1 Nizuru

Many Pages 650 Word Essay

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%.

The word count for a page will vary depending on font size and type, margin size, and spacing elements (single/double space, blank lines, subheadings, graphics).

For a page with 1 inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman font, and minimal spacing elements, a good rule of thumb is 500 words for a single spaced page and 250 words for a double spaced page. Using this as an example, a 3-4 page double spaced paper is 750-1000 words, and a 7 page double spaced paper would be 1750 words.

Assignments often specify a research paper or essay length in terms of words, rather than pages - a paper of 750-1000 words or a paper of 1500-1750 words. This way a student's paper will still meet their instructor's length expectations, regardless of varying font size, margin size, or use spacing elements.

When viewing an electronic version of a student paper in MicroSoft Word, the exact word count can be easily determined. Some research assignments require students to include the word count of their paper.

Also, clarify with your instructor whether the words on the title page, abstract (if used), and reference list count toward the expected word/page count.

Leave a Comment

(0 Comments)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *