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.
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Becky Leichtling is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts.
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.Below are just a few of the short and sweet things you need to know about the 2019-2020 Common App essay, but we’ll elaborate on some of this content later in this post.The million dollar question about the Common App essay is obviously, “How do I actually write it?!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.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.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%.That said, plenty of colleges still require their own application components, and the Common App, as user-friendly as it aims to be, can still feel like a bit of a challenge to complete.Part of the reason the Common App can seem intimidating is because of the Common App essay component, which is required of all students who submit a college application this way. In reality, the Common App essay is easy to ace if you know how to approach it and you give it your best.