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How many essays do I need to write?

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Everyone is aware that college applications require students to write a college application essay. But just how many essays will you have to prepare for your college applications? To find out, let’s follow the journey of our sample student - Timmy Veritas.

Timmy wants to apply to these nine schools:

  1. Harvard

  2. Columbia

  3. MIT

  4. UPenn

  5. UC Berkeley

  6. UNC Chapel Hill

  7. The University of Virginia

  8. NYU

  9. Virginia Tech

So how many essays does he have to write? Well, he will have to write:

  • 1 Common App Personal Essay (650 word limit)

  • 2 School-specific supplementary essays (400 words or more)

  • 20 School-specific short-answer essay responses (300 words or less)

  • 4 UC-specific essay prompts (350 words each)

  • 2 Optional personal statements (~500 words each)

In total, for these 9 schools, Timmy would have to write 29 essays and a maximum of 7530 words. That’s about 30 pages of essay writing! And although Timmy will hopefully be able to re-use some of his material, he can’t do it too much. For the essays outside of the Common App required essay, schools want to see that students have done their homework in researching the university and its program - they don’t want boilerplate responses. So Timmy will likely have to write much of those 7530 words from scratch for his college applications.

One reason students don’t realize just how much writing is involved in applying to college is how short some of the essays can be. But as we can see above, those 20 short essays really add up! In fact, writing a short essay can often take just as long as writing a longer one. Getting your point across in 500 words is easier - you can take your time and explain what it is you’d like to express - Expressing the same thing in 50 to 150 words is much more difficult. So even though you may spend less time writing, you will need to spend more time cutting, editing, and rewording if you want that short response to have its intended effect.

That’s why it’s important that students start early - before the school year starts and they get bogged down in their homework, tests, and extracurriculars - and result in a strong college application. This why having an experienced counselor is important because they help students understand their own strengths and, more importantly, explain these strengths to their colleges of choice. Students will craft essays not only to show why the school is a good fit for their educational needs, but also why the student will be a good fit for the school and become a contributing member of the student body.

We are offering our College Essay Application Boot Camp. In this 25-hour course, our students will work with two experienced instructors to craft 3-7 college application essays that show their individual strengths in interesting ways. This is the final call to sign up for these classes, which begin Friday, 8/14 at 12:30PM. So head over to our website and spend the end of the summer getting a head start on your applications.


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Michael Hood
Michael Hood
Nov 30, 2023

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