Hi, everyone. An interesting discussion about essay length has started within a different thread. I suspect this will be a popular topic, so I'm spinning it off.
One interesting note: the 500 word limit was part of the Common App instructions until about five years ago when the decision was made to emphasize a minimum word limit (250) rather than a maximum. While that helped students understand that colleges wanted to read more than just a few sentences, doing away with the upper limit made students wonder when they should stop writing. The new instructions will help address that concern.
Here's my response to two questions posted in another thread:
1. Why 500 words?
2. Will a student be able to write more than 500 words?
The essay is an uploaded document, which means that--technically--a student will be able to submit an essay of any length (as long as the file is under 500KB). But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. The new limit of 500 words is provided to offer guidance to students who ask, "How long should my essay be?" The real answer to this question is, "Long enough to help colleges learn something about you but short enough to make sure they read it." The recommended length really does give you plenty of room to do just that.
To put this in perspective, 500 words, using 12 pt Times New Roman and 1 inch margins is just shy of two pages, double-space. And two pages is a perfectly appropriate length for your essay.