How Long Should the Common App Essay Be?

July 26, 2022
By AdmissionSight

How Long Should the Common App Essay Be?

What Is the Common App Essay?

Your primary personal statement for colleges that accept the Common App and require an essay is the Common App essay.

By selecting “Writing” under the “Common App” tab in your Common App account, you can access the Common App essay questions and instructions. How long should the Common App essay be? Your essay must be between 250 and 650 words in length and can be in response to one of seven prompts.

You have the opportunity to delve more deeply into your passions, experiences, interests, and skills with this statement. As long as your subject pertains to the prompt you’ve selected, you can talk about almost anything.

Additionally, there are no guidelines for narrative structure or style. All colleges that ask for an essay must receive the Common App, though some schools may also want you to submit one or more supplemental essays.

How Important Is the Common App Essay?

A crucial component of your college application is the Common App essay.

The personal statement was deemed to be moderately or considerably important by 56.4 percent of the colleges surveyed, per a 2019 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Institutions with a high level of selection tended to emphasize the essay more.

Female student typing in her desk.

Even though the majority of experts concur that a strong Common App essay won’t always guarantee you admission to a highly selective college, especially if your grades and test scores aren’t stellar, a well-written statement could be the difference between getting in or not.

How Many Paragraphs Should A Common App Essay Be?

Remember that 650 words are not a long essay, even if you use the entire length that is at your disposal. It roughly equates to a two-page essay with double spacing. Moving on to the next question, “How many paragraphs should a Common App essay be?”

Depending on the applicant’s writing style and essay strategy, most essays are typically between three and eight paragraphs long (essays with dialogue, of course, might have far more paragraphs).

Male student looking out the window of a library.

You should definitely keep the required length in mind as you plan your essay. Many applicants struggle to edit their essays down to 650 words because they try to do too much with them.

Recognize that the personal statement’s objective is not to provide a detailed account of your career or life history. Let your academic record, letters of recommendation, resume, list of extracurricular activities, and other supporting essays and materials demonstrate your breadth of experience. In addition to the answer to the query “How long should the Common App essay be?”, long lists or accomplishment catalogs should not be included in the personal statement.

Does the Common App Essay Have to Be 650 Words?

Contrary to what the Common App’s official instructions state, students who stick to the maxim that “bigger is better” have a much lower chance of persuading college admissions officers that they deserve to be admitted than students who write essays that are only 250 words long, the lowest end of the range that is officially acceptable to complete this essay. Writing essays might be nerve-wracking since you need to reach the minimum word count. You might wonder, “Does the Common App essay have to be 650 words?”

A well-developed and well-thought-out essay of any real substance cannot be written in 250 words, and it can hardly be done in 450. Because of this, the majority of the Common App users never turned in a Common App essay that was shorter than 450 words. The 650-word count is the maximum permitted length for the Common App essay. So, how long should the Common App essay be?

The Common App should be 500 to 650 words. It is the ideal length for a Common Application essay for both the current year’s prompts and prompts from more than ten years ago. This was true even a few years ago, when the Common App only allowed students to submit essays of 500 words or less.

How to Write A Common App Essay?

It takes considerable thought to decide what to include, how to structure the essay, and what tone or style to use when writing a Common App essay.

How to write a Common App essay? Follow these five steps to creating a fantastic one:

1.  Select a writing prompt.

Selecting a writing prompt is the first step in creating a strong Common App essay. The prompt aids in giving you direction on what to write about and how to organize your essay.

There are frequently questions for writing on a variety of subjects, such as:

  • Talents, identities, or backgrounds: You can discuss a key aspect of your identity, your cultural upbringing, or any intriguing talents in your essay. By highlighting your distinctive qualities, you can stand out from other applicants and give admissions officers a better understanding of your personality and character.
  • Obstacles or challenges: You can discuss a significant challenge you’ve faced in your life, career, or studies for this type of essay prompt and detail how you overcame it. You could also describe a current difficulty and how you intend to overcome it.
  • Personal or professional growth: You might choose to write about a period in which you significantly advanced personally or professionally. Include specifics about the event, how it affected you, and what you learned from it in your essay.
  • Belief-related questions: If appropriate, please describe a time in your life when you questioned a belief system. Explain the belief system, how you challenged it, the result, and what you took away from the experience.

2. Create an essay outline.

You can start outlining your essay once you’ve selected a writing prompt to decide what elements to include.

Male student writing in hid notebook on a table with books and coffee.

To indicate where and how you want to organize certain ideas, you might use bullet points or headers. To help you share information in a logical and individualized way, think about writing your essay in a narrative, or story, format.

Plan the following elements of your Common App essay when creating an outline

  • Introduction: Try to address the writing prompt you’ve chosen while introducing the subjects you’re going to be talking about. For instance, you might begin by telling an anecdote or giving background information on a tale or event.
  • Body sentences: Expand on the key concepts from your introduction in three to four paragraphs to further respond to the prompt. Discuss topics like development and skills using intriguing adjectives and verbs.
  • Closing: You might explain the result of an experience or a lesson you learned, depending on the prompt. You could also describe your objectives or successes and how they relate to your education.

3. Compose an essay.

You can start writing your Common App essay once you’ve created an outline.

When writing, pay attention to telling a complete story and covering every aspect of the writing prompt you’ve chosen. Try to include personal anecdotes that are relevant to the essay’s topic, and depending on your purpose, use language that will arouse certain emotions. To pique the interest of the admissions committee and convince them that you should enroll at their university, your essay should highlight your educational or career goals and reveal your personality.

4. Make sure to proofread your essay multiple times.

A critical step in the writing process is proofreading or editing your Common App essay because it enables you to spot mistakes, modify your tone or word choice, and make sure your essay responds to the writing prompt.

Young man using a laptop while studying.

Reread your essay and use a word processor or website with a spelling and grammar check program to check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. You should also always go back to how long should the Common App essay be since most application portals cut off writing after a certain word count. Then, check your essay to make sure it is professional, tells a gripping story, and responds to the prompt.

You can also ask a close friend, relative, or peer to review your Common App essay for content and structure at this stage. You can learn more about your writing’s strengths and weaknesses by having someone else read it. In order to ensure that your essay is entirely accurate and properly formatted, the other person might also be able to spot spelling or grammar mistakes.

5. Send your essay in.

Your Common Application essay can be submitted through the Common Application after you’ve written and edited it, usually for a fee.

Before submitting your application, double-check that your essay was completed or added to the appropriate section. However, you might be able to check the status of your application online through an education portal on a university’s website. Universities may take several weeks or months to review applications.

How to End A Common App Essay?

Your college essay should conclude in a way that gives the reader a sense of closure and a lasting impression.

There are some tactics you can use to make sure you don’t ruin a good essay with a mediocre conclusion. The conclusion is frequently harder to write than the college essay introduction, and you might need to rework it when revising your essay plus you need to consider how long should the Common App essay be. Here’s how to end a Common App essay:

Endings to Refrain Using From

A weak conclusion can ruin your entire essay, so be careful to stay away from these common errors:

Summarizing

An admissions essay shouldn’t reiterate your points, in contrast to an academic essay. There is no need to restate what has already been said, so refrain from concluding with a summary.

When you use words like “in conclusion,” “overall,” or “to sum it up,” an admissions officer may decide to stop reading because they indicate that you have nothing new to add to what has already been said.

Making an obvious point

Let your work speak for itself and let readers come to their own conclusions rather than stating the obvious. Don’t end your essay by saying, “I’m hardworking,” if your essay describes numerous instances in which you worked tirelessly to go above and beyond. admissions officers are capable of understanding that on their own.

Male student writing in his notebook while looking at the laptop.

Additionally, you should refrain from discussing your desire for acceptance. The admissions committee is aware of your desire to be accepted because you applied. Remain focused on the main idea of your essay.

First Option: Go back to the start.

Many well-written essays have what is known as a “sandwich,” or full-circle, structure, in which they begin with an image or idea, stray from it in the middle, and then circle back to it at the conclusion.

If your topic fits this format, it’s a great option because it’s clear, complete, and satisfying for readers.

The “sandwich” essay that is described below features a student talking about his love of musical theater. His essay opens with a humorous anecdote about a small fire that broke out on set rather than simply stating that interest. It brings up this anecdote again at the conclusion to provide closure.

Example:

“Sandwich Essay”

  • Intro: I might be the worst firefighter ever.
  • Recall putting together the school musical
  • Illustrate my love for theater
  • Describe the incident of the theater set catching fire
  • Outline how I handled the situation
  • Conclusion: I proved my worth as a director, an actor, and a writer that week—even though I was a terrible firefighter.

Second Option: Look ahead.

Many effective essays close by anticipating the future. These conclusions usually connect the student to the college or their academic objectives and are generally upbeat and positive, which are always great qualities in an admissions essay.

Even though these conclusions can be very powerful, it can be difficult to avoid sounding cliched. Avoid using generalizations in your conclusion; doing so can make your essay come off as boring and unoriginal. Instead, keep it personal to you.

Here are some good and bad examples of “looking forward” conclusions for the “firefighter” in musical theater essay.

Negative: Cliché Good: Original
I have found my calling on the stage of the theater and the stage of life. Musical theater will always be part of my life一even if firefighting won’t.

Third Option: Outline your main argument.

Holding back on your main point can occasionally be a wise move.

If your essay describes a variety of experiences, you might save your main point for the conclusion and only discuss the thread that connects all the tales at the very end.

When done effectively, this conclusion prompts the reader to reflect on the key idea you want them to remember from your essay. Furthermore, it has a distinctive structure that can stand out.

It can be difficult to keep the essay interesting enough for the reader to pay attention the entire time if you take this approach, though.

The student provides us with snippets of her experience with gymnastics at various points in her life in the essay described below. She weaves the tales together in the conclusion and shares the lessons she learned about various facets of her values and character.

Example: Leaving the main point until the end

  • Intro: Imagine myself at a gymnastics meet at age 7
  • Full of passion and excitement
  • Another gym meet at the age of 11
  • My sister was born that day; began thinking of other people than myself
  • Started to realize that there are far more important things than gymnastics
  • Attended a gymnastics meet at 15
  • I had been training extra hard to reach that level
  • I failed many times and had a lot of breakdowns
  • I had to give up time with friends, the first homecoming dance of high school, and other activities – I even thought about giving up
  • Conclusion: I am still all of those people: the enthusiastic 7-year-old, the considerate 11-year-old, and the focused 15-year-old. Gymnastics has been a constant in my life, but it has also taught me how to adapt and change outside of the balance beam.

Fourth option: Finish with a deed/action.

It can be effective to end your essay with an action. This could entail adding a concrete action, dialogue, or new information to the narrative.

Instead of making the reader wish the essay had ended sooner, these conclusions leave them wanting more. They keep your reader interested and can help you avoid boring them.

Here is an illustration of how this conclusion might fit into the gymnastics essay.

Example:

I practiced aerial cartwheels on my lawn, a trampoline, and on this very same balance beam as I practiced my routine. However, now that thousands of spectators were focused on me, I was getting ready to launch myself through the air using nothing but my own courage. I exhaled deeply before jumping with my hands in the air.

The most effective approach will depend on your subject matter, essay structure, and writing style. You can experiment with several different endings to see which one works best.

Going back to our query, “How long should the Common App essay be?” Keep your essays within the allotted word count for best results. Without including “fluff” or “filler content,” you should try to stay within a 10% range of the upper limit of the count, even though you don’t have to hit it exactly. AdmissionSight can guide you in writing your college admissions essays since some schools require multiple. You may check more information about the Common Application on AdmissionSight’s site.

 

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