College Essay Word Count
“The New York Times” ran an article yesterday on the college essay word count. The article shares anecdotes about how various college applicants struggle with reducing their college essay word count to 500 words for the personal statement. Of the students featured, many wrote essays that were 700 or 800 words and had to parse it down to 500. Some cited that their college essay was not nearly as good in the shortened version and one student even cited that it became a “standard college essay” in the abbreviated version.
Your college essay should not be a “standard college essay.” We don’t know what that means but it doesn’t sound good as you need to stand out in your college essay and “standard” just about typifies not standing out. And you should be capable of maintaining the quality of your essay when you reduce it from 700 words to 500 words. Cry us a river. If you want to be a good writer, if you want to be successful in life, you have to be successful with what you’ve got. That means that contrary to the article in “The New York Times,” we advise you not to write 501 words. Stick to the word count.
According to “The New York Times” article, “Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, said he did not stop reading if an essay ran long, but ‘if they go over the limit, the stakes go up.'” Read into what he’s saying! The stakes go up. If that last paragraph after the 500 word count is met doesn’t make college admissions counselors go — this is a student we just have to have, you are only hurting yourself. Just stick to the college essay word count. It’s that simple. Combine “it is” into “it’s.” Combine “they are” into “they’re.” It’s not that hard!
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It depends quite a bit on the type of school you’re applying to and whether or not you’re on the verge of being admitted or not. When I have reviewed college applications, the admissions essay had much more to do with the amount of merit-based financial aid a student was awarded than whether or not they got in. If you’re applying to a large state university, it’s not uncommon for you to be admitted without an admissions official to cast a passing glance at your essay and then admit you on the basis of your GPA and test scores. If you’re on the bubble, your essay might be more important. Also, if you’re applying to a more selective private scoohl where most applicants have similarly high GPAs and test scores, the deciding vote might be your application essay. Practically speaking, though, the admissions essay matters much less than more tangible indicators of future success such as GPA and to a greater degree standardized test scores.