What they don’t tell you: character limits

September 28, 2006 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

Posted by Dee

As a high school student you will be told over and over again how important college essays are. You may attend workshops about writing essays for college. Your English teacher may require you to turn in a college essay so he/she can give feedback. You may even look up suggestions online. BUT, the one thing they never tell you about is that damn character limit!

Let me back up and give some context. When you submit your college application online, you should write your essay in a word processor and then copy-paste it into the field provided online. Don’t write your essay in the online text field because a) it doesn’t check for spelling and punctuation errors like your word processor does, and b) you can’t save as easily and if your internet crashes, you’re in trouble. Often, colleges will designate a specific word limit, which can be easily checked in your word processor (in Microsoft Word, go to Tools, then Word Count). Occasionally, they’ll have a character limit instead of a word limit, but most often you’ll encounter the word quotas. The thing is though, that even though you may meet the word limit, the online application may still cut off your essay!

So, preview your essay before you submit it!

Preview Situation 1: You may preview your essay and see that it’s all fine. Good for you!

Preview Situation 2: You preview your essay, and it’s too long! Now what do you do? This is what I have personally spent much time dealing with; it’s arguable that I actually spent more time fixing my essays for the character counts than actually writing them.

I’ll detail the actual techniques you can use to shorten your essay for the online text fields next, since I think it indeed warrants its own blog post. Check back!

UPDATE: See AdmitSpit’s post “Techniques for dealing with character limits.” (9/29/2006)

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Entry filed under: Character limit, Common application, English, Essays, Grammar, Online application, Punctuation, Spelling, Teacher, Tips/Tricks, Word limit, Writing.

University of Virginia gets rid of ED Techniques for dealing with character limits

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