How Long Should a Essay Be

There is no fixed and unified length requirement for an essay. In each particular case, there are various factors in place, which define the length of an essay assignment. These factors include the educational institution (high school essay, college essay, or university essay), seniority of a study program (undergraduate college essay or graduate school essay), essay type, occasion on which the essay is written, as well as class, course, or syllabus requirements. In general, an essay is a much shorter form of academic writing than, for example, a term paper, thesis, or dissertation.

Very long essay

The length of different types of essays

  • High school essay. The length is about 300-1000 words. It is one of the shortest essay types, which all high school students need to write in order to learn essay writing skills.
  • College admission essay. The length is about 250-600 words. College applicants are required to write a brief essay focusing on their motivation and goals for studying at a particular college.
  • Undergraduate college essay. The length is about 1000-3000 words. The complexity of this type of essay is generally higher than that of a high school essay and may stipulate conducting a small research on a given topic.
  • Graduate school admission essay. The length is about 500-1500 words. Applicants to graduate college programs are required to submit their statement of purpose with a detailed explanation of their motivation and a description of their to-be state after graduation.
  • Graduate school essay. The length is about 2000-7000 words. Professors often view this essay type as a dress rehearsal for the final thesis or dissertation work. Students are required to write several graduate school essays before moving on to their degree papers.

The length of different parts of an essay

Any essay would have a fixed structure, consisting of an introduction, the main part, and the conclusion. For simpler essay types, such as a high school essay or a college admission essay, the structure will be as simple as the three basic parts mentioned above, where the main part is represented by a single paragraph. The introduction would take approximately 20% of the entire essay length, followed by the main part taking up 50-60%, and finishing with the conclusion – 20-30%.

For advanced level essays, such as undergraduate college essay or graduate school essay, the proportions would shift towards a “heavier” main part or main body (70-80%) consisting of several paragraphs, with the respective reduction in the introduction and conclusion parts’ length (10 and 15 percent respectively).

The longer the length, the higher the complexity

The answer to the question ‘How long should a essay be’ often correlates with complexity. In other words, the length of an essay could be used as a general guideline for complexity. For example, you wouldn’t expect a basic high school essay of 500 words to be overly complex. Likewise, if you are a student in a graduate college program, and your professor has asked you to write a graduate school essay, you should get ready for some serious research work and relevant writing workload. By default, an essay of 5000-words couldn’t be a simple walk in the park for a student. Get ready to use several (sometimes dozens) of credible external sources and to be able to support your thesis statement with at least 2 to 3 bullet-proof arguments.

Tips on how to make your essay longer

If you have finished writing your essay and see that it has fewer words (or the number of pages) than required, follow these simple tips on how to make it longer:

  • Add extra details. One of the simplest solutions to the challenge of making one’s essay longer is to add small details to all or some major points (paragraphs). Usually, this technique can boost one’s essay by 5-15%.
  • Get rid of abbreviations. The next time you want to make your high school essay, or graduate school essay longer, use full names and titles instead of abbreviations.
  • Use quotations and aphorisms. Quotations, especially by famous and respectful people, will add not only value to one’s essay, but also volume! Make your college admission essay more convincing by including a famous aphorism.
  • Conduct extra research. If you still have some time left before the deadline, run some extra research and find something new and important to be included in your essay. This can be a simple fact or an extra argument.

Tips on how to make your essay shorter

Some inexperienced writers tend to produce too much text in their first drafts. They make too long sentences or paragraphs and often have trouble finishing their ideas and thoughts. Not only does it damage the readability, but also exceeds the recommended word count requirements. If you happened to have exceeded the page or word count recommended by your instructor, follow these simple tips to make your text shorter:

  • Get rid of word, sentence, and ideas repetitions
  • Use abbreviations and contractions wherever possible
  • Remove colloquial words and phrases and words-parasites
  • Shorten overly long sentences and paragraphs


There is no fit-all solution to the dilemma of ‘how long should a essay be’. Different types of essays would always have different lengths, for example, a college admission essay would never be longer than a graduate school admission essay or a high school essay. Also, different structural elements of an essay will play a key role in defining its overall length and complexity. You should never feel shy and ignore the option to check with your instructor on the recommended word or page count and compose your text accordingly.