How Many Words is a College Essay? How Long Should It Be?

How Many Words is a College Essay? How Long Should It Be?

You might be wondering how many words is a college essay when you first begin writing one. To learn the solutions, continue reading.

The most challenging aspect of applying to college can be coming up with your college essay. Even after reading the prompt and choosing a topic, you might still be unsure of how much or how little writing will affect your chances of being accepted. What is the ideal length for a college essay?

If your institution doesn’t provide a specific word count, it’s best to keep your essay between the length established by the longer college admissions essay format: 150 to 650 words.

As you compose your college application essay, word count is only one aspect to take into account. Let’s discuss additional factors, such as whether a longer essay makes a difference and whether it’s acceptable to go over the word limit.

How Many Words is a College Essay?

It’s possible that you’re used to submitting your writing assignments with a page limit (for instance, a 10-page paper). While some colleges provide page limits for their college essays, most use a word limit instead. This ensures that all of the essays a college receives, regardless of formatting or font, are the same length.

Simply put, your college essay should be about the right length—not too close, but not too far—from the word limit. Consider the word limit as the upper bound and the first 50 words as the lower bound. Therefore, aim for a word count of 450–500 for a 500–word essay. Don’t stray from the range they give you if one is given.

How Many Words is a College Essay? How Long Should It Be?

The word limit is typically stated in the prompt or in the instructions for college essay assignments.

For example, the University of Illinois says:

“As part of your application, you will respond to two to three questions. Whether you are applying to a major or to our undeclared program, as well as whether you have made a second choice, will determine the questions you must answer. Approximately 150 words should be used for each response.”

The University of Illinois serves as an excellent example of how little space—less than half a page—can be allotted for an essay in college. A word limit of more than 650 words (or one page of single-spaced text) is uncommon.

Between 150 and 650 words are the typical word count for college essays. After all, admissions officers must read a lot of them!

How to Measure Your College Essay’s Word Count?

The program you use to write your essay will determine how many words it has. The two most widely used ones are Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

  • Microsoft Word: On your screen, the page count is typically visible in the lower left corner. You can also click “Review” and then “Word count” to find how much you’ve written.
  • Google Docs: Under “Tools,” click on “Word count.” You can also highlight a portion of your text before clicking “word count” so you can determine the exact word count of that section.

Can I Go Over the Word Limit?

How Many Words is a College Essay? How Long Should It Be?

Do not exceed the allowed word count, to put it simply. According to the college application platform Common App, which partners with over 900 colleges in the US, if there isn’t a preferred word count, submit an essay that is under 650 words.

Admissions committee members are looking for well-written, directive essays. Every year, officers read through thousands of essays. In fact, 9,071 applications were submitted to colleges on average in 2020. Writing a very brief essay or one that is very long could give the wrong impression if you ignore the instructions in both cases.

To tighten your essay and get it down to the desired word count, you can always start with a longer draft and cut out the parts that are the most superfluous. This will assist you in including the most crucial details and effectively communicating your point.

Further Reading: How to End a College Essay?

Can I Go Under the Word Limit?

It’s probably okay if you can effectively communicate your ideas in far fewer words than the allotted space. As long as you are concise, cogent, and clear in what you write, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The majority of college essays, though, have fairly strict word counts. Therefore, if you’re writing 300 words for a 500-word essay, ask yourself if there’s anything else you could add to clarify or support your points. Ask a parent, friend, or teacher for advice on where you could add more detail or develop your points.

Also, if the college gives you a word range, you absolutely need to at least hit the bottom end of the range. So if you get a range from the institution, like 400-500 words, you need to write at least 400 words. The last impression you want to convey is that you have nothing to say if you write less.

How Many Words is a College Essay? How Long Should It Be?

What Length Should Supplemental College Essays Be?

Some colleges and universities also require students to submit supplemental essays in place of a personal statement or college essay. The admissions committee may ask why you want to attend or what you want to study and why, giving you the chance to explain why that particular school interests you.

At least two or three supplemental essays are typically required by schools, but some have been known to request over ten. For supplemental essays, the majority of schools will give clear instructions regarding word limits.

As with the college essay, adhere to the parameters and write a focused response that takes into account your understanding of the institution.

The Length of Each Part in an Essay

The Length of Different Kinds of Essays

The Length of Essays in Different Grades

How to Format Your College Essay?

Similarly to word counts, many institutions specify any formatting specifications, such as double spacing (as opposed to single spacing). single-spacing) your essay, and what font size you should use. (Common App and other general online application portals will automatically format your essay for you.)

Writing in a larger font and using double-spaced formatting won’t affect the length of your essay because college essays are judged by word count rather than page length, though it’s best to follow each college’s requirements. Verify any guidelines you must adhere to for each application you submit.

Conclusion: How Many Words is a College Essay?

You should stay within 10% of the maximum word count specified by the majority of college application websites for your essay. We advise keeping your essay between 150 and 650 words if there is no word count requirement.

In general, it’s best to adhere to the word count restriction or range; it’s been given for a reason! If you write too much or too little, your essay will probably be cut off, and the readers may assume that you aren’t really interested in their school.


Are 350 Words Enough for a College Essay?

Generally speaking, 350-500 words work well. Although it’s brief, this is just long enough to develop concepts. With such a constrained word count, how can you be exhaustive, captivating, and detailed without being overly wordy? The ideal essay must be carefully thought out and planned.

Are 300 Words Enough for a College Essay?

Writing too little or too much can give readers the impression that you aren’t genuinely interested in their school, and both can result in your essay being cut off. If no range is given, remember to stick to 400-600 words. You’ll have ample room to express your enthusiasm and let readers get to know you this way.

Are 700 Words Enough for a College Essay?

For personal statements and college essays, many schools impose a word or page limit. If the program that you’re applying to doesn’t have a limit, you’ll want your essay to be around 500-700 words. In either case, you should write your essay succinctly while also thoroughly outlining your main points.

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