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Ut Essay Length Limit For Cat5

How Long Should the ApplyTexas Essay Be?

This question comes up a lot. Mainly because the application allows for up to 120 eighty-character lines of text. What’s that? You’re not up on your character count layout for a standard page? A typical single-spaced page of average size font is about 50 lines of text. ApplyTexas allows you to enter something more than twice that long; but, I beg of you, do not take them up on that!

As the ApplyTexas application becomes more and more popular (more than 1.4 million applications were submitted this past year with about 300,000 of those applications coming from students outside of Texas), the ApplyTexas folks seem to be working to simplify and clarify their process a bit more each year. When the 2016-2017 application opened a few days ago, I noticed they added some guiding text on the essay page directly answering this question:

    ApplyTexas recommends that you keep your essay to between 350 and 500 words in length, with no more than 650 words.

I recommend heeding their advice, especially if you’re applying to a school requiring more than one of their prompts. For example, if Texas A&M is on your list, they require a response to Topic A and Topic B, but they also encourage you to submit Topic C if you don’t qualify for automatic admission. That’s three major essays! Now think of the admission officer reading all those essays. I promise, no matter how good of a writer you are, your admission officer does not want to read three 1000 word essays when she has a pile of other applications to get through that day.

If you haven’t yet, check out the new prompts for the 2016-2017 application cycle. ApplyTexas has mixed things up quite a bit this year and the prompts are a lot of fun—especially Topic C. Make sure you’re looking at current information, as some of the schools have changed their requirements to reflect the new prompt choices (namely UT-Austin!). For years University of Texas at Austin required Topic C and a second of your choice. This year they have changed to requiring topic A along with a second of your choice.

While the ApplyTexas platform isn’t the prettiest and might be a bit clunky (if I’m being kind), they do have an incredibly helpful set of FAQs posted on their site. Be sure to check out what they say about submitting their essays.

Happy writing!

Requirements, Guidelines and Prompts for Freshman Applicants

The essays you submit will make a BIG difference in whether or not you are admitted to Plan II. The writing samples are worth 40% of your admissions score, and will be factored into the 20% Plan II subjective fit as well. Plan II must often deny admissions to applicants with excellent grades and test scores who submit mediocre essays.  A great essay can sweep us off our feet and perhaps make up for somewhat lower scores or relatively lackluster grades. These are the writing samples you will submit for the ApplyTexas portion of the application.  Instructions on how to submit your essays can be found on the Texas Admissions page

What NOT to Do

  • Choose a very complicated and involved topic that you think will impress us
  • Choose a very safe subject
  • Make the essay brief and superficial
  • Fill it with clichés
  • Make unsubstantiated assertitions
  • Throw in broad generalizations
  • (Over)use a thesaurus.

To write a good essay for Plan II: Express yourself

  • Use your own voice
  • Write about something you know or something that is truly important to you (as much as possible within the confines of the prompts)
  • Give us a clear impression of who you are, providing your admission evaluators a view of an interesting individual is what gets applicants admitted
  • Appeal to the senses when you write:  show us what is beautiful, sad, impressive, scary, confusing, frustrating or comforting.  Don't just tell us that it was so
  • To make your story resonate employ detail, description and precision rather than pretense and melodrama.
  • Don't simply tell us what you think or what you feel in abstract terms. Describe it. Make it real.

What do we want?

  • Sophistication
  • Strong command of language
  • Good variety in sentence structure
  • Clarity of development and thought
  • Flow from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph and idea to idea
  • Introduce the topic, develop the topic, and move on to a clear conclusion
  • Great essays may be quite creative or they may exhibit very straight-forward narrative/expository writing

Essay Length

The University's essay information says, "Although the length of your essay alone technically doesn’t matter, developing your ideas completely does matter. If you can do that in a single page of text, that’s good; but if it takes you three pages or so, that’s alright, too (as long as you’re not just adding words to make your essay longer)." We find that essays shorter than one full page are often skimpy and lacking in exposition by Plan II Honors' standards. It's quite rare to see top-notch essay written with fewer than 250 words.  Succinct writing is the most difficult writing to do well. That doesn't mean that longer is better or that we will reward you for "filler." Write to the point!

Take your time, but beware over-editing

Spend plenty of time writing and fine-tuning your essays. Ask for feedback from people you trust before submitting your essays.  But be careful.  Don't allow helpful editors to edit you out of your own essay.  Stay true to your original idea.  Stay true to your voice.  If your essay sounds as though your father, your AP English teacher or your older sister wrote it, it's not likely to earn you admission to Plan II Honors. 

Although you want to write with care, you should not spend weeks or months rewriting essays.  There is little to gain after the third draft.  Don't delay the submission of your application to write the fourth, or fifteenth, version of your essays.  Overwritten and over-edited essays are never the best essays.


Questions concerning Plan II admission?  Please email Plan II Admissions Director, Kerry Pasquale

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