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How Long Should a College Essay Be: Quick Response to a Complex Question

How to Make an Essay Look Longer

August 1, 2018

A college application essay is probably one of the most important things students happen to write in their life. Although colleges typically state the purpose of such essays, everyone wants to know the secret formula of a winning essay. Besides persuasiveness and uniqueness, there is another crucial feature a perfect essay should have: appropriate length. So how long should a college essay be? Our experts are answering this question in the article below.

College Application Essay Length

Even though there is no standard length for all application essays, an answer to the question “How long should a college application essay be?” exists. Frequently, colleges recommend their applicants submit essays that comprise approximately 650 words. In cases when no official requirements were given, you might want to keep in mind the three cornerstones of a good essay:

  • Relevance to the topic
  • Comprehensive answer to the prompt
  • Originality

If the question “how long should my college essay be” keeps you awake at night, just make sure your essay has these three elements.

Relevance of the Topic

A good application essay is free of tangential information that brings no value. Instead, it is important to include sufficient and relevant details. The length of an essay also heavily depends on the topic. Some of them call for long discussions, while others can be spoiled by redundancies. How long does a college essay have to be if no word count requirements were provided? Any admission officer will tell you that you should leave out all uninformative words and keep only the words that are necessary to convey your idea.

Comprehensive Answer to the Prompt

The obsession with the question “How long should a college essay be?” might push students to omit the details that are actually necessary. A college application essay should, first and foremost, answer the essay prompt. Although it is necessary to avoid vague ideas and generalizations, all parts of the essay prompt should be covered. Important at as the answer to the question “How long should your college essay be?” might be, it does not mean that the quality of your essay should be compromised for the sake of brevity.

For instance, if the prompt asks you to describe your college goals, it is a bad idea to start with general phrases about the importance of good grades and meeting new people. Rather, focus on the specific area of your interest, explain which steps you are planning to take to succeed in academics, and how exactly you are hoping to build up the network or become an active community member. Finally, as you write, keep in mind that the admission officer who will be reading your essay, usually read hundreds of such pieces, so it is in your best interest to grab your reader’s attention.


As a rule, originality comes with personal input into your essay. College admission officers have astonishing experience, so they can easily tell whether you revealing some personal background or simply paraphrasing clichéd ideas. While there is no denying that reading someone’s well-written essays can serve as inspiration, when writing your own essay, try to develop an original style and unique viewpoint.

Originality and honesty will definitely impress an admission officer even if you do not know the answer to the question “how long should a college essay be?” As a side note, remember to proofread and edit the essay several times. The style of writing, grammar, and content should all be relevant to the purpose of the essay.

Extra Tips: How Long Should a College Essay Be?

The most successful essays are always straightforward and never exceed the word limit. If an essay is too long, the admission officers might not read it till the end. If there is no word count requirement, 500-600 words should do it. In cases when you do not know the limit:

  • In writing samples of graded academic work, the length might not matter;
  • The word count might be implicit, for example, three paragraphs would be equal to around one page;
  • Check the FAQs section of the college website.

With these simple tips, you will definitely provide an essay of the required length. Good luck!

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