How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

Student in a brown sweater with curly hair with her hands on her face frustrated about how long a personal statement should be.
February 24, 2023
How Long Should Your Personal Statement Be?How Long Should a Personal Statement Be if There Is No Limit Specified?What to Include in a Personal StatementTips to Write a Personal Statement With an Ideal LengthFAQs: Length of a Personal Statement


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 02/24/23

Not sure about the length of your personal statement? Below, we’ll answer your questions about word count and what you could do to satisfy the requirements!

For many years, there has been a common misconception that being a top student with excellent grades and test scores can land you a spot in a high-ranking university. While academic performance is extremely important in the admissions process, each applicant must effectively tell schools who they are and what they hope to achieve once accepted.

And here is where the personal statement comes in. It’s an applicant’s chance to let the admissions committee know why you’re the right candidate for the program you’re applying to. In other words, your personal statement is your opportunity to tell the story of who you are, what drives you to move forward, and what you hope to accomplish in the future. 

Not to be confused with the statement of purpose, a personal statement is an account of your achievements, talents, interests, and goals for applying to university. Needless to say, how your personal statement is written can either help you or harm your application. 

The length of a personal statement plays a significant role in its effectiveness. In this article, we’ll give you a detailed answer to the question: “how long should a personal statement be?”

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How Long Should Your Personal Statement Be?

Length requirements for personal statements vary depending on the university’s specific requirements. Be sure to double-check the school’s official website for this information before you begin crafting your statement.

Personal statements require applicants to be clear and concise. To make your statement as effective as possible, plan carefully, include only the most important information, and avoid repeating yourself unnecessarily. 

Generally speaking, personal statements have a word limit ranging from 200–500 words, with an occasional upper limit of around 600–700 words. Any longer than that is considered rare, and personal statements are almost never permitted to go above 1,000 words.

Many schools require candidates to complete and submit their applications through Common Application. In that case, you’ll also have to submit your personal statement via Common App. Don’t worry, submitting your personal statement through Common App won’t have an impact on the word count; that’s still determined by each school. 

A benefit of using Common App is that they’ll alert you if your statement exceeds or falls short of the word limit, so you don’t have to worry about missing it accidentally. You’ll have the option to submit the same personal statement to multiple schools, so make sure you're meeting each school’s individual requirements before you apply.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be If There is No Limit Specified?

Most colleges will provide a limit on the length of a personal statement. However, in cases where there are no specific requirements given, you may need to decide for yourself. 

The bottom line is that you need to make sure your personal statement achieves its purpose. Everything in your personal statement must serve something that will help your admission chances. 

If no word limit is given, it’s still best to aim for around 500–700 words, which works out to about one to two pages double-spaced. This length will give you ample time to paint a well-rounded picture of your experiences, achievements, and qualifications without overwhelming the reader. No matter how long your personal statement, aim for clarity and concision in your writing. 

Each word should work towards presenting a clear and compelling picture of who you are, leaving a lasting impression on the admissions committee. 

What to Include in a Personal Statement

There are no hard and fast rules for writing a personal statement. For the most part, creative liberty for deciding what to write about lies squarely on the applicant, as long as it satisfies the schools’ requirements. However, there are still some things we recommend including in your personal statement to make it effective. 

Adhere to Prompt Guidelines

Some colleges provide prompts for personal statements, so make sure you include exactly what is requested when writing your response. If you fail to do so, the effectiveness of your personal statement could stagnate. You also risk leaving a bad impression if you don’t follow the rules. 

Tell the Story of Who You Are

As we mentioned before, a personal statement is all about you. This is your chance to shine and tell the story of who you are outside your academic profile. Take this time to make a memorable and unique impression on the admissions committee, one that truly sets you apart from other applicants. 

A well-crafted personal statement will give you an advantage by highlighting your personality, character, and goals. If you fail to give the admission committee a clear picture of who you are, they will have a hard time knowing whether you’re a good fit for their school.


Admissions committees want to know your reasons for applying to their school and program. Why did you choose this particular institution over others? What specific qualities and features of the school interest you and align with your goals? Answering these questions in your personal statement can demonstrate your level of commitment and enthusiasm for the program.

Talking about your motivations and passions is an excellent way to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded candidate. It shows the admissions committee that you are more than just your SAT or ACT scores; you are a driven and dedicated individual with a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. 

This can make a strong impression and increase your chances of being accepted. 

Goals and Aspirations

Attending university is an immense commitment, so you should also include what you hope to do after completing your undergrad. What are your career goals? What do you aspire to achieve in life? How does your college education fit into your vision for the future and support your path towards those goals?

Admissions committees are interested in understanding your future aspirations and the type of person you aspire to become. Including this information in your personal statement highlights your passion and ability to plan and shape your future. It can make a strong and positive impression on the committee and increase your chances of being admitted.

Skills and Talents

In addition to academic performance, universities also carefully assess an applicant's qualifications, including their skills, abilities, and knowledge, in making admission decisions.

Be sure to use your personal summary as a chance to showcase your strengths and achievements. Leverage your unique abilities and talents to convince the admission committee that you are a suitable candidate who’s prepared for the academic challenge that comes along with attending college. 

Experiences and Achievements

Schools want to know that you’re qualified for the education they’ll provide. While grades, test scores, and academic awards can provide them with some information, they don’t give the full picture of your capabilities. Schools want to hear about the experiences, challenges, and stories behind these numbers.

Discussing extracurriculars, volunteer experiences, and passion projects you’re involved in can provide insight into your motivations, interests, work ethic, and problem-solving skills. Make sure you mention what you learned from these experiences and how they shaped into the person you are today. Self-reflection is strongly valued by the admission committee.

A Strong Conclusion

A strong conclusion is essential to wrap up your personal statement. Tie everything together by connecting your experiences, achievements, current accomplishments and future and aspirations. The conclusion should succinctly connect the dots and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Make sure to keep it short and sweet.

Tips to Write a Personal Statement With an Ideal Length

Here are a few key tips that can help you write an effective personal statement that’s just the right length. 

Don’t Bluff or Fluff

It is a common mistake when writing a personal statement to be tempted to present yourself as an “ideal candidate” to impress the admission committee. 

However, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing; each person is unique and the admissions committee wants to see the real you represented in your personal statement. So if you truly want to write an impressive personal statement, staying true to yourself is your best bet.

Don't make things up in hopes of swaying the admission committee. They want nothing but who you actually are. The admission committee can easily see through false claims, and it will only detract from your application. Instead, embrace your individuality and show the admission committee why you are the best fit for their program.

Instead, be confident in your own potential and what you have to offer. Your personal story is what makes you unique, so don’t be afraid to share them in your personal statement. 

Stay Relevant

When writing your personal statement, it’s crucial to keep the content relevant and focused on the program you’re applying for. Avoid going off track by talking about things that don't add value or support your application. Remember, every word counts and irrelevant content is a waste of space in your limited word count. 

Do Not Repeat Yourself

It’s important to make sure you’re not repeating information that can already be found in other parts of your application. Don’t talk about your GPA or test scores in your personal statement; the admissions officer would’ve likely already reviewed these details, so there’s no need to restate them. 

To make the most use of the word count, focus on sharing information and experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. . 

Don’t Be Vague

When composing your personal statement, steer clear of ambiguity. Vagueness in language can lead to confusion for the reader and fails to effectively convey your message. Being specific when discussing your experiences can greatly enhance the clarity and impact of your writing. It’s also a great way to make sure you adhere to the word count restrictions.

FAQs: Length of a Personal Statement

Still have questions about personal statement length? Don’t worry; this article still has space for some FAQs if you’re in no hurry!

1. How Strict Are Word Counts?

It might not seem like it matters, but we advise you to not cross any word count limits or ranges. You should adhere to any limits and ranges for personal statement word count, as doing otherwise could leave a bad impression on your application. 

Controlling your word count shows your skills and eloquence in self-expression. The admission committee doesn’t want to read anymore or less than they require you to write. So if there’s a word count limit or range set, it’s likely there and set to that amount for a good reason. 

2. Are 200 Words Enough for a Personal Statement?

If universities state 200 words are enough or the upper limit, then the answer is yes. If otherwise, then usually 200 words are a bit too short, but it can still work if you’ve included everything needed. You need to be really precise and resourceful if you want your personal statement to work at 200 words.

3. Can a Personal Statement Exceed 500 Words?

Sometimes it can, especially if universities permit the word count to go above 500. 500 is regarded by many to be the sweet spot of personal statement length, as going below or above could risk having too little or too much, respectively.

4. Can a Personal Statement Be 1,000 Words?

Excluding the cases where universities state that the upper limit for word count is greater than or equal to it, 1,000 words are typically too long for a personal statement. But it is possible that they can still work.

Of course, if universities set the word limit below 1,000 words, exceeding it is a no-go. 

5. Are Two Pages Too Long for a Personal Statement?

This depends on what the university requests, so make sure to double-check any requirements for personal statements. Quite a few colleges will require students to write one to two pages double-spaced, which is roughly 500 to 750 words.

Final Thoughts

So, how long should a personal statement be? That depends on both the school and the applicant. Each school has its own requirements, so be sure to double-check your schools’ specific instructions. And remember: your personal statement is all about you. It’s your chance to shine and let yourself be known to admission committees as an aspiring applicant. 

Happy Writing!

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