Last year, the Common Application put back into place a 500-word limit to the all-important personal statement. This return to a practice that was in place for 30 years up until 2007 has many students, parents, and counselors unsure of just how to interpret this policy. Executive Director of Common App, Robert Killion, was quoted as saying, “the lack of any guidance regarding a maximum size over the last four years had led to essays that were far too long, less well-written, and, at the end of the day, often skimmed rather than read by admission officers.” Ultimately this word cap is to the benefit of students and admissions officers alike. With all of the other work expected of high school seniors –including the countless other essays they are required to write for their college applications – this limitation should put them at ease and dispel any notions that quantity is quality.
While I personally doubt that any college admissions officer has the time or inclination to actually count words, there does seem to be a prevailing preference that students stick to this limit. In “The Common App 500 Word Limit: 21 MORE Colleges Weigh In”, many top colleges speak in defense of this policy. Yale University urges students to “Stick as closely as possible to the 500 word limit to respect the admissions officer and to be fair to other students; one or two sentences over is fine.” Vassar College says they are not strict but “[we] do ask that students try to honor the 500 word limit.” Harvard University writes pretty strongly that they encourage applicants to read the application form’s directions and take them seriously. “We are not rigid, but we do expect candidates for Harvard College to exercise good judgment.”
I think it is important to insist that students follow these simple directions. Young adults should not be encouraged to act as though the rules do not apply to them. Moreover, students should also be respectful of admissions officers’ time, and not think that what they have to say is paramount.
****The College Connection’s College Essay Bootcamp****
Sunday, September 16th 3-5 PM
Sunday, September 23rd 2-5 PM
The College Connection
Peekskill, NY 10566
For more information or to register please contact Mollie Reznick at:
Class size limited.