Writing the best essay requires skill and insight and, in this article, we will show you the best college essay formats in 2024
Unlike high school projects, which often have a hard page limitation, most universities give their application essays a word limit or word range. This approach ensures that, regardless of font or formatting, essays have the same length.
As a general guideline, students should aim to reach as close to the upper limit of the word range as feasible without exceeding it. Continue reading to learn more about the best practices for college essay length.
College Essay Format and Word Count Limits
The majority of colleges have a word count limit or range. If there’s a limit, you should try to go as close to it as possible, and if there’s a range, you should try to stay within it.
If you go over the limit, your essay may be cut off, or if you go under the range, your essay may be rejected. You don’t want to convey the idea that you can’t follow directions – it’s a great way to get your essay off to a negative start before they’ve even read a single word!
But what if no limit or range is specified? In certain circumstances, we suggest keeping to the regular word count of 400-600 words. That will offer you ample opportunity to present your case!
The main essay for your college application, often known as a personal statement, is usually between 400 and 600 words long.
The Common App personal statement, which is utilized by over 800 universities as the primary application essay, must be between 250 and 650 words long.
Although some institutions do not use the Common App, their key essays are usually in a similar ballpark. For example, the University of California system wants four essays of little more than 350 words each.
We recommend striving for the higher end of the provided limit or range, regardless of where you’re applying, in order to adequately portray who you are as a person and student.
Supplements & Scholarship Essays
In addition to the personal statement, most colleges demand extra writing. Supplementary and scholarship essays vary in length based on the school’s requirements, but they are frequently shorter than the personal statement or primary essay, particularly if many additional essays are required.
Some colleges need a large number of extra essays, each with its own word count limit.
For instance, Georgetown wants four extra essays ranging in length from 250 to 700 words, while Stanford requires a staggering eleven supplemental essays ranging in length from 10 to 250 words.
Unless you’re quite certain you can answer the prompt entirely and successfully in fewer words, the lower the word count limit, the more closely you should stick to it.
How to Shorten Your Essay
You can go above the word limit on some application portals, but there are good reasons to do so:
‣ To keep the attention of the admissions officer
‣ To demonstrate your ability to follow instructions
‣ To show that you can write succinctly
Here are some tips on how to make your essay shorter:
‣ Keep your focus on the essential point.
‣ It’s fine to employ vivid images, but only include details that are relevant. Remove any tangents or extraneous material from your phrases.
‣ Eliminate wordiness
‣ Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay. If a word doesn’t add value, cut it.
Common App Essay Word Limit
It’s critical to stick to the word restrictions set by the college. It may appear that you are sloppy or uninterested about the school’s standards if you write too little. Overwriting, on the other hand, may indicate that you are unable to follow instructions or write concisely.
Keep your essays under the word limit for the best results. While you don’t have to hit the count exactly, you should try to remain within 10% of the upper limit, avoiding “fluff” or “filler content.”
If the school requires 500 words, for example, make sure your essay is between 450 and 500 words.
Even though the specified range is 250-650 words, strive to stay within 550-650 words for the Common App. Any less than 500 words will appear careless, and it will not be long enough to fully express who you are and what important to you.
Most application portals will cut off your writing if it surpasses the top of the range, so it’s better not to go over the word limit.
What if a College Essay Word Count isn’t Given?
Although most institutions specify a word count for candidates, some provide more general guidelines. A college, for example, may need a specific amount of pages or paragraphs.
If you aren’t given a word count, strive to follow writing conventions and best practices. Avoid creating paragraphs that are either too short or too long—a safe upper limit is 250 words per paragraph.
Stick to a standard font and font size (such as Times New Roman 12) if you’re requested to write a certain number of pages, single- or double-spaced.
If the college doesn’t offer guidelines, shoot for an essay length of 500 words.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How long should an average college essay be?
College essays are usually pretty short: between 150 and 650 words. Admissions officers have to read a lot of them, after all!
2. What is a Good Length for a College Application Essay?
Your Common Application essay must be between 250 words and 650 words.
3. How Long Should a College Personal Statement Essay be?
The primary essay for your college application, often called a personal statement, is typically around 400-600 words
4. How Long will it take to write a College Application Essay?
While timetables vary by student, expect on spending at least 1–3 weeks thinking and writing the initial draft of your college applications essay, as well as at least 2–4 weeks refining over many iterations.