A student asked me a question recently that I imagine has crossed the minds of many law school applicants before her. Exactly how long should a law school scholarship applicant’s essay be? Her concern was that she would overwhelm or even bore the scholarship committee by writing too much. Here is my response:
Read the Instructions
First, how long your essay should be typically depends on both the topic and the specific instructions. Various scholarships tend to ask for essays of different lengths, in the same way that certain scholarships may prompt you to include answers to particular questions or thoughts on particular themes. So the best rule of thumb, obviously, is to carefully consider the instructions and guidelines, as they may set some parameters.
Asking the school or scholarship committee directly can be helpful, as well. Remember, they’re people too. They have no desire to read essays that are unappealing or in some way disappointing. So they tend to be more than willing to provide further directions to help you craft some text that they’ll actually appreciate reading.
Finally, and in a much more general sense (meaning these are broad definitions and should be treated as such), here are some thoughts to give you an idea of where essays typically fall word-wise. When asked specifically to write a “short” essay (brevity is emphasized) I’d probably aim for around 250-300 words. The more common essays, however, tend to clock in at about 500 words. Think of the essays you wrote in high school as part of your college applications.
You can certainly write more than that, provided you have the room and something worth saying. However, I think at a certain point–probably at about the 1,000+ word mark–you run the risk of either overwhelming the reader, or burying your point under/in too much text. So I’d probably keep it under 1,000 unless you’re specifically instructed to write more (or unless the scholarship itself is related to some expansive writing task, like a novella or research paper or something).
Do your research! There is a lot of money on the line when it comes to scholarships. Everything you can do to maximize your chances of receiving one is well worth the time and effort invested. If you have any additional questions leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you further!