Common Application Adds Word Limit to Essay Question

Good news, juniors! While there are no major changes to next year’s Common Application, we found one interesting modification during a sneak peak last week.
For the first time, the Common Application will specify a word limit (250 – 500 words) for the main essay question; previously there was a 250-word minimum yet no maximum word count.

Because there was no maximum length, many students, certain more was better, wrote exceptionally long essays — some close to 1,000 words, or possibly more. Just imagine what it must have been like for the admissions folks at the 460 member colleges and universities reading all of those essays.  Some complained to the Common Application bosses, who decided to impose a word limit.

While this is not earth-shattering news, it is food for thought.We teach our students to write for their audience: college admissions officers. In this case, the audience members have limited time to read through the stacks of applications they receive; yours should be unique, yet also clean and to the point. Unless you are asked to write 1,000 words, don’t. You can certainly make your case for admission in 500 words or less.

If we were admissions officers, we would send thank you notes to candidates who completed essays in just 250 words.  Less can be best, as long as you answer the prompt in your own words and in your own voice.

We do not know if the word length will be enforced, but we recommend taking it seriously. Here is a preview of  next year’s Common Application form.

Wow Writing Workshop can teach you how to write your essays and prepare for ACT/SAT writing tests.  Spring ACT/SAT writing prep classes for sophomores and juniors have begun;  Wow them with Your College Essay classes for juniors begin next week. To learn more, join us at a free informational session for teens and parents, or invite us to speak (for free) to your group, or at your school.

For a full list of classes, check out our schedule.