THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS ESSAY: Dealing with the Word Count

Dealing with the word count for your college essay can be tricky. You’ve worked hard, love what you’ve done and don’t want to lose a single word. But College Admission Officers have a very good sense of when an essay is too long, so you really don’t have a choice. Some ways to handle your cuts include:

1. Take out large chunks first. Depending on how many words you’re over, it’s usually best to omit large sections of the essay first, rather than try to chip away, a word at a time. If there’s a point that is eating up a lot of your word count, and you feel the essay can hold together without it, delete those sentences then reread carefully. Be aware that your essay might not flow as smoothly so be prepared to add some transition words or phrases.

2. Start faster. We all know that the opening of your essay is critical; these cuts might actually improve it. Look for ways to get into the body of your essay with fewer words. Pick out the strongest sentence or phrase in your opening and see if that can work by itself.

3. Stick to the point. Comb your essay for points that stray from your major subject. These can often be eliminated, not only saving words but tightening your essay.

4. Check for repetition. It’s been my experience that students will often repeat a point, using slightly different words, two or more times within the essay. Reread scrupulously to discover and omit these mistakes.

5. Be economical. Look for places where you’ve used three words when you could have used one. You will be surprised at how many times you’ve done it and how many words you can eliminate this way.

IN MY NEXT BLOG… Five more ways to deal with the word count.

For more personal help with the college application essay, please contact Craig Heller directly at, [email protected] or 818-340-1276.

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