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How Long is too long for a statement of purpose


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My SOP is coming in at around 1500 words, but I now realize that for at least some programs they ask for between 500-1000 words.

Am I way too far over the limit? How long are other peoples SOPs?... thanks

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Yes, I would say your SOP is too long, even if the upper limit is 1000 words.

I don't know about other applicants, but I'm going to sick pretty close to the word limit. I could see being approximately 20 words over (like 1 sentence) as being OK, but I'd be wary of anything longer. I think following directions is just as important as the content itself; also, I think most schools have space for an optional essay or additional information.

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I have been obsessively watching my word count (on Word 2007 there is a constant count on the bottom of the page): Take out a sentence. Yes!! 989

Add a sentence. Crap!! 1023.

OK got it down to 994

And so forth. It is a sickness with me now, I think.

What I have heard is it is okay to go a little tiny bit over, but professors want to know that you can follow directions and that you can write with conciseness.

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My experience in your shoes last year, and what I learned from admissions officers at different schools, is that 9 times out of 10 you have about 100 words of wiggle room. So if you have a 1000-word cap on your SoP, don't go over 1100 and you should be fine. Fact is that with the sheer volume of apps received every year, adcomms don't have the time to run word counts on every essay. So for you, captiv8ed, if you're at 1023 you should be fine.

I'm not an admissions officer, so my word isn't like the Holy Grail :) But this is what I've seen from the past year.

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I definitely agree with riz1 - a few extra words here and there shouldn't make a difference. I definitely wouldn't sweat it over a sentence over the word limit.

And if you're a bit over, as I definitely was, you can always do what I did: submit your essays as pdfs, so they can't easily scan the word count! :D

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