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2 Awesome UT Austin Essay Examples
The University of Texas at Austin is one of the hardest colleges to get into in Texas . With a competitive acceptance rate, the school is moderately selective. Writing strong essays, however, will certainly boost your chances.
UT Austin requires one long essay and three short answers, with an additional optional short answer question. There are also a handful of program-specific prompts.
In this post, we’ll analyze sample essays written by a real applicants, sharing what they did well and what could be improved.
Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
Read our UT Austin essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.
Essay Example #1
Prompt: Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay (prompt from the 2020-2021 cycle).
“Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father.”
– Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Like most children, I aspired to my father.
I saw my dad as an image of whom I wanted to be. Charismatic, genuine, respected among his peers – he embodied the qualities I saw essential to being a successful person.
The most appealing to me, however, was my father’s medical background. As the first person to attend university in our extended family, he had always been revered for his accomplishment of becoming a doctor.
As a direct consequence, biology was a keen passion during my childhood. I remember how each evening, as I was being tucked into bed, I would unload an avalanche of questions on my dad, many of them amusingly simple such as: If my body is 70% water, why don’t I have water spilling out of my finger every time I get a papercut? In school, I’d stay after class to probe my teachers about the topics I had read of but did not yet comprehend. And anytime I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I, without a whiff of doubt, bolted out I was going to be a doctor.
However, as I got older, I developed new interests – in particular, social science and leadership – which did not always align with my childhood goals of medicine and biology.
With this dichotomy in my mind, I decided to spend my sophomore summer volunteering at a hospital.
Once there, it suddenly dawned on me that, for my entire life, I had viewed being a doctor through rose-tinted glasses since the reality of being a medical professional differed wildly from my perceptions. The dozens of biology textbooks I had read had not prepared me for a single drop of blood, as seeing just one could send me into an exhausting realm of dizziness. With every additional day of volunteering, it became painfully clear – I could not follow in my father’s footsteps.
Disappointed, I began contemplating what made my experience in the hospital so bad and if anything could be done to improve people’s – whether patients’, doctors’, or volunteers’ like myself – experience. Then, a light-bulb switched on: what if I could improve the look of the hospital? As it stood, the hospital was incredibly run-down and inspired depression rather than hope.
With a goal to improve the hospital’s appearance and thus create a friendlier environment for the people inside, I started the Better Setting – Better Getting project, which was going to decorate the hospital with photographs of nature. Having done so, there was a question of financing ー with the hospital administration over-budget, I had to source the funding entirely from the private sector. It was challenging but, a few dozen cold-calls and a handful of live-pitches later, I found a corporate partner that recognised my vision. Finally, I was ready to make my goal a reality. Legal roadblocks and printing nuances still stood in the way, but, with the enthusiastic support of the hospital community, I was able to navigate my way through. Today, dozens of wall-sized nature photos emit joy and hope into the halls of the hospital.
My hospital volunteering, which had begun with heartbreak and disillusion, turned out to be a defining experience of self-discovery. It helped me close my chapter on medicine, a chapter I had so often doubted, and helped me validate my passion for leadership; it allowed me to operate free of doubt, knowing that I don’t have to follow my father’s footsteps. Above all, it made me realise that, although I would never be a doctor, I could nonetheless have a positive impact on society in my very own way.
What the Essay Did Well
The author begins with a quote from a historical fiction novel that the author has read. Although their essay topic doesn’t tie directly in with the novel’s plot, the quote they chose is profound and serves as a hook that piques the reader’s interest about the essay subject.
The author starts the essay by mentioning their father. Their use of first person and writing style makes their first lines seem like the narration at the beginning of a film. This introduction draws the reader in as it seems like the author is building up to something. Similarly, your introduction should start as if you are telling a story to provide the most engaging experience for the reader.
The author then delves more into their father’s background and describes his medical prowess by showing, rather than telling, readers about it. Instead of saying that his father is exceptional, the author presents a specific detail about how he was the first in his family to attend university. Phrasing your writing like this allows the reader to infer through descriptive detail rather than simply absorbing your words at face value. Ensuring that you create this immersive writing style might take more time, but it is worth it as it will make your essay more memorable to admissions officers.
Eventually, the third-to-last paragraph is the climactic point the reader has been waiting for. It is the most important part of the essay ー it’s time for the author to describe how they grew from the incident. During this portion of your essay, you should take readers through your thought process as you begin to formulate a solution for your conflict. It is not enough to say that you learned something new or to merely state that you felt like a changed person. You must provide concrete examples of how you reached a solution and what that solution entailed. Here, the author mentions their distaste for the hospital, specifically, its aesthetic. This sets readers up to hear their solution.
In the next paragraph, the author describes how they resolved part of their issues with the hospital and were able to grow into their new career path. When detailing your solution, make sure you are centering yourself as the agent of change and give specific details as to your specific impact in your environment. In this essay, the author doesn’t just say “I learned that I had a passion for business.” Rather, they show readers how their skills developed and mention specific steps they took, like live pitching and navigating legal roadblocks.
The author concludes this essay by summarizing their journey and bringing their essay back to their chosen quote. By wrapping up their essay in this manner, they underscore their growth in a way that flows well and is easy to read. Furthermore, their open-ended, future-facing final thoughts demonstrate that they intend to continue growing. This inclusion is a key part of any good essay; ending your essay on a strong, future-facing note evokes confidence and illustrates a readiness for the challenges that come with college and beyond.
What Could Be Improved
One area of improvement for this essay is that the section on their transformation is relatively brief. The author spends multiple paragraphs giving context but only dedicates one to the actions behind their growth. The author might want to trim other areas of the essay in order to fully develop this paragraph. They could describe what they did more thoroughly, and really delve into the steps they took to carry out the mentioned processes like so:
Essay Example #2
Prompt: Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?
I woke up. The curtains filtered the sun rays, hitting my face directly. I got up, looked from the bathroom to the kitchen, but my dad wasn’t there. I plopped on the couch, then the door opened. My dad walked in, clutching a brown paper bag with ninety-nine cent breakfast tacos. After eating, we drove to a customer’s house. He sat me in a chair, lifted the floorboard, and crawled under the house to fix the pipes. As he emerged, he talked, but my mind drifted to the weight of the eleven-millimeter hex wrench in my hand. My interest in mechanical engineering originates from my dad, who was a plumber. When I was fifteen, my dad passed away from cancer that constricted his throat. Holding his calloused hand on his deathbed, I wanted to prevent the suffering of others from cancer. Two years later, when I was given a topic of choice for my chemistry research paper, I stumbled upon an article about gold nanoparticles used for HIV treatment. I decided to steer the topic of gold nanoparticles used for cancer treatment instead, entering the field of nanotechnology. After reading numerous articles and watching college lectures on YouTube, I was utterly captivated by topics like using miniscule devices to induce hyperthermia as a safe method of cancer treatment. Nanotechnology is multi-disciplinary, reinforcing my interest in pursuing mechanical engineering as a gateway to participate in nanoscience and nanotechnology research at the University of Texas at Austin. I have learned that nanotechnology is not limited to stories like mine, but to other issues such as sustainable energy and water development that I hope to work towards. It is important for me to continue helping others without forfeiting my interest in nanotechnology, working in collaboration with both engineering and the medical field.
The introduction of this essay stands out for its narrative style. The first sentences only give hints of the story to come, which builds intrigue and keeps the reader engaged. The introduction transitions seamlessly into a vivid, personal story that shows where the author’s academic interests come from. Using a short anecdote like the one in this essay is the most effective way to explain your major choice.
The author then guides readers through their intellectual journey of discovering their academic passions. They demonstrate their passion by discussing specific details about cancer treatments and nanotechnology. Indeed, “nerding out” over your intellectual interests is an excellent way to prove that you are highly motivated to learn about them in college.
Lastly, the end of the essay looks forward to the future. We learn that the author’s dream is to cure cancer, and they want to do it by gaining multidisciplinary knowledge about engineering and medicine. We learn too that UT Austin is a part of the author’s vision. They show their interest in the school by discussing more than the major they want to pursue at UT Austin, highlighting research and the opportunity to explore new applications of nanotechnology.
The main area for improvement in this essay is its formatting. While formatting is far less important than the content of an essay, it can do much more than you would think to make your essay more impactful. This essay only needs one formatting change — paragraph spacing. Here is an example of the improvements:
I woke up.
The curtains filtered the sun rays, hitting my face directly. I got up, looked from the bathroom to the kitchen, but my dad wasn’t there. I plopped on the couch, then the door opened. My dad walked in, clutching a brown paper bag with ninety-nine cent breakfast tacos.
After eating, we drove to a customer’s house. He sat me in a chair, lifted the floorboard, and crawled under the house to fix the pipes. As he emerged, he talked, but my mind drifted to the weight of the eleven-millimeter hex wrench in my hand.
My interest in mechanical engineering originates from my dad, who was a plumber. When I was fifteen, my dad passed away from cancer that constricted his throat. Holding his calloused hand on his deathbed, I wanted to prevent the suffering of others from cancer.
Two years later, when I was given a topic of choice for my chemistry research paper, I stumbled upon an article about gold nanoparticles used for HIV treatment. I decided to steer the topic of gold nanoparticles used for cancer treatment instead, entering the field of nanotechnology. After reading numerous articles and watching college lectures on YouTube, I was utterly captivated by topics like using miniscule devices to induce hyperthermia as a safe method of cancer treatment.
Nanotechnology is multi-disciplinary, reinforcing my interest in pursuing mechanical engineering as a gateway to participate in nanoscience and nanotechnology research at the University of Texas at Austin. I have learned that nanotechnology is not limited to stories like mine, but to other issues such as sustainable energy and water development that I hope to work towards.
It is important for me to continue helping others without forfeiting my interest in nanotechnology, working in collaboration with both engineering and the medical field.
This new paragraph spacing makes the essay much easier to read. Separating certain parts into paragraphs puts powerful emphasis on the ideas that need them; for example, turning the sentence “I woke up” into its own paragraph creates a captivating hook that intrigues readers into finding out what happens next.
With the new format, it is also easier to see that the fourth paragraph would benefit from a few transitional phrases. To connect the author’s interests in mechanical engineering and cancer solutions, the paragraph could be reworded like so:
My interest in mechanical engineering originates from my dad, who was a plumber. My interest in finding solutions to cancer — and how mechanical engineering could create them — comes from my dad too. When I was fifteen, he passed away from cancer that constricted his throat. Holding his calloused hand on his deathbed, I wanted to prevent the suffering of others from cancer.
Where to Get Your UT Austin Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your UT Austin essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. In fact, Alexander Oddo , an essay expert on CollegeVine, provided commentary on the essays in this post. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
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University of Texas at Austin | UT Austin’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts
Why this major short response.
Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?
Diversity Short Response
Describe how your experiences, perspectives, talents, and/or your involvement in leadership activities (at your school, job, community, or within your family) will help you to make an impact both in and out of the classroom while enrolled at UT.
Why This College Short Response
The core purpose of The University of Texas at Austin is, To Transform Lives for the Benefit of Society. Please share how you believe your experience at UT-Austin will prepare you to Change the World after you graduate.
Additional Info Short Response
Please share background on events or special circumstances that you feel may have impacted your high school academic performance.
If your response to this question is similar to one of the Common App Personal Essays, feel free to simply copy and paste the important parts of your essay here.
Your Story Essay
Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?
Architecture Short Response 1
Inherent in the design disciplines the capacity to impact the world around us. What does the opportunity to develop such capacity mean to you and you approach to your college education?
Architecture Short Response 2
Please provide and upload three images total that demonstrate your creativity. The three images may all be of one option type, or varied amongst the two following options:
Option 1 – Either an original photograph or photographs from a camera, smart phone/mobile device, OR
Option 2 – Images of an original art or design project that you have produced and authored yourself.
For all, describe how the three images are representative of how you see creativity as a way to describe, reflect on, or change the world.
Art/Art History Essay
In 500 words or less, please tell us about a time when an artwork, artist or art teacher impacted your life. How did this inspire you to pursue an education in the arts?
Nursing Short Response
Discuss the factors that have influenced your motivation and deep desire to pursue a career in Nursing. Please include any activities and/or life experiences that are related.
Schools using ApplyTexas will have specific guidelines for how many of the following essays are required, if any. Some schools are also on the Common App, so you may respond to those prompts instead in that case.
Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.
You’ve got a ticket in your hand – Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?
(specific to majors in architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education): Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?
What will first-time readers think of your college essay?
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You might be the first in your family to attend college. Or you may come from a family of Longhorns. Whether your heart is set on medical school or you’re still figuring it all out, you bring a unique perspective. And we welcome that with open arms. You belong here.
High school seniors or students who have completed high school and have not enrolled at another college or university.
Students who have started studying at another college or university after graduating high school.
Students who were previously enrolled as an undergraduate student at UT Austin and are ready to return.
Students who are neither a U.S. citizen nor permanent resident and did not graduate from a Texas high school.
Summer/Fall 2023 Freshman Admission
- Early Action Deadline November 1, 2023
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- Early Action Decisions February 1, 2024
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Tackling the UT Austin Short Answer Application Prompts
When UT Austin introduced three short answer essays to their application in 2017, many students felt panicked. Applications are already writing-intensive, so adding even more required writing was an overwhelming prospect. But when it comes down to it, these questions are intended to help students. How? By giving them more opportunity to showcase their fit for UT and their first-choice major.
A student's expanded resume provides the “data” on their achievements and experiences. Their essay and short answers, in contrast, show that they're a living, thinking, feeling human being, someone who cares about what they do and has big dreams for their future. No admissions committee expects a student to have their life 100% planned out right now—the whole point of college is to give students time, space, and resources to learn and explore. But they do want to know that if they admit someone, that student is going to take advantage of everything they offer.
General Tips for the UT Austin Short Answer Application Essays
- Just answer the question. Seems simple, but it's important to keep in mind: these are not trick questions. UT Admissions is asking students exactly what they want to know. Students should read the question carefully and be sure they're addressing it directly.
- Be succinct. Students should absolutely use illustrative examples where appropriate, but they can save their creative juices for Essay A. The short answers are more about providing extra information to the admissions committee.
- Always keep first-choice major in mind. The short answers are a great place to provide additional evidence for why a student is a good fit for their first-choice major.
The short answers on the UT application fit together to create the perfect opportunity for a student showcase themselves as an active, engaged future member of the UT community. Here, we'll walk you through each short answer question and offer some tips on how to tackle them.
REQUIRED SHORT ANSWER 1: First-Choice Major
Short Answer Prompt
Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?
HOW TO APPROACH THIS QUESTION
In this short answer response, students need to communicate to the admissions committee what they personally find engaging and exciting about their proposed field of study. The admissions committee does not expect student to already be an expert in their field or to have their future career in this field planned out. But they do want to know that the student didn't just open the course catalog and pick a major at random.
Remember, the student should demonstrate how they specifically—not just a generic student—will take advantage of the opportunities available to them.
So rather than writing a dry sentence like “I plan to apply for Department X's summer research grant,” a student should write a sentence or two describing a burning question they hope to answer through their research: “With the support of Department X's summer research grants, I could deepen my understanding of [insert specific topic you're passionate about] and finally discover an answer to [burning question]—something I've been fascinated by since my sophomore year internship at [relevant workplace].” The first sentence could just as easily apply to a thousand different applicants. The second is focused, detailed, and could only have been written by—and about—one student.
Students' responses to this question should demonstrate the following:
- They have already begun exploring this subject on their own, independently and/or through organized opportunities (e.g., classes, summer programs, internships).
- They have a sense of how this major fits into their long-term goals.
- They have thought about why UT would be an excellent place to study this subject.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND FREEWRITING
Students should be careful not to simply relist classes, activities, and awards from their resume. Instead, they can highlight two or three experiences they found especially meaningful, and reflect on how those experiences shaped their interest in their major. Here are some questions they can ask themselves as they brainstorm:
- How did this learning experience change the way you understand the world? Did you learn about new problems you hadn't been aware of? Gain a new perspective on your own life, culture, or community? Learn new skills or methods for solving problems?
- How did you grow from this learning experience? Did it spark new realizations or spark you to take action in some way? Give you new creative outlets for expressing yourself? Open doors to careers or fields of study you hadn't previously considered?
PERSONALIZING THE ANSWER
If a student hasn't had the opportunity to participate in summer programs or take coursework directly related to their first-choice major, they might need to get a little more creative here. Remember: learning experiences don't have to be formally organized. Taking the initiative to explore a topic independently can demonstrate to colleges that a student is self-motivated and intellectually curious. Here are some ways students might independently explore their interests:
- Reading books and other publications related to their interests
- Watching relevant lectures on YouTube or listening to podcasts
- Starting conversations with friends, family, or classmates about what they're learning
- Finding ways to incorporate interests into assignments (e.g., researching famous social psychology experiments for an AP U.S. History project)
- Talking with a teacher or reaching out to a professional in their field to learn more
- Gathering information from real world experiences, even if they don't seem directly connected to the major. (For example, if a student is an aspiring accounting major who currently works a retail job, they might pay close attention to how a small business handles expenses compared to a large chain. Or, if they're an aspiring education major who cares for younger siblings, they might help their siblings with their homework assignments and come up with creative ideas to teach them difficult concepts.)
Bottom line: Students should be sure that their answer to this question doesn't regurgitate information from their resume and instead offers new insight into their personal connection with their first-choice major.
The college essay & resume for UT Austin process can feel overwhelming. Our program provides an experienced coach and a proven framework, working one-on-one to reduce the stress so the student can tell a compelling story.
Our program for students applying to UT Austin includes:
- Guiding students through the UT expanded resume development process
- Managing your student’s essay timeline for one long essay and four school-specific supplemental essays
- Coaching students through a targeted set of college essays, including one long essay and four school-specific supplemental essays
- Providing students with suggested edits and proofing for this targeted set of college essays
- Review of essays and application by our internal admissions committee
Your student will be carefully matched with a coach based on personality, working style, and first-choice major—it’s just one of the many ways we modify our proven process to meet individual student needs
REQUIRED SHORT ANSWER 2: Leadership
Describe how your experiences, perspectives, talents, and/or your involvement in leadership activities (at your school, job, community, or within your family) will help you to make an impact both in and out of the classroom while enrolled at UT. (300 Words)
The trick to answering this question: don't get too hung up on conventional definitions of "leadership." American popular culture tends to define leaders as people who have official titles, including Class President or Varsity Captain. We associate leadership with particular character traits, like self-confidence or charisma. And we may expect leaders to feel comfortable doing things like giving orders, delivering speeches, and making high-stakes decisions.
But there are only so many official titles to go around—and the truth is, many of us have talents and temperaments that are better suited to different (though equally important) social roles. A community or team requires many kinds of people and many varied skill sets to function effectively.
Think of it this way: if a varsity football team had 20 captains, or a senior class had 400 class presidents, it would be utter chaos. Nothing would ever get accomplished because there would be no one to fill other roles that are vital to the group's functioning.
A university community is the same way. UT doesn't want to admit thousands of leaders who are all carbon copies of one another. They want to create a heterogeneous community whose members contribute different strengths, experiences, and perspectives. So, if the traditional definition of leadership doesn't resonate with a student, they shouldn't try to fit their experiences into that mold. If they do, they'll likely wind up with a response that's vague on details and padded with generic statements. At best, they'll come off as a somewhat mediocre leader by traditional standards; at worst, they risk distorting or misrepresenting what they have actually achieved.
Instead, students should use this short answer response to explore what they personally contribute to the communities they belong to. They can create their own definition of leadership—one that is unique to their values, their experiences, and their way of walking in the world. Then, using examples drawn from their life, they can help the admissions committee understand why their impact on their communities is so important.
In the last part of the prompt, students are asked explicitly to explain how they'll "make an impact both in and out of the classroom while enrolled at UT." It's critical for the student to speak directly to this part of the prompt and to explain how their past experiences, talents, perspectives, or involvement will help them make UT a better place—both in the classroom as well as in the dorms, in student organizations, and in any other area the student might be involved.
Remember that leadership doesn't have to be assertive, confrontational, or even especially vocal. Yes, it can be difficult to quantify quieter, less showy forms of leadership on a resume (there's no "Presidential Gold Award for Listening"). But if you've ever been in a meeting where everyone constantly interrupts each other, or started a job where nobody has bothered to explain to you what you're supposed to be doing, you'll understand just how vital these skills are.
Students may not be able to quantify these experiences or contributions on their resume, but their short answer can help the admissions committee understand what the student's own version of leadership looks like and how it positively impacts the communities to which they belong.
Note: If your student is still stuck or having a hard time describing their own leadership style, taking the Belbin Team Roles Test can be a good starting place.
If a student's version of leadership does match up with traditional definitions of leadership, that's great. In that case, their short answer response should highlight moments in their leadership career that were especially significant or meaningful to them. These might be challenges or setbacks they had to tackle, conflicts they had to resolve, or opportunities they embraced, even if it meant stepping out of their comfort zone.
Remember, the goal here isn't for students to rattle off a list of achievements from their resume. Instead, they should demonstrate that they've reflected thoughtfully on their past experiences, and that they've learned something from those experiences that will help them be a good member of the UT community.
REQUIRED SHORT ANSWER 3: Why UT?
The core purpose of The University of Texas at Austin is, "To Transform Lives for the Benefit of Society." Please share how you believe your experience at UT Austin will prepare you to "Change the World" after you graduate. (300 Words)
This question offers applicants the chance to tell the committee how studying at UT Austin will help them impact the world for the better. A student's impact could take the form of a chosen career, service/volunteer work, advocacy, leadership, or other creative or intellectual endeavors.
The key here is to combine two elements:
The student's reflections on how they want to impact the world (including the lives of others) for the better.
The student's considerations of how their experiences at UT might enable them to do so.
Particularly when it comes to talking about future opportunities at UT, students should be specific,
demonstrating their knowledge of the university and the possibilities it will afford them to use their education for social good.
If students have done any brainstorming for short answer 2, they've already spent a fair amount of time thinking about the role they play in the various communities or groups they belong to. Now they need to think about why they've chosen to be involved in those activities. What core values have guided these choices, and in looking to the future, how do those values inform the impact students hope to have on their community—and even the world?
As students think about how to make their answer to this question stand out, they should keep in mind that certain kinds of social contributions—such as helping underprivileged children or working to end world hunger—may strike the admissions committee as somewhat generic. They're incredible endeavors, yes, but the goal here is to stand out from other applicants who have similar lofty goals.
For this reason, students should think about how they can frame their potential contributions to society in a way that distinguishes them from the thousands of other students who also want to have a positive impact. Here are some questions to consider:
How has their past experience put them in a position to realize their positive values, in the UT community and beyond?
What contributions can they, personally, make to their communities—and how can a UT education help them do that?
What, specifically, about UT Austin did the student connect with, in terms of how it would help them contribute to the greater good?
REQUIRED SHORT ANSWER: Academics
Please share background on events or special circumstances that you feel may have impacted your high school academic performance, including the possible effects of COVID-19.
This question provides students with the opportunity to explain any academic missteps, family circumstances, or medical issues that may have impacted them during high school, particularly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The student shouldn't go into every detail of what happened. Instead, they should state the basic facts—just enough to convey the relevant circumstances—and then explain the impact and what they learned from the experience (at least a third of the answer should be about what the student has learned).
The most important thing to remember is: no matter what the situation, frame any answer to this question in a positive way.
A student's answer to this question will likely already be personal—it is, after all, describing a unique event or set of circumstances. But students shouldn't let the unique experience be the only "personal" part of the answer. By personalizing their reflections on the lessons they've learned as a result of hardship, students can demonstrate growth and self-knowledge.
You may also be interested in:
College Admissions Trends for The Class of 2021
How to Choose Who Writes Your UT Austin College Recommendation Letters
7 "Hidden Gem" Majors at UT Austin
5-Point Scorecard To Make Sure Your Apply Texas Essay A Stands Out
Everything You Need to Know About Honors Programs at the University of Texas at Austin
Note: These services and programs are in no way related to the University of Texas. The University does not endorse the program or College MatchPoint’s services.
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UT Austin’s New Essay Questions
- Sasha Chada
- October 22, 2021
Table of Contents
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In a surprise move this summer, the University of Texas Austin changed their supplemental essay prompts. They added two new prompts, and combined two of their previous questions, resulting in students needing to write four essays. The abruptness of this change, and a lack of prior announcement, caused a great deal of shock for students.
So why did UT Austin make this change, and how should you try to answer these questions? While we can’t answer the first question, we can help you with the second. In this article, we’ll discuss the new prompts, give examples of how you can answer them, and show you what UT Austin is looking for when they ask these questions.
We have a guide to answering supplemental essay questions generally , but due to the importance of UT Austin for many of our students, we thought it would be helpful to address these changes specifically.
“Change the World” Example
The core purpose of The University of Texas at Austin is, “To Transform Lives for the Benefit of Society.” Please share how you believe your experience at UT-Austin will prepare you to “Change the World” after you graduate. (250-300 words)
Because my goal is creating a life changing invention, I believe UT’s unique engineering program and focus on experiential learning will best prepare me for the future. As a biomedical engineering major, I’m eager to take advantage of opportunities to do research as an undergrad and potentially solve real world problems. One UT initiative that is perfect to help me accomplish my goals is the Inventors Program, which teaches entrepreneurial design and will help me make an immediate community impact.
Another aspect of UT engineering that excites me is the Senior Design project, a year-long course that allows students to design prototypes based on authentic biomedical engineering problems. While visiting my family in Honduras, I have seen firsthand the need for unique solutions to common healthcare problems. With resources like the Texas Inventionworks Makerspace, I hope to leverage my strong math and science background as well as my love of creativity to solve problems that are impacting the people I love.
In addition to the strong academics UT offers and their top-ranked engineering school, I was thrilled to learn that UT has a chapter of the Best Buddies program, and I plan to get involved immediately. In this program, peer buddies are paired with students with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and spend time together throughout the year. I have been lucky enough to be a peer buddy and eventually the president of the local Best Buddies chapter at my high school. I expect the UT chapter will continue to fuel this passion.
UT will prepare me for a successful career, allow me to continue my love of volunteering with individuals with special needs, and help me achieve my goal of creating my own medical device. Me and UT are the kind of dream team that can change the world.
“Change the World” Analysis
This question is, quite frankly, a lot. Unlike many other essay questions that colleges ask, it is hard to single out what exactly UT Austin is looking for when they pose this question. Of course some colleges delight in asking purposefully hard-to-answer questions (looking at you UChicago), but this does not seem to follow in that vein. Instead, this question simply does not read as well thought out.
The goal of college essays generally is for schools to learn about a student; who they are, what they’ve done, and how they can contribute to campus. This question seems to be asking how you will contribute to campus, and to society at large, through what UT Austin gives you.
Therefore, the easiest way we have found to answer this question is as a “Why Us” essay. These essays are quite popular, and inquire why a student wants to attend this school in particular. While you can attempt to divine enough of the future to describe your post-graduation career, we do not recommend doing so.
In the example above, the student clearly discusses why they wish to attend UT Austin, and what the school’s specific programs will allow them to accomplish. The author discusses several programs, and provides clear examples of why they like these programs in particular.
The specificity of examples is important here; there are many schools with good engineering programs, but only UT Austin has the Inventors Program or the Texas Inventionworks Makerspace. The more concretely you tie your desires to the specific offerings of UT Austin, the more convincing your essay will be.
The author also discusses a non-academic draw to UT Austin. You don’t need to include one of these, but it can help make your essay more personal, and show the breadth of your interests. Mentioning specific clubs also shows you’ve done your research on the school; admissions officers like to see that you take their school seriously. We recommend not discussing the school’s city or location generally, as this is too generic and non-specific to the institution.
While this is not the easiest question to answer, by treating it as a “Why Us” essay, you will be well equipped to answer the prompt, and tell UT Austin something important about you in the process. Remember that this essay is not just for singing the praises of the school, but discussing why specific aspects of UT Austin appeal to you, and how their unique offerings will allow you to succeed, and change the world.
Academic Interruptions Essay
Please share background on events or special circumstances that you feel may have impacted your high school academic performance, including the possible effects of COVID-19. (250-300)
Even though my junior year was going to be virtual, I was excited to return to school and some sense of normalcy. I had a full schedule, with a mix of AP and IB classes, and hoped my teachers would be as effective through Microsoft Teams as they were in-person. Being at the height of the presidential election season, I was especially looking forward to AP Government class discussions.
It was my teacher’s first year at Lamar, but he seemed excited to teach the course and wanted lots of class interaction — a nice change from sitting behind the screen in silence. Unfortunately, after six weeks of school, the teacher abruptly quit. The administrators told us he did not enjoy teaching over an online platform. The class was upset that he couldn’t at least finish our semester. Many of us did not enjoy learning virtually, but we all pushed through for the rest of the year. In typical Lamar fashion, not having enough time to arrange a replacement, they introduced us to our new teacher: the football coach. It was a dreadful semester filled with incomprehensible powerpoints and fill-in-the blank worksheets. Most people successfully completed the class without having to unmute their microphone once. The class transformed from an experience I enjoyed to a grating waste of time. Countless emails were sent by many students and parents requesting a different teacher, but all were dismissed. The coach did not want to teach us; therefore the students did not want to listen. Worst of all, his poorly composed lessons were killing everyone’s desire to learn. I tried to stay motivated and teach myself as much as possible but, as you can imagine, a coach reading powerpoints to a class of 64 people left us completely unprepared for the AP test.
Academic Interruptions Analysis
While this question is more straightforward than the other, that does not necessarily make it easier to answer. Last year, UT Austin had a version of this question as an optional prompt, as did the Common App. We touched on these, and writing about Covid 19 generally, before .
This prompt, however, is mandatory. We do not understand this decision, as the students who suffered notable academic setbacks already had a place to discuss these, and students without them had no cause for concern. Now, all applicants will have to write about stumbling blocks, which leads immediately to a problem.
Not all students have suffered academic setbacks or struggles in high school. This is normal, some students struggle more than others; thus an optional essay on academic challenges makes sense. By making this question mandatory, UT Austin seems to penalize students who have not suffered any academic struggles at all during their studies.
Of course, due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, most every student will be able to write about some kind of academic interruption they suffered, be it virtual classes, AP test issues, or SAT and ACT cancellations. This is what the author does in the example above.
While the author’s setback is not major in terms of grades, a rough course, especially when it impacts an AP exam as well, is notable. This story is far from unique, but the context it provides for the student’s academic achievement is important. While you don’t have to report low AP scores, colleges will still see that you took an AP class, and not reporting an associated score will often make them assume you either felt unprepared for the test, or you did poorly on the test.
While this essay would not be worth including in the additional information section under normal circumstances, the new prompt from UT Austin gives it a place to live. Notable as well is the author’s clear desire to continue learning, and attempts to remedy their situation, though they proved futile. Colleges like to see that you have shown initiative when pursuing your education, especially in the face of setbacks.
While you may not have a great story to tell here, or a particularly original one, that doesn’t mean you can’t answer this prompt. When doing so, avoid giving too many excuses. Instead explain what happened, how it impacted you, and what you did about it. You should always focus on the third step if possible, as your actions demonstrate your drive and capabilities.
College essays are always a challenge to write, and even more of one when they are unexpected. While UT Austin’s new essays caught many students by surprise, we hope that these examples will help you when trying to answer them. The unfortunate truth of college admissions is that universities have far more power than students in the relationship, and they get to set the terms for how the process works.
If you want more individualized guidance when writing your essays, or have further concerns about your admissions journey, schedule a free consultation with us. We have deep experience helping students get into their dream schools, and are always happy to share what we know.
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What is the Additional Info Section?
As you are filling out the Common App, you will come across an unassuming question, which reads: WHat does that mean exactly? It’s marked optional,
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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 UT Austin Supplemental Essay Prompts
The University of Texas at Austin requires all applicants to submit a set of UT Austin supplemental essays. These essays are a great way to utilize creative writing to make yourself memorable and unique. Take this chance to tell your story and run with it. In this article, we will be breaking down each prompt to make each one easier to understand. Let’s go!
See also: How to write a great supplemental essay
Before you begin
- Multiple writing samples are required, including a supplemental essay and then four short answers (one of the four is optional).
- UT Austin offers students the opportunity to submit additional materials to strengthen their applications, such as letters of recommendation or an expanded resume
The UT Austin supplemental essay prompt
“Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?”
The traditional essay prompt is generally between 500 and 700 words. Compared to other supplemental essays, this is not all that long. In addition, this is an essay all about you. UT Austin wants to hear about your story and what makes you special. This is an easy topic to write about your personal experiences versus an essay that asks you to connect it back to the university.
With that being said, you don’t have to connect it back to the university, but… it is always a good idea to do so. This way, the people reading it are able to see what you have to offer the University of Texas, and what you bring to the table as a student.
So, what makes you unique? If you are planning on talking about challenges for this question, we recommend thinking twice about writing about the Pandemic. This is because although you may have a unique experience, the pandemic was a challenge that everyone had to live through. Pick a challenge that is unique to you, one that makes you you . In addition to that, in the optional short answer, you have the opportunity to talk about the challenges that you were presented with during the Pandemic.
As mentioned above, you’ll need to write three short answer questions (and have the option to write one additional one). These can be quick and easy, but extremely influential to the college admissions process. Each response should be between 250 and 300 words.
Short answer #1
“Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?”
This is a simple question, and easy to answer in less than 300 words. Maybe you have always known what you wanted to study in college, or maybe you are still figuring it out– whatever the case may be, just be open, honest, and concise when you speak about this topic.
Short answer #2
“Describe how your experiences, perspectives, talents, and/or your involvement in leadership activities (at your school, job, community, or within your family) will help you to make an impact both in and out of the classroom while enrolled at UT.”
In this short answer, they are offered the opportunity to talk about the things you are passionate about. Take this and run with it! This is one of the things that makes students stand out among the crowd– what they are passionate about and why. The trick here is connecting it back to how it currently benefits you as a student, and how it will continue to benefit you as a student.
An example of this could be a student organization that taught you about accountability. From being in a leadership position in this organization, you learned accountability, which helped you to be a better student because you were more apt to be on time with assignments, get ahead on your schoolwork, and to hold yourself accountable. Learning these things early on helped you to build healthy learning habits that you will carry with you into college.
Short answer #3
“The core purpose of The University of Texas at Austin is, “To Transform Lives for the Benefit of Society.” Please share how you believe your experience at UT-Austin will prepare you to “Change the World” after you graduate.”
This is arguably one of the more important short answers that UT – Austin asks you to write. They want to know that you hold similar values to their founders and the existing student body, and that you will be a good fit for their university holistically, not just academically.
There are so many different directions that you could take this question. First, think about what you want to do with your degree after college. Then ask yourself, “What can I do at UT Austin that will not only transform my life, but how can what I learn from that experience that will help me be able to transform others’ lives as well”? This is a loaded question, and a lot more than you might be able to answer right now. Just try to be idealistic and think of your future.
Optional short answer
“Please share background on events or special circumstances that you feel may have impacted your high school academic performance. If your response to this question is similar to one of the Common App Personal Essays, feel free to simply copy and paste the important parts of your essay here. Please limit your response to 250-300 words.”
This one is quick, easy, and a short answer that everyone should answer if their situation warrants. This is your opportunity to let UT Austin know about your struggles and help them understand your story a bit better.
Closing thoughts for students
It is completely understandable if you are feeling overwhelmed after reading through all of these prompts. The only thing that you can do is try your best and be honest about who you are–in other words, stay true to yourself. The college admissions professionals at the University of Texas – Austin simply want to get to know you as a person, and that is why they are asking you so many questions! Remember, the prompts are not meant to make you feel overwhelmed or scared by any means.
At Scholarships360, we understand that the college admissions process is a long and strenuous process. We want to make things easier for you, so we’ve curated a pretty extensive list of tips and tricks to help you out. Learn how to write an essay about yourself and perfect writing both 250 or 500 word essays. We can help you figure out how many colleges to apply to , and after, how to make your college application shine . We wish you luck, and remind you to apply for all the scholarships you are eligible for!
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Plan II Essay Info
Guidelines and prompts for freshman applicants.
Plan II must often deny applicants with excellent grades and test scores who submit mediocre essays. A great essay can sweep us off our feet and perhaps make up for somewhat lower scores or relatively lackluster grades. These are the writing samples you will submit for the ApplyTexas (or Common Application) portion of the application and your Plan II Honors short answer response. Instructions on how to submit your essays can be found on the Texas Admissions page
What NOT to Do
- Choose a very complicated and involved topic that you think will impress us
- Choose a very safe subject
- Make the essay brief and superficial
- Fill it with clichés
- Make unsubstantiated assertitions
- Throw in broad generalizations
- (Over)use a thesaurus.
To write a good essay for Plan II: Express yourself
- Use your own voice
- Write about something you know or something that is truly important to you (as much as possible within the confines of the prompts)
- Give us a clear impression of who you are, providing your admission evaluators a view of an interesting individual is what gets applicants admitted
- Appeal to the senses when you write: show us what is beautiful, sad, impressive, scary, confusing, frustrating or comforting. Don't just tell us that it was so.
- To make your story resonate employ detail, description and precision rather than pretense and melodrama.
- Don't simply tell us what you think or what you feel in abstract terms. Describe it. Make it real.
What do we want?
- Strong command of language
- Good variety in sentence structure
- Clarity of development and thought
- Flow from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph and idea to idea
- Introduce the topic, develop the topic, and move on to a clear conclusion
- Great essays may be quite creative or they may exhibit very straight-forward narrative/expository writing
Take your time, but beware over-editing
Spend plenty of time writing and fine-tuning your essays. Ask for feedback from people you trust before submitting your essays. But be careful. Don't allow helpful editors to edit you out of your own essay . Stay true to your original idea. Stay true to your voice. If your essay sounds as though your father, your AP English teacher or your older sister wrote it, it's not likely to earn you admission to Plan II Honors.
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University of Texas at Austin 2020-21 Essay Prompt Guide
University of Texas at Austin 2020-21 Application Essay Question Explanations
The Requirements: 1 essay of 500-700 words; 3 essays of 250-300 words
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community , Why , Additional Info , Personal statement
All freshman applicants must submit a required essay, Topic A in ApplyTexas and the UT Austin Required Essay in the Coalition application. Please keep your essay between 500–700 words (typically two to three paragraphs).
Tell us your story. what unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today (500-700 words).
Whether you’re using the Coalition or ApplyTexas to apply to UT Austin, you’ll have many opportunities to document your greatest high school achievements. So for this essay, it’s important that you focus on telling a personal story (it’s right there in the prompt!) that doesn’t appear elsewhere on your application. What opportunities and challenges were specific to your high school experience? The goal isn’t to craft a list, so aim to focus on one central story that describes either an opportunity or a challenge. When brainstorming , on the other hand, we recommend writing the longest list you can think of: two columns or a Venn diagram documenting every hurtle or special chance you got throughout high school.
As you consider your “opportunities,” keep in mind that your reflection on the event or opportunity that shaped who you are today will be a source of great insight for admissions. Maybe being fluent in Tagalog opened up a unique opportunity for you to start an online exchange between your school and a school in the Philippines. Or were you invited to perform with your dance group at a community event? Did this experience launch you to seek out other performance opportunities, spurring your interest in entrepreneurship? As you sift through your “challenges” route, aim to showcase qualities like resilience, perseverance, or simply an ability to turn lemons into lemonade. Perhaps the long commutes on the bus between home, school, and your internship taught you about time management or inspired an interest in urban planning. The challenges you choose to write about can be serious (dealing with bullies or discovering a learning disability) or seemingly banal (a public speaking #fail). While the possibilities are almost endless, students should be careful not to choose challenges that may seem trite (getting a B on a big project or winning lottery tickets to Hamilton).
Regardless of the direction you choose to pursue, remember to make sure that admissions is learning something new about you through personal anecdotes and specific details.
All applicants must submit three required short answers and may submit one optional short answer responding to prompts in your admissions application. Answers are limited to no more than 40 lines, or about 250–300 words, typically the length of one paragraph. Note Special Requirements: Architecture, Art and Art History, Nursing, and Social Work require additional short answer questions of their applicants.
Required short answer 1: , why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major.
This prompt sounds simple enough: describe what you want to study and why you like it so much that you’re willing to dedicate four years of your life to it (at the very least). While you might be tempted to get technical or poetic in your response, your reader will expect you to connect your intended major to some prior experience and/or passion. In other words, tell a story. Lucky for you, we would have advised you to start with an anecdote anyway. The most memorable essays spring from concrete descriptions of your experiences. What excites you and why? When was the last time you got drawn down a Reddit rabbit hole – and what was the topic? While you don’t need to pinpoint the exact moment you became interested in ancient history or calculus, try to zero in on some inspiring experience. What was the best TED Talk you ever watched? The first time you spoke to your new friend in ASL? Your story should showcase your unique connection to your chosen course of study. And don’t forget to talk about UT Austin! By the end of your essay, your reader should not only know why you are passionate about your chosen major, but also what excites you about Austin’s program. In admissions, we call that your fit!
Oh and a quick shoutout to all the undecideds out there: don’t worry! If you can’t decide, then tell a story that demonstrates your wide range of interests or natural curiosity. Focus on the opportunities UT Austin offers across departments and how you plan to explore once you arrive on campus. It’s normal to want to try new things at the start of college!
Required Short Answer 2:
Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities..
When answering this question, resist the urge to rewrite your resume. UT Austin isn’t asking you for a list! Remember: it’s your job, as an applicant, to use every essay as an opportunity to reveal something new about yourself. Admissions even gives you a runway for your brainstorming : you can talk about leading at school, your job, in the community, or within your family! Think of a moment when you were in a position where you worked really hard to help a group of friends or loved ones. Maybe you are always the one helping your younger siblings with school projects, and you struggled to find ways to attain and keep your little brother’s attention. Maybe as a volunteer you were in charge of teaching new staff the proper policies for walking dogs at the local shelter. Perhaps, during a group project at school, you organized and planned all of your meetings and drove home classmates who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to attend group sessions outside of school hours. Try to isolate a single leadership moment, and bring it to life with vivid details. Describe where you were, what was happening around you, and what you were feeling. Discuss what challenges you faced, and what you ultimately learned from the experience. Don’t shy away from challenges, or even failures, since these are exactly the kinds of character-building experiences that can demonstrate resilience and quick thinking.
Required Short Answer 3:
Please share how you believe your experiences, perspectives, and/or talents have shaped your ability to contribute to and enrich the learning environment at ut austin, both in and out of the classroom..
In short, this is an essay about diversity and the aspects of your life and experience that distinguish you from your peers. For some applicants, the answer might be obvious: you might have been the only one at your school with a certain background, belief system, or inherited skill set. But whether this prompt seems like it was made for you or just a total head-scratcher, we encourage you to dig a little deeper than your first thought. What about your history, experiences, perspectives, or talents might be worth highlighting for an admissions officer? And how can the experience, perspective, or talent you choose enrich the learning environment at UT Austin? Maybe you grew up in a military family that moved around a lot, and you want to write about how this experience has shaped your ability to make new connections super quickly. Perhaps you’ll teach your floor-mates about what makes for a great ice breaker. Maybe you were raised on a farm and developed a strong work ethic at a young age as you helped your parents tend to the fields. Perhaps you will be a natural leader in group projects and take initiative in the many clubs you’d like to join. Be sure to connect your personal story to a future vision of yourself at UT Austin. The most important thing to remember for this prompt is that your experience, perspective, or talent is dynamic and specific to you and who you are, and no one else.
Optional Short Answer:
Please share background on events or special circumstances that may have impacted your high school academic performance, including the possible effects of covid-19..
This is UT Austin’s version of the Additional Info essay, which means that unless you have something crucial to explain to admissions – and there is absolutely NOWHERE else on the application for you to write about it – you should skip this essay. Think about it: If you were an admissions officer, would you really want to read one more essay per applicant?
That being said, this essay is perfect for students who have encountered outstanding challenges, and need an opportunity to explain them. In fact, we recommend saving those details for an Additional Info essay, so that you can use the rest of your application to highlight other parts of your amazing personality. So, if something has happened that affected your academic performance, this is a great opportunity to explain the circumstances. Did an illness during your junior year cause your participation in clubs, sports, and activities to take a hit? Did a family emergency cause an overall drop in your GPA? A drop in grades or a gap in your resume does not define you. Remember to make this essay not about the things you couldn’t control, but the actions you took to improve the situation. You don’t want to come off as a victim of circumstance, but as a resilient person who can take steps to positively affect their situation.
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