What’s the Final Word about the Word Count for Essays?
The essays on the College Board's Common Application must be between 250 and 650 words. Shorter or longer essays will be rejected when they're electronically submitted. It’s that simple. Or is it?Students understand the concept, but sometimes they still aren’t sure how long their essays should be. I helped a student whose completed essay was just under 300 words. We were both happy with his results, except he was nervous about its length. I assured him the essay wasn’t missing anything. He had told his story, it was concise, and it was good. Padding it with extra words would have diluted its impact. What admissions officer would want to read an essay longer than necessary?
On the other hand, I’ve worked with students whose essays had lacked details or examples. Illustrating something with a little story is always much better than making a flat statement with little or no support. Sometimes this increases the word count so much we have some serious editing to perform. I show the students how their paragraphs can be tightened rather than butchered away.
People often ask for my opinion about the ideal length for the college application essay. I'm sure my answer doesn't please them.
The best number of words, I tell them, depends on what the student needs to say. It’s enough words to relay a great story, but not so many to make the reader want to speed through it. Some short essays grab the reader’s attention and tell a lot with relatively few words. Other short essays don’t say much and leave the reader with an empty feeling about it. Likewise, some long essays are so entertaining the reader savors each word and feels like he would like to meet the student to see if he or she is really who the reader has envisioned. Other long essays may be boring, prompting the reader to skim through them so he can move on to better ones.
This is my ninth blog posting for Montgomery Community Media. The word count for each of my posts has been within the parameters for the essays on the Common App. My blog has no word count restrictions, but I have voluntarily kept them within these parameters to prove to myself the range is enough to relay most stories.
Which of my postings have you liked most or least? I would like to see if there is any correlation to the word count, or if it’s simply a preference of content. Let me know.
By the way, at 467 words, this is roughly my average word count for my blog posts to date. The question, however, is how does it rank at being helpful?