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College Essay Length Limit For Printer

Required Additional Writing

Below are the additional writing prompts that will appear on the Common Application for Harvey Mudd College. Please note that there is no additional writing supplement for Harvey Mudd College beyond these samples.

Short Answer

Please answer the following (500 word limit):
What influenced you to apply to Harvey Mudd College? What about the HMC curriculum and community appeals to you?

Essay

Choose any one of the essay topics below (500 word limit):

  1. Many students choose HMC because they don’t want to give up their interests outside of STEM and because they’ve seen exciting connections between their work in STEM and their work in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts – or HSA as we call it at HMC. Tell us about your dream HSA class. Your answer might (but doesn’t have to) include projects you could do, texts you might want to read, or topics you would want to explore.
  2. “Scientific research is a human endeavor. The choices of topics that we research are based on our biases, our beliefs, and what we bring: our cultures and our families. The kinds of problems that people put their talents to solving depends on their values.” -Dr. Clifton Poodry.  How has your own background influenced the types of problems you want to solve?
  3. What is one thing we won’t know about you after reading your application that you haven’t already reported in the Common Application “Additional Information” section?

Word limits and assignment length

Assignment length requirements are usually given in terms of numbers of words.

Unless the lecturer tells you that these limits are strict, it is normally acceptable to be 10% above or below this word limit (so, for example, a 2000 word assignment should be between 1800 and 2200 words). If the assignment uses the words “up to” (as in “up to 2500 words”) that usually means that you cannot go above the limit.

Use the tool below to calculate the acceptable range for an assignment (based on +/- 10%).

Unless the lecturer tells you otherwise, the word limit does not include ‘administrative’ sections of the assignment: the cover or title page, table of contents, table of figures, reference list, list of works cited, bibliography, or any appendices.

The word limit that you are given reflects the level of detail required. This means that if your assignment is too long, you're either taking too many words to explain your point or giving too many / too detailed examples. If your assignment is too short, either there is more to the answer than you have written or the assignment has not gone into enough detail about the answer.

Too long

  • Don't try to remove single words from your assignment. It is unlikely to reduce the assignment's length significantly, but it may confuse your argument. Instead, aim to remove or condense whole sections of your assignment.
  • You should not include something just because it is a fact, or just because it is included in your course materials. Include something only if it is relevant to your argument.
  • Be direct. State your point rather than writing many paragraphs to ‘lead up’ to it.
  • Go back to the question. Which sections relate to the point and which are secondary?
  • Go back to the plan. Which paragraphs fit in the overall structure? Which paragraphs overlap and can be combined?
  • Remove sections where you
    • Over-explain your point
    • Over-specify your point
    • Repeat yourself
    • Write off-topic or ramble
  • Remove multiple examples where one or two are sufficient.
  • Remove ‘hedging” language that adds little to the argument, e.g. “I think that” “it would seem that” “it is possible that”

If you are often over the word count you should look at your writing style. See writing concisely for more.

Too short

Explain your argument fully

  • Make sure every argument in your head and in your plan is on the page.
  • Would a general (i.e. non-specialist) reader understand your point? Have someone else read over your assignment and ask you questions about it. What do they think is missing?
  • Are there gaps in your argument?
  • Does each point logically follow the last one, or do you jump over important points?

Look for the ‘hidden’ answer

  • What theories do you think the marker expects?
  • How does this relate to the materials from lectures and study guides? Use the course information in your answer to the assignment question.
  • Are there complications or contradictions in the argument or in your research? Explain them and explore them.

Flesh it out

  • Define any special terminology you've used that a general reader would not be familiar with.
  • Illustrate with more examples and/or quotations.
  • Contextualise and explain the quotations you use. How do they relate to your argument?

Page authorised by Director, CTL
Last updated on 25 October, 2012