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I feel so silly asking this but the essay portion of the application process says to submit a 500 word essay......I know that I should not exceed the 500 word count but how exact am I suppose to be? As it stand now, I am at 455 words.
I don't think they want exactly 500 words. Double check the wording. Do you get the impression it is a minimum of 500 words or a not to exceed 500 words? I think the idea is to make that your deep line in the sand.
When an essay is asking to stay under a word count, they want basic, concise, clear statements. All of those apllications will need to be read and without a limit, people would write pages and pages. With a 500 count, you should be able to write what need to in 350-475. If it's 350, it should be very clear and concise. If you are up to 500, that's ok, but make sure you don't have a couple of "rambling" sentences or vague topics that need extra explaining. There isn't an "unwritten rule" about disregarding anything under 400 or 300, but as the word count becomes less, it need to be more and more precise. They will disregard 50-75 word though. Make sure it's not preachy or desperate...like "this is my last chance to do something with my life" or "I really need this." Give good qualities about yourself and what goals you are hoping to obtain (or whatever they are asking).