Last Update: February 25, 2021

How Long Should a College Essay Be? Tips to Write Concisely

How Long Should Your College Admission Essay Be? What Is the Ideal Length?

As you’re beginning to compose your thoughts for the application letter, you should be asking the following question “How long should a college essay be? In fact, it’s a prerequisite for writing, and you shouldn’t start before finding a clear answer.

We’ll go over how many words for college essay you should include in the final version. Also, you’ll find useful tips to keep your writing brief and to the point, avoiding any excess phrases or unnecessary formatting.

College Essay Length Caps

Most of the higher education establishment explicitly state the minimum and maximum wordcounts to establish a bound on the college essays length for the applicants. It can differ from institution to institution, so you should be careful and not extrapolate the requirements of one university onto all of them.

To answer your question, “How long should a college essay be?” you should simply refer to the establishment’s website. They usually contain all the necessary information for applicants to successfully create a good letter.

Usual College Essays Length

Many higher education establishments have decided to standardize the college essay length. So, over 850 institutions have joined the association for unifying applications, which postulates that the word count should be 250 to 650 words.

However, if the establishment you’re applying to isn’t a part of this association, nor does it disclose the required length of college essay, then we recommend keeping it around 500-600 words. This is the most widespread size for applicant letters.

To improve your chances the most, try to make the most of the upper word count bound. This way, you’ll have the room to show off your personality without going into unnecessary detail. That’s the answer to “How many words for college essay?”

Not Being Able to Adhere to College Application Essay Length

However, it’s only a part of the answer – many young learners fail to fit all their ideas into, honestly, not that many words. After all, they’re trying to fit their personalities on only 2 pages of a document, which incredibly small. After editing it on their own to keep in line with the writing requirements, their letter doesn’t have as many ideas and points as it used to before.

Obviously, you also don’t want to go over the upper bound because long texts intimidate the reader, discouraging them from reading. Additionally, not following simple college essay length instructions shows that you might be a bad/unsuccessful learner.

It’s incredibly important for you to ask the “How long should a college essay be?” and adhere to the constraints. Composing succinctly forms a good first impression of your talent. Moreover, brevity should not conflict with information richness and actual presentation. But what to do?

How to Keep the Length of College Essay Short

Remember – any text can be shortened by at least 30%. Remove from the previous sentence the words “remember,” “at least,” “supposing,” and other stalling expressions and unnecessary points. It’ll become one-third shorter without losing its meaning, which is perfect for the essay’s length.

You have to option when it comes to cutting down on the word count. You can always let a professional from a college essay editing service do the final adjustments to your writing. Or, you can do it all yourself, employing our helpful tips!

1. Leave the Bureaucratic Language to Bureaucrats

The clerical and highly official writing style was once the standard, overflowing with templates, stamps, and other stylistic cacophonies. However, it’s not anymore, and you shouldn’t overuse clichés – they just extend college essay length without adding any meaning.

Let this writing style remain dominant in business correspondence, but we’re writing completely different kinds of text. The main disadvantage of bureaucracy is that every written piece can be conveyed in completely different words without cutting off its meaning.

2. Leave Out the Empty Clarifications

Everyone knows the word “which.” If you scan different texts carefully, you will notice how often it occurs. We’re not saying that this word is an enemy, but just hinting that its use is not entirely justified in at least half of the cases, and it simply increases the college essays length.

Often, after the word “which” follows definitions or clarifications. Simultaneously, they aren’t appropriate in every case because a normal reader usually can easily read the subtext and connotations. Don’t treat your applications officer as a fool by explaining everything and going over the college application essay word limit.

3. Stop Putting All the Clauses in One Sentence

Split up the sentences. Generally, you want to keep all sentences under 25 words – the shorter they are, the better. By having lots of clauses in one sentence, you’re not only increasing the college application essay length but also complicate the reading flow. This will make your writing hard to understand, which is something you should avoid.

4. Relax the Obsessive Tautology

In one sentence, learners use the same words and equivalent semantic constructions to give their idea increased significance. Let us inform you that it doesn’t work at all – it only shows that you don’t know how to structure your thoughts.

5. Avoid Sounding Highbrow

One of the important characteristics of a successful text is its sincerity. This is when the reader does not have any suspicions of exaggeration. Your writing is the direct communication with the applications officer, so you do not need to write phrases to them that you never say face-to-face in any environment. It only blows up the length of college essay.

6. Don’t Overuse the Passive Voice

Active and passive voices are very important parts of the English language. Passive constructs look as follows:

  • The layout was developed.
  • The book was printed.
  • An example was chosen.

We discourage you from using it because of two reasons. Number 1 – it makes it harder to keep up with college essay length requirements. Secondly, it usually makes your message less impactful, taking the “action” away from the person (you) and handing it over to the subject. It’s a psychological effect that actually plays a big role in reading.

7. Don’t Turn the Letter Into a Poem

There were situations when the learner was trying to write a Shakespearean-style poem in iambic pentameter instead of a simple letter to the applications officer. Let us tell you that this letter isn’t the place for lyrics passages and high metaphors. Your writing won’t be read for pleasure, sitting with a glass of Burgundy wine in an easy chair by the fireplace – it’s not what a college personal statement is for.

It has a very practical purpose – to present a learner in the best light. This will allow the officer better to decide whether to admit you or not. Any kind of poeticism will only make it harder for you to comply with the college application essay word limit and will worsen your chances of being admitted into the university.

8. Construct Creative Sentences

Read the following passage:

“I was in many sports sections when I was in my senior year of school. I was actively playing tennis. I went to 3 different competitions, and I even won 2 gold medals over this period. I also partook in swimming, but I didn’t compete. I’m not good enough of a swimmer to compete.”

Do you see something similar throughout the sentences? They all (even the clauses) start the same way – with “I [did something]…” Being uncreative like that is the easiest way to go over the college essay length requirements and destroy your chances of making a positive impression on the applications officer.

The structure of college application essay should be adequately creative and lexically, and grammatically diverse. This will allow your text to feel not only fresh but also be compact.

9.  Use Simple Verbs

The verb is our best friend because it symbolizes action. But next to this friend, some bad parts of speech and verbal phrases often revolve. What do we mean? If you end up using extremely complicated verbs, it usually leads to complicated sentence structures, which end up tautologically reiterated and explained after. This is a bad style and, at the same time, may increase the college application essay length.

Your college application essay should use simple verbs that lead to simple, short sentences – it’s not that hard. Don’t think that complicated words will make you seem smart – they won’t if your writing structure will suffer. However, if you use simple words to tell a personal story, your words will be effective.

To Sum Up

This article should’ve cleared all the confusion surrounding the question “How many words for college essay?” Remember to write briefly and with impact. How well you compose your letter will affect your future significantly, so give it your everything!

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