The quick answer is that we don't have time to count words in essays. The word limits are there so you know what kind of essay is appropriate for the prompt given. I also think that being able to express yourself in a clear, concise manner is part of being a good writer. Our "What's your favorite word and why" essay question isn't something that warrants a term paper. Answer the question, share something with us that isn't coming through in other parts of the application, and edit if you wind up writing a page when half of a page is requested.
Keep in mind that we are giving every applicant three places to write (and some use the additional info section to throw in one more essay...totally unnecessary!). We're looking for personal statements and stories in the form of essays.
By the way, I've addressed supplements in the past and recently wrote about sending resumes, but it's worth revisiting them during essay week. We can't read term papers. We can't read research abstracts. Please do not send them. Use the format presented on the application for your activities. Applications these days are robust. They contain a lot of information and it takes a while to get through them. Please don't stuff your file with items we haven't requested or we'll look like this:
By the way, a few people who actually saw Admission (the Tina Fey movie from which that still was taken) asked me how close it was to reality. There are parts that hit pretty close to home, especially when the main character envisions her applicants as she reads their files.
I don't really imagine an applicant doing a back walk-over across the desk, I promise.
Another realistic aspect of the movie: having a few favorites. There are definitely times when you get attached to an amazing applicant and want to shepherd them through the process. You scribble their names down on a post-it note and vow to check up on them throughout the process. However, there are lines you don't cross and the main character in the movie crossed a line when she changed a student's decision after it was finalized.
Keep the questions coming...and check back if you asked a question in an earlier thread. I've written back to some of you.