Author: Sarah Westbay

Page Requirements in Essays: The Struggle of Creativity within Boundaries

Encountering word minimums or restraints when assigned to write a creative papers is not an uncommon occurrence. Within the academic sphere, writing papers with certain page requirements is a way to not only offer clarity for the student to know the extent of which they should elaborate on their topic, but to offer a means of keeping the different essays produced among a variety of students at similar lengths. Word maximums/minimums are a necessity in order to offer clarity for not only students, but the teachers that have to evaluate the quality of the work and if it met the standards for the assignment.


In other ways, word limits/minimums can be viewed as a necessary evil. When an individual engages in the process of writing a paper, there are various components that they will need to consider. One of the most stressful parts of writing a paper for some students is often the page requirement. From my personal experience, I know that there is a very different type of anxiety that is provoked from a 10 page paper compared to a 4-5 page paper. The very nature of page requirements when writing a creative piece can cause students to feel like they either need to hold back on their ideas or add “fluff” to their points in order to satisfy these arbitrary requirements. In my academic career, I have struggled with formatting my essays in a particular way to be able to efficiently meet page requirements. Some teachers have advised that there should be certain ratios for the number of words in introductions and body paragraphs when taking to account the length of a paper. As a student, these boundaries often inhibit my ability to be creative when I write. There has always been a certain pressure that I cannot keep out of my mind when writing a paper because I am unable to forget that I must say what I need to say within the boundaries of word requirements.


Word requirements are indeed needed when assigning papers to multiple individuals, as seen most commonly in classroom settings. Some people would write about a topic for 2 pages while others would interpret the assignment to need 10 pages or more. In order to keep the amount of work each individual puts into the same assignment fair, the word count must come into play. As much as it can be a burden to write within limits, at the end of the day it is necessary when writing academic papers. Recently when I was assigned to write a paper that had the requirement of being 2 pages single spaced, I was genuinely thrown off. I had not previously come across this type of structure for an analytical paper before in college. I began to feel quite anxious that I would not properly get my point across within these new boundaries and might not meet the expectations of my professor. This nervous feeling provoked me to question the very nature of word requirements in writing essays. I questioned how my behaviors as a writer would change if I never had to work within the parameters of a page limit/minimum. Would I be a stronger writer? Would I be a lazier or more ambitious writer ? Would I be a less anxious writer? As I pondered these possibilities, I asked some of my other English major friends how they felt about constantly dealing with word limits in their classes.


We discussed how when we are given a word maximum that it can inhibit our flow of ideas and the ability to make a clear and coherent thought. For example, if a response paper is assigned to be about 500 words, but the response needs all of the components necessary for clarity in 700 words, how does one properly condense these ideas without sacrificing quality? Contrastingly, if the response could be completed succinctly and thoroughly in 300 words, then why elaborate further when the point has already been made? In this discipline as well as in countless other subject areas, we will frequently encounter page requirements. They are a part of what is necessary for creating assignments that are given to large amounts of students. As a writer, you will encounter many obstacles that make being creative feel quite challenging. It would be odd to go through our academic careers without page requirements for papers being a key component to our writing assignments. Part of what can make writing a strenuous task is the limits that are placed on us and the limits we place on ourselves. Word minimums/maximums are simply another obstacle we will encounter and must conquer as writers.  

Demand Opportunities: Risks and Rewards

Today in class we experienced our first demand opportunity. Our discussion initially consisted of sharing our own interpretations of what we thought was being offered to us. Several people expressed concerns about our lack of having a demand available at this exact moment in class. Others offered the solution that we should have our first demand be the ability to ask for demands at any time. Although this demand seems simple, in a way it opens a lot of doors for the rest of the semester and changed the dynamic of the course in my opinion.


In saying this, I believe that the course has changed significantly after this discussion of demand opportunities because as a class we are now better at coming to a collective consensus among all thirty individuals. While we discussed our ability to request a demand, I started to think of this experience as something deeper than simply wanting to make changes to the syllabus. The exercise not only reaffirmed our ability to have a voice in what pertains to our English education, but also taught us how to properly and respectfully come to an agreement among a large group of students. It was interesting to see all of the different points that were brought up about some of the vague characteristics of the opportunity we were given and how the discussion ultimately gave everyone clarity about the situation at hand.


Moving forward in the course, I feel very confident that the individuals in this class will be able to effectively and respectfully offer suggestions for demand requests. One important point made was the importance of having an anonymous forum to allow to disagreements to demand suggestions because often times it can be awkward to disagree with a classmate’s idea. This way there is a way to voice your opinion without having to feel shy or uneasy if you have a very different feeling toward an expressed demand. Today I noticed a lot of potential among the individuals in this course to be able to come up with interesting ideas as well as keeping everyone’s opinions and thoughts on these demands a matter of importance.  


When Dr. McCoy re-entered the classroom after our discussion, she brought up a thought provoking question about the exercise. She asked us that if she was at risk by proposing demand opportunities to her students. Immediately, I thought the answer would be yes. By giving students the ability to make changes to her syllabus and critique matters of the course, it puts Dr. McCoy in a vulnerable position. She may not agree with the demand and might feel uncomfortable disagreeing with our propositions. Or she could potentially be offended if some students voice their criticism regarding aspects of her teaching style. Even though she still maintains the power to veto any demand request that we make for her, Dr. McCoy certainly did put herself in a unique position within the classroom to allow for demand opportunities during any time throughout the course. To reflect on these inferences, I do have faith in the other individuals in the class and myself to be mindful and respectful with the content and frequency of our demands.

“Paying the rent” as a college student

In Friday’s class, we briefly discussed the concept of how people have to “pay the rent” in life. Dr. McCoy brought up an idea that would involve exploring how students pay the rent while attending school. After class, I started to think of ways that as a student I am undoubtedly “paying the rent” in regards to doing things that I would not necessarily do, but are obligated to because of certain circumstances. Students pay the rent in obvious ways such as attending class, completing their homework, writing papers, etc. But there are several other ways that we pay the rent that aren’t as obvious. There are certain social interactions that are necessary such as the natural human tendencies to want to make connections with other people. We are often thrown into situations in college where we are out of our comfort zone and feel a sense of duty to make the most of the experience we are given. While this experience is filled with both positive and negative attributes, paying the rent refers more to the negative aspects of college that we pay attention to. Sometimes you’re going to be doing group work with people you don’t get along with. Other times you will run into the exact person you are trying to avoid. Living on a college campus and attending school will often put you in very stressful situations that you would not encounter otherwise. But we all pay the price in exchange for several benefits such as receiving a college diploma and growing as a human being from these unique experiences. As long as paying the price ultimately rewards you with something you deem important, the small sacrifices made are worth it.