For the past two years, the Common Application has restricted the personal essay length to 500 words. The length restriction was praised by many, but others (myself included) thought that 500 words wasn't much space in which to tell a rich and meaningful story. Sure, the short length forced students to be concise, and admissions officers no longer had to read 1,500 words of rambling drivel. At the same time, however, a lot of substance and personality ended up getting stripped from students' narratives.
The new Common Application being released on August 1st will give students a little more writing room in which to maneuver. Here's the new policy:
... write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)So, beginning in the fall of 2013, applicants will write essays in the 250 to 650 word range. The current application with its 500-word limit does not actually enforce the limit -- many students attach essays that go over 500 words (read why you shouldn't go over the word limit). The folks at The Common Application, however, have stated that the new application will enforce the limit. Keep it tight!