College essay word limit

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For many years, the common app essay had no limit in length and candidates frequently argued whether an essay of tight 450 words was a better approach than a detailed writing piece of 900 words.

Today, the college essay word limit is 650 words. And it is enforced by the application form. Applicants can no longer attach an essay to their application that goes beyond the limit. Candidates need to enter the essay into a text book box that counts the number of words and prevents typing more than 650 words.

Supplemental essays for the common application have different guidelines for length and colleges that do not use the common app have different length requirements. In any case, make sure to follow the guidelines. If your essay should be 400 words do not make it for 410.

What can you write in 650 words

Remember that 650 words is not a long essay. It is approximately two pages long with double space. Most of the essays are between three and eight paragraphs depending on the writing style and a strategy of the candidate.

When working on your essay keep the college essay word limit in mind. Many candidates try to do too much with their papers and then have difficulties in editing down the content to 650 words. Understand the goal of the personal statement. It is not to tell your life story or to give a lot of information about your accomplishments. This is done by your academic record, a list of your extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, as well as additional essays and materials you show in your application. Your personal statement is not the right place where you need to include long lists of your achievements.

In order to write an effective essay of 650 words or less you need to concentrate. Describe a single event or share a single talent or passion. No matter what essay prompt you are going to select, make sure you are telling the story in a thoughtful and engaging way. Give enough space for self-reflection, so that you could devote some space to talking about the significance of the topic to you.

Is it possible to go over the word limit?

650 words are not a lot of space where you can describe your passion, personality, and writing skills to the admissions officers in full. Colleges really want to know your personality behind your grades and test scores.

Keeping this in mind, you should never go over the college essay word limit. And your common app won’t let you do that. A few years ago, you could attach your essay into the application, which allowed papers that were too long. With new application, you will need to enter your essay in a special text box that counts the number of words and won’t allow you to type anything that is less than 250 words or more than 650 words.

Reasons not to go over the limit

If you’re writing an essay where you not allowed to go over the limit or if you’re working on a supplemental essay that has a recommended word count, do not go over the limit. Here is why:

  • Good writers know how to edit and cut. If you have written an essay, which is two pages long, try to turn it into one-page essay without losing any important content. One-page essays are almost always better. When revising the paper keep asking yourself what thoughts and ideas are really significant for the content. The rest can be cut.
  • Good college students know how to follow guidelines. If your professor tells you to write a five- page essay, he or she doesn’t want you to submit a paper that is 10 pages long. If you have 50 minutes to complete an exam, you can’t finish it after 55 minutes. If you need to use the black ink, do not use the yellow ink. If you do not follow the guidelines on the application, think about what kind of message you’re sending to the admissions officers. No college wants to accept students who don’t know how to follow directions.

The common app and other college applications ask for short essays because college admissions people do not want to waste their time reading unfocused, long, and poorly edited essays. However, not all colleges ask for shorter essays. Some colleges prefer longer papers because they want to get to know their candidates better and they can see how well the applicants can keep the focus in a longer piece of writing.

Keep in mind that any application you write your essay for, requires you to follow the directions.

Keeping your essay short

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Even though the maximum length of the essay is 650 words, the minimum length is 250 words. There are teachers who advise their students to keep their papers on the shorter end because the officers at the admissions are very busy and they will appreciate shorter essays more.

However, there are also those who do not agree with this assessment. If your college wants you to submit an essay, it is because it has integral admissions and wants to know it’s candidates beyond the standardized test scores or a list of grades they send. Essays are usually the most powerful instrument you have to convey the admissions officers that you are who you are and tell about the things you care about. If you select the right concentration for your paper, you will be able to show something meaningful about you and you will need more than 250 words to offer the details and self-reflection that will make your paper effective.

Of course, the admissions officers may be happy to get through a short essay fast but if your 600-word paper is created beautifully, it will make a more meaningful impression than a good 300-word paper.

Narrowing down the topic

The best way to write an effective essay is to choose a subject that is very specific and concrete. For example, it would be difficult for you to write about your high school volunteer experience in 650 words. If you try to do that, you are likely to be forced to leave a lot of important information out of the content. Therefore, it is recommended to narrow down the subject it and focus, for example, on the volunteer work you did in one specific organization. However, this is still a rather broad subject.

Then you can narrow down the topic by selecting one specific project you did for this organization, for example, your volunteering at a nursing home. The better option would even be concentrating your essay on a relationship you formed with the resident of the nursing home or your favorite day you spent with the resident.

The more specific your topic is, the better it will be for you to submit a well-written, thorough, and powerful essay.

Planning the essay

The college essay word limit should not be a surprise to you. Take the time to plan the essay before writing and you will be able to get the most out of the word limit. While planning, concentrate on the essential things you want to include in your paper getting rid of information that is not important or doesn’t add anything significant to the content.

To reach this goal you need to understand the objective of the college essay:

  • You need to set yourself apart from other qualified candidates
  • You need to show what you may contribute to a college campus
  • You need to help admissions officers to get to know you better

Concentrate on describing the information that can help you reach these goals. For example, avoid talking about things that can be found elsewhere in your application.

If you plan in advance, it will help you stay organized and focused and prepare an effective essay.

Keeping the entry short

The entry is the place where candidates usually go over the word limit. To ensure that you have enough words for the main part of your essay, it is important to keep your entry relatively brief.

An effective entry for college essays should be interesting, engaging, and short. You do not need to go into details about everything you are going to discuss in your paper. Instead provide a short preview that will make the admissions officers want to find out more.

An entry is the place, which is supposed to be mysterious and intriguing and it can be very effective for the admissions essays. You can achieve it in the best way with a powerful entry. Make your entry no more than six sentences unless you have a reason to include important information in this section.

Concentrating on the important things

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No matter what your topic is, it should large concentrate on you. For example, most papers should explain the following:

  • How did the topic of the essay shape you as a person?
  • How did the topic impact your life?
  • Why is the topic important to you?
  • What does the topic say about you and how it is connected to your passions and goals?

Most of the 650-word essays should be devoted to reflecting on these ideas because this is the information the admissions officers want to know about you.

Be concrete

When you need to follow the tight word limit, you need to be concrete in your writing. Concrete writing means avoiding unnecessary sentences and words. It is compressed and it is to the point.

However, this does not mean that you should not include details or make interesting use of language. Avoid such words as:

  • Really
  • Very
  • Actually
  • Basically

Also try to stay away from using too many adverbs and repetitions. There’s no need to say “because” and “reason” in the same sentence because one implies the other. If you avoid unnecessary words, repetition, and excess adverbs, you will write concisely and will follow the word limit.

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