How long should a college essay be? Usually, the shortest limit is about 200 words (this is less than half a page). Very rare, you can see a limit of more than 600 words (it is an essay over one-page length). So, in general, college essays should be about 200-650 words.
Read our detailed guide to know everything about college essay length! We have gathered the main guidelines here to help you in making a successful paper without wasting a lot of time. Feel free to follow our tips to create an essay of a proper word limit.
How Long Is a College Essay - Word Limit?
Different colleges provide their essay limits variously: some of them prefer pages, for example, they say that you need to create a 10-page essay. Others set limits in words. A word limit shows the number of words in the future essay. As for pages, it can be confusing because students can use different fonts and formatting. But when you know how many words must be in your completed essay, things become more clear.
Of course, if your task is to write a 400-word limit paper, it doesn't mean that you have to write 400 words, no more, no less! This is just a limit you have to be close to. So, for a 400-word limit paper, you can create an essay of 350-400 words. Sometimes colleges can give you a range, for example, to make a 450-500 word limit paper. If so, stay within a range and try not to exceed it.
You need to read the prompt and find the word limit for the paper. Usually, a word limit for an essay is between 200 and 600 words.
Main College Application Essay vs. Supplemental Essay Length
Usually, the main college essays are about 500-600 words. As an example, the Common Application requires writing essays in a range from 250 to 600 words. And the Coalition Application recommends making essays between 500 and 550 words.
Even if the most common length for essays is 500 words, some schools may require writing more longer or shorter essays. As an example, UT Austin students must write 500-700 word essays. And the UC (University of California) students are required to respond to four questions, with answers limited to 350 words.
In some schools, students are also required to create a supplemental essay. This type of document is shorter than a personal statement. Usually, students have to write from 1 to 3 supplemental essays, for about 250 words each one. These papers help to understand students' interests and skills. They can include topics about the desired major, favorite activity, and goals of studying.
Can You Go Over or Under the College Essay Word Limit?
You have to follow the limit set by the college. If you will write less, this may show that you are careless with the requirements. But overwriting can hint that you are not able to follow strict instructions. That's why it's better to keep your essay within the provided limit.
Try to stay within a 10% difference in the limit. For example, if you're required to write a 500-word essay, you should create a paper about 450-500 words. If you're writing a Common App, write from 550 to 650 words, even if they give a range from 250 to 650 words. An essay less than 500 words may show like you don't care about this essay, and you didn't try to share your interests and goals to become a new student of a particular school.
As we already mentioned, do not write over the limit because this will also make a negative impression on your candidature. Plus, your document can be cut off by the application portal automatically if it exceeds the limit of words. So, try to follow guidelines carefully and always keep in mind the limit of words for your future paper.
What If There Is No College Essay Word Limit?
Usually, schools provide their applicants with a word limit, but sometimes, you can get more general length guidelines without a certain number of words. Do not worry and try not to write too long or too short papers. It's better to follow a good structure and choose a standard font (for example, Times New Roman 12). If the college says nothing about word count, there should be about 500 words in your future essay.
Sometimes colleges don't give a word limit due to the next reasons:
1. They Want Your Writing Sample
In this case, a college wants to see your writing sample on a certain topic. They do not want to limit you by words but anyway, you can find a page guideline, usually, it's from 4 to 10 pages.
2. They Set an Implicit Guideline
Sometimes you can read in guidelines that you're required to create "2 well-developed paragraphs". For a first sign, you can say nothing is clear, but if you remember that two paragraphs must be no longer than 500 words, then the task becomes more clear.
3. They Want You to Be Very Attentive
Sometimes, colleges hide their guidelines and you cannot find them just as you started to read the requirements. But if you will keep reading carefully, it's not difficult to find the needed hints for length guidelines in the text.
We hope that our tips were useful, and you know how to determine the length of your essay even if it may seem not so clear from the very beginning. If you need additional help in creating a strong essay, ask our experienced professionals! We can create any type of paper within a deadline. If writing isn't that job you like to fulfill, delegate it to our specialists, and we will send you a completed essay without delays!
College Essay Examples - Strong and Weak
Good College Essay Example
My mom said that I couldn’t have a girlfriend my junior year so that I could focus on my studies. Believe me, I was not happy with that house rule. When summer rolled around, I finally found someone. We met once a week.
Marion, a ninety-four year old woman, was still living in the same house in which she was born. Although mobile and clear-minded, Marion was unable to make weekly runs to the supermarket so I volunteered to help. My first experience as Marion’s shopper proved to be a major challenge. After exchanging greetings and chatting for a minute, Marion handed me her shopping list. My eyes drifted nonchalantly over the items and then screeched to a dead stop at the words, “Depends Adult Diapers.” Oh, great!
As I drove to the supermarket I tried to convince myself that I was being an idiot. Who cared what I was shopping for? Who would notice what I had in my shopping cart? With my luck, only the entire world!
Fortunately, the sane side of me won the mental and emotional battle that raged within. I courageously plucked the huge purple and white package with monstrously large letters identifying its contents from the shelf, fending off the piercing glances of those who found my purchase somewhat peculiar. I advanced towards the checkout counter and definitely dropped the diapers on the register. I even refused a bag when asked “paper or plastic?” I walked out into the sunny parking lot with my head held high and my prize in hand. I had won the humiliation battle for the fair maid Marion.
As the weeks passed, I found that Marion and I clicked and made a real connection. Each week I stayed with Marion just to talk and soon discovered what an amazing woman she was. She had worked in Japan where she taught children of WWII American soldiers. She had spent her childhood summers at camp in Maine and her winters sledding down the hills outside her home. Marion was selfless enough to ask whether I was getting bored, but I always reassured her that I loved listening to her stories. Her enthusiastic personality and contagious laughter kept me enthralled for hours. I can sincerely say that Marion is one of the happiest people I have ever met.
As the summer passed, Marion was no longer a ninety-four year old woman to me. And it may sound odd, but the two of us became real friends. I learned so much from her in the eight weeks we spent together. She temporarily removed me from my upper-middle class, materialistic bubble and refocused me on what really counts in life: time spent in simple conversation with friends and family is a necessity for happiness.
When I think back at how annoyed I was with my mom when she told me that a girlfriend was out of the question, I have to smile. My time with Marion turned out to be a real gift, and our friendship is something that I will cherish forever. As we said our goodbyes, Marion thanked me for doing her shopping, but more importantly, for allowing her to relive so many of her past experiences. I could feel my eyes water as I got up to leave, but I held back my tears and promised that I would stop by again soon. What began as a mitzvah turned into a true friendship. I guess that’s only fitting. From good deeds come great rewards and my time with Marion proved to be the greatest prize of all.
Weak College Essay Example
I believe the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke is an excellent match for me. I believe college should not be merely a gateway to the workforce; it should educate the student in a variety of subjects and prepare him or her for the range of challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in life. I have always been a curious person and enjoy reading all kinds of literature and nonfiction. In high school I excelled in history, English, AP psychology, and other liberal arts subjects. I have not yet decided on a major, but when I do, it will almost certainly be in the liberal arts, such as history or political science. I know that Trinity College is very strong in these areas. But regardless of my major, I want to receive a broad education that spans a variety of areas in the liberal arts, so that I will graduate as not only a viable job prospect, but also as a well-rounded and learned adult who can make diverse and valuable contributions to my community. I believe Duke’s Trinity College will help me grow and become that kind of person.