Question: My daughter's Common App essay is about 600 words. It's a good essay, very readable, thoughtful, and fun. But, the new essay rule is 250-500 words. I understand that this is to keep lengths down, because students were going on for pages and pages in an effort to impress. So I'm thinking that 600 words should be fine-- that it certainly would have been fine in the 2010-2011 cycle. But with this new guideline, will 600 words seem too much?

The Common App’s 250-500-word guideline really is just that … a guideline … and thus your daughter’s 600-word essay is still in the ballpark and need not be shortened. BUT … I should also add that I have rarely read a college application essay that couldn’t be improved by a little surgery. Granted, a full 100-word excision may not be required here. Even so, your daughter may want to let this essay molder for a few weeks, and then she can revisit it with a more critical eye or ask a respected “editor” (you, another family member, friend, teacher, etc.) to weigh in on what might be cut out. In my experience, teens can get a bit heavy-handed with adjectives and adverbs. However, if your daughter decides there’s nothing left to pare, then she’s fine with 600 words.

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