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College essay- they won't count the number of words, right??

StillmanzStillmanz Registered User Posts: 289 Junior Member
edited October 2006 in College Admissions
For the personal essay on the common app, it says between 250-500 words. Is that a loose guideline or do people really follow that. I think my essay is about 630 words. I know it sounds stupid, but will they care?
Post edited by Stillmanz on

Replies to: College essay- they won't count the number of words, right??

  • downtown128downtown128 Registered User Posts: 197 Junior Member
    Try and cut it down as much as you can. Obviously, with the number of apps the adcoms are dealing with, they don't have time to count the # of words. However, the common app software might put the # of words on the app before it's sent to the college. I don't know. Try to get it down to 600 or less.
  • stupakstupak Registered User Posts: 1,084 Senior Member
    but of course, what can make up for long essays is quality; if the extra words give the essay that kick it needs, then keep it.
  • vicissitudesvicissitudes Registered User Posts: 3,498 Senior Member
    Try to cut it down a little. They won't count but after reading hundreds of essays they will know what a 500 word essay looks like and could possibly get annoyed. It's a possibility.
  • CozmoCozmo Registered User Posts: 367 Member
    Say more with less and you'll go farther.
  • ebeeeeeebeeeee Registered User Posts: 5,199 Senior Member
    They do know what a 500 word essay looks like. This is about discipline and following the rules. Cut it/edit/make it 500 words.
  • lightuhlightuh Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
    Adcoms have much better things to do than counting words. They'd rather finish reading all those apps.
  • ILoveBrownILoveBrown Registered User Posts: 1,521 Senior Member
    When I was using the common app (2004/5), I think they literally cut you off after 500 words, and you couldn't submit an essay that was any longer.

    This may have changed since then... but you should definitely check it out.
  • Penn_dreamerPenn_dreamer Registered User Posts: 653 Member
    More Matter, Less Art.
  • priceless28priceless28 Registered User Posts: 500 Member
    I'd say don't go over 550, but if you REALLY need to then 600 at the most.
  • nightflarernightflarer Registered User Posts: 105 Junior Member
    After having already read thousands of essays, I'm sure admission officers have a pretty good idea of what 500 words is. Nonetheless, they sure won't count the number of words by hand--maybe if it's an online application, then they can use Word or something, but still...you have absolutely no worries...

    The 250-500 words is just a guideline. They could have said 249-499. Really, it doesn't matter.

    When you have these questions, always ask yourself what you would do if you were an admissions officer...if I were one, and the essay was really good, I really wouldn't mind how long it was, especially if it was just a hundred or two words long. Moreover, I'd rather see an essay long-winded then see it lose a vital paragraph to make the 250-500 word guideline.
  • abe1957abe1957 Registered User Posts: 49 Junior Member
    all good advice, but be warned - common app on-line cuts off essays after a certain point. i don't know if it's the 500 word mark or not, but once you reach that magic point, the admission folks won't have an opportunity to read anything beyond it ... even if it's the most interesting part of your essay. be warned, also, that you common app gives you no indication of when you reach that point, so you can literally be cut off mid-sentence with no warning that's happened.
  • KG974KG974 Registered User Posts: 467 Member
    To the OP... relax.. my essay last year was around 630 or so words... i was somewhat worried about its length... but i didnt feel that i could shorten it and maintain its quality.... i really dont think its that big of a deal... as long as what you're sayin in your essay would make the adcom Want to read more..

    IMO... id really say dont stress too much over the length... if its good enough.. the adcoms wont care and will understand... anyhow good luck
  • ChedvaChedva Super Moderator Posts: 28,605 Super Moderator
    It takes much more skill and patience to write a short essay than a long one. Competitive schools are looking for those qualities and they know what the appropriate length is.

    Edit and change word choice, and make it as close to 500 words as possible.
  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
    >>It takes much more skill and patience to write a short essay than a long one.

    Very true. I know that sometimes I've had to write something with a maximum word count or a specific space to fit. When I had it written and in "perfect" shape, I discovered that it was 20% too long. Every time this happened, I was able to take what seemed like tight, well-written copy and make it better by eliminating words or occasionally whole sentences that didn't really add anything important.

    I've often thought a good way to improve my own writing would be to arbitrarily make myself shorten anything I'd written by 10-25%.

    So, as others have suggested, don't obsess about a few words over the limit, but try to tighten it up. It will be a better essay for your efforts.
  • bwiltonbwilton Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
    I got into Yale and Harvard, among other common app. colleges, with a personal statement that numbered over 760 words. Readers don't care too much unless the essay is needlessly long or repetitive. I got that particular piece of advice from Jonathan Rivers, an admissions officer at Cornell (AEM). Be far more careful if you are applying online. If you apply on paper, you get more wiggle room. Try to keep the essay to one page. If necessary, remember that you could try to fiddle with the margins. I did.
This discussion has been closed.