How Long Should a College Essay Be?

Written by
Eun Rockwell
August 24, 2022 5 min read

We provide college essay help and the most common questions we get apart from are how much does it cost to write my essay, and how long a college essay needs to be. Now, different college essays can be based on different topics.

Some colleges may want you to focus on your personal experiences, while others may ask about specific academic subjects. No matter the topic, all college essays should follow a basic structure. Your essay should introduce your topic, discuss it in detail, and then conclude with a strong statement that sums up your argument.

To ensure your essay is well-organized and easy to read, it's best to stick to standard paragraphs: an introduction, three or four body paragraphs, and a conclusion. So, how long really should a college essay be? We explore that, among other basics, you probably didn't know about college essays.

College Essay Length Guidelines

Did you know that there are different types of college essays? And that each one has its own specific length requirements?

The writers at our college essay writing service fully understand this and know that these specific requirements can range from a minimum word count to a maximum word count or from a page limit to a line limit. It all depends on the college or university you're applying to.

Let's take a look at some of the most common types of college essays and respective length requirements.

Personal Statement Essays

A personal statement essay is a brief (usually around 650 words), highly personal essay submitted as part of your college application. The purpose of the personal statement is to give the admissions committee a sense of who you are beyond your grades and test scores.

Common App Essay

The Common App essay is a personal statement essay that is submitted as part of your college application through the Common App. The Common App essay has a word limit of 650 words.

Supplemental Essays

Supplemental essays are additional essays that are required by some colleges in addition to the Common App essay. These essays usually have specific prompts that you need to respond to, and they range in length from 200-600 words.

Scholarship Essay

A scholarship essay is an essay required as part of your scholarship application. The purpose of the scholarship essay is to show the committee why you deserve to receive the scholarship. Scholarship essays are usually shorter than other types of college essays, but they can still be up to 1000 words.

How Many Paragraphs Should a College Essay Be?

Depending on the type of essay you are writing, the structure and length will vary. For example, a personal statement will be shorter and more focused than a research paper.

However, there are some general guidelines that can help you determine how long your college essay should be. For the most part, the longer an essay is, the more time you will have to develop your argument and provide supporting evidence.

As a result, you may want to start with a rough draft that is two or three pages long. Once you have a complete draft, you can then begin to edit and trim it down to your target length.

In general, a good rule of thumb is to aim for an essay that is around one to two pages long. However, this is just a general guideline, and you should always consult with your instructor before deciding on the final length of your essay.

Read more: How to Write a Short Essay

What Is Excluded From a Word Count?

An essay word count only includes the main text of the essay and does not include footnotes, endnotes or references. Any in-text citations are also included in the word count.

However, the title of the essay and the Works Cited page are not included in the word count. The reason for this is that they are considered to be outside of the main body of the essay.

The title is usually only a few words long, and the Works Cited page is typically only one page. As a result, they are not typically considered significant contributors to the overall length of the essay.


Can I go over the word limit?

Yes, you can go over the college essay word limit, but it's not recommended. Colleges often have a specific number of words they would like essays to be, and going over the limit could result in your essay being penalized.

If you find yourself getting close to the word limit, try editing your essay down to make sure it fits within the parameters given. You may also want to consider shortening or eliminating unnecessary words. Alternatively, if you feel that your essay is still not fully developed after editing, you can ask for a waiver from the college's admissions office.

Can I go under the word limit?

Yes, you can go under the college essay word limit, but doing so may not be the best idea. Essays often have strict word limits for essays, and going under could signal that you don't have enough to say or that you're not taking the prompt seriously.

That said, if you truly feel that your essay is better shorter, it's better to err on the side of brevity than to try and pad out your essay with filler material. Unless specified otherwise, it's also generally acceptable to go over or below the word limit by 10%. So if your prompt has a 250-word limit, you could go up to 225 words without violating any rules.

Does common app accept more than 650 words?

No, the Common App has a 650-word limit for all essays. However, some colleges that use the Common App have additional essay prompts that are not included in the 650-word limit.

Do examiners check word count?

Yes, in most cases, examiners will check the word count of your essay. If you go significantly over or under the word limit, it could negatively impact your score.

If you're unsure about the appropriate length for your college essay, the best thing to do is to ask your instructor for guidance. They will be able to give you a more specific word count range that is appropriate for the type of essay you're writing.


Generally, college essays should be around one to two pages long. However, there are cases where a longer or shorter essay may be appropriate. Always read and follow the specific guidelines given by your instructor or order essay if you really struggle with the word count.

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