How long should a college essay be?


Many people agree that writing a college essay is one of the most difficult and stressful parts of their application process for different reasons. For example, it’s difficult to understand what colleges want you to say and it’s hard to accurately represent yourself in a limited number of words. How long should a college essay be? Finding the right answer to this question is a common challenge of many students. The good news is that applications usually provide you with helpful guidelines for maximum and minimum lengths.

Common application requirements

The common application is a standard form used by many modern colleges and universities. It has the essay word count limit, which is only 650 words. Writing a college essay within this word limit means including at least 3 paragraphs. You can find many effective word-processing programs with a special word count feature that will help you track the length of your college essay. For instance, use any academic paper written for your classes to see how many words it contains and get a better idea of the page length that your college essay must have.

Standards of other universities and colleges

Nowadays, not all educational institutions stick to the common application, and this means that their college essay requirements may vary.

  • Some colleges have no strict essay requirements at all;
  • They may have optional essay components;
  • Others have their specific essay questions that should be answered by applicants within the above-mentioned word limit;
  • They have specific essay components without any required maximum or minimum length, so they leave it up to appliances to choose the right word count.

Many colleges that don’t stick to common application guidelines also have defined length limits for a college essay. That’s why you need to check the application requirements of each college carefully and thoroughly to avoid being confused or feeling stuck.

Effective strategies to hit the required essay length

To hit the required length for your college essay, start with creating a special outline and make it as organized and detailed as possible. Although they may be no minimum word count, you will need to write a substantial and coherent paper, so use the following efficient strategies:

  • Including 4 paragraphs is your safe bet;
  • Outlining allows you to know what you will say while making it easier to keep a college essay moving from one point to another;
  • Don’t panic if you go a bit over the required word count because you can reduce your essay length easily.

Basic questions and answers about a college essay length


How long should a college essay be? To understand how to answer this sticky question, there are some other questions that should be asked. Why this essay length? Although many students find it hard to write a long academic paper, their most common issue with a college essay is keeping it quite short. Writing 650 words may sound a complex task, but this word count hardly provides you with enough space to express the most important personal characteristics and express the deepest thoughts. The number one reasons why your college essay is kept short is that educational institutions receive thousands applications on an annual basis. It’s difficult to imagine admissions officers reading longer essays and having enough time to do anything else.

Is it allowed to go over this length limit?

To answer this question, ask instructors a few others, such as:

  • Can you go over the required word count?
  • If yes, by how much?
  • What if you need more words to convey all of your important ideas?
  • What if your college essay is only several words over this limit?

After all, 650 words don’t offer applicants a lot of room to convey their interests, personalities, and writing abilities. Modern educational institutions really want to get to know your individuality behind all grades and test scores. However, it’s not allowed for applicants to both go over the essay word limit and submit college essays that are under 250 words according to new common application rules.

Why you should not go over this limit?

When applying to any college or university that allows applicants to go over the word limit, you should still avoid doing that for certain reasons. Successful and clever students know how to follow the necessary essay directions. As an example, when teachers assign 5-page academic papers, they don’t want to receive any 10-page essay. If you’re asked to use only a black ink, using the orange one is a mistake. Consider the message that you send if you fail to follow the necessary college application directions. Colleges and universities don’t want to admit applicants who think that their requirements are optional.

Good students also know how to cut and edit their essays without losing any important content. While revising your paper, determine the ideas that are really essential. Colleges and universities ask applicants for quite short essays because admission officers don’t like wasting their time on unfocused, long, poorly written, and rambling papers. In rare cases, you can find the educational institutions that prefer longer college essays only because they want to get to know all candidates better and check how well they can sustain a focus in longer papers because it’s a valuable skill. When writing any college essay, it’s necessary to follow all directions precisely.

Do you need to keep a college essay short?

How long should a college essay be? Although the maximum allowed length for a college essay is 650 words, its minimum required limit is 250 words. Some teachers advise their students to keep academic papers short because admissions officers appreciate that, but it’s not always the truth. Colleges and universities require an essay because they want to get to know candidates as personalities in addition to their standardized test scores and grades. Typically, a college paper is the most effective and powerful tool to convey who you really are and what you are interested in. if you succeed to select the right focus for this paper to reveal something unique and meaningful about yourself, you need more than 250 words to provide the committee with the self-reflection necessary to make your college application effective.

How should you think about the required essay length?

Although some admissions officers may be happy to read short essays fast, a well-crafted 650-word college paper will make a more lasting and meaningful impression. Colleges want all applicants to have enough room to write about their interests and personalities. To hit the required essay length, you need to avoid fillers or added words because they only bulk up your paper and their use is evident to readers. If you’re stuck, try to find other good points to support a thesis.

Although the primary goal of this word count is guiding the length of your college essay, it serves a few other important purposes. The first one is helping students determine how ambitious and complex their arguments should be. If you feel like going over the word limit to support your argument, it’s too ambitious and your writing isn’t compact. If you fail to hit the minimum essay length, you’re quite likely to under-explain yourself or your argument lacks enough ambition and support. Finally, the required essay length provides a better sense of the workload involved in evaluating your writing.

Are fillers obvious to the committee?

Fillers are those added words that bulk up your college essay to let you hit the minimum length. In most cases, they are very obvious to the committee because fillers usually involve many unnecessary wordy sentences and irrelevant comments. They are more disappointing for admissions officers than the college essay that goes under the required length. Keep working on your paper to let it yield better awards.

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