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How Long Should a College Essay Be?

A lot of students have problems actually reaching the word limit, and if you are not one of them, you might be categorized as a student who always writes 350 words when 250 is needed. So, how to reach the middle ground? And what is the middle ground? Experts from will help you with these tricky questions.

We would like to make something clear right off the top and answer the question “How long should a college essay be?” During the 2016-2019 period, the standard essay limit has been 650 words, but it varies depending on the requirement of each educational institution, your level, and subject of study. When writing a college essay, students should consider quality over quantity. The principle “the more, the better” does not apply in this case. It is all about proper structuring, clear conveying of an idea, and lastly the length of the essay.


College essay writing


Lengths for Different Types of Essay

If you are only planning to go to the university, the essay you are interested in is college application, which has a strict word limit and requires a short personal essay to express your motivations. The average word count rage is 200-650 words. Your goal is to write a paper that does not exceed the word limit in length.

Usual 5-paragraph college essay that is composed of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion is 500-1000 words in length. But before handing the paper in, check out whether your college uses a page-limit or a word-limit basis. Most educational institutions provide the second one to know the exact word count regardless of formatting or font.

There is one more type of papers, and that is a research essay. It requires a long phase of choosing a topic, researching, outlining, and editing. It may sound a little scary, but the average length of such an essay is 1500–5000 words. However, there are some exceptions. For example, the most suitable rhetorical analysis essay word count would be 500 to 800 words unless the professor gave other instructions. So, be sure to doublecheck all the requirements before writing and editing your paper.

But why do you even have to stay within this range? The reasons are simple. You do not want to write less and give the examiner fewer opportunities to give you points. You also do not want to go over the word count because you have fulfilled the requirement and that extra time you are using writing more than necessary can be devoted to creating an essay plan or checking your writing for mistakes.

How Long Should Each Part of an Essay Be?


Writing an essay


In any college essay, whether it is a research paper or book review, the main body or body paragraphs should always take up the most space. Tin this part of the essay, you have to provide your arguments, give evidence, and develop your core ideas. Usually, you are required to write three body paragraphs which take 75% of all the college essay.

The introduction should be proportional to the overall essay’s length. In a 650-words essay, the introductory paragraph is usually just a couple of sentences with a thesis statement. In a research essay where you need to lay out the background information and introduce your main arguments, the introduction may consist of 8-10 full sentences.

Whether you are required to write a 650-words essay or 5000-words paper, the conclusion of a college essay is often just a single paragraph. Only a dissertation can be an exception. Why so? Your conclusion paragraph does not have to summarize every step of your essay, it should tie together your main ideas and points in a convincing and concise way.

Can You Go Under or Over the Suggested Length?

First of all, a student should always meet the minimum length that is given by your professor or general instructions. If you have some problems reaching the word count, add a couple of examples and evidence to your essay in order to strengthen your points or try to develop your ideas in a more detailed way. One more way to increase the length of your paper is to include counterargument in your essay. However, there is one “don’t”. Never use filler or thesaurus to reach the limit and add smart yet unnecessary words. It won’t help you to get A+.

If you want to exceed the upper word limit, be sure it is not more than 10% of all the essay length. So, for an assignment of 650-1000 words, your absolute maximum is 1100 words. But sometimes, professors can make concessions and allow a student to write even more than that. So, it is never wrong to ask your teacher about the proper length of an essay one more time.

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