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How to Write a 500 Word Essay

With only about a page and a half to get your point across, every word counts in a 500 word essay. A succinct response packed with impactful examples can easily put you ahead of the crowd!

Follow our concise step-by-step guide to write an effective 500 word essay:

  1. Start with an outline
  2. Applying the outline to an example
  3. Deciding on how many examples to use
  4. Don’t worry about the word count in your first draft
  5. Don’t forget to proofread!

Keep reading to learn how to write the best 500 word essay you have ever written!

Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

Start with an outline

Writing essays with word limits can be a balancing act. You may have a lot you want to say, but not enough space to sufficiently explain each point that you want to make. That’s why it is a great idea to start by outlining the 3-4 main ideas you’d like to address in your essay. Trying to pack any more than four main ideas into a 500-word essay could prevent you from effectively explaining your examples.

We suggest making a bullet point list for your outline, which could look something like this:

Applying the outline to an example

Let’s try using this outline to respond to a prompt: Please describe your commitment to working within your community. With a prompt like this, you could hook your reader with a sentence emphasizing what community work means to you on a personal or emotional level, or how you first started working with your community.

Each body paragraph would be a description of different experiences you’ve had working in your community, and what they taught you. And you could use your conclusion to point out a common thread between these experiences; now that the reader has read all about your involvement in the community, you can use this opportunity to describe how the experiences have come together to reshape your relationship with community work. 

See more: How to write a winning scholarship essay

Comparing essay lengths

As you sit down to write your essay, you might wonder how you should adjust your approach to a 500 word essay as opposed to a 250 or 1000 word essay. 250 word essays are expected to be extremely brief, with only minimal elaboration on each point, and 1,000 word essays are expected to be more thorough, and might even include citations. A 500 word essay falls in a grey area between these two; it gives you the freedom to elaborate on the details you find to be the most important.

Will an admissions officer keep reading my essay if I go over?

You might be wondering “what happens if I go over the word limit? Will an admissions officer still read my essay?”

As with many topics related to the admissions process, it depends. If you have gone way over and wrote 2,000 words, it is possible that the admissions officer will not continue to read your essay or may just skim it. Remember, admissions officers and scholarship essay readers are busy people who have to get through many applications and essays.

So if you go over by a few words or sentences, you are probably fine and the admissions officer will likely not even notice. However, if you go over the word count in an obvious, noticeable way, this is something that is unlikely to help you (even if the writing is excellent).

Also see: How to write a 250 word essay

Deciding on how many examples you should use

A common question for writing a 500 word essay is whether or not you should include a fourth example. If your examples require a lot of thorough explanation in order to be impactful, it might be best to only include three. It’s better to have three impactful examples than four examples that don’t resonate with the reader. However, if the prompt is straightforward and you can explain your examples quickly, go ahead and add that fourth body paragraph!

Recommended: Wondering how to format your essay? Scholarships360’s guide will tell you all that you need to know!

Don’t worry about the word count in your first draft

Try writing out a first draft without worrying about your 500 word limit! This is a great way to get all your thoughts down on paper. It’s easier to cut the extra content down at the end than it is to keep interrupting your writing to edit it as you go. This can take you out of your writing flow, and make the essay take longer

Don’t forget to proofread!

A 500 word essay requires a lot of editing in order to make a point effectively in a limited number of words. It’s a great idea to ask a friend or family member to proofread your final copy. They can catch simple mistakes that you have been glossing over, or come up with new ways to reword your essay and slim it down to fit the word limit.

With this said, it’s important for you to maintain ownership over the voice of your essay. The job of the proofreader or editor is to catch mistakes and give general feedback–it is not to rewrite the entire essay.

A few more resources

Learn how to effectively conclude your scholarship essay by reading our guide on how to end scholarship essays. Many scholarships want to know more about you, so it’s important to know how to write an essay about yourself. If you are looking for additional scholarship opportunities that involve writing, check out our list of top writing & essay scholarships.    

Remember, writing scholarship essays is an opportunity to show exactly why you are deserving of a scholarship. Learn to write in a way that puts your best self forward, and  win all the awards that you qualify for!

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Frequently asked questions about the 500 word essay

How many pages is a 500 word essay?

A 500 word essay is about two pages double spaced using a 12 point font. Depending on the sentence spacing, a 500 word essay can be as short as one page and as long as three.

How long does it take to write a 500 word essay?

That depends on many factors, including the experience of the writer and the subject matter one is writing about. If one is looking to win scholarships or gain admission to their dream college, it is advisable to spend at least a few hours writing a first draft. Going back to revise and perfect your essay is what makes all the difference, so give yourself plenty of time!

How many paragraphs is in a 500 word essay?

The typical paragraph is made up of about 100 to 125 words. Therefore, a 500-word essay consists of roughly four to five paragraphs. Keep in mind that creative writing pieces may not adhere to that.