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Craig Meister, the College Meister, is the publisher of Admissions. He’s previously held university admissions and high school college and career counseling positions in Baltimore, West Palm Beach, and Rio de Janeiro.
Many students trip over common obstacles in their college application essays.
When you’re a real estate developer in Manhattan and you’re allowed to build twenty-five stories, you don’t build ten stories and dedicate the rest of the space for the native pigeons of Manhattan. Capitalizing on the maximum word count of college essays doesn’t just apply to the Common Application Personal Statement, which allows applicants to write 650 words. If Dartmouth asks you to write 300 words, don’t give them 250 words because you think empty space looks nice. When Dartmouth admissions officers come across an essay that doesn’t come close to their max word count, they’re likely to think, “This kid doesn’t love our school enough to put in the work to write an essay specifically for us.
She probably wants to go elsewhere.” And if that thought happens to cross the mind of an admissions officer, the odds are good that same admissions officer is unlikely to offer the student a spot in the incoming class. It applies to every highly selective institution in America. Go up to the maximum word or character count in these opportunities too — and opportunities is the right word because that’s precisely what they are. For example, many students can’t see beyond the superficial prompt to construct an essay that positively communicates their personality and passion.Some students rehash their activities and achievements without adding the personal flavor, perspective and substance that admissions officers look for. As an independent college admissions consultant, I read many application essays and see many common application essay mistakes.If this sounds like you, then please share your story. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve.Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. If you are a member of the Class of 2018, your time to start drafting is now!Students who have 500 to 650 words to work with are able to smoothly touch down in a way that puts the cherry on top of the entire flying/essay reading experience.At the end of the day, admissions officers read your essays because they want to fly the friendly skies with you into your world.Think of a 500- to 650-word essay as a smooth and enjoyable flight from D. Next, just as one wants to have an enjoyable in-flight experience with the fasten seatbelt sight off and flight attendants passing out drinks and snacks, so to does a 500- to 650-word essay allow readers to relax a bit.In 500 to 650 words students are able to produce non-rushed, non-turbulent, highly valuable descriptive and specific body paragraphs that go a long way toward proving the essay’s thesis.This is why none of our clients have ever submitted a Common App essay consisting of fewer than 450 words.With that said, the true sweet spot in Common Application essay writing, for this current year’s prompts and prompts going back over a decade, is 500 to 650 words.