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So, I bought Montauk's essay book for some advice... and the example essays are freaking huge! Most colleges have 500 or 750 word limits. I haven't counted, but some of these essays must be 1000 words or more.
Should I be freaking out about word limits (i.e. is it ok to give them 504 words when the limit i 500)?
I am in editing mode right now, and I don't want to cut out more than I have to
1. Cutting your essay is probably for the better. For my Cornell app, I started with 800 words for a 400-word essay. The cuts I made down to about 500 strengthened the essay. After that, I think my essay lost some flavor.
2. NO ONE (who matters) IS COUNTING. 504 = 500. Really. Last year I heard of one school that had a word-counting tool in the application interface and wouldn't allow you to submit if your word count was too high, but that's rare. Going a little over is fine. 700 on a 500-word limit shows you don't follow directions, and you had BETTER be using those extra 200 words wisely. 510 is something no one will see. Spending precious time getting down to 500 is very unlikely to be rewarded.
My goal is +/- 5% on all essays. The tough ones are length limits without guidelines for font, font size, and margins. Someone using 10pt times new roman with 3/4" margins is going to have a lot more words than someone using 11pt arial with 1" margins.
A big complaint about all the books is the lengths of all the essays are WAY to long for the current standards. Many of these are from when schools had much longer essay limits. I believe not too long ago Stanford allowed 7pgs for the first essay and now I think all their essays total 7pgs combined.
Getting the HBS essays under the 600 & 400 word limits is like pulling teeth! I agree with aaudedat, shortening to a certain length makes the essay more powerful, but after that you just start loosing bits and pieces of who you are.
I'm starting to believe that the adcoms know what they're doing when they're shrinking the word limits (other than it's easier to read through thousands of essays). There must be a way to write very good essays at such short lengths, otherwise they would not choose the limits that they do, right? (or I'm just an idealist).
But river is right, 2 years ago the Stanford essay limit for Essay A was unlimited... last year it was 3-4 pages for Essay A, and 7-11 total pages. Now it's just 7 pages.
Well, I guess these essays will make boys into men... (or girls into women)
One thing, I don't think they will bother counting the words in essays. Some people will write using longer words and thus their essays may look longer even if they are fewer words than someone who keeps it very simple.
As long as it is not obviously way too long I wouldn't worry about it. I think thats why the 10% is a good rule beyond that it probably starts to become noticeable that you went beyond the limit.
Check out this awesome article about Anderson on Poets Quants, http://poetsandquants.com/2015/01/02/uclas-anderson-school-morphs-into-a-friendly-tech-hub/ . Anderson is a great place! Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I...