How long is too long?

<p>My son is sitting down doing a rough draft of a Personal Essay for the Common Application. He has months before it will need to be submitted with an application. The instructions indicate the essay needs to be greater than 250 words. However, their is no maximum word limit--it is completely open ended.</p>

<p>Currently, he is thinking it will come in at about 850-1200 words. Is that too lengthy? At what point is the essay off-putting for those that need to read thousands of these things?</p>

<p>I would suggest 500-700 words.</p>

<p>Remember that people who read your son's essay are reading hundreds or even thousands of other essays with very little time to spend on each one. It becomes exponentially harder to keep a firm grasp on the reader's attention the longer the essay is.</p>

<p>I read my son and many of his friend's essays this year. Everyone of them can be cut down in some way. They all tended to be too wordy, lots of words but not much substance.</p>

<p>I can't remember where I got this from but I kept it because I thought it was good advice:
"I have to say there's a select few essays that benefit from a higher word count, and the best route to success is to sharpen your own essay until each word fights for itself. When you can't take one more word out without detracting from the overall piece, you've done amazing, no matter how many words it is.</p>

<p>The problem with that approach is that as an individual, you have a biased perspective on what's necessary and what isn't. It's easy to become attached to a word or phrase, and though upon editing it doesn't quite fit anymore, you don't realize how superfluous it really may be.</p>

<p>So have a parent or a friend read it, the word count drops faster than you think!"</p>

<p>I say 500 words is a good goal. If it gets much longer, it better be worth it.</p>

<p>500 is standard, though no more than 550.</p>

<p>Mine was just under 900 words and looking back, I could have definitely trimmed it and made it better by doing so. I think Yale wants 500-range and I think that's the best aim for an essay. </p>

<p>However, if you go over, that's fine. Just keep trying to condense as much as possible from there. And you'll be fine. However, my essay was long, but it apparently worked pretty well.</p>

<p>all counselors have told me 700 max on the commonapp (typically 500 max on supplements)</p>

<p>i cut my common app from 1400 to 698.. it took a lot of work ;)</p>