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Structure suggestions for a 500 word essay

By Fucsiya via EnvatoElements

By Amy Price DPhil (Oxon)

The format of a 500-word scholarship essay is similar to a shorter essay. Each paragraph is about 75-125 words, and it consists of 3-5 well-written sentences. If you are writing a story or personal anecdote, the formatting can be more like a novel than a news article. It is ok to use 10% less or more words.

The main components of a 500-word essay include:

  • The introductory paragraph is to get your reader’s attention and lay a foundation for your essay.   
    • This first step is to write a topic sentence. This could be a question or statement that you will answer or explain in the balance of the essay. The other sentences in the first paragraph open up the topic and can be 3-4 sentences. (60-90 words) 
  • The body paragraphs are what you use to back up your essay. Each paragraph should have its own intro and conclusion.
    • Some people use the PEE principle (point, evidence , explanation). At the most use 1 point per paragraph.
    • Every paragraph should be able to stand on its own and also lead into the next paragraph. (You can test this by reading it back to yourself aloud).
    • The body of the essay will be about 290-360 words with paragraphs using (70-120 words).
  • You will have about 80-100 words left to write your conclusion paragraph.
    • Remind your reader about your key points and bring them together.
    • Answer the question with your solution, not something a system, government, or groups should do.
    • Share what you and readers might do about the points you raised or if it is about you how this changed you and how this helped.
    • Remember your reader is craving a sense of closure, something to think about or a resolution. If it is a position or placement you are applying for they want to say yes! 

Some extra tips for short essay success

  1. Some people like to use a mind mapping tool where they can organise their essay thoughts and many of these are free, simple and available on a phone.

  2. Use an online dictionary to find connector words for writing help and to avoid repetition.

  3. Tell your story/essay to someone and record this with your phone as the way you explain it to a living person may be clearer than what you have in writing.

  4. Write your essay like an email or tell it to SIRI and record as an email and then improve by editing this.

  5. Use a spell checker and read to make sure the essay edits your spell checker makes are correct.

  6. Try Grammarly, the free version is all you need for a short essay

  7. Do not worry about tenses and which person (first , second or third) to use on the first essay draft. Change it later instead.

  8. Do your own work and have fun!

The views expressed here are the authors and they do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Stanford University School of Medicine. External websites are shared as a courtesy. They are not endorsed by the Stanford University School of Medicine.


The introductory paragraph is to get your reader's attention and lay a foundation for your essay.

Amy Price, DPhil (Oxon)
Editor, The Mentor