Preparing for College

Oops ... Application Essay Snafu: I Wrote 500 Characters, Not 500 Words

Question: I have all of the requirements to get into Boston University but I mistakenly messed up my application that I already sent. I just realized that one of the supplemental essays was to be no more than 500 words but I read it as 500 CHARACTERS. Thus, my essay is only 75 words in length. This is my top choice school and I am very concerned that this will greatly hinder my chances of getting in. Please give your honest opinion on what you think my fate will be. Do you think it will matter that much to the point where they will not accept me? Thank you.

Oops! :-(

Usually when seniors write to me with some post-submission application snafu, it's much ado about nothing. ("I put 'here' when I meant 'hear'" or "I said I volunteered for the Special Olympics in 9th grade, but I just realized I was already in 10th.") In most instances, I suggest that a follow-up message to colleges is not warranted.

But, in your case, it's certainly possible that the B.U. admission folks might wonder why you only submitted a few sentences instead of the entire essay they expected. So, I do recommend that you set the record straight, and you can even approach it in a humorous way.


Send an email to the admission rep at BU who oversees applicants from your high school. (If you don't have that person's name and contact info, call B.U. and ask.)

Your Subject Line can be "Less is More???"

Explain your mistake, just as you did to me, and attach a re-written, full-length essay.

In your explanation, you can also mention that B.U. is your top-choice college and attribute your mistake to "a 'Senior Moment'" :)

If you don't get a reply from your admissions rep, print out a hard copy of your message and new essay and snail-mail everything to the B.U. office of admission. On the front of the envelope write:

“Important information for [YOUR NAME], Candidate to the Class of 2015."

Good luck and don't worry. If you make this right with B.U., it won't have any negative impact on your admissions verdict.

Meanwhile, you can read about other application bloopers that admission officers have encountered over the eons and which were far worse than yours. See:

(posted 11/10/10)