How Long Should a College Essay Be?

When you are writing a college essay, you have two main criteria to abide by – the information that you want to convey, and the way that you convey it. Beyond these two simple rules there are lots of guidelines that you need to abide by. Beyond these basic rules, well… everything depends on how long you can go on, and how good you are at following those rules. But I’m only going to discuss a few of the things that you should pay attention to as you write your essay.

The length of college essays

In the most basic terms, your 500-word essay should be just about but not over, the word length limit. This will be the minimum amount of words that you should use, but an essay of 500 words or more is generally too long. Try to get down to about 50 words, with the maximum word length is over 500 words.

To figure out how long should a college essay be, use a good writing sample. You don’t need to write from scratch, but using a good writing sample will give you some good ideas about how to word your essay. Write down ideas that you see in your writing sample, and then make your own list of words that you think make up your 500 word essay. There is no exact science to this, because different people will write essays in different ways.

If you are having trouble deciding on how long should a college essay be, you might want to look at your admissions prompts. For example, if you have an essay prompt that asks you to define a word, and you are having a hard time coming up with an appropriate word, you might find that your prompt is asking you to choose several words that make up the main idea of your essay. In this case, you can choose the maximum number of words that you think you need to get your point across. Then, write your essay around those few important words.

In the same way, if your essay prompt is asking you to choose between using one or two main ideas, and you would like to include some examples of where others have used similar ideas, be careful not to choose too many words that describe the main idea in your essay. It can seem easier to write a lengthy essay about one idea, and leave out the supporting details, but when it comes to choosing how long should a college essay be, you still want to leave out the details that make the main idea possible.

For example, writing about how a writer has used a main idea to create five distinct short stories is fine, but writing about how that writer “cherishes” one story because it ends in tragedy is not acceptable, even if it does accurately describe what you believe in. The important thing is that you show your awareness of and commitment to your chosen topic, and that you use interesting and engaging language.


One of the most common essay length requirements is to choose a word limit that feels comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong answer to this question; it really depends on your personality and learning habits. Some people have a hard time remembering even a single word; others are fine with as little as a hundred words, and will not mind having to write at least twice that much. It is up to you to determine how much time you can spend on an essay, and what word limit works best for you. Remember, however, that most universities impose a word limit no matter what kind of academic writing you are doing.