How Long Should College Essays Be

Posted: March 27, 2017 - to EducationBy: Patrick
Content how long should college essays be

There is no single answer to the question, how long should college essays be. There are several factors that you need to take into consideration. In order to help you learn everything you  need to know about essay length, we have put together this brief guide. Please bookmark this page, and use it as a reference every time you wonder if your essay is long enough.

How Long Should College Essays be? Understanding  Your Instructor’s Requirements

When you receive an essay assignment, you will almost always get some sort of rubric. It will tell the the number of pages, the citation format, topic, and other requirements. In some cases, you might be given a required word length. In this case, your essay should be at least as long as the word count requirement. However, if you  need more words to make your point, by all means use them.

If you  have been given a page count, things get a bit more complicated. For example, not every five page essay is truly the same length. Spacing and font type make a big difference. This is why it’s so important to understand the citation format you are using, and comply with all of the requirements regarding font type, font size, margins, and spacing. This is why writing services want to know your citation format.

How Long Should College Essays be? Balancing Quantity And Quality

You won’t always receive a directive about the length of your essay. Sometimes, you will be left to your own devices to determine how long your paper should be. You may also be given a very low, minimum word count with instructions to go longer if you need to.

This comes with several temptations. You may want to only do the bare minimum. While you won’t necessarily lose points for doing this, it is almost universally a bad idea. You are essentially telling your instructor that you only want to do the very bare minimum. There’s also a good chance that you won’t effectively make your points if you quit as soon as you  hit the required word count.

On the other hand, some students see this as an opportunity to share every bit of knowledge they have on the subject at hand. If you truly have lots of interesting things to say, that’s great. However, all too often these essays are wordy, boring, and make students seem more than a little bit pompous. Here is a good rule of thumb. Write until your point has been effectively made. In almost every case you will exceed the minimum word count without going on and on.

How Long Should College Essays be? Effectively Padding Your Word Count

My essay isn’t long enough, and I have nothing else to say. What do I do  now? This is a tough one. Because, the last thing you want to do is turn in an essay that doesn’t meet the required word count. You need more words. The challenge is, how do you get those words without impacting quality.

Let’s talk first about some things that you shouldn’t do. First, don’t use the common technique of inserting adverbs and other filler words into your essay. It’s an old technique and instructors can see it a mile away. Also, unless contractions are improper for the specific essay you are writing, don’t go through and break contractions into their individual parts. When you do this,  you make your writing sound overly stilted and stuffy.

Instead, go back to your notes. Are there points and arguments that you initially thought you didn’t  need? By adding these into your essay, you can increase your word count in a way that makes sense.

How Long Should College Essays be? When Things Run Long

You’ve hit your word count, and your still writing. Worse, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. You don’t see a way to wrap things up and conclude your essay. This is a problem with topic selection.

To put it more succinctly, you’ve chosen a topic that is too broad. You may need to go back and narrow the focus of your essay. Then, you will be able to finish within a reasonable amount of words.


When determining the length of your essay, there are many things to consider. Be sure to keep quality, page vs. word count, and your professor’s instruction in mind.

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