This year, a lot of colleges are using a document upload function for their writing supplements instead of a text box with a word count feature at the bottom.
Now, we’re pretty sure that no one on earth types their common app essay directly into the website, but there’s something reassuring about copying and pasting your essay into the box and seeing that it’s at word count before you hit submit.
Things can get messy with the document upload function. Let’s use Wellesley as an example. The specified length for their writing supplement is “two well developed paragraphs.” As far as word count goes, there’s nothing.
We have a lot of kids applying to Wellesley this year so we called the admissions office and asked for a clearly defined word count. They said that you’ll find a word count on the common app website, which is not the case. We tried attaching word documents of varying lengths: 100 words, 250 words, 1,000 words and a 5,000-word document. We were able to upload all of them successfully.
“Two paragraphs” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It would obviously be insane to write 1,000 words for a two-paragraph essay, so definitely don’t do that. Aim for 250-500 words at most. Just because you technically can write as much as you want doesn’t mean that you should. For Wellesley, we’re capping TKG students at 500 words.
If you’re applying to a school that has a writing supplement with an unspecified word count and it gives you anxiety, you’re not alone. Generally speaking, it would be beyond helpful for ALL colleges to specify a word count. We get numerous emails a day from students about this. The college application process is stressful enough as is, and when things are unclear it sends kids into an anxiety spiral. When there’s not a word count, applicants think whatever they’re doing is wrong. It’s either too short or too long. Use your best judgment about how long the supplement should be and always keep in mind that more words do not equal a better paragraph. Length does not equal substance.
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