Top universities across the world often require a series of admissions essays for their MBA and UG programs. While they might ask a similar set of questions from the applicants, they might bring in variation by means of a word limit. It is important to remember that adhering to the word limit is critical.
As you probably know, admissions essays may be classified on the basis of word limits. University essays range from very short answer-type questions to long essay-type questions. The range of word limits, hence, may vary from 100-200 words to about 1000 words. Remember that the word limit must always be honoured and taken seriously.
What is word limit in an admission essay?
Simply put, word limit means how long a college essay should be. A word limit ensures a standard length for all the essays a college receives, regardless of formatting or font. A college essay should be close to the word limit and not exceed it. For instance, for a 500-word limit essay, try to keep the length of the essay between 400-500 words. If the authorities give a range, then keep the length of the essay within that range only.
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In short, the purpose of giving a specific word count is to standardize the process so that it becomes easy for Admission Committee (Ad Com) to compare the output among candidates. Keep in mind that the word limit is basically a test of the candidates’ ability to prioritize their thoughts and present them in a precise and impactful manner.
Process to Write Essays within the Word Limit
Before you start writing an essay, have a rough idea about how long your essay should be. If you think, the estimated word count seems less, include a few different ideas. However, if the word limit seems to exceed, then drop the less important ideas. Check the points given below to keep the essay within the word limit.
- Think of a high-level structure for the essay
- Note down the short phrases or words that highlight the main idea that you want to present
- According to your style of creating sentences, keep the average number of words in mind that you need to elaborate on each idea
- Combine all the ideas together and check if the word limit is exceeding or decreasing and work in and around it accordingly.
How to Format College Essay?
When it comes to the word limit, many colleges specify the formatting requirements such as double-spacing your essay or which font size you should use. Though a college essay is measured by the word count rather than the page length, writing in a larger font and using double-spaced formatting shall not affect the overall length of your essay. So, it is best to adhere to the guidelines of the college.
Also, Read about Importance of Vocabulary in your Admission Essay
Can I go beyond the word limit?
The answer to this will be no. It is advised not to go over the maximum word count. If there is no preferred word count, then as per the college application form platform, Common App, it is safe to submit an essay that is under 650 words. Admission Officers look for well-written essays that follow directions. Every year, officers review thousands of essays. Ignoring the directions or word limit and writing a very long or short essay, may send the wrong impression.
So, if you go beyond the word limit, start trimming the unnecessary parts of the essay and get it down to the preferred word count. This will help in including the important information and will convey the main point of your essay in a precise way. If you exceed the word limit in a noticeable way, the admission officers may just stop reading your essay beyond the decided word count. What it means is that if you were asked to write an answer in 300 words, and you wrote it in about 350 words, they would simply not read the last 50 words. In extreme cases, the Ad Com can simply reject the essay as being ‘too long’, and not read it at all, marking the application as ‘invalidated’. Therefore, it is a good general rule to follow the instructions that have been given to you by the institution about the word limit.
Can I go under the Word Limit?
It is clear that college essays have a strict word limit policy, so if you are writing 300 words for an essay that has a 500-word limit, it is better to ask yourself, is there anything more that you could add to support your points? You can also take help on this from your friend, teacher or parents on where you could elaborate your points.
If the college gives you a word range, then it is advised to follow that. For example, if the college gives you a word range of 400-500 words, then you need to at least write 400 words. In case, if you write less, it will come across as if you have nothing constructive to say.
Some Tips for Writing an Effective College Essay
To make your college essay stand out from the other applications, you can follow the points given below:
- Write a few drafts: Before sharing the final draft of your essay, your college essay should go through a few drafts. It is advised to utilize the rough draft phase by overwriting. In a sense, forget about the word count for a moment and let yourself write freely. This will help you write something new or help you expand your idea. Once you are done with your writing, start editing your essay. While editing, return to your essay with a fresh mind and see what you can cut short.
- Be authentic: Whatever you choose to write, make sure it is an authentic representation of who you are. As you go on to write your essay, go one step further by writing what you have learned in a particular situation and how you have grown as a person from that situation.
- Be specific: When you are stating an experience, try to make use of creative writing in your personal statement. In other words, use details to describe a situation in a better way. For this, you can use specific adjectives that highlight the action and scene.
- Ask for feedback: After developing the final draft, do not rush to send it over to the authorities. Instead, ask one of your family members or a teacher, or a friend to read your essay and get constructive feedback. This could include making changes if something is unclear or re-writing a section. Be prepared to make the changes, as required.
Word Limit and College Essays FAQs
Q. Do colleges look at the word limit for essays?
Q. Is it fine to go below the word limit of the essays?
Q. What will colleges do if you go over the word limit?
Q. Do colleges prefer short essays or long essays?
Q. What do colleges look for in essays?
Q. Does the college essay length matter?
Q. How can I make my college essay stand out?
Q. What are the most common mistakes that you should avoid while writing a college essay?
Q. What are some of the great qualities of an outstanding college essay?
Q. How can you avoid going over the word limit in a college essay?
Q. Who should write admission essay for college on behalf of the applicant?
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