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4 tips for overcoming word-count limits on essays

December 22 2014 By The MBA Exchange
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This guest post is by Jessica Burlingame, a senior admissions consultant with The MBA Exchange

“The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter,” wrote philosopher Blaise Pascal in 1657.

“How can I answer this essay question in 300 words? Or in 75 characters?” ask today’s MBA applicants facing tough application questions and ever-shortening word-count limits. (For instance, those seeking to enter Stanford in 2010 were allowed up to 1800 words, spread over three essays, to make their case for admission; applicants for 2015 entry have just two essays and only 1100 words to do the same.)

Sacrificing specificity or detail in the essays is not an option. Ruthlessly making every word count is essential. Consultants and editors at The MBA Exchange drive towards this goal with our clients every day. Here are 4 of our favorite “word-count hacks” – easy maneuvers to reduce length and preserve content:

1. “In order to” uses three words, when one word – “to” – almost always suffices.

2. “As well as:” see above. “And” almost always works – and saves precious words for you to describe the experiences and attributes that set your candidacy apart from your competitors’, instead of filling your essays with words that don’t.

3. “Able to” is a phrase that not only wastes words but also dilutes impact when describing a particular strength or skill.

4. Featuring content in an essay that already appears in the resume or short-answer question consumes space and will seem tedious to busy adcom readers.

While these guidelines can help, the most powerful essays result from a thoughtful, rigorous process of self-evaluation, outlining, drafting, review and refinement prior to submitting your applications. As deadlines approach, we remain available to partner with you on these tasks, including a final review via our valuable AppCheck service.

Please contact us with any questions. (And there’s no word-count limit!)