Mar 9, 2010
35
0
Status
Psychology Student
Hey guys,

So my Harvard application is due tomorrow, and I'm still 266 words over the statement of purpose word limit. Limit is 1000 words, and just the description of my past research experience takes about 700-800 words (and that's using 2-3 sentences to describe year-long projects haha).

Question is: how strict are the word length limits? It says that the statement "should be no longer than 1000 words", but they can't possibly COUNT this, especially if you send it in PDF format...do you guys think there's any leeway in length of the SoP? Like...even 100 words?

Thanks!
 

amk22

5+ Year Member
Sep 16, 2010
19
0
Status
Pre-Psychology
If there's a set limit I would stick to that, you wouldn't want your application discarded because you don't look like you can follow directions. I am almost positive that there are ways to check word count, even if the essay is in PDF format.
One of my schools has 500 word limits (now you want to talk about impossible!)- my original essay I worked from for every school was over 1500 words, so I had to make some serious edits, and I didn't get to say everything I stated in the original essay. However, I believe that I still got across the main points, just in a seriously more condensed manner.
 

jexa

5+ Year Member
Nov 19, 2010
60
1
Status
Stick to the word limit. You don't have to describe every project you ever did. Just the relevant things.

I worked in four different labs as an undergrad but my most relevant experience has been my job at a research clinic for the past year and a half where I completed several independent projects. So, I didn't even mention the labs I'd worked in before, just said, "Although I have always been interested in clinical psychology and had sought out a variety of experiences as an undergraduate..." and then I went on to describe just my independent projects and my most recent job. I was told not to restate my CV, but to make sure I told a good story, so that's what I did.
 
Jan 14, 2010
149
0
USA
Status
Psychology Student
I agree with everyone here. If it was like 50 words over I wouldn't worry about it. But although it may be hard to count words, it's not impossible to tell who goes (on average) a paragraph over compared to others who stuck to the limit. Visually it's not impossible to tell a difference and if the professors read it, they'll probably get a sense for wordiness. There is a way to condense - one of the best pieces of advice I got was that you should focus more on what you learned from your research experience and not on what you did (they can get that from your CV).

Remember, profs are going to be getting tons of applications - there is something to be said for being succinct (i.e., they may not have the interest to read something too long and they may appreciate succinct writing, something most of my profs now in grad school constantly highlight as a needed skill).
 

jexa

5+ Year Member
Nov 19, 2010
60
1
Status
+1 on being succinct = an important skill.

In fact, if you are unable to stick to the word limit, this will show that you don't have this skill and it won't look good for you. It is more difficult to be concise in your writing than to spell everything out, but it is worth the extra time and extra frustration to demonstrate that you are able to clearly and concisely express yourself even with a strict word limit.
 

AcronymAllergy

Neuropsychologist
Moderator
Gold Donor
7+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2010
7,278
1,566
Status
Psychologist
+1 on being succinct = an important skill.

In fact, if you are unable to stick to the word limit, this will show that you don't have this skill and it won't look good for you. It is more difficult to be concise in your writing than to spell everything out, but it is worth the extra time and extra frustration to demonstrate that you are able to clearly and concisely express yourself even with a strict word limit.
Agreed. When you begin graduate school, one of the first things your supervisor(s) will likely do is to slash (either by asking you to do it, or doing it themselves) your first few reports in half length-wise. This is especially important in medical settings, but is also useful for avoiding overly-wordy and/or jargon-ish reports that are frustrating and confusing to clients.

Thus, I would DEFINITELY adhere to imposed word limits. Even if the site isn't a stickler, there's always the possibility that some programs--looking for whatever separating factors they can find amongst increasingly-competitive applicant pools--will begin chucking applications based on administrative factors and/or quantitative cut-offs.
 
May 5, 2010
20
0
Status
Pre-Psychology
It appears that attackemu's deadline has passed. I agree with the responses already submitted in the thread. If the situations arises again in the future, sometimes double-checking with the appropriate admissions contact in your program is a good idea. From my own experience, I had two applications that outlined certain lengths for the SOP. But when I contacted the people in Admissions, I was advised of a different maximum than that stated in the application instructions.