Word Limits and the MBA Essay

We get many questions regarding how strictly one should adhere to MBA word limits, page limits, fonts etc. So in a nutshell, here’s the easy answer.

The schools simply don’t want essays that are longer than their requested limits. They only want the amount of content that falls within their word limits. If you need 1.4 pages to write an essay that is supposed to be 1 page, then you are approaching the essay incorrectly. You are including too much information, too much detail, too much pontification, too many adverbs–too much something. In the wise, wise words of the movie classic, Mr. Mom, “You’re doing it wrong.”

Don’t try to game the word limits/spacing requirements. Write a shorter essay that falls squarely within their required parameters. Those are the essays they want to read, and the essays that they want you to write.

Some schools are deadly serious about it (HBS). Others are lax (Tuck). When they give you a range, fit within the range. When they say “Recommended Limit” (or the like), you have around 5-10% breathing room. When they say “limit” observe the limit. Why tempt fate?

Digging One Level Deeper