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550 Word Essay

Writing 500 Word Essays May be Quite Easy

Even though 500 seems like a large number, it really only translates to about a page of single spaced size 12 font printing. It’s not too difficult to write a single page essay once you know how to go about doing it.

Basically, think of it as writing 5 paragraphs of approximately 100 words each. That’s approximately 6 or 7 sentences depending on how long you make them. Here are the 5 paragraphs for your 500 word essay:

  1. The introduction. Even though this paragraph comes first, it’s easiest to write it last. That’s because you don’t know what you’re going to write before you write it. Once the body of the essay is completed, you can come back to this step and write the introduction.
  2. The body will be comprised of 3 paragraphs. The first paragraph will be the first main point you are trying to put across to the reader. Make sure you support this point with facts or with your point of view, depending on what type of essay you’re writing.
  3. This is the second point of the body. The same rules apply for this point. Make sure you give adequate support.
  4. And the third and final main point of the body; keep it concise and provide the necessary supporting evidence.
  5. The conclusion is the final paragraph of the essay. It can also have 100 words, approximately. It should be a summary of the essay. Make sure it’s worded differently than the introduction. It should leave the reader with something to think about.

Your essay should make an impact. It should be memorable, interesting and make them think or change their opinion about something. Before you make your final revision, be sure you have satisfied all the requirements of the assignment. Word count is important, but it’s not the only thing that counts. You usually have to adhere to certain formatting rules as well. Perhaps the font has to be a certain style and size. The header and footer and the side margins should all be according to the assignment as well.

It’s generally accepted to go a few words over but when the essay is fairly short like this one, try not to go under the specified word count. Take full advantage of the 500 words you have the opportunity to use to get your point across.

As a former college admissions officer who read over 3,000 essays every admissions cycle, I can’t stress enough that students should consider quality over quantity when drafting college essays. My colleagues have previously written blog posts encouraging students to draft essays in their everyday voice, and to avoid replacing normal words with cousins from the thesaurus. The bigger picture here is to tell your own story as clearly and concisely as you can. The same goes for the length of your personal statement—hone in on the specific message you want to convey and deliver it as succinctly as you can.

Admission officers prioritize content over quantity. I never met an admission officer who literally counted the words in a college essay. Outliers in either direction were immediately noticed, though—writing 250 words when the space accommodates 650, or submitting 2-3 pages when a single page was requested—can send a bad first impression. But the difference between 280 words and 315 words, or 512 words and 627 words, will go completely unnoticed. Admission officers do notice, however, the clarity of your thought and the effectiveness with which you convey your ideas. If your message was well-said in 250 words but the maximum was 300, so you added 50 words of fluff, those 50 words are diluting the strength of your message.  Similarly, if you wrote a 500-word piece you’re proud of but the maximum is 300, please don’t go line-by-line to delete extra words; instead, reconsider the scope of your essay, because you may have selected a larger topic than can be thoughtfully addressed within the word count.

For those of you still concerned about the literal word count: The most common “personal statement” length is in the ballpark of 500 words. The three standardized application portals—the Common App, the Universal App, and the Coalition App—all request personal statements capped at 650 words, but that’s the absolute limit, at which point your writing will be cut off.  I consider 500 the “sweet spot,” but don’t stress if you write an essay closer to 430 or 620 that you’re honestly proud of.  Many colleges also ask for short answer responses, sometimes called supplemental prompts or personal insight questions, in the range of 150, 250, or 350 words; in this case, aim for the suggested length and be aware of the hard limits on either end, but don’t stress if you’re over or under by 10-15%.