Common App Essay Length, Word Limit, How to Write

What is the length of the common app essay? How many words should it be? How should you write this essay?

These are the questions asked by tens of thousands students, English professors, parents, guidance counselors every single year.

Why is the Common App essay so important?

Not only does the essay help decide whether or not you get accepted into a college, it also plays a major role in scholarships as well.

Writing about the right topic, sure, is important.

But even more importantly is HOW you write about the topic you choose.

Let’s talk some winning strategies for how to write an amazing college essay.

Common App Essay Length & Word Limit

image by Morten Oddvik Via Flickr Creative Commons

Most college essays are not very long at all.

In fact, the common app suggested essay word limit is actually just 650 words.

Many students can write a fine essay that is just 400 – 500 words.

On a double spaced page, that is maximum two pages.

So, the first and foremost thing to consider when writing your college essay is the following:

Don’t be overly wordy.

Plan out your words, ideas, sentences, phrases carefully.

There are supplementary essays for some schools, in addition to the common app essay, that are just 300 words or less. If you think about it, that’s only 10-12 sentences or so.

How can you make an incredibly strong first impression in just 12-20 sentences or so? We discuss this next…


How to Write an Amazing Common App Essay

photo by Alejandro Escamilla via Wikimedia Commons

People think that students who get accepted into top colleges have to be extremely well-rounded and accomplished in multiple areas.

This is simply not true.

As a matter of fact, schools are actually very interested in students with a “slant” rather than “well-roundedness.”

Let’s talk about this.

Well-rounded means you do a little bit of everything. Student council, honors band, athletics, etc.

This is the old paradigm for getting into the Ivy league caliber schools.

The new paradigm is slant.

Slant means extreme accomplishment and/or passion in one area.

Music, engineering, technology, writing, fiction, history, science…

A student who has showcased extreme passion and dedication towards one particular field tends to be more interesting to schools.

The essay should reflect a student’s focus and #1 passion.


On the next page, we talk about the common app prompts and which one you should choose…

19 COMMENTS

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