Number Twenty Three of the twenty five ways to make your college application essay the best writing you’ve ever done might seem merely technical, but it can contribute mightily to your chances for acceptance.

#23. Respect the word count.

As it relates to the Common Application essay, this one is easy, as the application will not allow you to upload more than 650 words. But for those students who are writing supplemental essays, or applying to schools with their own essay requirements, it’s critical that you keep your work within the stated parameters. Should you write more than the limit, shrug your shoulders and think, “Hey, that’s their problem,” you will be sending a clear message that you have difficulty following rules. And, don’t kid yourself into thinking that Admissions Committees will admire your independent spirit. Arrogance and independence are not the same thing.

Should you exceed the word limit and not know how to cut, here are five editing techniques that will help.

  1. Cut Big Chunks First

If you are 100 or more words over the limit, it is easier and more effective to cut large pieces of the essays, even a whole paragraph, than to attempt to chip away throughout the essay. To implement, reread your essay a few times and pick the weakest section. Highlight and delete. Add a new transition sentence if needed.

  1. Start Faster

Students will often write too much at the beginning of their essay, being wary of having the essay feel rushed. Should you be over in the word count, check this area and see if you can get your essay moving faster at the top.

  1. Cut Back on Adjectives and Adverbs

First, no double adjectives. If they do exist in your essay, cut at least one of them. Next, carefully review your qualifiers and descriptors and see if the sentence holds up without them. If it does, cut. A few vivid adjectives and adjectives will add much more to your essay than throwing bunches of them into every sentence.

  1. Check for Repetition

The key here is to look for places in your essay where you have made the exact same point, only stated it in different words. Elaboration and clarification are fine but if you sense that the second mention of an event or idea adds nothing new, get rid of it.

  1. Fall Out of Love

It is easy to fall in love with a concept, observation, sentence, phrase or joke within your essay. But when forced to lower your word count, everything is fair game. If those golden words aren’t contributing to the overall effectiveness of the essay… you’ve got to set them free.

For more personal help with the Common Application essay, supplemental or any other college application essays, please contact Craig Heller at, or 818-340-1276.

Share this post

Related Posts