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Master the Five-Paragraph Essay
The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.
Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.
Components of a Good Essay
The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.
Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.
Keys to Introductory Paragraphs
Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.
What Makes a Thesis Statement
The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.
Content of Supporting Paragraphs
Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.
The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.
Concluding Paragraph Tips
Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.
Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.
A Note on Compare and Contrast
Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.
Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?
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How Long Should a College Essay Be?
High school essays tend to require a page limit, but college essays tend to require a word count.
When it comes to college application essays, many colleges and universities specify a word count. Some expect one longer essay, while others expect responses to multiple prompts using a shorter word count for each answer. However, that’s not always the case. If your institution doesn’t provide a specific word count, it’s best to keep your essay between the length established by the longer college admissions essay format: 250 to 650 words .
Word count is just one factor to consider as you craft your college admissions essay. Let’s go over other considerations, like whether a longer essay makes a difference, and whether it’s acceptable to exceed the word count.
College essays: Word count vs. page limit
High school essays tend to require a page limit, meaning that your teachers might ask you to submit a five-page paper or an eight-paper paper. However, college essays tend to require a word count.
When a college provides you with a wide word count range, it’s best to take advantage of the upper word count limit. For example, if a college asks for an essay between 250-500 words, you should aim to craft a response that’s at least 400-450 words. You don’t need to hit the maximum length, but your essay should be well over half the word count.
College essays or personal statements are an opportunity for a college admissions committee to hear directly from you. It’s valuable space. Writing the bare minimum may not send the best message to the committee, and it may not help them learn more about who you are outside of your transcripts and general application.
Learn more: Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for College
How to measure your college essay's word count
Measuring your word count depends on which program you’re using to write your essay. Microsoft Word and Google Docs are two of the most common.
Microsoft Word: The page count is typically displayed on the bottom left of your screen. You can also click “Review” and then “Word count” to find how much you’ve written.
Google Docs: Under “Tools,” click on “Word count.” You can also highlight a portion of your text before clicking “word count” so you can determine the exact word count of that section.
Should you go over the word count?
Simply put, no. Do not go over the maximum word count. If there isn’t a preferred word count, submit an essay that’s under 650 words, according to the college application platform Common App, which works with over 900 colleges in the US [ 1 ].
Admissions officers are looking for well-written essays that follow directions. Officers review thousands of essays every year. In fact, the average college received 9,071 applications in 2020 [ 2 ]. Writing either a very short or a very long essay—ignoring the directions in either case—might send the wrong impression.
You can always start by writing a longer draft and then trimming the most unnecessary parts to tighten your essay and get it down to the preferred word count. This will help you include the most important information and get your point across in a concise way.
What length should supplemental college essays be?
Supplemental essays are additional prompts that some colleges and universities ask students to answer in addition to their personal statement or college essay. It's usually an opportunity to specify your interest in that particular school: Admissions committees may ask why you want to attend or what you want to study and why.
Schools can require, on average, at least two or three supplemental essays, while others have been known to ask for over ten. Most schools will provide specific instructions about the word count for supplemental essays. As with the college essay, stay within the range or limit, and write a focused response that incorporates some knowledge about the school.
How to format your college essay
As with word count, many institutions specify any formatting requirements, such as double-spacing (vs. single-spacing) your essay, and what font size you should use. (With general online application portals, such as Common App, the program will format your essay for you.)
Because a college essay is measured by word count rather than page length, writing in a larger font and using double-spaced formatting won’t affect the overall length of your essay, though it’s best to adhere to each college’s guidelines. Check if there are any parameters you need to follow for each application you submit.
4 tips for writing an effective college essay
No matter which essay prompt you choose, it’s important to take your time crafting your response, making sure every word adds to your story. Follow these tips to help your college essay stand out.
1. Be prepared to write a few drafts.
Your college essay should go through a few drafts before you share the final version with one of your peers or a professional for additional feedback. Take advantage of the rough draft phase by overwriting. Forget about your word count for a moment and let yourself go. Doing so may help you discover something new to say, or help you expand upon your original idea.
Make editing a separate process from the actual writing. As much as possible, write and then walk away for a period of time (a few hours or even a day). Return to your essay with fresh eyes and see if you can cut the essay, reduce the number of words you’re using, or find a more succinct or focused way to approach your response.
2. Answer the question and relate it to your unique story.
Your essay should both answer the prompt and convey who you are. You don’t need a dazzling, one-of-a-kind story to get an admissions officer’s attention. Your life is unique to you—only you have had your experiences.
Make sure that whatever you choose to write about is an authentic representation of who you are. Instead of comparing your essay to someone else in your class, work to make your response the best it can be for you. And as you focus your essay, go one step further by sharing what you’ve learned or how you’ve grown as a result. That kind of reflection can build more depth into your response.
3. Get specific.
When recounting an experience, incorporate creative writing to your personal statement. Use details to describe a situation and add a bit of color. Pick strong verbs and a few specific adjectives that correctly highlight the action and scene. Let’s compare these two examples:
1) When I got a musical instrument for my birthday, I wasn’t really sure I’d like it. Still, I figured I’d play it daily because I enjoy music. I got better, and soon I made band. I like that I get to go to all the school games.
2) When my mother surprised me with a clarinet for my 15th birthday, I wondered if I’d enjoy playing it. Over the summer, when my friends gathered outside to enjoy their time off, I practiced my scales every day in my room—and slowly improved. After that hard work and sacrifice, I was excited to earn a place in the marching band.
Both paragraphs recount the same memory, but the second one creates a more memorable picture.
4. Ask for feedback.
Once you feel as though you’ve developed a final draft, don’t rush to turn it in. Instead, ask one of your favorite teachers or a trusted friend or family member to read it. Ask for constructive feedback on ways to improve. Be prepared to make changes if something is unclear or if they think there’s a better way to phrase a section. But make sure you continue to write in your voice so the college gets to know who you are instead of someone else.
When you’re feeling confident, review your work one last time for grammar and spelling. Don’t let a small error override an otherwise thoughtful, engaging essay.
You may find it helpful to brush up on your creative writing skills so you can express yourself clearly and colorfully before applying to college. On Coursera, you can enroll in Wesleyan University’s Creative Writing specialization for free. Or you can find courses that can help you gain more knowledge of the college admissions process .
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1. Common App. “ Are There Word Limits? , https://appsupport.commonapp.org/s/article/are-there-word-limits-kudeoeos." Accessed February 11, 2022.
2. US News and World Report. “ 10 Colleges That Received the Most Applications , https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/colleges-that-received-the-most-applications." Accessed February 11, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the best college essay length: how long should it be.
Figuring out your college essay can be one of the most difficult parts of applying to college. Even once you've read the prompt and picked a topic, you might wonder: if you write too much or too little, will you blow your chance of admission? How long should a college essay be?
Whether you're a terse writer or a loquacious one, we can advise you on college essay length. In this guide, we'll cover what the standard college essay length is, how much word limits matter, and what to do if you aren't sure how long a specific essay should be.
How Long Is a College Essay? First, Check the Word Limit
You might be used to turning in your writing assignments on a page-limit basis (for example, a 10-page paper). While some colleges provide page limits for their college essays, most use a word limit instead. This makes sure there's a standard length for all the essays that a college receives, regardless of formatting or font.
In the simplest terms, your college essay should be pretty close to, but not exceeding, the word limit in length. Think within 50 words as the lower bound, with the word limit as the upper bound. So for a 500-word limit essay, try to get somewhere between 450-500 words. If they give you a range, stay within that range.
College essay prompts usually provide the word limit right in the prompt or in the instructions.
For example, the University of Illinois says :
"You'll answer two to three prompts as part of your application. The questions you'll answer will depend on whether you're applying to a major or to our undeclared program , and if you've selected a second choice . Each response should be approximately 150 words."
As exemplified by the University of Illinois, the shortest word limits for college essays are usually around 150 words (less than half a single-spaced page). Rarely will you see a word limit higher than around 650 words (over one single-spaced page). College essays are usually pretty short: between 150 and 650 words. Admissions officers have to read a lot of them, after all!
Weigh your words carefully, because they are limited!
How Flexible Is the Word Limit?
But how flexible is the word limit? What if your poignant anecdote is just 10 words too long—or 100 too short?
Can I Go Over the Word Limit?
If you are attaching a document and you need one or two extra words, you can probably get away with exceeding the word limit by such a small amount. Some colleges will actually tell you that exceeding the word limit by 1-2 words is fine. However, I advise against exceeding the word limit unless it's explicitly allowed for a few reasons:
First, you might not be able to. If you have to copy-paste it into a text box, your essay might get cut off and you'll have to trim down anyways.
If you exceed the word limit in a noticeable way, the admissions counselor may just stop reading your essay past that point. This is not good for you.
Following directions is actually a very important part of the college application process. You need to follow directions to get your letters of recommendation, upload your essays, send supplemental materials, get your test scores sent, and so on and so forth. So it's just a good general rule to follow whatever instructions you've been given by the institution. Better safe than sorry!
Can I Go Under the Word Limit?
If you can truly get your point across well beneath the word limit, it's probably fine. Brevity is not necessarily a bad thing in writing just so long as you are clear, cogent, and communicate what you want to.
However, most college essays have pretty tight word limits anyways. So if you're writing 300 words for an essay with a 500-word limit, ask yourself: is there anything more you could say to elaborate on or support your points? Consult with a parent, friend, or teacher on where you could elaborate with more detail or expand your points.
Also, if the college gives you a word range, you absolutely need to at least hit the bottom end of the range. So if you get a range from the institution, like 400-500 words, you need to write at least 400 words. If you write less, it will come across like you have nothing to say, which is not an impression you want to give.
Don't let this sinister hand stop you from writing everything you have to say!
What If There Is No Word Limit?
Some colleges don't give you a word limit for one or more of your essay prompts. This can be a little stressful, but the prompts generally fall into a few categories:
Some colleges don't provide a hard-and-fast word limit because they want a writing sample from one of your classes. In this case, a word limit would be very limiting to you in terms of which assignments you could select from.
For an example of this kind of prompt, check out essay Option B at Amherst :
"Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should NOT submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay."
While there is usually no word limit per se, colleges sometimes provide a general page guideline for writing samples. In the FAQ for Option B , Amherst clarifies, "There is no hard-and-fast rule for official page limit. Typically, we anticipate a paper of 4-5 pages will provide adequate length to demonstrate your analytical abilities. Somewhat longer papers can also be submitted, but in most cases should not exceed 8-10 pages."
So even though there's no word limit, they'd like somewhere in the 4-10 pages range. High school students are not usually writing papers that are longer than 10 pages anyways, so that isn't very limiting.
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Implicit Length Guideline
Sometimes, while there's no word (or even page) limit, there's still an implicit length guideline. What do I mean by this?
See, for example, this Wellesley supplemental essay prompt :
"When choosing a college community, you are choosing a place where you believe that you can live, learn, and flourish. Generations of inspiring women have thrived in the Wellesley community, and we want to know what aspects of this community inspire you to consider Wellesley. We know that there are more than 100 reasons to choose Wellesley, but the "Wellesley 100" is a good place to start. Visit The Wellesley 100 and let us know, in two well-developed paragraphs, which two items most attract, inspire, or energize you and why. (Not-so-secret tip: The "why" matters to us.)"
There's no page or word limit here, but it does say to respond "in two well-developed paragraphs." This gives you an idea of what's reasonable. "Well-developed" certainly means the paragraphs can be long, but even two long paragraphs shouldn't exceed 500 words or so. That's what I mean by an "implicit" word limit—there is a reasonable length you could go to within the boundaries of the prompt.
But what's the proper coffee-to-paragraph ratio?
There is also the classic "treasure hunt" prompt. No, it's not a prompt about a treasure hunt. It's a prompt where there are no length guidelines given, but if you hunt around on the rest of the website you can find length guidelines.
For example, the University of Chicago provides six "Extended Essay" prompts . You must write an essay in response to one prompt of your choosing, but nowhere on the page is there any guidance about word count or page limit.
However, many colleges provide additional details about their expectations for application materials, including essays, on FAQ pages, which is true of the University of Chicago. On the school’s admissions Frequently Asked Questions page , they provide the following length guidelines for the supplemental essays:
“We suggest that you note any word limits for Coalition or Common Application essays; however, there are no strict word limits on the UChicago Supplement essays. For the extended essay (where you choose one of several prompts), we suggest that you aim for around 650 words. While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we're only human and cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention indefinitely. For the “Why UChicago?” essay, we suggest about 250-500 words. The ideas in your writing matter more than the exact number of words you use!”
So there you go! You want to be (loosely) in the realm of 650 for the extended essay, and 250-500 words for the “Why UChicago?” essay.
Help! There Really Is No Guidance on Length
If you really can't find any length guidelines anywhere on the admissions website and you're at a loss, I advise calling the admissions office. They may not be able to give you an exact number (in fact, they probably won't), but they will probably at least be able to tell you how long most of the essays they see are. (And keep you from writing a panicked, 20-page dissertation about your relationship with your dog).
In general, 500 words or so is pretty safe for a college essay. It's a fairly standard word limit length, in fact. (And if you're wondering, that's about a page and a half double-spaced.) 500 words is long enough to develop a basic idea while still getting a point across quickly—important when admissions counselors have thousands of essays to read!
"See? It says 500 words right there in tiny font!"
The Final Word: How Long Should a College Essay Be?
The best college essay length is usually pretty straightforward: you want to be right under or at the provided word limit. If you go substantially past the word limit, you risk having your essay cut off by an online application form or having the admissions officer just not finish it. And if you're too far under the word limit, you may not be elaborating enough.
What if there is no word limit? Then how long should a college essay be? In general, around 500 words is a pretty safe approximate word amount for a college essay—it's one of the most common word limits, after all!
Here's guidance for special cases and hunting down word limits:
If it's a writing sample of your graded academic work, the length either doesn't matter or there should be some loose page guidelines.
There also may be implicit length guidelines. For example, if a prompt says to write three paragraphs, you'll know that writing six sentences is definitely too short, and two single-spaced pages is definitely too long.
You might not be able to find length guidelines in the prompt, but you could still hunt them up elsewhere on the website. Try checking FAQs or googling your chosen school name with "admissions essay word limit."
If there really is no word limit, you can call the school to try to get some guidance.
With this advice, you can be sure you've got the right college essay length on lockdown!
Hey, writing about yourself can even be fun!
Need to ask a teacher or friend for help with your essay? See our do's and dont's to getting college essay advice .
If you're lacking in essay inspiration, see our guide to brainstorming college essay ideas . And here's our guide to starting out your essay perfectly!
Looking for college essay examples? See 11 places to find college essay examples and 145 essay examples with analysis !
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Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.
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How Long Should Your College Essay Be? What Is the Ideal Length?
What’s covered: , personal statement length vs. supplemental essay length, are college essay word limits hard, what if a college essay word count isn’t given, what if you need to submit a graded paper, where to get your essays edited.
Students often spend hours agonizing over the best topics for their college essays. While it’s natural to wonder whether your personal statement is original or compelling enough, there’s one aspect of the process that shouldn’t cause you undue stress—how many words should a college essay be? Fortunately, with a little research, you can uncover the ideal college essay length for all your applications.
Unlike high school assignments, which typically have a strict page requirement, most colleges provide a word limit or word range for their application essays. This practice helps ensure that essays are the same length regardless of font or formatting. A good guideline is that students should strive to get as close as possible to the upper limit of the word range without exceeding it. Keep reading to learn more about best practices for college essay length.
How many words should a college essay be? Personal statements are generally 500-650 words. For example, the Common Application , which can be used to apply to more than 800 colleges, requires an essay ranging from 250-650 words . Similarly, the Coalition Application , which has 150 member schools, features an essay with a recommended length of 500-650 words.
650 words is the most common limit for your personal statement, but some schools may ask students to write more or less. For example, ApplyTexas , a platform used to apply to Texas public universities and other select colleges, requests essays with requirements that vary by school. For example, students applying to UT Austin will need to submit an essay of 500-700 words, along with three short-answer questions of 250-300 words each.
On the other hand, the University of California (UC) application includes a Personal Insight section with eight prompts . Students are asked to respond to any four of these prompts, with each response topping out at 350 words.
Additionally, some schools request a few supplemental essays, which are typically shorter than a personal statement. These questions are designed to gain more information about a student’s interests and abilities, and may include topics like your reasons for wanting to attend their school, your desired major, or your favorite activity.
Most schools require 1-3 supplemental essays, though some may require more or none at all (see our list of top colleges without supplemental essays ). These essays tend to be around 250 words, but some may be just as long as your main essay. For example, Cornell requires applicants to write a second supplemental essay (of 650 words max) that is specific to the program they’re applying to. The exception to this is the Cornell College of Engineering, for which applicants are required to compose two supplemental essays of 250 words max each.
For best results, keep your essays within the word range provided. While you don’t have to hit the count exactly, you should aim to stay within a 10% difference of the upper limit—without including fluff or filler. For example, if the school requests 500 words, try to ensure that your essay is between 450 and 500 words.
For the Common App, try to stay within 550-650 words, even though the given range is 250-650. Any submission shorter than 500 words will make it look as though you simply didn’t care enough to give your best effort. An essay shorter than 500 words won’t be long enough to truly share who you are and what matters to you.
Exceeding the word count isn’t an option—the application portal cuts off anything over the maximum number of allowed words. This is something you want to be particularly careful of if you’re drafting your essay in a Word or Google document and pasting it into the application.
Although most schools provide applicants with a specific word count, some offer more general guidelines. For example, a college may ask for a particular number of pages or paragraphs.
If you aren’t given a word count, try to adhere to the best practices and conventions of writing. Avoid writing especially short or overly long paragraphs—250 words per paragraph is generally a safe upper limit. If you’re asked to write a certain number of pages, single- or double-spaced, stick to a standard font and font size (like 12-point Times New Roman).
In the event that the college doesn’t offer any guidelines at all, aim for an essay length of around 500 words.
While essays are the most commonly requested writing sample, some colleges ask for additional pieces of content. For example, Princeton University requires students to submit a previously graded paper for evaluation .
Princeton offers guidelines that cover length, but if another school requests an old paper and doesn’t offer length requirements, a paper ranging from 3-5 pages should yield the best results. The goal is to select a paper long enough to showcase your writing skills and unique voice, but short enough that the admissions officer doesn’t get bored reading it.
Is your essay effective while staying within the required word count? It’s hard to evaluate your own writing, especially after rereading it numerous times. CollegeVine’s free Peer Essay Review provides an opportunity to have your essay reviewed by a fellow student, for free. Similarly, you can help other students by reviewing their essays—this is a great way to refine your own writing skills.
Expert advice is also available. CollegeVine’s advisors are prepared to help you perfect your personal statement and submit a successful application to your top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
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How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Word Count Tips
Published on September 29, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on June 1, 2023.
Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit. If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.
You should aim to stay under the specified limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, if you write too little, it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.
Table of contents
Word count guidelines for different application types, how to shorten your essay, how to expand your essay, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.
Each university has a different suggested or required word count depending on which application portal it uses.
Some application portals will allow you to exceed the word count limit, but admissions officers have limited time and energy to read longer essays. Other application portals have a strict limit and will not allow you to exceed it.
For example, in the Common App , the portal will not allow you to submit more than 650 words. Some colleges using the Common App will allow you to submit less than 250 words, but this is too short for a well-developed essay.
For scholarship essays , diversity essays , and “Why this college?” essays , word count limits vary. Make sure to verify and respect each prompt’s limit.
Don’t worry too much about word count until the revision stage ; focusing on word count while writing may hinder your creativity. Once you have finished a draft, you can start shortening or expanding your essay if necessary.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
On some application portals, you can exceed the word limit, but there are good reasons to stay within it:
- To maintain the admissions officer’s attention
- To show you can follow directions
- To demonstrate you can write concisely
Here are some strategies for shortening your essay.
Stay on the main point
It’s good to use vivid imagery, but only include relevant details. Cut any sentences with tangents or unnecessary information.
My father taught me how to strategically hold the marshmallow pierced by a twig at a safe distance from the flames to make sure it didn’t get burned, ensuring a golden brown exterior.
Typically, my father is glued to his computer since he’s a software engineer at Microsoft. But that night, he was the marshmallow master. We waited together as the pillowy sugary goodness caramelized into gooey delight. Good example: Sticks to the point On our camping trip to Yosemite, my family spent time together, away from technology and routine responsibility.
My favorite part was roasting s’mores around the campfire. My father taught me how to hold the marshmallow at a safe distance from the flames, ensuring a golden brown exterior.
These college essay examples also demonstrate how you can cut your essay down to size.
Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay. If a word doesn’t add value, cut it.
Here are some common examples of wordiness and how to fix them.
Use a paraphrasing tool
If you want to save time, you can make use of a paraphrasing tool . Within the tool you can select the “short” mode to rewrite your essay in less words. Just copy your text in the tool and within 1 click you’ll have shortened your essay.
If you’re significantly under the word count, you’re wasting the opportunity to show depth and authenticity in your essay. Admissions officers may see your short essay as a sign that you’re unable to write a detailed, insightful narrative about yourself.
Here are some strategies for expanding your essay.
Show detailed examples, and don’t tell generic stories
You should include detailed examples that can’t be replicated by another student. Use vivid imagery, the five senses, and specific objects to transport the reader into your story.
Reveal your feelings and insight
If your essay lacks vulnerability or self-reflection, share your feelings and the lessons you’ve learned.
Be creative with how you express your feelings; rather than simply writing “I’m happy,” use memorable images to help the reader clearly visualize your happiness. Similarly, for insight, include the follow-up actions from your lessons learned; instead of claiming “I became a hard worker,” explain what difficult tasks you accomplished as a result of what you learned.
If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Writing process
- Transition words
- Passive voice
- How to end an email
- Ms, mrs, miss
- How to start an email
- I hope this email finds you well
- Hope you are doing well
Parts of speech
- Personal pronouns
Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.
You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.
If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.
If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.
If your college essay goes over the word count limit , cut any sentences with tangents or irrelevant details. Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay.
You can speed up this process by shortening and smoothing your writing with a paraphrasing tool . After that, you can use the summarizer to shorten it even more.
There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay . College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count .
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College Essay Length: Go to the Maximum Word Count
Previously Published on September 24, 2017:
College applicants should use the real estate offered in college essays to make their case — all of it! If the maximum word count for a college admissions essay is 650 words, applicants should not write 500 words. They should write 650 words — or pretty close to it.
When you’re a real estate developer in Manhattan, and you’re allowed to build twenty-five stories, you don’t construct ten stories and dedicate the rest of the space for the native pigeons of Manhattan. You build up —twenty-five levels. The pigeons have the skies.
And yet even though it seems only logical that college applicants should use all of the allotted real estate to make their case in essays, to tell their stories, to distinguish themselves in super competitive applicant pools, it never ceases to amaze us how many students write essays that don’t come anywhere near the maximum word count. Instead, they leave the space on the table to the disservice of their candidacies.
Students Should Go to the Word Limit in Every College Essay
It’s not as though students only make the mistake of leaving words on the table in their Common Application Personal Statement . They also often do so in their equally as critical supplemental essays.
If Brown University asks applicants to write a 200-250-word essay on how students would take advantage of the Open Curriculum, as the Ivy League school does on its 2022-2023 application, students should not offer them 200 words. College applicants are not interior designers — blank space does not look lovely. They should submit 250-word essays.
When Brown admissions officers come across an essay that doesn’t come close to the school’s maximum word count, they’re likely to think, “This student doesn’t love our school enough to put in the work to write an essay just for us. She probably wants to go elsewhere.”
And if that thought crosses the mind of an admissions officer, the odds are strong that the same admissions officer is unlikely to offer that student a spot in the incoming class. And, of course, this doesn’t just apply to Brown — it applies to every highly selective institution in America.
Students Should Use the Maximum Word or Character Count in Short Answers Too
We can’t stress enough the importance of taking advantage of the real estate an applicant is afforded in essays to make their case. But don’t be fooled that an essay only means boxes on The Common Application that allow students to include 100 words or more.
After all, many top schools pose short answer questions too. Maybe they’re called short-takes. On the 2022-2023 application, the University of Southern California , for instance, asks applicants to name their favorite movie of all time, their dream job, favorite trip, and favorite snack, among others.
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Categories: College Essays
Tags: College Admissions Essays , College Essays , University Admissions Essays , Use the Maximum Word Count in College Essays , Word Count in College Essays
For William and Mary, the word limit is 650 words, but in the prompt they say, “We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less…” Should I aim for 650 or 500 words? Thank you!
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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay
College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.
When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.
Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.
So, what does this mean for you?
Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.
A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.
A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.
Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.
More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.
Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.
Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.
Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.
Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.
Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.
Grab the Reader From the Start
You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.
Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.
Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.
Focus on Deeper Themes
Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.
College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.
They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.
Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?
Show Don’t Tell
As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.
The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.
Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.
Try Doing Something Different
If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?
If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.
You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.
However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.
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Write With the Reader in Mind
Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.
Use transitions between paragraphs.
Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?
Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?
Write Several Drafts
Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.
Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.
Read It Aloud
Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.
If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.
Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.
Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.
Ask Others to Read Your Essay
Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.
Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.
Pay Attention to Form
Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.
“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.
In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.
End Your Essay With a “Kicker”
In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.
It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.
So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.
While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.
Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!
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Common App Essay: Size Does Matter
Posted on July 30, 2023 by Craig Meister
Every year students ask me the same question:
“How long should my Common Application essay be?”
I am never shy about providing them with the response that best summarizes how they need to approach both the Common Application essay and the Common Application in general:
“Go Big or Go Home!”
Despite what the official directions on the Common App indicate, students writing a 250-word essay – the lowest end of the range that is officially acceptable to complete this essay – have a far lower chance of convincing college admissions officers of their admissions-worthiness than students who believe in the maxim, ‘bigger is better.” The official upper limit in acceptable length on the Common App essay is 650 words.
A well-thought out and well-developed essay of any true substance is not only not possible in 250 words, it’s barely possible in 450 words. This is why none of my students have ever submitted a Common App essay consisting of fewer than 450 words. With that said, the true sweet spot in Common Application essay writing, for this current year’s prompts and prompts going back over a decade, is 500 to 650 words. This was even the case a few years ago when the Common App limited students to a mere 500 words. That experiment lasted for such a short time because colleges were getting such transparently superficial essays that they were a waste of time and effort for students and lacking in any valuable insight helpful to college admissions officers.
Think of a 500- to 650-word essay as a smooth and enjoyable flight from D.C. to Disney World. In 500 to 650 words students have the space they need to achieve proper cruising altitude: writing a strong introductory paragraph that both grabs readers’ attention and clearly states the essay’s thesis. Next, just as one wants to have an enjoyable in-flight experience with the fasten seatbelt light off and flight attendants passing out drinks and snacks, so too does a 500- to 650-word essay allow readers to relax a bit. In 500 to 650 words students are able to produce non-rushed, non-turbulent, highly valuable descriptive and specific body paragraphs that go a long way toward proving the essay’s thesis. Finally, landing a plane takes great skill, as does writing a conclusion to a college application essay. It’s not a simple rehash of the lift off (inclusive of a thesis statement); it should be complementary to it. Students who have 500 to 650 words to work with are able to smoothly touch down in a way that nicely tops off of the entire flying/essay reading experience. At the end of the day, admissions officers read your essays because they want to fly the friendly skies with you into your world. 500 to 600 words allows you to give them a proper flying experience and gives you the words necessary to differentiate your world from the world of other applicants.
In order to produce a great final draft essay, your rough drafts should be even longer than 650 words. It’s very common for my students to create first, second, and third draft essays of nearly 1,000 words. Only through consistent and high quality editing can any essay be ready for submission to colleges and universities, and starting with too few words on initial drafts is a recipe for a puny little final draft essay.
So, the big take-away ideas on the Common App Essay are these:
- Don’t do the minimum because you are officially allowed to do the minimum
- Go big or go home – your final draft should be 500 to 650 words and your first draft should be even longer
- In your final draft, ensure that paragraph transitions are smooth – just as a good pilot and great weather conditions allow a flight to be smooth from lift-off to landing
Before I share more extremely important Common App essay advice, let’s zero in on what students are going to be writing about on this year’s Common App. None of the essay prompts are easy, and all require a great deal of time, thought, and drafting before members of the Class of 2022 can confidently hit submit on their applications.
The 2023-2024 Common Application essay prompts are as follows:
Choose the option below that best helps you write an essay of no more than 650 words.
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Honestly, I miss the old questions that existed through the 2016-2017 iteration of the Common App. The current questions indicate that the people behind the Common App are less and less interested in reading essays from normal teenagers and more and more interested in pushing teens to appear exceptional, idiosyncratic, or downright eccentric for the purpose of entertaining application readers and putting on a show of some sort of diversity. I would be surprised if many of the admissions officers could portray themselves accurately with these prompts. But we take the world we are given; this is what students in the high school Class of 2024 applying to Common App colleges and universities have to work this admissions cycle.
Remember that it’s always better to start brainstorming sooner rather than later, and if your essay is still not where you want it after working on it for a while, make sure to check out why your essay may be really bad or downright awful . You should aim to wrap up your Common App essay no later than early August, which will give you plenty of time to draft and perfect your essays for Common Application supplements.
Remember, if you want or need help with any part of your essay brainstorming and drafting, I’m here to help you .
Important Related Links:
2023-2024 Common App essay prompts: the best and worst for you
The Stats You Need: Most Popular & Least Popular Common App Essay Prompts
Why Your College Application Essay is So Bad
Why Your College Application Essay is Awful
Ultimate College Application Essay Brainstorm
Secret to a Successful College Application Essay First Draft
The Common Application
About Craig Meister
Craig Meister is a college admissions expert who, for eighteen years, has had the great fortune of providing personalized post-secondary guidance to students and families from around the world.
Filed Under: Advice & Analysis , Common Application , Essays Tagged With: Applications
How long should my essay be?
The average length of a personal essay for college is 400─600 words. Always read the prompt. Follow the instructions provided in the application.
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The 2019-20 version of the Common Application has an essay length limit of 650 words and a minimum length of 250 words. This limit has remained unchanged for the past several years. Learn how important this word limit is and how to make the most of your 650 words.
Key Takeaways: Common Application Essay Length
- Your Common Application essay must be between 250 words and 650 words.
- Don't assume shorter is better. A college requires an essay because they want to learn more about you.
- Never go over the limit. Show that you can follow instructions and that you know how to edit.
How Strict Is the Limit?
Many wonder whether they can go over the limit, even if only by a few words. What if you feel that you need more space to communicate all of your ideas clearly?
650 words is not a lot of space in which to convey your personality, passions, and writing ability to the people in admissions offices—and the title and any explanatory notes are also included in this limit. The holistic admissions processes of most schools prove that colleges really do want to get to know the person behind your test scores and grades . Since the essay is one of the best places for showcasing who you are, is it worth it to go over?
Most experts recommend adhering to the limit. The Common Application will even prompt its applicants if they exceed the word count to prevent them from going over. Most admissions officers have stated that, while they will read all essays in their entirety, they are less inclined to feel that essays over 650 accomplish what they set out to do. In short: any of the prompts can and should be answered in 650 words or fewer.
Choosing the Right Length
If everything from 250 to 650 words is fair game, what length is best? Some counselors advise students to keep their essays on the shorter end, but not all colleges place the most value in succinctness.
The personal essay is the most powerful tool at your disposal for showing readers your personality without meeting them. If you've chosen a focus that reveals something meaningful about you, you're probably going to need more than 250 words to create a thoughtful, introspective, and effective essay. However, it isn't essential to hit the 650 mark, either.
From the Admissions Desk
"There is no need to meet the full word count  if the essay captures what the student would like to share. Visually, you want to make sure the essay looks complete and robust. As a general rule, I would suggest the essay be between 500-650 words."
–Valerie Marchand Welsh Director of College Counseling, The Baldwin School Former Associate Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania
Each of the Common App essay prompts creates different writing challenges, but no matter which option you choose, your essay should be detailed and analytical, and it should provide a window into some important dimension of your interests, values, or personality. Ask yourself: Will the admissions officers know me better after reading my essay? Chances are, an essay in the 500- to 650-word range will accomplish this task better than a shorter essay
In general, the length of an essay does not determine its effectiveness. If you have answered the prompt in its entirety and feel proud of your work, there is no need to stress about any particular word count. Do not pad your essay with filler content and tautologies to stretch it out, and on the flip side, don't leave important sections out in the interest of keeping the essay brief.
Why You Shouldn't Go Over the Essay Length Limit
Some colleges will allow you to exceed the limit set by the Common Application, but you should avoid writing more than 650 words in all cases for the following reasons:
- College students adhere to guidelines : If a professor assigns a five-page paper, they don't want a 10-page paper and you don't have 55 minutes to take 50-minute exams. The message that you send to a college when you write a powerful essay in 650 words or fewer, even when they accept longer submissions, is that you can succeed under any conditions.
- Essays that are too long can leave a negative impression: Essays over 650 may make you appear over-confident. The word counts have been established by experts for a reason and writing more than you are allowed might make it seem like you think what you have to say is more important than other applicants, who have to follow the rules. Avoid seeming self-important by stopping yourself from going overboard.
- Good writers know how to edit and cut : Any college writing professor would tell you that most essays become stronger when they are trimmed. There are almost always words, sentences, and even entire paragraphs that don't contribute to an essay and can be omitted. As you revise any essay you write, ask yourself which parts help you to make your point and which get in the way—everything else can go. Use these 9 style tips to tighten up your language.
College admissions officers will read essays that are too long but may consider them to be rambling, unfocused, or poorly-edited. Remember that your essay is one of many and your readers will wonder why yours is longer when it doesn't need to be.
- The Length Requirements for the Common Application Essay in 2020-21
- How Long Should Your Common Application Short Answer Essay Be?
- The 2021-22 Common Application Essay Prompts
- Private School Application Essay Tips
- Common Application Essay on a Meaningful Place
- Common Application Short Answer Tips
- "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"—Sample Common Application Essay, Option #4
- Common Supplemental Essay Mistakes
- 2020-21 Common Application Essay Option 4—Solving a Problem
- Tips for Writing a Winning College Application Essay
- 5 Tips for a College Admissions Essay on an Important Issue
- Common Application Essay, Option 1: Share Your Story
- Addressing Diversity in a College Application Essay
- Common Application Essay Option 2 Tips: Learning from Failure
- How to Write a Great College Application Essay Title
- Should an Application Essay Be Single-Spaced or Double-Spaced?
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College Essay Length: How Long Should It Be or Word Limit
6 July 2023
Colleges require students to submit a written essay as part of their application or learning process. Basically, college essays are short papers that require learners to respond to question in a clear manner. In this case, writers must meet the correct word length to receive good grades. Then, going beyond or below the required college essay word limit creates a negative impression about authors. In particular, credible papers should have a short introduction and conclusion. Also, each of these sections should take-up 10% of the overall word limit. However, the body section should take-up approximately 80% of the stated length. In turn, a minimum paragraph length should be 50-100 words and follow a sandwich rule, which requires one to use at least four sentences. Besides, writers must ensure that a college body paragraph contains a topic sentence, relevant evidence, accurate explanations, and a concluding and transitioning statement. Hence, students must understand the basic college essay length of how long should it be with its word limit.
General Guidelines on College Essay Length
College students communicate their thoughts through essays. Basically, the length of a college essay plays a crucial role in enhancing the learner’s ability to express opinions or support a topic effectively. In this case, writers should ensure that each sentence contributes to a central idea or thesis statement . Moreover, 1-page college essays should contain approximately 250 words. In turn, this word limit can allow one to organize ideas in five paragraphs. Because students communicate their thoughts or arguments through writing, the length limit contributes toward enhanced communication. However, by answering the question of how long should a college essay be, the length limit of such a paper varies from 250 to 1000 words, depending on assignment instructions.
Usual Range of a Word Count for College Essays
1. word limit of traditional college essays.
The length of college papers varies in size, depending on prompt instructions. For example, the average length of a common college essay is 500 words, which is approximately two double-spaced pages. Also, a short version of a college essay is 250 words. However, professors may require learners to write college essays for 750 or 1000 words to make papers for about 3 pages in length on extended essay topics . In this case, college students may submit papers that meet such criteria. Besides, answers to essay questions or body paragraphs should contain between 200 and 800 words. As for long college papers, such papers should be between 1000 and 2000 words. In turn, these lengths and word limits help students to organize their papers with compelling answers to prompt questions.
A. Other Features of Traditional College Essays
The length limit of ordinary college essays ranges within 250-1000 words to avoid vagueness when communicating an intended message. For instance, college lecturers, professors, and tutors give assignment prompts that require students to respond accurately and straightforwardly by following a typical essay structure with a traditional essay outline . In this case, learners should use short word limits to organize the most compelling evidence to support the arguments presented. Moreover, a brief scope prevents one from including vague and weak ideas in a paper. As a rule, students should make sure to fully explain and analyze each example included in a paper as evidence. In turn, this approach helps to address a single idea in each paragraph. Hence, college essays should have a short length that allows students to communicate effectively.
2. How Long Should a College Application Essay Be
College application essays vary in size when compared to ordinary assignments. Basically, the length of a college application essay should be between 200 and 650 words. For instance, a college committee requires students to submit short personal papers that express their interests and inspirations. Moreover, this word range provides adequate space for students to convey their personality, passions, and writing abilities to the admission or selection panel. Since a college application essay has a strict word length, one must ensure that titles and other explanatory notes fall within a required word limit.
A. Why College Application Essays Should Be From 250 to 650 Words
Colleges require students to submit application essays that range between 250 and 650 words because such papers allow committees to learn more about students. In particular, the shorter length of application essays gives aspiring students adequate space to express their interests and unique personality traits. Besides, admission committees use such application paper length to determine if students can follow instructions effectively by meeting a word limit and providing strict and clear messages. In turn, going beyond or below a word limit may lead to possible rejection by admission committees from a practical perspective. Hence, short college application essays intend to allow admission committees to learn more about applicants beyond test scores and grades.
Length of Each Part of a College Essay
An ordinary college essay should have three main parts that help to communicate an intended message. Basically, these three sections include an introduction, body, and conclusion. Moreover, each of these three parts should have a different length. In turn, a college admission essay should have the same length but containing another type of content. However, the rule for observing a traditional word limit should be similar in all the instances. Hence, word limits that students should remember when they cope with writing their papers are:
I. Introduction of a College Essay: 25-100 Words
The introduction of an ordinary essay should contain approximately 10% of the overall word length. For instance, the introduction should give a clear overview of a topic and help readers to develop a picture of what to expect in the body section. In this case, students should provide a brief background of body paragraphs to avoid going beyond the 10% limit. Then, one should include a clear thesis statement in the introductory section. Basically, these details should take-up a small part of a college essay. However, if a paper contains 1000 words, students should write the introduction in 100 words.
II. Body Section in a College Essay: 200-800 Words
The body section of a college essay should contain approximately 80% of the entire word length. In this case, the body section includes several paragraphs that support a thesis statement. Moreover, each body paragraph must contain relevant evidence and explanations. Hence, students must ensure that the essay’s body covers the largest space. In turn, if a college paper has 1000 words, writers should spend 800 words for body paragraphs to explain the main ideas.
III. Conclusion of a College Essay: 25-100 Words
The concluding paragraph should take up 10% of the essay’s word length. For instance, the concluding section should contain a summary of the main points communicated in a college essay. In practice, students should restate a thesis statement and recapitulate the significant issues discussed. Hence, this information should take-up a small portion of a college essay limit. In turn, if a college paper contains 1000 words, learners should write a conclusion by using 100 words.
How to Pay Attention to Paper Requirements
Students must pay attention to essay requirements given by lecturers or admission committees. For instance, ignoring basic instructions may lead to lower grades or rejection. In turn, professors and admission officers focus on identifying the learner’s ability to observe instructions and determine word limit requirements by providing clear and strict messages. Hence, guidelines that students must keep in mind when writing a college paper are:
1. Minimum Length Requirement
The college essay’s minimum length refers to the least number of words that a student must write. Basically, instructors and admission officers give students a range of words that must be used for writing a college essay. In this case, writers cannot submit a college paper with lesser words than a minimum length. Hence, failure to meet a minimum length requirement of a college essay leads to losing points or denial from admission.
2. Maximum Length Requirement
The maximum length requirement refers to the highest number of words that a paper must contain. In most cases, lecturers and admission officers do not grade the content beyond the maximum number of terms indicated in the instructions. Moreover, students should observe this word limit to avoid unnecessary penalization or deduction of marks for failing to follow instructions. As a rule, learners should not exceed 10% of the whole word count of a college paper length. In turn, if such an essay must be 500 words, students must not exceed a whole word count of a paper more than 550 words.
Possibilities to Go Over or Under a Word Limit in Colleges Essays
Some educational institutions allow students to go over or under the given limit. As a rule, one should either surpass or fall behind a given word limit with 10%. However, one should avoid these possibilities because of the following reasons:
1. Ways of Adhering to Guidelines
Students must demonstrate their ability to adhere to rules. When professors instruct students to complete an essay in 250 words, they do not want one to submit three typed pages. Instead, they expect learners to present a powerful piece that communicates a central message in one double-spaced page. Hence, writers should overcome such an issue by adhering to a stipulated word limit.
2. Negative Impression
Lengthy essays with no sense make readers develop a negative perception of authors. For instance, submitting college papers that go beyond an established word limit makes writers appear overconfident. Basically, such cases may occur in college application essays. Moreover, long pieces may force admission officers to think that such applicants cannot organize their thought clearly. In turn, such negative impressions may lead to a possible rejection of a lengthy application essay.
3. Poor Editing Skills
Going beyond given word limits shows that a writer has poor editing skills. For example, outstanding students can edit and remove unnecessary details. In this case, learners should demonstrate these skills by reviewing their works to reduce the number of irrelevant words and enhance the clarity of the essay’s message. Also, rereading through a college paper reveals words, sentences, or paragraphs that do not contribute to a paper. In turn, one should eliminate such vague details to ensure that a written piece meets the necessary word limits.
How to Work Out With a Length Limit of a College Essay
Students should rely on a fair editing process to meet a required word count limit. For example, students should remove weaker evidence, in-text citations, or arguments to reduce the number of words if they go beyond those stated in paper instructions. In other instances, learners should define new and robust evidence to support the main points when college essays contain fewer words than needed. Moreover, students with practical editing skills should check if each paragraph appears relevant to a central argument. Then, writers should ensure that each body paragraph addresses one point related to a thesis statement. In turn, such an approach helps to control the number of words that one must use for a college essay.
1. Word Count Filler
Word count fillers refer to details that a student adds to a college essay to meet a requested length of words. In particular, learners should ensure that all word count fillers remain relevant to a topic. Unfortunately, many students make a mistake of using irrelevant words in their works to achieve a required count. As a result, this approach lowers the essay’s quality through a distortion of the main message.
Students should avoid all forms of plagiarism because it shows a lack of originality. Basically, plagiarism exists when a student uses information from external sources without acknowledging it effectively. Besides, plagiarism leads to a punishable academic crime. In this case, students should paraphrase or quote information by using acceptable academic guidelines or writing formats, such as APA 7, MLA 8, Harvard, or Chicago//Turabian, among others. Similarly, they should include an in-text citation for the mentioned, summarized, or translated evidence to overcome all plagiarism cases.
Some college essays may contain an abstract, including a summary of the main ideas presented in the body section. As a rule, a college abstract should contain between 100 and 200 words, and it is not counted for the essay’s word limit. Basically, this rule applies regardless of the paper’s length. In turn, learners should write an abstract after completing a paper and ensuring that they deal with all the necessary guidelines.
Good and Bad Strategies to Meet a Length Requirement
Students use different methods to meet a word limit required in a college essay. For example, some of the bad strategies that writers use to complete the essay’s length include using wordy sentences, including irrelevant details, and copy-pasting. Basically, these methods lead to plagiarism and vagueness in an intended message. However, one may use acceptable practices, like adding strong evidence while removing weak ones. In this case, students should identify irrelevant details during the editing process. Besides, writers should add more substantial pieces of evidence to support central claims.
1. Dealing With an Unspecified Word Limit
Students may come across strange circumstances where instructions fail to stipulate the word limit’s exact number. In such a case, learners must submit a college essay with three paragraphs to meet a minimum length. Basically, students should include the introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs. In turn, these three sections should add up to 250 words in total or one double-spaced page.
2. Coping With a 5-Paragraph Essay
While colleges require a five-paragraph essay, students should attain a minimum length of 500 words. In this case, one should follow the basic requirements of 5 parts of an essay – introduction with three body paragraphs and ending with a concluding section. Besides, three body paragraphs may have the main argument, counterargument, and rebuttal paragraph if it is a persuasive essay . In turn, students must submit a persuasive essay that proves a specific point to be more valid.
3. Determining Discussion Posts
A discussion post refers to a one- or two-paragraph essay that requires students to express their thoughts briefly. Basically, discussion post responses are popular these days because they help learners to acquire critical thinking skills. Despite their short length, discussion posts are useful in showing how students perceive a situation. Besides, they allow writers to express their thoughts toward a subject.
Defining a Length of a Paragraph in a College Essay
College essays should have body paragraphs that contain a reasonable length. As a rule, a typical body paragraph should contain four or more sentences from 50 to 100 words. In particular, a section must contain a topic sentence, supporting evidence, explanation, and concluding and transitioning statement. Moreover, students must be sure that these four sentences follow a sandwich rule, which enhances the main ideas’ communication. However, one should not use a paragraph that fills an entire page, or it must not exceed 150-200 words. In turn, such practices affect the essay’s readability.
Summing Up on College Essay’s Length Limits
College essays allow students to communicate their thoughts or arguments through writing. In this case, the length limit of college essays contributes toward enhanced communication. Basically, learners must write their papers by following basic word count limits and ensure that they meet assignment instructions. In turn, failing to follow instructions may lead to undesired outcomes, like loss of grading points and rejection of college admissions. Hence, some tips that one should consider:
- The length of typical college essays ranges between 250 and 100 words.
- The length of a college application paper ranges between 200 and 650 words.
- College students should rely on practical editing skills to meet the necessary word count and avoid plagiarism.
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