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jaaaayciee

Is it important to reach the word limit?

6 posts in this topic

So, I just began looking into writing my SOP. I am extremely intimidated and absolutely terrified to write it. However, I am trying to push through.

At my number one prospect school (IU Bloomington), I noticed that they wanted their SOP to be at most 1000 words. However, I was always told (and was planning on) SOPs were only around 500 words. Even though 1000 words really isn't a large benchmark by any means, do committees judge harshly if you are not close to the word maximum that they give?

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They aren't going to automatically rank your application lower because you submitted 900, rather than 1000, words. 

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Posted (edited)

rising_star, I think the question is, if you turn in a SOP around 500 words for a school that asks for max. 1000, will this reflect poorly on your application? 


I am not sure, I second this question!

Edited by GirlRichard

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I agree with rising_star, for both wordings of the question. No school is going to automatically rank your application lower because you are below the max number of words. 

The SOP is definitely about quality of words, not quantity (other than limits). While a well-written 500 word essay will be better than a poorly-written 900 word essay, what's even better is a well-written 900 word essay. If the limit is 1000 words, then you will be sure that most applicants will be submitting 800+ words. Why wouldn't you use the space you have to include as many well-written sentences/paragraphs about yourself as you can?

To the OP: If you are planning to write 500 word SOPs for most of your schools and that's what most of your schools ask for then that's great. But when a school sets a 1000 word limit, I'd plan on using more of that space! Take the extra time to write a 1000 word SOP (or close to it) instead of just stretching out your 500 word SOP. If you think this is not worth your time, then I would say it's a good sign that perhaps this is not a school you would want to apply to. (Note: I really don't mean this in a judgemental way: there are tons of good schools to apply to out there so only spend your effort and time on programs you think are worth it).

For a reference point, my field's norms is about 750 words. Most schools say "less than 2 pages" and most people write between 1.3 to 1.7 pages. However, I did have one school that had a strict limit of 500 words and another of 300 words. I had to write a new SOP just for these two schools but I felt it was worth it since I was really interested in those programs. There was another school that had some annoying/ridiculous requirement (I forgot what, it might have been requiring LORs on letter-head) and in the end, I decided that program wasn't worth it and I wasn't really eager to go there anyways. 

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18 hours ago, TakeruK said:

To the OP: If you are planning to write 500 word SOPs for most of your schools and that's what most of your schools ask for then that's great. But when a school sets a 1000 word limit, I'd plan on using more of that space! Take the extra time to write a 1000 word SOP (or close to it) instead of just stretching out your 500 word SOP. If you think this is not worth your time, then I would say it's a good sign that perhaps this is not a school you would want to apply to. (Note: I really don't mean this in a judgemental way: there are tons of good schools to apply to out there so only spend your effort and time on programs you think are worth it).

Don't worry, I didn't take it as a judgmental way whatsoever. You do make very good points and I thank you for the advice and help. So I guess then my new question (which I hope isn't redundant) is based around schools that don't really talk about a limit in general. A few programs that I have seen require a SOP but don't say any guidelines about it -- just more what they want in content, but not really a length minimum or maximum. So, in that case, what range do you advise I stay in?

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2 hours ago, jaaaayciee said:

Don't worry, I didn't take it as a judgmental way whatsoever. You do make very good points and I thank you for the advice and help. So I guess then my new question (which I hope isn't redundant) is based around schools that don't really talk about a limit in general. A few programs that I have seen require a SOP but don't say any guidelines about it -- just more what they want in content, but not really a length minimum or maximum. So, in that case, what range do you advise I stay in?

The most correct answer is probably not very satisfying: you should take as much space as you need to provide a strong answer to their prompt, and no more. Realistically, you want to stay within the norms of your field. I wrote what my field would expect above, and maybe others here can tell you more about yours. You can also have mentors read over your SOPs and look at the requirements for a range of programs in your field. If you see that most are asking for 1000 word essays, then it would be a good idea to write your other essays around 1000 words too. When there are no strict instructions on word length, it's nice because if you really want to add an extra paragraph or remove an irrelevant one, you can do so without worrying about being inconsistent with their directions. Or, if you are very unsure about a school's instructions, it's okay to ask after checking for the answer on their website.

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