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Levo C Al 100-250 Word Essay

QUOTE:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

 

-excerpt from George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language", 1946.

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So once upon a time, I wrote a blog comparing the college essay to froyo. Since then, the application has been revised, and although I still believe in the merits of the first blog in regards to a long college admissions essay (500-1000 words), it definitely doesn't apply completely to the new short-answer system that MIT adopted.

A few months ago, I created a bogus account on my.mit.edu so I can actually catch a glimpse at what the new application looks like (it really doesn't look that different, ha) and I've been thinking about how I would approach these essays. Although nothing here is the product of intense cognition, I thought I'd share some of my views on these small essays.

Essentially, you have 5 "mini-essays" - What You Do For Pleasure ("pleasure" - 100 words), Department at MIT ("department" - 100 words), What You Do That's Creative ("creativity" - 250 words), World You Come From ("world" - 250 words), Significant Challenge ("challenge" - 250 words), and that's it! Less than 1000 words total.

The easy things first - the "Pleasure" and the "Department" prompts are not really "essays," but short answers, so they can be easily answered. My advice is just to go ahead and be honest with them (well, you should be honest in your entire application ;P), especially with the "Pleasure" essay. The admission officers ("adcoms") are not looking for "standard" answers, and you won't get brownie points by putting down "programming," "building robots," or other "MIT-y" answers (although they also definitely won't penalize you if they do happen to be things that you do for fun). Just be honest!

Many people stress out about the "Department" essay, but I can tell you that MIT DOES NOT admit on a quota, and you WILL NOT be penalized by which department you put down on that blank (I don't know how many emails I've gotten on this subject already - seriously, the adcoms are not lying at you, and no - there is no conspiracy either). Therefore, you will not seem more impressive if you put down Philosophy, over, say, Mechanical Engineering. When I applied, I put down Chemical Engineering (oh, such were the days of my innocent youth, when I believed that Chemistry was trivial), but now I'm happily a Biology (and pending History) major. Your interests may shift after you enroll at MIT (and realize how brutal some of the courses here can be), and that's perfectly fine! So don't worry too much.

For the "Creativity" essay, I would encourage you to look at the connotation of "creativity" from a new angle (in a sense, be creative about exploring creativity :P). You can go broader than physical things like creative projects or creative inventions. I would investigate writing about creative ideas, creative ways of looking at things, creative ways of solving problems, for example. I wrote about a concrete research project I did when I applied, but I thought that was quite boring in comparison to the other things that could have written about, so I encourage you to explore this topic a bit further. :)

Ah - ok, now we come to the challenging 250-word essays.

So back in the day, we had a choice between these two essays to write a long essay on, but I guess now they're requiring you write on both of them, but as shorter essays.

Actually, I really enjoyed the "world" essay - and I thought it was the one of the best prompts out of the prompts for the 15 colleges that I applied to (number one was still Stanford's "photograph" prompt - I loved it. Sorry MIT :P). The challenge now, however, is how to condense all the things you want to convey into mere 250 words.

In order for me to see what a 250 word word limit is really like, I wrote a 250 word essay. Not on MIT's prompts, though.

He held up the sheet of wrinkled paper, his eyes in silent protest.

The tattered bill requested 13,800 dollars for a three-day hospital stay.

"Why call the ambulance? Just leave me alone!" the frail old man muttered. Just a week ago, Mr. Vu suffered a stroke that required hospitalization. Because he could not understand English, Mr. Vu had not applied for health insurance, resulting in the exorbitant bill.

An internship at an Asian clinic opened my eyes to the untold story of limited-English proficiency patients, who often struggle to obtain health care in a maze of foreign forms and convoluted policies.

Suffering from a worsening stomachache, Mrs. Wong was neglected in the county hospital for over two hours, unable to flag down a passing nurse for assistance because of the language barrier. Clutching a X-Ray order, Mr. Park searched in vain for Radiology in a blinding flurry of English letters.

Over the summer, these stories became too common - accounts of immigrants fighting for their right to care in a shockingly monolingual health system. After the internship, I participated in a medical interpretation training program and was licensed as a Mandarin health interpreter in November. I wanted to change the status quo.

My experiences this summer solidified my conviction of entering into public health, especially immigrant health, as my future course of study. America has long prided itself as a "melting pot" of cultures. Isn't it only fitting that there exists equitable access to health care, regardless of the language spoken?

 

The word limit is kinda short.

Now, a disclaimer: I want to stay that this is not intended to be a "model essay" (I think the ending can use some more work, among other things), but I thought this would be easier in illustrating a point.

If you look at the essay, I like going narrative -> point -> how it connects to me. In fact, this is what I use for most of my essays :3

Here's the same essay, deliberately made worse (but to illustrate a very common problem in college application essays):

Last summer, I worked in an Asian clinic in Oakland, California. Over the course of the summer, I realized the plight of immigrants when it comes to obtaining equitable health care. In the modern health industry, immigrants and other residents who possess limited English proficiency are often overlooked because of their inability to communicate their symptoms to the doctor and complete paperwork in English. This problem is exacerbated when they cannot apply for health insurance, resulting in exorbitant health bills. In a country that claims to be the "melting pot" of cultures, this kind of neglect is no longer acceptable.

Many patients suffer extended waits in the hospital, unable to obtain assistance. It is possible that a worsening stomachache is the initial sign for appendicitis, which needs to be treated expeditiously. Often, hospital signs are also not translated into other languages, making navigation difficult for elderly patients. These scenes are played across hospitals in the nation everyday.

After my experiences this summer, I realized that I wanted to channel my energy into the revitalization of this system. It is no longer sufficient for us to stand on the sidelines and watch. To this end, I participated in a medical interpretation training program and was licensed as a Mandarin health interpreter. I hope I will be able to contribute my efforts to the field of public health, especially immigrant health, in the future. These patients cannot afford to passively wait for language-accessible care and continue to sacrifice their right to treatment.

 

Also 250 words, but this essay is riddled with problems, many of which Orwell pointed out in the blurb above.

1. The essay is filled with extraneous and needlessly difficult words. ("I wanted to channel my energy into the revitalization of this system")

2. The essay lacks a personal voice - it's very passive ("These scenes are played," "immigrants are often overlooked," "the problem is exacerbated")

3. The essay never "shows" - it only "tells."

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Show, don't tell!

I can't emphasize this enough. This essay points out many problems of the health care system, but doesn't offer any examples of the problems. At the end of the day, which essay will readers remember better? An essay that speaks in general terms or Mr. Vu with his bill?

Personally, I think after MIT made the switch from the long essay to short essays, this point is even more pertinent. You just can't afford to waste words speaking in vague terms that doesn't convey much in terms of meaning.

When adcoms read thousands of essays on end, you need to stand out. Ideally, your essay should pack enough punch (that's a cliche :P) so that your readers have a "take-home message" (another cliche :P). Simply put, you need something memorable about your essay. If you feel bored writing your essay, chances are that the person reading your essay will be bored too. Make it vivid - let your story shine.

Finally, the other point I want to convey:

Trim the extra fat!

I narrowed down the first essay from over 400 words to just 250. Chances are, you can do the same too. The second essay is plagued with extraneous words, and actually it can be narrowed down to just this without loss of meaning:

Last summer, I worked in an Asian clinic, where I realized the struggle of immigrants in obtaining equitable health care because of the language barrier. They often cannot apply for health insurance, resulting in exorbitant bills. This is not acceptable in America, which claims to be a "melting pot" of cultures.

Many patients suffer long waits in the hospital, unable to get help. A worsening stomachache can lead to appendicitis that requires rapid treatment. Often, signs are only written in English, making navigation difficult for elderly patients.

It is no longer sufficient for me stand on the sidelines - I want to make a difference. To this end, I participated in a medical interpretation training program and was licensed in Mandarin. Eventually, I hope I can work in the field of public health, especially immigrant health. These patients cannot afford to passively wait for language-accessible care and continue to sacrifice their right to treatment.

 

This new essay is only 154 words. Although it definitely sounds stilted and shouldn't be submitted as a complete essay, it still goes to show how much excess fat one can usually trim from a typical essay.

Not to reiterate myself too much from the previous blog that I wrote, but the effective essay, IMO, is the essay that really shows who you are, where you're coming from, and what your loves are - in your own voice. Both the "world" and the "challenges" essay are structured so that it's focused on you and your stories. Use these opportunities to tell a story - to convey who you are. There's no need to repackage your tale in fancy rhetoric or educated vocabulary.

Just as we see in world literature: often the best stories are, really, the simplest stories.

In college, there are many instances where you may be required to write a 250 word essay – your application, exam questions, small writing prompts, etc. A 250 word limit may seem like a novel to some, but others find it difficult to get their point across  with so few words. In this guide, we will look at a 250-word essay example, along with tips on how to write a great 250-word essay.

The Basic Format of a 250-Word Essay

All essays consist of the same three parts: an introduction with a thesis, a body paragraph or body paragraphs that support the thesis, and a concluding paragraph that summarizes the overall essay.

In 250 words, you will most likely have 3-4 paragraphs in total, each with 50-100 words. This will allow for 3-5 concise but detailed sentences per paragraph.

A Step-by-Step 250-Word Essay Example

To help visualize this process, let’s go ahead and write a simple 250 word essay.  You’ll see our writing sample in green and our explanation of what we did (and what can be done) with each section in normal text.

Without further ado, let’s get started on our essay!

TOPIC:  How has your family upbringing influenced your educational goals?

Step 1 – Write Your Thesis

Your thesis is the first thing you should consider in your essay. Simply put, it’s the main idea of your essay that will control everything else you write. If you could summarize the question in just one sentence, how would you do it?

For our topic  How has your family upbringing influenced your educational goals? our thesis will be:

My parents saw little value in a formal education. It was their lack of passion that led me to my educational goals.

Step 2 – Write Your Introduction

In the introduction, the first sentence can be a broad or general statement that sets the tone for the piece. It is usually supported by a second sentence that leads into the thesis. The optional third sentence may pose a question that the thesis aims to answer, or it may prompt the reader to think about the topic in a different light. The final sentence of the intro paragraph clearly establishes the thesis.

As a general rule of thumb, the introduction should go from broad to specific, sentence by sentence, gradually leading up to your thesis. Here’s a sample example of an introductory paragraph.

Parents are supposed to push you past your goals, or at least, that’s what I always believed. I was raised in the generation of “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” My parents did not follow that philosophy, and they saw little value in a formal education. It was their lack of passion that led me to my educational goals.

Word count:  Introductory paragraph, 64 words. 

Step 3 – Write The Body Paragraph (s)

Next, we’ll continue with the body paragraph. Remember, body paragraphs should support the thesis and be about 3-5 sentences or 50-100 words long. In a short essay you may opt for only one body paragraph but in a longer one you may need more.

So how should your body paragraphs support your thesis? Think of each body paragraph as an argument that supports it.

Working with our thesis  “My parents never saw the value of formal education and that’s what lead me to my educational goals”, then each paragraph could be abouthow not seeing the value of formal education led to the writer pursuing it.

For example, maybe the writer didn’t want to end up in the same work as their parents. Or maybe it was the parents’ lack of belief in the writer that pushed them to pursue a better future.

Let’s have a look at what a body paragraph can look like for our 250 word essay.

From as far back as I can remember, I knew I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my parents, at least not when it came to work. My father had worked on the family farm all his life and my mother had been a housewife since graduation. They were both content with the simplicity of their lives and wanted the same for me. I remember my father telling me that college was “expensive and a waste of four years”.  I knew however, that I wanted a career in the city that would be more challenging than simple farm life could provide. The only way to make that possible would be through formal education and a college degree. 

Word count:  Body paragraph 119 words. Total essay is now 181 words. 

Step 4 – Summarize with a Conclusion 

The final paragraph is the conclusion. You may start this paragraph with “To summarize,” “As evident by X, Y, and Z,”  or a similar statement that highlights the biggest points in your essay. Use the conclusion paragraph to sum up the main point of your essay using different words. The last sentence can be something broad that leaves the reader wondering. Let’s see how we can write a conclusion for our sample essay.

While my parents may not understand the value of formal education, I know it is essential for my future. This has helped me immensely, by making me realize that without strong parental support, I’m the only one who’s responsible for my own goals. In a way this has been the strongest source of motivation. And for that, I am forever grateful.  

Notice how we summarize the main point of the essay in the first sentence. We then connect the first sentence to the a conclusion we arrive at. Finally we end in an optimistic tone by stating how this has been helpful and we are grateful. Unlike the introduction paragraph, which flows from broad sentences to specific, a conclusion generally flows the opposite way, from specific sentences to broader concepts.

Word count: Concluding paragraph 61 words. Total essay is now 242 words. 

Sure, we came up 8 words short. But being that close should not be considered an issue. If for some reason you are required to write 250 words minimum, you can make the essay longer by sprinkling in a few extra words.

The Entire 250-word Essay Altogether

Parents are supposed to push you past your goals, or at least, that’s what I always believed. I was raised in the generation of “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” My parents did not follow that philosophy, and they saw little value in a formal education. It was their lack of passion that led me to my educational goals.

From as far back as I can remember, I knew I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my parents, at least not when it came to work. My father had worked on the family farm all his life and my mother had been a housewife since graduation. They were both content with the simplicity of their lives and wanted the same for me. I remember my father telling me that college was “expensive and a waste of four years”.  I knew however, that I wanted a career in the city that would be more challenging than simple farm life could provide. The only way to make that possible would be through formal education and a college degree. 

While my parents may not understand the value of formal education, I know it is essential for my future. This has helped me immensely by making me realize that without strong parental support, I’m the only one who’s responsible for my own goals. In a way this has been the strongest source of motivation. And for that, I am forever grateful.  

Should I Write More Than 250 Words or Less Than 250 Words?

When a professor or college entry application asks for a “250 word essay,” 250 words is generally a rough guide. No one is going to fail you if you go over or under the limit by a few words. We’d say a good gauge is plus or minus 50 words. As a general rule of thumb though, try to stay as close to 250 words as possible without going too far over or under.

Essay Writing Tips

Here are some quick tips for writing a great 250-word essay:

  • Write the first draft from start to finish without any pauses. This will make the writing sound fluid, and you can make adjustments after that.
  • Avoid over-editing your work. Ideally, you should take a long pause between editing sessions so you can clear your head and come back with a fresh perspective.
  • Try not to think about the word count too much. Once you get in the habit of writing four 3-5 sentence paragraphs, you’ll find your words naturally get close to 250.
  • Don’t throw fluff sentences in your essay. Professors see right through those. Instead, think of an additional sentence to enhance the support in your body paragraphs.
  • If you feel like you have concisely and sufficiently answered the question below the word count, trust your gut. Most instructors will value quality over quantity.

The more 250-word essays you write, the easier they will become. Feel free to practice with free essay prompts online to train your brain to write with this rhythm. You’ll soon be able to whip out 250 words without checking your word count!