Writing for a more concise word limit in an essay is the opposite of what many students are accustomed to. Most students complain that they are good at "stretching" the length of an essay with adjectives but struggle to stay within word limits. One of their most popular ways to get an extra word in is to hyphenate.
Word counts in college applications often do not count a hyphenated word as two words. Armed with this knowledge some students in need of an extra word or two
will re-read their essay to see if there are words that could be hyphenated.
This is just one word-stretching trick employed by smart seniors wanting to stay within the required word count while expressing their ideas.