One of the biggest problems students encounter when writing a college essay is knowing the length of the essay. They get worried that it may be too short or too long, making them miss the chance of being admitted.
If you are wondering how long should a college essay be, then this article is devoted to you. In addition to understanding the appropriate word count of a college essay, the article will touch on apps commonly used for college application essays and their word count rules, and how to shorten or lengthen an essay, among others.
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A college essay is any professional essay a student writes while in college or when applying for college.
Some experts define a college essay as an essay that is written when applying for college. To them, a “college essay” means “college admission essay,” nothing more. To us, a college essay encompasses all essays, including the college admission essay and others such as:
Most colleges will specifically state the length of all the college essays. They may say the number of words you should write or the number of pages. Make sure your essay sticks to the range indicated. For instance, if you have been told to write between 800 – 1000 words, ensure the essay is between that limit and not a word less or extra.
In rare instances, the word count of the essays may not be indicated. So, how do you go about it? Simple. Ask your classmates. Maybe the lecturer mentioned it and you didn’t hear, or the lecturer told a specific student. If the lecturer didn’t communicate it to anyone, you could ask him/her.
A college admission essay is also known as a college application essay or personal statement. Some colleges may demand one long college admission essay, while others may want you to write several short ones that answer several prompts. There is no universal formula; it all depends on the college.
In case the length of the college admission essay is not indicated in the prompt, we recommend keeping your essay between 400-600 words. This range is supported by many experts like Becky Leichtling, a former college admission officer at Tufts University who read beyond 3,000 college essays.
Becky further declares that the admission essay's content is prioritized more than anything else. The key aspects of the content that are analyzed include:
She advises that you should not include fluff in your essay to make it appear longer. It’s better to have a short essay without fluff than a long essay with fluff. Fluff dilutes your message’s strength, creating a bad impression on you.
Many colleges use digital platforms when it comes to submitting college admission essays. Some of the common applications are Common App and Coalition App. Other colleges have created their application portals, such as MIT.
As you'll see below, each platform has its own guideline on the number of words. Some schools may still require you to submit supplemental prompts. These prompts are usually around 3, but some colleges may tell you to write as high as 10 or more. Each prompt needs you to discuss it with a few words, fewer words than what is in the college essay.
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Let’s slightly look at the Common App essay because an enormous number of colleges need students to write this kind of college application essay. It is known as a Common App essay because it is written using the Common App guidelines and submitted using the same platform.
So, how do you see the Common App guidelines and submit the college essay? You open the Common App account and click “Writing.” Seven prompts will appear. You’ll be required, in most cases, to choose one out of the seven. After choosing, a box will appear where you will type the essay.
Do not type on that box. Rather, use a word processor (like Microsoft Word or Google Docs). After you finish the essay, copy and paste it into the box of the Common App and hit “submit.”
Other tips when writing the Common App essay are:
On top of writing a college essay, some colleges may want you to write supplemental essays. This essay is usually shorter than a college essay. However, it may be the same length as a college essay in other schools.
The word count of the supplemental essay is provided in practically all cases. Some typical topics you may be asked to discuss in this essay are:
You may look at our supplemental essay writing guide article to understand key tips for writing this essay type.
Different programs have different ways of measuring the word count. The two most common programs for writing are Google Docs and Microsoft Word. So, how do we measure an essay’s word count on these two platforms?
Let’s say you have written a college essay of 800 words, but the upper limit is 650 words. What do you do to shorten this essay?
Forget that, and let’s have another hypothetical example. You have written a 150-words essay, and the word count requirement is 250 – 650 words. What do you do to make the college essay longer?
The hard truth is that decreasing or increasing the length of an essay is no easy thing (It’s easy if you want your essay to be of average quality). If you need your college essay to stand out, then you must have some skills or knowledge in this area. Fortunately, this section will instill in you these abilities.
We’ll first look at how to shorten an essay. You can place an order with us if you are looking for an expert to help you. We can edit your paper to meet all the requirements or even write one from scratch.
Although vivid descriptions are much appreciated in college essays, giving unnecessary information should be avoided. So, how do you differentiate unnecessary information from one that is necessary? The trick is to know the main point you are discussing in a certain section, like in a specific paragraph, then omit information with little value.
Below is an example of a bad paragraph (long) and a good paragraph (short: straight to the point). The key point of these examples is “how we traveled for a baseball competition.”
Bad example: Too many unnecessary words
"On 13th February 2020, my baseball teammates and I woke up early to prepare for a competition. The weather of the day was favorable, and we had to travel hundreds of kilometers to reach our destination. We arrived some minutes before our game, prepared fast, and got into the field. It was a stiff match, but we gave it our all and won."
Good example: Concise enough and touching on the main point
"On 13th February 2020, we woke early, prepared well, and headed for the baseball competition at the other end of the state. The weather was friendly, and we arrived on time. The match was stiff, but we won by a slim margin."
Some of the words with low value or those that are unnecessary include the following:
Use the following tips when you want to make the college essay longer.
Look at our guide on how to make an essay longer if you want to understand more tactics and see some good examples.
You can use many tips to create a good college essay. Some of the key tips are:
There is no universal rule concerning the length of a college essay. It all depends on the college. Go through the college essay prompt to see the word count of your college essay. If the word count has not been indicated for a college admission essay, the ballpark number is 400 – 600. Many college admission boards declare so. So, if you are wondering if a 900-word or 1000-word college admission essay is too long, it will be in many instances. Consult your lecturer for other essay types; there is no ballpark number for their word count.
All colleges have their own rules on college essay length. Ask your instructor if the college essay prompt doesn’t state the length, but a good limit is between 400 – 600 words if it is for a college admission essay.
A big issue you might face while writing your college essay is knowing how long the essay should be. It mainly happens when the essay's word count isn’t mentioned in the essay instructions or the college’s guidelines. Read through this article to understand how to handle this issue. This guide has also discussed the tactics for shortening and lengthening your essay.
If this is too much for you, just place an order with us, and we’ll help you write an amazing college essay.
Melanie is a seasoned writer with more than 8 years of experience. She is passionate about academia and works off the clock to ensure she write the topnotch content for her readers.