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Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical?

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Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 24 Aug 2008, 21:32
I've heard various rules of thumb regarding what word count overage on a given essay is considered acceptable. The consensus appears to be a 10% overage (i.e. 50 words on a 500-word limit). Would you all agree that this is true? Or would some schools penalize you for going over? In reality, 50 words is barely 2-3 sentences.

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 25 Aug 2008, 06:04
Who knows - on 500 words, I wouldn't go over 510 (in reality, I didn't go over 505, or maybe managed the word limit exactly). You never find out, but it would really suck if that was the reason you missed out...
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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 25 Aug 2008, 06:37
I doubt any school is going to ding someone because they went 50 words over a 500 word limit. I think 10% is fine, but keep it lower if possible.

The limits are there to keep the verbose from going overboard. Someone on here mentioned they heard a Stanford AdCom speak about the application they received with a 17 page essay, 7 pages of which were spent defending why they went over the limit... :roll:

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 26 Aug 2008, 07:02
I'd keep it close to the word limit - try and avoid going over but if you can't, keep it to 5-7 words over. Better on the safe side :)

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 26 Aug 2008, 13:29
Put yourself in adcom's shoes. when you have to read several hundreds of essays, would you like to read an essay that seems longer than the norm?

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 28 Aug 2008, 09:59
If you can get your point across in shorter length, it is that much more powerful.

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 28 Aug 2008, 10:20
What about a school like Tuck that does not have a hard limit. They say something like - there is no word limit on the essays but on average applicants write 500 words per essay.

How far would you feel comfortable stretching these? Seems like 550 is fine here, but I wouldn't want to go over that.

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 28 Aug 2008, 10:27
Regarding word limit, I think it also tests a person's ability to follow the rules. If he or she can't follow the word limit we've imposed, does this person think rules don't apply to everyone? It might raise some doubts as to the applicant's character. My advice is if the word count is set at 600 (or any other figure), if your count is 601, better find a way to edit a word out of a sentence. Not that 601 would keep you out, but it would certainly make me feel better about my own essays knowing that I did what I was asked by the school.

As for Tuck, I read one person that said they used it as kind of an average across all essays. That was an interesting perspective. I don't know if this was an admitted student or just applicant.
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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 28 Aug 2008, 11:01
Here's what UCLA has to say about going over word limits:

"Successful applicants can write well-thought responses to essay questions within the stated limits. However there is a little leeway should you go over by a few words or a sentence or two. What is not acceptable is single spacing or using very small font, which gives an applicant unfair advantage with more space for their responses than those who do stay within the limits"

Chicago GSB:

Rose - "Our word limits are actually guides."

So it's not a hard and fast rule. Some schools are more flexible than others; it's up to you to determine whether to go over or not.

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 31 Aug 2008, 20:18
YES, keep it to within 10%. The adcoms read so many essays, they can tell when one goes over that.

The essay limit sucks, but it makes you a better writer, because you have to be tight and express your thoughts in as few words as possible. You know how you tweak the wording on your resume to make it fit? Do the same with your essay.

I am lucky in this regard because I do a lot of writing for work and a lot of layout, and simple tweaks can make a line of text fit a small space. It's often just a matter of a word or two. Look for anything that's more verbose than it needs to be, and choose descriptive words that have impact.

I don't know if we're allowed to post things on this site to ask for help in tweaking essays, but if so, you could try that if you're stuck on a particular phrase.

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 01 Sep 2008, 08:24
I my opinion, well within the limits is the best option. i am not sure if the words limits are are so stringent that a point cannot be made within the limits. Any feedback on shorter essays from schools?

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 03 Sep 2008, 11:23
Update: Official word from Johnson adcom was "It's fine with 10, even 20% excess in word limit" --as long as the essay is effective. That being said, each school, I believe has a different perspective on how much you can go over.

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 03 Sep 2008, 11:33
I went 30 words over on the Wharton 1000 essay, I think 10% should be the strict max unless the school is known to be lenient (chicago GSB comes to mind).
I also think the 10% should apply to only ONE essay...don't consistently go over by 10% as that really adds up.

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical? [#permalink]

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New post 03 Sep 2008, 13:15
what do you guys think about HBS apps? is HBS more strict than others when it comes to word limits?

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Re: Word Count Limits on Essays - How critical?   [#permalink] 03 Sep 2008, 13:15
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