often wondered if Bruce really liked her or if he was simply being a sycophant because of her wealthy parents.
  48. Taciturn (adjective) reserved or aloof.I tried to talk to my mother about what happened, but she remained taciturn.
  49. Venerable (adjective) honorable; highly regarded.I was nervous about performing on opening night because of all the venerable guests in attendance.
  50. Zenith (noun) the highest point.Looking back, Bradley realized that winning the tournament was the zenith of his high school career.

Visit Vocabulary.com for more sophisticated words to expand your vocabulary — and always keep it classy.

50 Sophisticated Words to Trick Schools into Thinking You're Classy