Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
Please take a moment to read our updated TOS, Privacy Policy, and Forum Rules.

Common Application Essay Length--500 Words is NOT a Strict Cut-Off

Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone CC Admissions Expert Posts: 3,628 Senior Member
edited October 2011 in College Essays
This morning there was a query posted on the NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) discussion board about Common App essay length. The wording of the 2011-2012 Common App says, "Please write an essay of 250 – 500 words ..." and one counselor expressed concern that longer essays are not acceptable (or might even be cut off automatically).

Jon Reider, Director of College Counseling at San Francisco University High School, provided this helpful response, noting that the Common App word-count is a guideline, not a limit. He said:
When the new wording of the Common Application was published this spring, I wrote to Scott Anderson at the Common App, and he assured me that there is NO word limit on the main essay on the Common App, despite the wording of “250-500 words.” I am sure a great deal of thought went into that wording, but it is unfortunately ambiguous and gives rise to the erroneous assumption that there is in fact a word limit of 500 words. That is just a recommendation from colleges to keep the essays brief (always good advice), but the software does not have the capacity to limit it even if they wanted to. There is still a limit of 1000 characters, roughly 150 words, on the short essay about extracurricular activity or work experience. If a reader is used to reading concise essays, they may look at a longer one with some annoyance, unless, of course, it is stunningly brilliant. These are few and far between in those long winter months. This is not the mood that a typical applicant hopes to inspire in their readers. I have never read an essay of 800 words that couldn’t be cut, and improved in the process.

I strongly agree with Jon ... less is usually more. Only in unusual cases does an essay require more than 800 words, but don't worry that the computer will eat your words after 500.
Post edited by Sally_Rubenstone on

Replies to: Common Application Essay Length--500 Words is NOT a Strict Cut-Off

This discussion has been closed.