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What is WordCounter?

Apart from counting words and characters, our online editor can help you to improve word choice and writing style, and, optionally, help you to detect grammar mistakes and plagiarism. To check word count, simply place your cursor into the text box above and start typing. You'll see the number of characters and words increase or decrease as you type, delete, and edit them. You can also copy and paste text from another program over into the online editor above. The Auto-Save feature will make sure you won't lose any changes while editing, even if you leave the site and come back later. Tip: Bookmark this page now.

Knowing the word count of a text can be important. For example, if an author has to write a minimum or maximum amount of words for an article, essay, report, story, book, paper, you name it. WordCounter will help to make sure its word count reaches a specific requirement or stays within a certain limit.

In addition, WordCounter shows you the top 10 keywords and keyword density of the article you're writing. This allows you to know which keywords you use how often and at what percentages. This can prevent you from over-using certain words or word combinations and check for best distribution of keywords in your writing.

In the Details overview you can see the average speaking and reading time for your text, while Reading Level is an indicator of the education level a person would need in order to understand the words you’re using.

Disclaimer: We strive to make our tools as accurate as possible but we cannot guarantee it will always be so.

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How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Word Count Tips

Published on September 29, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on August 17, 2022.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit. If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

You should aim to stay under the specified limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, if you write too little, it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.

Table of contents

Word count guidelines for different application types, how to shorten your essay, how to expand your essay, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

Each university has a different suggested or required word count depending on which application portal it uses.

Some application portals will allow you to exceed the word count limit, but admissions officers have limited time and energy to read longer essays. Other application portals have a strict limit and will not allow you to exceed it.

For example, in the Common App , the portal will not allow you to submit more than 650 words. Some colleges using the Common App will allow you to submit less than 250 words, but this is too short for a well-developed essay.

For scholarship essays , diversity essays , and “Why this college?” essays , word count limits vary. Make sure to verify and respect each prompt’s limit.

Don’t worry too much about word count until the revision stage ; focusing on word count while writing may hinder your creativity. Once you have finished a draft, you can start shortening or expanding your essay if necessary.

On some application portals, you can exceed the word limit, but there are good reasons to stay within it:

Here are some strategies for shortening your essay.

Stay on the main point

It’s good to use vivid imagery, but only include relevant details. Cut any sentences with tangents or unnecessary information.

My father taught me how to strategically hold the marshmallow pierced by a twig at a safe distance from the flames to make sure it didn’t get burned, ensuring a golden brown exterior.

Typically, my father is glued to his computer since he’s a software engineer at Microsoft. But that night, he was the marshmallow master. We waited together as the pillowy sugary goodness caramelized into gooey delight. Good example: Sticks to the point On our camping trip to Yosemite, my family spent time together, away from technology and routine responsibility.

My favorite part was roasting s’mores around the campfire. My father taught me how to hold the marshmallow at a safe distance from the flames, ensuring a golden brown exterior.

These college essay examples also demonstrate how you can cut your essay down to size.

Eliminate wordiness

Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay. If a word doesn’t add value, cut it.

Here are some common examples of wordiness and how to fix them.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

If you’re significantly under the word count, you’re wasting the opportunity to show depth and authenticity in your essay. Admissions officers may see your short essay as a sign that you’re unable to write a detailed, insightful narrative about yourself.

Here are some strategies for expanding your essay.

Show detailed examples, and don’t tell generic stories

You should include detailed examples that can’t be replicated by another student. Use vivid imagery, the five senses, and specific objects to transport the reader into your story.

Reveal your feelings and insight

If your essay lacks vulnerability or self-reflection, share your feelings and the lessons you’ve learned.

Be creative with how you express your feelings; rather than simply writing “I’m happy,” use memorable images to help the reader clearly visualize your happiness. Similarly, for insight, include the follow-up actions from your lessons learned; instead of claiming “I became a hard worker,” explain what difficult tasks you accomplished as a result of what you learned.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

If your college essay goes over the word count limit , cut any sentences with tangents or irrelevant details. Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay.

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay . College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Courault, K. (2022, August 17). How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Word Count Tips. Scribbr. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/college-essay/college-essay-length/

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Essay Word Counter

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What Is Essay Word Counter?

An essay word counter is a simple yet powerful tool that has the ability to quickly count the number of characters and words within an essay. While the primary goal of an essay word counter is to measure characters and words, this tool allows you to determine the number of sentences and paragraphs that your essay consists of.

If you're tasked with reading your essay aloud in front of a classroom, this online word counter can help you prepare by providing you with an estimated speaking time and reading time. If you're asking yourself "How do I count the words in my essay?", plugging your essay into an online word counter will allow you to receive nearly instantaneous results.

Benefits of Using This Tool Compared to Alternatives

Online word counter tools offer the functionality you need to determine what your current essay word count is. There are several additional tools that can provide you with similar functionality, which include Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and PDF documents. Even though all of these alternatives allow users to measure the word count and character count for their essay, they lack many of the extra features that set the online tool apart from the competition.

Wordcounter vs Microsoft Word

When comparing this online word counter to Microsoft Word, the online word counter allows users to paste any kind of text into the box. Even if the text comes from a PDF file, it can be easily copied into the word counter. Among all of the alternatives for an essay word counter, Microsoft Word may be the most comprehensive of the three. Along with measuring the number of words, it can also count characters, pages, lines, and paragraphs. The main issue with Word, however, is that it's less intuitive than using an online tool.

When you click on word count in Microsoft Word, you'll be provided with data on the lines, paragraphs, words, and other aspects of your essay. However, the word count extends to every page of the Word document. To identify the number of words and characters in a specific section, you'll need to highlight the section and select the word count option again.

Wordcounter vs Google Docs

As for Google Docs, this tool doesn't display a status bar that tells you how many words are present in the document. To receive an updated word count, you must select the "Tools" tab that's found in the "Menu" section. From here, you'll be able to select "Word Count". When compared to the online word checker tool, Google Docs doesn't include information about how many sentences are in your essay or the frequency of a specific word.

Wordcounter vs PDF Tool

When it comes to a PDF document, you'll find that these documents are similar to Google Docs in that they don't include a status bar. You're also unable to access any kind of menu that allows you to view the word count of the essay you're writing. There are two distinct options for identifying the word count in your essay. First, you can convert the PDF file into what's known as the Rich Text Format, which makes it easier for you to count the words. You could also upload the file directly into this online word counter, which will give you an accurate word total.

The primary benefit of using the online word counter tool is that there are a number of exclusive features like speaking time and reading time that can't be found in other tools like Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

Essay Length Best Practices

Whether you're writing an essay for a high school class or for graduate school, there are some best practices that can guide you through the process and help you write the best essay. The most important element of writing an essay is getting the length right. If the essay is too long, there's a good chance it isn't as succinct and direct as it should be. The essay length guidelines you should adhere to include:

High school essay

The average essay word count for a high school essay is 300-1,000 words. Most high school essays are five paragraphs long with an introductory paragraph, three total body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.

College admission essay

This essay should be around 200-650 words long. Along with having a set word limit, these essays should include a look at your motivations and interests.

Undergraduate essay

This essay can be around 1,500-5,000 words long. The content and length depend on the college and program you're entering.

Graduate admission essay

An admission essay should be 500-1,000 words in length. Make sure you include a lengthy personal statement that details your motivations and academic achievements.

Graduate school essay

This extended essay word count is usually around 2,500-6,000 words. The assignment you receive depends on the course you're in. Most graduate-level essays are lengthy and can involve research papers.

IB extended essay

The IB extended essay word count is 4,000 words. This essay is mandatory for every student of the International Baccalaureate program and is based on independent research.

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Why You Should Use EduBirdie’s Essay Word Counter?

The design team at EduBirdie has created a word counter tool that you can use to improve the quality of a paper. Our team created this tool because we know how important it is for you to stay within the page limits established by a professor. Read this quick description to find out how our character count calculator helps.

A Brief Overview of How Word Counter For Essays Works

Our online word count calculator counts the written words in an essay so that you can avoid going over a professor’s character and word count limit and avoid using redundant text and language. Here is a small guide on how to use it: 

Why Our Word Count Tool is the Best

First of all, it’s free, as well as other essay writing tools by EduBirdie.com: free paraphrasing tool , plagiarism checker, case converter tool and many others. When submitting an essay to be checked, you do not pay a dime. Use it as many times as you want without worrying about how much it costs, it is free. Moreover, our character count and word count for essay check tool always works; you will never be left in the lurch. Never worry again about glitches or bugs preventing you from getting your work done. In case  any help is needed, 24/7 Customer Support will immediately give an answer. That's mean that If there are any questions about how to use our online device, contact our customer service specialists. They are always available to assist you!

How Character Count Can Help

Don`t worry about the limits of text, we keep you within a page limit through all the process. Most, if not all, professors give their students a page limit. Going over a professor’s page or word limit will result in a lower grade than you would normally get. Thankfully, our word counter tool tells how many words, pages, and characters are in an essay so that you can avoid upsetting your professor.

We will help you avoid redundant phrases to make a paper  perfect match to requirements. No one likes a long-winded essay that says the same thing over and over again. That is another reason why we have created this word counter software, because staying within a character limit helps keep an assignment short and to the point. By eliminating superfluous language, and keeping your paper short and to the point, you will make it easier for the reader to understand and appreciate your ideas. Sometimes less is more and more is less.

Also, Edubirdie character counter has Auto-Save function. Now you won`t get distracted too to save your footage. This keeps you much more concentrated and saves time and text, so you`ll never lose any bit of your work.

The Benefits of Using our Online Word Counter Tool

This is a perfect tool for speeches. It helps identify the length of your written speech in minutes, not exceeding the time allocated for your oral presentation.

Teacher gave you an assignment and you don’t know how many pages make 1,000 words? Use this tool to convert words to pages!

Identify the percentage of plagiarism in your paper using this tool. It also highlights areas that should be paraphrased or cited properly.

No matter what type of essay you need, we’ll get it written, so let’s get started.

essay word count percentage

Free Online Word Counter for Essays

Use our word counter to check how many words are in an essay instantly.

Free Online Word Counter for Essays

How Our Word Count Checker Works

Count words or characters in your essay, paper, or any other academic text in a few clicks. Insert your text and enjoy accurate results – it’s as simple as that!

Tick the box to proceed further – your text won’t be saved in our system.

Enter the text to check how many words or characters it contains.

Have word count calculated automatically and get your result instantly.

Features of Our Word Counter Tool

Features of Our Word Counter Tool

StudyCrumb’s word counter is loaded with features that you will undoubtedly find pleasant. With the benefits you get, it definitely wins over any word counter tool online.

Our online word counter is an excellent option for everyone who doesn’t like distractions and extra manipulations. Just input your text and it will immediately calculate the words.

There is no need to pay – we offer a free word counter with unlimited checks. You can start using it without registration and run as many checks as required.

Our essay word counter shows the number of words, characters, and symbols without spaces. It’s a one-stop instrument if you need a detailed report.

Need Expert Help

StudyCrumb is a go-to platform helping students with academic writing. Entrust your paper to our professionals and they will take your writing to a totally new level!

Backed by qualified writers, we provide unique academic papers tailored to clients specific needs. Have an expert compose a customized paper from the ground up.

Take your writing to a whole new level with our editing and proofreading services. Our academic proofreaders will polish your text considering the number of words you need.

Why Choose StudyCrumb

essay word count percentage

Word Counter Online & Character Counter

Our tool goes beyond a simple text word counter. It works like a word character counter and offers multiple options. In case you have a special requirement from your professor, for example, a character limit, this tool will definitely come in handy. Likewise, you may need to find out the amount of characters without spaces. Our high-end instrument will be an all-inclusive solution. Just input the necessary part and calculate the number of symbols in your text.


Word Count Checker

It’s very important to stay on the top of your page word count. Students may think that several slips every here and there won’t cause much harm. But your school may have strict requirements to the acceptable limit for every academic work. While you are expected to write 150 words in an essay introduction, this amount won’t suffice in an introductory part of your research paper. So if you need to know how many words are in an essay or its particular section, use our tool for a quick result.


Character Count Without Spaces

Things get trickier if you need to find out the number of characters without spaces. No worries! With our character calculator at your fingertips this won’t be a problem. Our free character counter can exclude the spaces so you can enjoy accurate results. This is a perfect feature for writers, translators and students who have a very peculiar requirement. Just copy-paste any passage in an online character counter and it will handle everything in seconds.


Character Count Tool

Sometimes, the limit is measured in characters. That’s when you may need a tool that can handle character count online. We’ve got you covered! Our team saw that situation coming and did our best to provide you with this option. You can use our advanced tool to count characters in your document. And if the actual number doesn’t fit in the expected limit, you can easily modify your text in a respective field.

StudyCrumb’s Essay Word Counter: Handy Tool

We have developed this essay word counter to help students count the words and characters in their papers and academic texts. Are you writing an essay and want to make sure that your word count is precise? Or, maybe, you have a research paper or dissertation with a strict character limit requirement? Whatever your case is, our word count checker will be an irreplaceable instrument in your arsenal of writing tools. And the best part about this tool is its simplicity. Finding out how many words is this will no longer be a struggle. What’s more, you can make changes right in the editor field. You don’t have to switch between our tool and your document to meet the right limit. All results of word character count will be displayed instantly.

Count My Words in My Essay for Me!

Before you submit your newly-written paper, we advise you to count the number of words in it! StudyCrumb’s online tool can help you keep track of the number of words in your paper. It will allow you to concentrate on important topics. Now you won’t need to give yourself a headache wondering “how to check word count?” Just use StudyCrumb’s profitable tool that is always useful to keep handy. After all, knowing your word count can help to improve your work.  Hot tip: A nice way to establish a good word count is by determining whether the headings should be counted. And when headings do not count, they can be included in words in direct quotes. The quality of any essay might suffer if it is too long. Instead, aim for brief and catchy headings. And let a tool do all the counting the words for you!

Online Words Counting Generator for Different Types of Writing

Access our tool if you need counting number of words that you've written. It encourages every student to follow their word limit! This can be important for public speaking or speech preparation. Every guru at our speech writing services suggest finding balance especially when it comes to oral presentation. It is helpful if writing for advertising and academic goals is a big deal. Our tool also determines the word count limit. It is useful for writing social media headlines and Google meta descriptions.  Looking at your presentation and think “how many words is this text?” Try to count them to assess the word density. For some papers, it's common to submit up to a thousand words. But many writers end up over the limit or falling short. Knowing that you’re using count words in text for free is a great way to avoid such problems. Any argumentative essay writer will appreciate such a tool. It can become an essential metric for content writers, whether they are college students or professional authors. Calculate word length in many different ways. But keep in mind — our tool will help you determine it best. It's easy to use. So, save your time and avoid any stress. You can reuse it at any time.

Count the Words in My Essays & Papers

When composing essays and other kinds of written work, your first concern can be “how many words are in this essay?” It is important that students meet all requirements. Consequently, they should know how to count essay words accurately. Word count dendends on the depth of your project. That is why you may need professional essay help .  The first thing you should do is check what the instructor has suggested as a word count. An essay might require fewer words depending on the subject. If it turned out shorter than the assigned word count, you may want to focus on providing a high-level overview of the topic, especially if you need to write my dissertation . Longer papers can delve into more details. However, in both cases, it is important to keep an outline to guide your writing process. Next, check how many words in essay you wrote line by line. StudyCrumb’s tool lets you count the words beneath charts, graphs, and photos. Now you can use it instead of thinking “how many words is my paper?”

Why Is It so Important to Count the Words in an Essay Correctly?

Why is it so important for you to “count how many words are in my essay”? Why do you browse different sites? Looking for one to “count my essay words”? There are few answers to these questions. A critical aspect of knowing essay word limit is how you use the words. The time your audience has to read through your essay is limited. Therefore, it's important to organize your thoughts in a clear and concise way. Make a list of the key points and then spend some time on the important topics. Don't forget that StudyCrumb is essentially an academic service where you can buy essay on any subject and have all requirements met. So, using an online tool when you must know how to count how many words in an essay when writing is simply necessary. And StudyCrumb is here to help you out in whatever way you need!

Paragraph Word Count by StudyCrumb's Free Online Words Counting Tool

StudyCrumb's online tool is perfect when you want to know how many words in this paragraph! You don’t have to do anything otherworldly to use the paragraph word counter. All one should do is follow a simple instruction. This word counting program works well for longer text categories such as articles and novels. It works by dividing a text into several parts. This way you won’t have to do this yourself and wonder how many words are here. You can check the length of your text by using an online helpful tool! You can immediately check your characters and page count, as well as run a spelling check or free grammar check . A paragraph or sentence can also be counted! Remember that one can enable or disable the feature of counting spaces. Punctuation marks will be counted automatically.

Counting Words in a Sentence

Have you ever wondered how many words are in this sentence that you just wrote? StudyCrumb’s tool aims to help you just with that. Students can easily check the quality of their writing and the number of words calculator whenever they need it. Our tool can be accessed from any device, such as a computer or smartphone. It can calculate number of words in your sentences and paragraphs. So don’t waste your time! Save this page as your device’s bookmarks and check your texts when your professors demand it! It won’t cost you anything. The text you wrote would look even more beautiful. Having a handy word count scanner is consistently another latest useful feature!

Important Features of Our Word Count Estimator: Find Word Count Easily!

Every calculator for words list has a bunch of quality features. And StudyCrumb’s is not different. How do you get word count of a document with its help? It's quite straightforward. Copy and paste the desired text into a box. That’s it, that’s the total guide. Use our number of words counter online for free to determine how many pages, paragraphs, and sentences you've written. Moreover, you’ll be able to see the approximate time it would take the audience to read your text. Our words counting software provides only accurate results that one can get online. Moreover, it is 100% free! You don’t have to set up a new account, register, or post any credit card number to use our tool. Just paste your text and check its length as many times as you need. If your academic work has space for improvement or it lacks some sections, contact our thesis writing service . 

Writing Word Count With Spaces

Do you need to set up the word counter including spaces? It is one of the features our online words calculator has. Their number will be shown under the status bar below the text you paste in a box. This is a useful feature when you don’t feel like writing more content and can pass the spaces as an additional number of characters. Our word count tool online for free breaks the number of words based on the number of spaces that were used. It adds that number to the overall quantity of words in your paper. Simple math!

Word Count Without Spaces

StudyCrumb’s word calculation without spaces feature is useful. Test it if you wish to calculate word count of a document without any extra spaces. Everything is displayed under your input text box in the result section. Why would one need to check a writing word count without spaces though? It can help determine whether you should add anything to the paper or delete any content from it. After all, in this case, you won’t be able to use the “space number” excuse to nope out of writing more parts of your essay!

The Most Famous Word Counting Machine of All Time

StudyCrumb offers you one of the best word count tools and words to pages converters that can greatly assist you in writing an essay. Our website that counts words can help you with even the toughest assignments. It ensures that your essay is the correct word count. Our website to count words for free will also be useful for anyone who works in writing, academic or otherwise. It could be used to create a wide range of writing projects including in-app messages, meta descriptions, targeted content marketing, and social media threads. If you’re writing your paper, it will remind you that every word serves a purpose. Each one is placed there for a reason. Moreover, it will show you how long it would take for your audience to read your paper. So get checking right now! Be sure to use our plagiarism detector before submitting your composition.

Benefit From Our Online Essay Word Counter

StudyCrumb’s word counter for essay offers a whole pool of benefits. As our document word counter is free, it’s not the only benefit you can appreciate:

Needless to say, while writing in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Google Documents, you can easily see word and character count. But if you are dealing with a pdf file, you should put in some extra effort. Luckily, with our paper word counter, you can solve this issue effortlessly.

Get help from academic experts!

Whether you need to write a paper or have your essay edited, our experts will handle everything quickly and efficiently.

FAQ About Essay Word Counter

Have any unanswered questions about our word frequency counter? Check out the answers below and find a flash answer.

1. Do I need to register to use the word count checker?

No, StudyCrumb’s word count checker can be used without registration. We did our best to make the process as smooth as possible. You can check count values without creating an account.

2. Does your word counter check spelling?

Sure! Our instrument works like a spell checker and word count tool. This way, you can count symbols in your document and detect spelling errors, if there are any. Our tool will underline the areas that need extra attention.

3. Does this character counter include spaces or not?

Our character counter will show the count values both with and without spaces. Once you enter your text, you will get in-depth results where you will see characters including and excluding spaces.

4. Does your word counter tool save my text?

No, StudyCrumb’s word counter tool doesn’t save your text to the database. Your privacy is our top priority. We designed a tool that doesn’t store content you enter.

5. Do spaces count as words in an essay?

Yes, they do. Our word counter for free online will show you the number of words with or without spaces in a result section below the input box. These numbers will be vastly different. It only means that spaces count as words in an essay.

6. How do you find out how many words did I write?

Our tool is powered by an AI. So, it obviously knows how to count words. It divides the entire text by spaces and then counts the resulting pieces which are the words. Then it will show you the number of words it counted in a section below, as well as this number plus the number of spaces found in your text.

7. How do I check my word count on an essay quickly?

Just use our tool if you need to count the words in a document! It has a fast mode with an intuitive interface that delivers only accurate results. It is completely free, which means that you won’t have to suffer through a trial period or set up an account in order to use it.

8. Can you count the words in my document if it’s 50 pages?

When using a words count online, you should take into consideration your text’s font and formatting. For example, a page made of Times New Roman 14 is not the same as Arial 12. That said, our tool can handle a text of >100.000 characters and >15.000 words.

Other Tools You May Like

Other Tools You May Like

StudyCrumb offers you more than just a word counter. We’ve designed a whole bundle of free writing tools that can improve your academic experience. Check them out below!

7 Expert Tips for the Common App Essay

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Each year, over a million high school seniors apply for college through the Common Application . This online system enables you to submit one application to multiple schools, meaning you only have to fill out everything once — including a personal statement .

The Common App essay gives colleges the opportunity to learn more about you as a person and what's important to you. You should use this space to tell your story and reveal different facets of your personality.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Here, we explain what the Common App essay entails before diving into admissions experts' biggest tips for crafting a memorable personal statement.

What Is the Common App Essay?

The Common App essay is the main personal statement you'll submit to colleges that use the Common App and require the essay.

You can find the Common App essay prompts and instructions by navigating to the "Common App" tab on your Common App account and clicking on "Writing." You'll get to choose one of seven prompts to respond to, and your essay must be between 250 and 650 words long.

This statement gives you the chance to delve deeper into your interests, experiences, passions, and strengths. You can discuss almost anything you want, provided your topic addresses the prompt you've chosen. There are also no rules on style or how to tell your story.

You must submit the Common App essay to all colleges that require it, though some may ask you to submit one or more supplemental essays as well.

The application form provides you with a box in which to type your essay; however, it's strongly recommended that you compose your essay in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or another word processor before copying and pasting your final draft into this box.

How Important Is the Common App Essay?

The Common App essay is a key part of your college application. According to a 2019 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling , 56.4% of colleges surveyed considered the personal statement moderately or considerably important. Highly selective institutions tended to place more emphasis on the essay.

"The more selective the college, the more the essay matters," explained Elizabeth Benedict, a former Princeton writing instructor and the founder and president of Don't Sweat the Essay Inc .

Benedict, who spoke with BestColleges about the Common App essay, has helped students around the world apply to college for over a decade.

"Applying to a hyper-selective college with mediocre or uneven grades and a fabulous essay will likely not get you into that college, [whereas] applying to a hyper-selective college with top grades and scores, outstanding extracurriculars, and a mediocre essay could sink your application," she said.

While most experts agree that a strong Common App essay won't necessarily secure you admission into a highly selective college — especially if your grades and test scores aren't up to par — a well-written statement could act as a tipping point in your favor.

According to Benedict, this often happens at small liberal arts colleges , which tend to take a more holistic admissions approach .

Experts' Top 7 Common App Essay Tips

Admissions officers, higher education administrators, education consultants, and college admissions advisors like Benedict have many tricks for approaching the Common App essay. Here are some of their biggest tips.

1. Don't Mistake a Rare Topic for an Effective Topic

Many students assume their Common App essay must revolve around a unique topic that no other applicant has ever written about, but this is a myth.

"Overuse of a topic doesn't make it a bad topic," Whitney Soule told U.S. News & World Report . Soule currently serves as Bowdoin College's dean of admissions and student aid.

"It's not just about the topic," echoes Jennifer Gayles , director of admissions at Sarah Lawrence College, "but why it's important to you and how you can showcase who you are as a student and an individual through that topic."

Choosing the right Common App essay topic can be tricky, but it's extremely important. "Students I work with run the gamut from having a good idea to having absolutely no idea what to write about," Benedict said. "Often in our brainstorming session, an idea will pop up in discussion, and I'll say, 'That's a good idea,' and the student will be surprised."

To identify potential essay topics, Benedict proposes asking yourself a series of questions. Have you experienced a turning point in your life? Are you deeply passionate about a particular subject?

Ultimately, your essay should excite and inspire you, as well as those who read it. "If an essay topic makes your heart beat fast, that's a good sign," said Benedict.

2. Pick the Best Essay Prompt for You

Not all Common App essay prompts are created equal. Of the seven prompts, some will no doubt work better for you than others.

Lisa Mortini, assistant director of admissions at New York University Abu Dhabi, asks students to think about what version of themselves they want to present to schools and to trust their instincts.

"Don't just jump on the first prompt you read and start writing," she writes in a blog post for NYU. "Ask yourself: Are you excited to talk to us about a specific achievement? Do you want to give us insight into a hardship you faced and conquered?"

In essence, work backward: Start with a topic and then see which essay prompt fits it the best.

This is the same advice given by Thea Hogarth of College Essay Advisors : "Once you have determined the story you really want to tell, you'll know which prompt will make a good fit. All of the Common App options are broad enough to accommodate almost any story."

3. Use Your Space Wisely

Students tend to go one of two ways with the Common App essay: They either write way too much and struggle to trim it down, or they write way too little and end up sounding superficial and generic.

The Common App essay word count range is 250-650 words. But just how long should your statement be? Admissions Blog advises aiming for around 500 words. And former Tufts University admissions officer Becky Leichtling concurs.

"The most common 'personal statement' length is in the ballpark of 500 words," Leichtling writes for Bright Horizons College Coach . "I consider 500 the 'sweet spot,' but don't stress if you write an essay closer to 430 or 620 [words] that you're honestly proud of."

4. Fill Your Story With Details

Details are everything when it comes to the Common App essay, which is why so many experts suggest anchoring your essay in a single anecdote or story.

"Specific anecdotes are your friend when drafting your Common App personal statement," Shirag Shemmassian, founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting, writes on his company's website . "Try to think of a story you often tell people that shows something about you."

Meredith Reynolds, associate director of admissions at Tufts, similarly recommends that applicants emphasize specifics in their essays. "By focusing on details, you set yourself apart," she says.

In terms of structure, Benedict advises approaching the Common App essay one step at a time. "Break down the topic to the smallest pieces you can and write a paragraph about each," she said.

In other words, discuss specific moments from your life. Relate conversations you've had. Describe how something felt or looked. It's the details in your story — not the topic itself — that will help you stand out the most.

5. Channel Your Authentic Voice

The Common App essay is unlike most essays you've written for school. Instead of analyzing a piece of literature or a historical event, you must showcase your identity. As such, the words you use should sound like they actually come from you — not a thesaurus or an English teacher.

"[Students] are used to writing academic essays and trying to impress with big words and formal-sounding constructions," Benedict said when asked about the most common mistake students make on the Common App essay. "The best essays have a conversational voice — not a stiff, academic one."

Educational consultant Ian Fisher agrees . In a blog post offering language tips for college essays, Fisher expounds on the importance of writing in a way true to how you talk in real life.

"You're going to have to fight the urge to 'impress' your admissions reader with the big words you've learned from your SAT practice," he writes.

Students should, however, avoid using any derogatory, offensive, or inappropriate language. Fisher recommends using words like "debate" instead of "fight" and "undeveloped" instead of "stupid."

Likewise, students should refrain from relying on cliches. This includes phrases such as "happily ever after," "beggars can't be choosers," and "crack of dawn." Benedict advises getting someone to "cliche-proof" your essay.

6. Get Feedback

Before submitting your Common App essay, show it to someone who will not only offer feedback but also edit and proofread your writing.

Shemmassian suggests giving your draft to "a trusted admissions counselor, English teacher, or other advisor." Meanwhile, Reynolds says you should "show your essay to two people — one who is a strong writer, and one who knows you really well."

All recommendations from experts share a common thread: Getting feedback on your Common App essay should be a top priority.

7. Don't Neglect Supplemental Essays

Lots of competitive universities require the Common App essay in addition to supplemental essays and/or short answers. If you have other essays to submit, don't spend all your time working on the Common App essay. After all, all essays can impact your admission chances.

"At the most selective colleges and universities, there are usually supplemental essays as well, and those are part of the overall package, and they are very important," Benedict said.

She also discussed how a great Common App essay combined with weak supplemental essays could reflect poorly on your application and increase your risk of getting rejected .

"I can't stress enough the importance of the supplemental essays," Benedict continued. "For the most selective universities, all of the essays taken together present a 'package' of who you are." And how you choose to put together that package is up to you.

Portrait of Elizabeth Benedict

Elizabeth Benedict

Elizabeth Benedict is the founder and president of Don't Sweat the Essay Inc. , which has been helping students apply to college around the U.S. and all over the world for a dozen years. Elizabeth is a best-selling novelist, a prolific journalist, and an editor of many books. She has taught writing at Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Swarthmore, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her clients are regularly admitted to top universities and their first-choice colleges.

Feature Image: FG Trade / E+ / Getty Images

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