Beyond the Common Application essay, many colleges also have supplements that ask additional, university-specific questions which applicants must respond to with shorter-form essays. While topics vary from supplement to supplement, there are a few standard essay formats that many colleges use:
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The length requirements for the short answer have changed over the past several years. Up until 2011, the guidelines said the essay should be "150 words or fewer." From 2011 to 2013, the online form had a 1,000 character limit that would frequently allow for a few more than 150 words. Many colleges were happy with and have kept the 150 word limit. My recommendation (and some counselors disagree with me) is to continue to shoot for something close to the 150 word range. As for brevity, 150 words is already very short. At 150 words, your answer will be a single paragraph that the person reviewing applications can read in less than a minute. My advice here is to not try to go too short. Can you really say anything meaningful about your work or an extracurricular in 75 words?
College Essays, College Application Essays - The College Board
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In the 2014-15 Common App, Member colleges and universities can ask for writing samples on either the Member Questions page or the Writing Supplement. This is a change from last year’s Common App. Some applicants and counselors are finding it tricky to identify all of the writing samples that a college might require, especially those that are triggered based on responses to other questions. The posted within the will help you identify whether a college requires writing of any kind. It lists all of the colleges and universities that have short answer and/ or essay questions as part of their First-Year application and where those questions appear.