As a former college admissions officer who read over 3,000 essays every admissions cycle, I can’t stress enough that students should consider quality over quantity when drafting college essays. My colleagues have previously written blog posts encouraging students to draft essays in their everyday voice, and to avoid replacing normal words with cousins from the thesaurus. The bigger picture here is to tell your own story as clearly and concisely as you can. The same goes for the length of your personal statement—hone in on the specific message you want to convey and deliver it as succinctly as you can.
Admission officers prioritize content over quantity. I never met an admission officer who literally counted the words in a college essay. Outliers in either direction were immediately noticed, though—writing 250 words when the space accommodates 650, or submitting 2-3 pages when a single page was requested—can send a bad first impression. But the difference between 280 words and 315 words, or 512 words and 627 words, will go completely unnoticed. Admission officers do notice, however, the clarity of your thought and the effectiveness with which you convey your ideas. If your message was well-said in 250 words but the maximum was 300, so you added 50 words of fluff, those 50 words are diluting the strength of your message. Similarly, if you wrote a 500-word piece you’re proud of but the maximum is 300, please don’t go line-by-line to delete extra words; instead, reconsider the scope of your essay, because you may have selected a larger topic than can be thoughtfully addressed within the word count.
For those of you still concerned about the literal word count: The most common “personal statement” length is in the ballpark of 500 words. The three standardized application portals—the Common App, the Universal App, and the Coalition App—all request personal statements capped at 650 words, but that’s the absolute limit, at which point your writing will be cut off. I consider 500 the “sweet spot,” but don’t stress if you write an essay closer to 430 or 620 that you’re honestly proud of. Many colleges also ask for short answer responses, sometimes called supplemental prompts or personal insight questions, in the range of 150, 250, or 350 words; in this case, aim for the suggested length and be aware of the hard limits on either end, but don’t stress if you’re over or under by 10-15%.
My College Experience Essay examples
507 Words3 Pages
My College Experience
Throughout my lifetime I have listened to people reflect back on their college experiences and explain how college is supposed to be “the best experience of your life.” The summer after my senior year I use to try and imagine what my first semester was going to be like based on what I had heard people talk about in the past. After my first semester at NC State I realized that I couldn’t fully understand what college was like until I experienced it for myself. My first couple of weeks at Ohio State was rough and really tested my strength (mental and physical). I faced challenges and obstacles that I had never heard about in those past college experience conversations. All of a sudden there was no one to get me out of…show more content…
I can remember missing 8:05 classes because I stayed out too late the night before. In high school the teacher would constantly remind the students when certain assignments were due, but this was not the case in college. I learned that the hard way my first semester. Sometimes I forgot to turn in an assignment because I didn’t properly read my syllabus and my professor never mentioned it. These were all new problems that could have easily let escalate without taking the proper actions. For the most part I was doing fairly well but a few of my grades began to plummet. I was losing the confidence in myself and started to wonder if going to college had been the best decision. The time had come for me to grow up and become an adult even I didn’t feel the time was right. I immediately began attending tutoring sessions, working with peers and also keeping a daily to-do list. These factors were the eventually led to drastic improvement and success. After my first semester I learned how better manage my time, take advantage of campus resources and also how to organize myself better. These struggles also taught me that sometimes I try and rush through things instead of taking my time. I realized that one of my strong points is being able to really do well when my back is against the wall. Although I was unhappy while facing obstacles I am happy I experienced them. I believe this experience was the reason for my