Achieving an ideal length for your college personal statement can make the difference between a personal statement that is read in its entirety, one that is skimmed, or one that is quickly dismissed. This is something that many applicants struggle with as they work to create their personal statements. And it is completely understandable. In an effort to fully convey a story or to explain complicated situations, people often end up with a college personal statement that is significantly longer that what is allowed for the application process.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for applicants to write out their entire essay, only to realize that they will need to cut one-third or more of the essay to bring it within the personal statement word or character count limits. However, this situation can be avoided through careful planning so that you can keep your college personal statement the right length.
The most amazing anecdote, the story of your above-and-beyond most significant accomplishment, or the explanation of the most challenging experience will not work in your favor if it does not fit into the length of the essay. Therefore, brainstorming your essay ideas and creating a basic outline will prove helpful in the creation of your college personal statement. If you know you only have 500 words to work with, decide in advance how much space to devote to each paragraph and stick to it when you are in the actual writing process.
Programs are increasingly imposing hard word count or character count limits, especially for centralized application systems. However, other programs offer guidelines, approximate, or ‘ideal’ lengths while still allowing you to submit a college personal statement that is the length that you choose. While your application will not be rejected outright if you include a personal statement that is significantly longer, take your program’s guidelines very seriously. They’re telling you what they want. They’re just also giving you some leeway to say what you need to say.
For this reason, don’t view ‘soft’ guidelines as a free-for-all. Not going over 10% of the recommended length is a good rule. Therefore, if the program asks for a single-spaced personal statement of approximately one page, think carefully before submitting a college personal statement that is longer than one page and one paragraph. The admissions committee will be happy to read an extra paragraph for a strong essay.
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