How to know if your college essay is too long or too short


Writing a college essay can prove to be quite a challenge. Even if you have already picked a topic and know precisely what you want to include, there are still numerous things you have to consider. After all, it is a crucial document you have to provide, and therefore, you have to make sure to meet all the requirements.

One of the most common dilemmas students have is regarding the essay’s length. Can it be too short or too long? How to know if it’s just right? How to adjust it? In the following article, we will discuss these questions and tell you about some tips you should use while completing this task.

Follow the instructions


Surely you have written many essays in the past, but the length of these was based on the number of pages (5-page paper). Well, when it comes to college essays, you have to follow the number of words. Colleges count the words to ensure that all application papers are similar in length, regardless of the font and format of the paper.

When it comes to this, the limit varies between schools. Some accept letters that are only 200 words long, while generally speaking, the upper limit is about 600 words. Yes, it is pretty short, which can be a challenge of its own since you have to find a way to express your thoughts while making sure that the essay is clear and concise.

Due to this reason, you have to read the instructions carefully. This document states what you need to include in your essay, and naturally, it also determines how long your paper should be.

Is it too short or too long?


Now, this is the big question. Can this paper be too long or too short? The answer to this question is obvious. If it is not within the word count limit, you need to work on it once again. Yes, you have to follow this rule because otherwise, your application may not even be considered. It can demonstrate your lack of interest or the ability to write concisely.

The rule is that you have to meet the lower limit. For example, if the instructions state that you should write between 250 and 600 words, make sure that you reach that 250-word mark. On the other hand, when it comes to the max number, you don’t have to meet it, but you have to stay within a 10% difference. If you are required to write 500 words, you can submit a paper that is between 450-500.

How flexible is this?


If you have already written something that doesn’t meet these requirements down to the last detail, you are probably wondering whether you can submit it. First of all, let’s discuss what can happen if you exceed this number. If you have extra 20 words that will probably be okay. However, if it is significantly longer, the admission officer may stop reading it, and you won’t be considered as an applicant.

Furthermore, you have to consider how you will send this document. If you need to email it, it will be fine. On the other hand, if you have to copy/paste it and send it via the college’s platform, there may be an issue. What are we talking about? Well, if this is the case, there probably is a word limit you can include, meaning that you won’t be able to copy the entire text if it has even a few extra of these.

Finally, you also may be perceived as someone how cannot follow the rules, hasn’t mastered the writing skill, and cannot express themselves concisely.

On the other note, no, you should not go under this word range. If it isn’t specifically stated, you can maybe write a shorter essay. Still, you have to learn about the average word count and try to stay within it. If this requirement is clearly indicated, you have to meet it. Otherwise, the admission officer probably won’t even bother reading it, and it will tell them that you are not very enthusiastic about attending their school.

How to adjust it?


This is another common problem people face. When working on this task, it may seem impossible to conclude it successfully if you have a lot to say, or not enough on the other hand. Still, there are some general tips you should follow, and you can always learn more about these on

The very first thing you can do is go over the essay and look for long sentences. You will surely find a few of these. The easiest way to reduce the word number is to rewrite these. If possible, cut one long sentence into two shorter ones. This way, you will eliminate all the redundant words and make sure the paper clear and easy to read.

Then, read it one more time and check if you have included too many non-essential details. The rule is to avoid these at all cost. Why? Well, you have to write an attention-grabbing story, and these details can easily cause the reader to lose interest and forget about the main message of the essay.

On the contrary, if you didn’t meet the lower limit, you have to include additional details. Think of the way you can make your story appealing. Did you leave out some important information? Are there any essential details that can make your story even better? You should always choose to include these instead of writing lengthy sentences just to meet the word requirement.

The best thing you can do to prevent any of these issues from occurring is first to write the outline of the essay. Brainstorming is a great place to start, and you can even use a mind map. Start with a general idea, and then add supporting details and information. You should also write an outline before you start working on the first draft. This will enable you to have a clear image of how the final draft will look like and the direction you want to go to.

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