Tips on How Long Should a College Essay Be

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Tips on How Long Should a College Essay Be
Table of Contents
  1. Tips on How Long Should a College Essay Be
  2. What Is the College Essay Length?
  3. What if My College Essay Is too Long? Key Reasons Not to Exceed Word Count
  4. Can I Go under the Word Limit? Why Is It Better Not to?
  5. What If the Word Limit Is Not Specified?
  6. Common App Essay Word Limit
  7. How to Write a Strong College Essay of a Perfect Length
  8. Ways to Reduce Word Count
  9. Ways to Increase the Word Count
  10. Bottom Line

Have you ever wondered why your essay was graded low when you were trying so hard and even exceeded the word count? It is due to the fact that the principle “the more the better” does not work here. Admission officers ask not to go over the essay word limit because there are specific college essay requirements. Read on to find out useful tips from our essay writing service and learn how to:

  • Learn about the most common word count requirements.
  • Understand how long should a college essay be.
  • Find out how to increase or reduce word count.

What Is the College Essay Length? 

A college essay, also referred to as a common app essay, admission, or application essay, is a paper written by applicants aiming to become students. These pieces of writing have specific requirements, especially in terms of length. Although these criteria differ across educational establishments, it is vital to follow them and meet the word count. We will explain the reasons later. However, mind that both length and content equally matter in an application paper.

The word limit is usually mentioned in the guidelines. In most cases, it ranges between 250 and 650 words. However, if it is not specified, keep in mind that the most common requirement is 500 words. In any case, you should be able to meet the required word count and demonstrate your writing skills in such a short paper. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss different cases related to word count and offer you effective solutions.

What if My College Essay Is too Long? Key Reasons Not to Exceed Word Count

As far as college essays are usually pretty short, between 250 – 650 words, many students wonder how strict is the common app essay word count requirement. Most probably, admission officers will not count every word in your assignment. If you slightly exceed it ( by about 20-40 words), it would be acceptable. However, remember that the more, the better is not an option here. Quality is valued over quantity. Better write a good 450-word work than a wordy 550-word paper. When you exceed the word limit, you:

  • Show inability to follow instructions.
  • Demonstrate that you can’t express ideas clearly and in a concise form.
  • Showcase you are not good at editing.
  • Might not be able to submit the paper to the special form with restricted word count.
  • Might face the case when the admission officer stops reading your pager just right after the set word limit. Thus, they will not be able to evaluate your writing skills. 

Can I Go under the Word Limit? Why Is It Better Not to?

If you can express all your ideas with fewer words, it is great in some cases. However, considering college essays are relatively short, try to meet the word count. For sure, if you are missing about 10-20 words, this will most probably go unnoticed. However, remember that:

  • You need to follow instructions.
  • Shorter is not always better.

Although going under the word limit is not necessarily a bad writing habit, your paper should be succinct and cover all the required points. 

What If the Word Limit Is Not Specified?

Sometimes, the exact word limit for the paper is not specified. Do not worry! There are some tricks to find out how many words your app essay should contain.

  • Check instructions attentively. In case the word limit is not mentioned directly, there might be specified the required number of paragraphs or pages.
  • Check the sample essay. If there is such in the assignment, check its word count and complete the paper of approximately the same length.
  • Search for the guidelines or requirements on the college website. If there is no sample, try to find guidelines for an admission essay on the college website.
  • Contact the college. In case you have not found any information on the word count, try to contact the college and find out the word limits required.
  • 500–word essays are the most common. If you have not found the requirements and do not want to contact the college, keep to a 500-word limit. It is the most common requirement.

Common App Essay Word Limit 

Can your application essay be 1000 words long? That is a common question. Well, all the educational institutions have different requirements. Some may even request a 5000-word paper. Also, you might be asked to send other types of works along with your application paper. We recommend you to check the most common requirements.

Essay Length Requirements
Type of essay Length  Description
College application essay 250 - 650 A short paper written by an applicant aiming to become a student.
Personal statement  350 - 800 A short paper describing the applicant's achievements and reasons why they should be accepted.
Supplemental essay 250 - 500 Papers required by colleges (usually highly-selective ones) as additional writings.
Scholarship essay 500 A short paper written by an applicant explaining why they deserve a scholarship.

How to Write a Strong College Essay of a Perfect Length

Check the tips to make sure you complete an essay that is neither too short nor too long.

  1. Take a few minutes to organize your ideas and create an outline.
  2. Make sure you have an introduction, main body paragraphs, and conclusion.
  3. Every sentence should be meaningful. Quality over quantity.
  4. Follow your college application essay prompts.
  5. Ask yourself, “Have I fully covered the topic, or my focus is too narrow?"
  6. Write about things you have passion for.
  7. Be personal and stay positive.
  8. Proofread your essay for any type of mistakes.

Ways to Reduce Word Count 

If you have a lot to say in papers and usually exceed the word limit, check out our recommendations.

  • Check whether the chosen topic is not too broad and can be covered in a 500-word essay.
  • Proofread to find the wordy sentences and reduce them.
  • Make sure you have not provided too many non-essential details.
  • Do not add unnecessary sentences to meet the essay length.

Ways to Increase the Word Count

In case you do not like to speak a lot and usually express your ideas in a couple of sentences, these tips might help you.

  • Make sure you have addressed the college essay prompt.
  • Ensure you have fully covered the topic.
  • Check whether some essential details could be added.
  • Create a 5-sentence outline and develop each idea within one paragraph of your essay.

Bottom Line

College application essays are not as difficult as they might seem. Educational establishments set specific requirements you should follow. The main point is to be able to present yourself in the most favorable light just in 500 words.  Don’t feel stressed out. Just tell a unique story about yourself. A well-written college application essay opens a lot of great opportunities in front of you. Check some good common app essay samples for inspiration. If you find it challenging to create a strong work on your own, you can always contact experts, and they will guide you and give a helping hand.