November 1, 2011. Here is some great advice from the New York Times on reducing the number of words in your common application essay or your college admissions essay.
Shorter essays usually make a stronger impression, just like reducing a soup stock gives it a stronger flavor. However, when cutting words, examine the content. Compare this short, but general phrase:
“Volunteering to help others is important to me.”
with this slightly longer one that says so much more about a student, because it is specific:
“I remember when I went to the Flint Homeless Shelter last year, for my weekly two-hour shift serving dinner.”
Here is a sample essay that is very effective with only 79 words, from Fiske: Real College Essays that Work:
“Why Yale” by David Roosth
Upon a recent Yale visit, I conversed with a Yale senior in the admissions office about his experiences. He had only two complaints about the university: there were too many student protesters, and the university sands the roads instead of salting them in the winter. I love that Yale is a place where the students are motivated to change the world, and the faculty encourages them to act. Sanding saves the environment. What annoyed this Yale student impresses me.
Ask yourself: “What have I learned about David from this essay?” Then ask yourself: “What will someone learn about me after they read my essay?” They should finish with a clear, positive impression of you.
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