Essay length

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Essay length
By Schoolmarm (Schoolmarm) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:18 am: Edit

ISO advice re essay length. Does 250(500)mean just that or is there leeway to exceed by some amount and, if so, how much? Has anyone's S/D applied (with success) with essays exceeding the 250/500 limit? Thanks.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:25 am: Edit

I think if they give you directions, you are meant to follow them.

By Schoolmarm (Schoolmarm) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:28 am: Edit

That was my assumption, but I've seen so many essay posts here that exceed that length that I wondered if that was more the rule than the exception. Thanks.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:34 am: Edit

Don't go by what the kids on here are posting. Many are posting essays that are too long. I think the colleges would not give a word count if they did not care about it. I would use that word count as a guide and stick within the ballpark. My kids kept editting to get their essays to within 10% of the word count. So, if they ask for 500, do NOT go over 550. If it is between 500-550, then it is approximately the length they have asked for, and they are not going to count the words. Once you go over by more than that, it is quite noticeable. Make the essay fit the space given, even if you are attaching it as a separate sheet of paper, think of it as fitting the allotted space. So, yes, pay attention to the word count and it need not be exact but it should be close in the ballpark. Ten percent is a good rule of thumb. Going over that not only shows that you are not following directions, but why would you do anything to jeopardize your application and you really cannot say whether they WILL mind a longer essay but the odds are that they will because they bothered to state a word length. If you are still questioning this, the best thing to do is call the admissions office and ask them directly.

(I have one child who just began college and one who is applying and this is what they have done)


By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:38 am: Edit

I have had to read essays for national scholarship programs. Exceeding the limit does not help a student's chances. It only irritates the committee.

I have never seen a essay that exceeded the requested length that needed to do that. In every case, what the student needed to do was to take the time to rigorously edit.

Particularly irritating are students that fill their essays with superfluous details or who have long introductions that add no useful info but only serve to waste the readers' time.

It's forgiveable if a student, for instance, runs over 10-25 words when asked to write a 500-word essay. Submitting a 600-word essay, though, is a sign that the student is inconsiderate of the reviewers' time and also of other people's standards.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:45 am: Edit

And, I would add, does not have discipline enough or decision-making capability enough to edit.

By Garland (Garland) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:51 am: Edit

My view is that even if you do hear anecdotes of people who got accepted with overly long essays, you will never know the whole story (maybe they're a rich legacy, maybe they're Tolstoy). It's still taking a chance, and it's a chance no one has to take: you can always edit any essay to the required length.

By Drusba (Drusba) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 12:28 pm: Edit

Look at it this way: you are an ad-com who has to review the apps and essays for the first cut. You have to review 700 to 1500 in a couple weeks time. You are going along fine and get through 80 with no one exceeding the limit. Its midnight and you still want to get through 10 more before going to bed. You are on your tenth cup of coffee and feeling wired and somewhat irritable. You start to go through the next application and get to the essay and its 200 words (a page) over the limit. Do you think to yourself, "Gosh, this is a very interesting essay from a top-notch student and I should really review the whole thing"? Or do you ask, "What do I do to make this ingrate, who can't follow instructions, suffer?"

In published interviews of ad-coms I have seen, one of the biggest complaints they make is about applicants exceeding the allowed essay limits. Some don't mind if the essay is excellent, some have stated they don't read past the allowed limit, and most comment that the brilliant student who firmly believed that he had so many important things to say that he could not possibly cover the same information within the allowed limit was greatly misinformed.

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