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Graduate school Personal Statement length if word count not given?

  1. Sep 30, 2012 #1
    My word count right now is around 1200 words. Some applications say 1-2 pages, or "briefly describe x y and z" which my statement definitely falls into (slightly less than 2 pages). None of them explicitly give a word count, but I'm worried that I should still try to keep it under 1000 words.

    I've been working on this for over a month now and I feel every sentence is important. If I don't need to get it under 1000 words then my essay will definitely be stronger as it is now at 1200. I'm sure I could somehow cut out enough words to get under 1000, but I don't know if that is necessary. If it isn't I would rather stick with my stronger, higher word count essay.

    What do you think? Do I have the liberty to go over 1000 words if no word count constraint is given or would it hurt more than help? I'm not filling it with fluff; it is all relevant information. I'm thinking since the only limit I have seen so far is "1-2 pages" that it would be ok to assume this is acceptable for the other schools that don't specify length at all.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    1200 words?

    That's a 12-minute long monolog. Way too long.
  4. Oct 1, 2012 #3
    Ok see this really isn't helpful because "way too long" makes it seem... way too long, when it is still under the limit that most applications set of 2 pages single spaced. The lowest limit I have ever seen is 1000 words, which none of my applications set as the limit. So it is not "way too long", it is under the limit for most.

    So could you explain a little more thoroughly and helpfully?
  5. Oct 1, 2012 #4
    It's in your own interest to make it as short as possible, I doubt anyone has hard limits. Your main enemy is boring your readers, and your main goal is making them remember maybe 1-2 things that stand out.

    Intro shouldn't be longer than 1-2 sentences, and only it's something relevant(like you used to do olympiads etc) or intriguing. Otherwise just skip.

    Similarly skip useless and obvious conclusion like "given all the above i think your school is perfect blabla". This is the type of conclusion you want the readers to reach by themselves after reading the essay, not trying to shove it down their throat.

    The rest should be just technical stuff about relevant courses or research. Throw in a bunch of details and technical terms for each, but don't bore that astrophysics prof reading your essay with too much info on your CM experiment. He doesn't care, he just wants to see you're capable and probably know what you're doing.

    Skip generalities like trying to motivate why your field is important or interesting. Etc

    If you did this and are still over 1200, consider completely leaving out the less meaningful info. Make a list of everything you wrote, and rate how important it seems. Drop the bottom ones.

    All that said, a compact, full of useful info, well written and easy flowing essay of 1200 is just fine.
  6. Oct 1, 2012 #5
    Thank you, this is good advice. Honestly I think the main reason I am running so long is that I have so much research experience to talk about, and it is hard to cut that down past a certain point. I will go through my statement and try to find parts that are obvious and see if I can cut them.
  7. Oct 1, 2012 #6
    I'd say 1-2 pages is fine. Just as long as it is well-written, coherent, and, most of all, concise. Don't BS and get redundant just hit or get around the limit. If you truly feel you've said enough, that's fine. Keep it crisp and taut. That old maxim rings true - less is more. Brevity is more effective than verbosity.
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