How to Write the ApplyTexas Essays (2019-2020)

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The state of Texas boasts over 150 four-year universities that offer students the opportunity to pursue a rewarding undergraduate education. High school students interested in applying to any of these institutions will likely do so using the ApplyTexas application platform. A result of collaborative efforts between the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and various public and private universities around the state, ApplyTexas provides both Texans and non-Texans an integrated means of applying to the many post-secondary institutions in the state. According to the ApplyTexas website, prospective students are able to accomplish the following tasks on the ApplyTexas platform:


  • Apply for admission to any Texas public university, as well as to participating community and private colleges.
  • Apply for undergraduate, international and graduate admission.
  • Copy a submitted application to another institution.
  • Submit your application essays online.
  • Apply for scholarships from participating universities.
  • Search for and view both general and university specific information.


With the 2019-2020 applications season just around the corner, the CollegeVine essay team wanted to share our strategies for answering the current essay prompts on the ApplyTexas platform.


In this blog post, we’ll break down the prompts for the 2019-2020 cycle and walk you through the steps of ideation, organization, and delivery.


Before You Begin:


Much like the Common Application, the ApplyTexas application allows students to standardize their applications to apply to several universities at once. Before you begin your applications, it’s important to verify that your desired schools are featured on the ApplyTexas platform. Certain private schools—Rice University, for example—use the Common Application instead of ApplyTexas. And while all the public universities in Texas accept ApplyTexas, some of them also accept the Common Application. Both the Common Application and ApplyTexas offer tools to determine whether a university is included in their platform. Be sure to verify which application is better suited to your college list. Of course, many students end up using both!


Overview: How to Orient Yourself to Tackle the ApplyTexas Essays


Now that you’ve determined that the ApplyTexas platform is right for you, it’s time to start thinking about the essays. ApplyTexas features three primary essay questions called essays “A,” “B” and “C.” While different schools will require different combinations of these prompts, often making one or two of them optional, it is important to be familiar with each of the questions.


After meeting benchmark standards in terms of GPA, test scores, and extracurriculars, the essay is the most important part of an application. These essays are the best way to successfully communicate those parts of you that can’t be reduced to numbers. So, most of you. The opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants is invaluable, especially as you apply via standardized application portals.


It’s important to remember that these essays are read by each school that sees your ApplyTexas profile. As such, you’ll benefit from essays that are broadly accessible to admissions committees. Even if you’re bursting with knowledge about your future major, these essays are an opportunity to speak holistically with regards to your life and experience.


Strategy for Writing the ApplyTexas 2019-2020 Essays:


With few parameters aside from the word limit of approximately 800 words, the ApplyTexas essay can be intimidating. Luckily, the prompts can act as a creative and procedural tether. Whereas students applying via Common Application might begin by shaping a central idea before matching it up to one of the various prompts, ApplyTexas essays grow from the prompt up. Because of this, the best brainstorming and organizational practices for each prompt are unique. The one factor that remains ubiquitously relevant is writing—good writing. Before we get into the details of ideation and organization for each prompt, we’ll review some ways to ensure your writing is clear, communicative, and evocative.


Tips for writing well:


  • Show, don’t tell (you’ve heard it before, but it’s worth hearing again!)
  • Use active, rather than passive, sentence construction.
  • Write with precision.
  • Avoid clichés


The somewhat hackneyed advice of “Show, don’t tell” is nevertheless crucial to writing a compelling application essay. The meaning of showing a reader rather than telling them is best interpreted literally. Imagine you’re outside your house and you see a dog skateboarding on it’s two front paws. You run inside, eager to {tell, show} whoever is home. You fling open the door and narrowly avoid a collision with your brother, still unlacing his shoes from basketball practice.


You tell him: “Aamir, I just saw a dog skateboarding on its two front paws!”




You show him: You grab Aamir by the corner of his Jersey. “Come quick” you squeal, and he stumbles out after you, tripping on his laces. Thankfully, the dog is still there. “Just look,” you breathe out, already mesmerized by the wind rushing through the schnauzer’s mustache. Wobbling ever so slightly, the pup remains confident as he shreds the inclined blacktop of the cul-de-sac. Then, a moment later, it’s over. Unaware of the scale of his accomplishment, the dog scratches behind his right ear. You look over at Aamir. “Whoa.”


Out of these two scenarios, we can be sure that Aamir will only remember the second. It’s much the same for admissions committees; they’re more likely to remember you if you show them what you want to communicate. Now, showing doesn’t need to be much longer than telling. In fact, succinct writing is just as important as descriptive writing. Abandoning the literal narrative of “showing,” we’re left with something like this: A schnauzer puppy from the cul-de-sac was balanced on his front paws—miraculously, on a skateboard. Man, that dog could shred.


Using active voice is another crucial component of clean, clear writing. It’s also pretty simple. Make sure your sentence’s subject performs the action indicated by the verb. For example, instead of writing “the skateboard was maneuvered by a schnauzer,” you would opt for, “the schnauzer maneuvered the skateboard.” The only exception to this rule is when you want to bring explicit attention to the person or thing affected by an action. Our story is actually a decent example. What’s more noteworthy? The skateboarding? Or the fact that a dog is doing it? An acceptable passive construction might look like this: “the skateboard—would you believe it—was being maneuvered by none other than the schnauzer from across the cul-de-sac.” In this instance, we’re able to use passive voice to create humor and suspense. That being said, the vast majority of your sentences should employ the active voice.


The active voice is also a big part of writing with precision. Aside from that, writing becomes precise or imprecise largely as a result of word choice. This is somewhat self evident. For example, while “evasive” is a synonym of “oblique” in one sense, it would nevertheless be embarrassing to write that, “John sat in the armchair evasive to the television.” Rather than picturing a chair positioned diagonally (obliquely) from the television, readers are left wondering what in the world an evasive chair might be. Moral of the story is this: use your thesaurus—carefully. It is also common for burgeoning writers to go overboard with adjective use. Adjectives’ power correlates inversely with their use. If each of your sentences is flush with adjectives, they’ve already lost their impact.


Finally, avoid any clichés, aphorisms, etc. that fail to add value to your essay. Admissions officers will read countless essays boasting “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  If you’re tempted to use a hackneyed phrase, find its seed instead. Clichés are cliché because they stem from important thoughts, universal truths, and romantic principles. In the case of “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the seed might be an individual’s ability to impact a community, or to transform outdated and unjust systems. The seed of a clichéd phrase may still be worth writing about, but it’s important that you write authentically and originally.


Dissecting the Prompts:


ApplyTexas features two sets of prompts. One for incoming freshmen (both domestic and international) and one for transfer, transient, or readmit applications. This post is concerned with the first set, for students applying as freshmen. While different schools require different combinations of essays, most students should be prepared to deal with topics A, B, and C. Students intent on pursuing a degree related to art and design should also be ready to answer topic D. Check out this ApplyTexas database to scout out which schools will require which essays. Want to know your chances at an ApplyTexas school? Calculate your chances for free right now.

Topic A

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood, or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.”


After giving a talk in Paris this past year, Ta-Nehesi Coates opened the floor for audience questions. Scores of hands shot up, understandably eager to pick his brain about one thing or another. Among the questions that followed was this: “How did you get to where you are? Not like, how did you succeed, more like, how did you become a writer in the first place? Why did you become one?”


Coates shrugged, saying, “well, my parents bought me a doll and named it Toussaint, so really what choice did I have?”


The name Coates mentioned, Toussaint, refers to Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian revolution and a renowned Jacobin. And while Coates’ response seems like a bit of a non-answer, it actually tells us a lot about how to address Topic A. As the first domino in a line of biographical clues, the toy itself is less significant than the fact that his parents named it after a revolutionary black intellectual. Following that trail, we find out that his father was a publisher and a librarian specializing in African American literature. His mother was a teacher. The Coates family basement was home to the Black Classics Publishing Press. Any of these factors might be enough to encourage a child to pursue a career in writing about race and politics in America—so why did Coates focus on the doll named Toussaint? Just telling the audience that his family was in the business of publishing black literature does little to alert us as to how that environment would have actually affected him. The story about the doll, on the other hand, allows Coates to communicate quite a lot. It tells us that, not only did his parents know about Toussaint, they were invested in passing that knowledge onto their son. It tells us that young Coates’ imaginary landscape was occupied by black intellectuals and revolutionaries.


Now, what does this have to do with brainstorming for Topic A? Well, the doll shows us the ways in which Coates was connected to his environment rather than just describing the environment as it was. Through the doll, we get glimpses of the relationships and experiences that make an environment relevant to someone’s development in the first place.


As you brainstorm for this topic, you’ll want to begin with the broadest possible questions— those contained within the prompt itself:


  • How would I describe my family?
  • How can I communicate my home environment?
  • How am I a product of these things?


These questions will give you “point a” and “point b” in your essay. You’ve got your environment and you’ve got your outcome. But how did you get there? What are the relics, memories, and relationships that implicate your family and environment in your personality? This is where it’ll be important to focus in on a specific example, just like Coates did with the doll. Even with a beautifully described environment and a compelling conclusion, this kind of essay will feel hollow without details that locate you in your personal history.


Here’s an Example Essay for Topic A:


I grew up in a paradise gone wrong. At least that’s how I like to look at it. My home is a tower block—a “project”. There are thousands like it and for the most part, they house large populations of poor, immigrant, and minority folks. Hulking and secluded, my building sits on the outskirts of Paris. Along with the others, it forms a periphery of poverty and isolation. While the city couldn’t survive without us—the teachers, shopkeepers, nurses, domestic workers and more—we’re kept at a distance. An hour-and-a-half by metro to be exact. So where’s the paradise in all this? Well, I’ll tell you.


The paradise is in the Raï music that melts down through the floorboards, signaling anything from a celebration to an impromptu dance party. The paradise is in the faint smell of tagine that leaps up concrete balconies to make your stomach rumble, in the skittering echoes of children playing in the courtyard. The paradise is in having a building with a cultural diversity to match all of Paris. But this paradise was doomed from the beginning.


When Swiss Architect Le Corbusier set out to build his housing projects in 1920, his intentions were to design accessible, low-cost housing to match the demands of a rapidly growing urban population. He drew up his blueprints: egalitarian design throughout, stunning brutalist aesthetics, and—fatally—centered around nuclear family units. Decades later, when my building was constructed, very little had changed. The world was taking an increasingly individualistic turn and the nuclear family held even more primacy than it did in Le Corbusier’s time. The single-family home became the poster-child of a productive unit in a capitalist society. Multi-generational and communal households were less legible, less measurable, and therefore less likely to be designed. Our paradise was fallen because it wasn’t designed to come together, because it communicated through the floorboards, up and down the balconies, and in echoes from the courtyard. Le Corbusier hadn’t designed a community, he’d just taken the nuclear abode, downsized it, and stacked them on top of each-other until the concrete begged him to stop. Our homes are simultaneously crowded and alone.


And where am I in all of this? Where I always am, unit 23-D, sitting at the plain wooden desk in one of two half-sized children’s rooms, right across from the shower and down the hall from the full-sized room where my parents slept. A happy, productive child in a happy, productive house—just like the one on top me, below me, to my left, and to my right, for stories in every direction. But this is where I plot my revolution. Borrowing my mother’s old pens, her light box, her squares and rulers, I’ve filled my room with blueprints of my own creation. They dangle from tacks, staples, and tape: an architectural foliage. Each drawing full of latent possibility, just waiting to be improved, elaborated, built. I live in a paradise gone wrong—a shrunken relic to the values of cul-de-sac individualism. But I am determined to design better. I imagine buildings that communicate generationally, directly, collectively. I will not stack homes; I will build communities.


Topic B:

Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.”



This prompt is a more varied than the first one, and gives you more leeway in choosing what you’ll actually be talking about. Someone’s identity, talents, and interests, might be linked together but they just as easily might not. Either way, don’t worry. With regards to this prompt, there is no ideal angle. Let’s break down what it could mean to address each of these categories.


Identity can refer to any number of traits that you feel define you. This includes race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and other more community-based identities such as gamer, athlete, artist, weaver, dancer, Democrat, etc. Your identity is simply what makes you, you. Essays about identity are a great opportunity to demonstrate your critical and political acuity, personal convictions, and social history. However, they also pose certain risks. The premise of writing about identity is that you’ll demonstrate what makes you unique as a person. Even though many of us share certain identity traits, we’ve all experienced them differently. It’s especially important to focus on those details. Essays about identity that lack individual texture risk making you appear almost clone-like. That being said, there is no topic that is inherently cliché for this prompt.


Talent is a topic that will surely feel familiar to you as a prospective college applicant. Frankly, that’s what can make it tricky to write an essay about your talents—it risks echoing the several other parts of an application that are designed to draw out and display your talents for an admissions committee. Even so, if you believe that you have gained an especially insightful lesson or reflection from one of your listed activities, it may still be worth writing about. Just make sure you’re elaborating on your talents rather than reiterating them. Beyond the talents already featured in your application, many applicants have a talent that stands out from their formal talents and activities. One might be a master bird-caller, for example, but not have it listed as an extracurricular. Often times, writing about a wild-card talent is a way to introduce a facet of your personality that would otherwise remain invisible. The topic of talent also gives you the opportunity to write about certain interpersonal skills that might be especially important to you but impossible to express on a resume. For example, if you cultivate your skills as a listener and have a well-formulated political or philosophical imperative for doing so, that could make a great topic.


Interests are unique from talents in that you need not necessarily be good at them. They might not even be skills-related to begin with. For example, you might be supremely interested in pigeons but unable to include that interest in any other part of the application. Interests can make for especially unique, quirky, and fascinating essays. That being said, such essays also risk missing the whole point of the prompt. You need to tell the committee about yourself. If you choose to write about an obscure interest, it’ll be crucial to relate it back to your personality, outlook, or identity.


Now that we’ve addressed the differences between the subsections of this prompt, let’s review some ways in which you can brainstorm. While writing about identity, talents, or interests will result in slightly different essays, the goal is the same: to show the admissions committee—through your own eyes—who exactly you are.


The first step in brainstorming for this prompt is making a list of your defining characteristics. As you do this, you’ll want to prioritize characteristics that paint you in a generally positive light. While you don’t want to brag, you definitely want to be optimistic about who you are.


Second, you should make a sort of genealogy for each characteristic. How did they come to be so important to you? What experiences built up to the point where you’d consider a trait to be essential to your personality?


Finally, you’re going to need to rank your traits and their accompanying genealogies. For some students, who have a very central and defining trait, this won’t be tricky at all. But for students who are less certain what to write about, it will be important to prioritize the traits with the most interesting genealogies. Seeing as you want to show the committee rather than tell them, it’s crucial that you pick a trait that has a compelling history—that fits into a narrative or intellectual picture of yourself. This is especially essential for students intent on taking a more creative tone with this prompt. While an obscure interest can be interesting and endearing, it needs to have a compelling genesis and impact within your personal history.


Here’s an Example Essay for Topic B:


In one of the side streets of Rabat, one of the many winding corridors in the Medina, a long-abandoned house is standing, dilapidated from its years of neglect. The windows have been smashed; valuable materials have been ripped out of the floor and graffiti smears peeling walls. Yet remnants of its old life still remain intact; photo albums clutch family moments as cobwebs dangle from their spines. A mini plastic basketball hoop clings to a wall and a handmade poster above it reads “Senior League: Armond – Junior: Sasha and Lucy” but the faded yellow of the net suggests that no games have been played here for a long time. Not since we left. Mom left him just as I was turning four. The relationship had been emotionally stressful for the past few years and the threat of physical danger forced her to make a secret escape with us. We left everything behind.


Thousands of miles away and thirteen years later, I have never been back. I have never met him. As young as I was, I have not been oblivious to his absence. Even now, there are moments when I experience this emptiness inside of me. A sensation so overwhelming, I can’t believe I have managed to ignore it for so long. I lie down, close my eyes and grieve. Not just for him but for the life I never had, or at least, the one I left behind and can no longer remember. As the tears stop, I slowly drift to sleep. Sometimes I dream that he has unexpectedly turned up on the doorstep of our Chicago house especially for me. I open the door and immediately recognize him. I jump into his arms, simultaneously crying and laughing. I wake up, the empty feeling has passed and I know that he will never come. But I can’t help romanticizing the first time we meet.


However, going on eighteen, reality is soon catching up with me. Four years ago at the age of eighteen my brother, Armond, travelled to Morocco to meet him. Last year my sister, Sasha, did the same. So now, it is my turn; my own rite of passage awaits me. I have been waiting for this opportunity my whole life, even imagined it ten times over. But the more I thought about it, the more I doubted it. As the youngest in the family, I have striven to emulate my siblings in many ways. I could feel the assumption that I would go to meet him just as they did. However, I know that I am not yet ready. Unlike Sasha and Armond, my memories of Rabat are just a haze. I do not know whether they are real, or dreams or stories I have been told. I don’t understand any Arabic, and his English is very broken. And most of all, I cannot remember his face. The emptiness still comes back every now and then. But I know that the hole is not father-shaped, and if I meet him now, he might think it is. What I need to do first is to find out who I am before I can know what shape that hole really is. And when I know, I will understand what it would mean to meet him. For now at least, that tired old home stays suspended; a three-dimensional snapshot of my forgotten childhood. I like to think it’s waiting for me; waiting for when I’m ready to go back.

Topic C:

You’ve got a ticket in your hand – Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?”

Topic C stands opposed to Topics A and B in that it is almost entirely oriented towards the future. While each of your essays should demonstrate a degree of imagination, this prompt also carries the most overt call for creativity. There are two main genres of responses to prompts like this. The first genre adds to the forecasting effort found throughout your whole application. The second represents a creative departure from the path of your ambitions.


Choosing a Genre:


Forecasting is what you do when you make promises or predictions about what you’ll do with an educational opportunity. You’re forecasting when you tell UT Austin that you want to attend their engineering program in order to realize your dream of developing clean, public transportation. You’re forecasting when you draw conclusions from your past accomplishments to predict your future success. The act of applying to a school is inherently future-oriented. That being said, good applications demand cohesion and balance. An application that is too future-oriented will leave the admissions officers wondering who exactly you are. An application that is too auto-ethnographic will leave them wondering about your ambitions.


A forecast oriented answer to topic C will likely link-up with other parts of your application. For example, the engineering student from the example above might write that they’re holding a ticket for the very first 100% green, interstate transportation system—a system that they’ve spent the past 15 years building from the ground up. In this case, the essay looks back from a future point in which the student has fulfilled the ambitions they forecasted. It’s also possible to write this essay looking forward. Students that hope to attend medical school or law school might write about holding a “ticket” to their tertiary degree. These essays would go on to imagine the important, transformative work that those students would accomplish when they get to medical/law school.


Here’s an Example Essay for Topic C:

I’m holding a flyer that declares the date and time—this coming Tuesday at 7:30 PM—for a meeting of the Low Carbon Emissions Workers’ Union. Twelve years ago, when I started my undergraduate degree in public policy, the union was only a flicker of a thought, housed somewhere in the back of my mind. Still, those years were crucial. With every class I took, whether in policy studies, environmental science, or history, that flicker grew stronger. Following my interest in labor, I developed a rapport with the university employees that kept things rolling on campus—the people that took care of us, really. For my senior thesis, I made it my mission to collect and present an oral history of labor on campus. Many university workers expressed a sense of relief at being employed by the university. It allowed for decent wages and preserved the dignity of it’s workforce through open dialogue and worker representation. Through this sense of relief—or rather, through its negative—my thesis became invested in the alternatives for these laborers, in what lay on the other side of their relief. Though they were specifically skilled in care work, janitorial work, landscaping, and more, most of them told me that outside the university there was little opportunity for the advancement of worker’s interests. Finding work on a free-lance basis or through predatory placement companies, these care-laborers were largely on their own.


After graduating, I stayed in touch with my contacts at the university. Throughout law school, I made time to continue coordinating with them. We were hatching a revolutionary idea. Our goal was to create a union that could unite the various forms of under-the-radar care-work that was so often left out of organized bargaining units. The plan that we finally realized was even bigger than that. Not only would it unite domestic workers, janitors, and landscapers, its umbrella would extend to cover teachers, day-care supervisors, nurses, artists, and agricultural workers. This was the Low Carbon Emissions Workers’ Union. While it contained specifically oriented compartments, each aimed at advancing the rights of a particular sub-group of laborers, its superstructure was perhaps the more significant. In the same way that my senior thesis became invested in its negative all those years ago, this union stood as a foil to the socially and environmentally destructive tendencies of so many economic giants. We mobilized and housed research regarding Green-GDP, environmentally adjusted Gini coefficients, and other methods aimed at illuminating the real cost of having an economy predicated on environmental exploitation. As a political and intellectual force, the union gained ground in reevaluating the ways in which we value certain kinds of labor over others.


I’m smiling as I tack the flyer to the community board at my old university. I step back to look at it. “I can’t believe this is where it all started,” I think to myself. “Well, see you all this Tuesday.”


The genre of creative departure allows you to focus more on your personality, imagination, and capacity for critical thought. If you feel that your application already does enough to forecast your ambitions, you may opt to write about something completely unrelated. Especially for students applying to creative programs such as theatre or studio art, this can be a good moment to demonstrate your fit. Students who pick this genre can write about almost literally anything. The ticket in your hand could be for a time-machine to the Renaissance, a one-way expedition to Mars, or a mysterious back-alley puppet show. The important thing is that you use the premise of your essay to reflect on the world in a mature and thoughtful manner.


Here’s another example essay for Topic C:

“Take a number” buzzes an automated voice from somewhere inside the ticket booth. I reach out and tear off a slip of blue paper. 96. “Great,” I snort, “might as well settle in for the long haul.”


Someone behind me notices my annoyance and pipes up.


“I know right? I’ve never seen the time machines so crowded in my life.”


“Me neither,” I respond, “application season I guess.”


“Must be. Damn ticket prompts.”


I turn around to address my queue-compatriot. He’s a tall guy, pretty built for our age—probably a football player or something. He looks anxiously down the line, craning his neck to see something or someone just out of view.


“What’s got your nerves up?” I ask, “where are you headed?”


“You know,” he shrugged, “the usual. Off to 1904 to encourage Hitler to pursue his passion for painting. I’m just worried she’s gonna get there first.” I stepped out of line to see where he was looking. Fourth in line was a girl decked out in all black, determination etched into her features.


“Is she carrying a rail-gun?” I ask, stepping back into line. Football nods. “Yeesh…that’s a bit extreme but to each their own I guess. Wonder how the AdComms are gonna feel about that.”


Football fidgets for a few minutes before asking, “And you? What’s your plan?”


“Way back. Off to the early fifth-century to help Pelagius argue against St. Augustine.”




“Pelagius. He was an early theologian that rallied against Augustine’s notion of original sin.”


Football nods. “So all that with Eve and the apple, yeah?”


“Exactly. The doctrine of original sin says that because Adam and Eve had the apple, every human from then on was infected with their sin. That’s one of the reasons babies are baptized, to cleanse them. It’s behind a whole host of other things too. All the indulgences that people paid into the church, our long-standing association of sexuality with guilt and impurity, not to mention most of the pessimistic philosophies surrounding human depravity.”


Football chuckles. “So let’s say you win” he proposes, “then what? Babies don’t get baptized? There are still nineteen people ahead of us. You might want to change plans.”


My brow furrows a bit as I consider his suggestion. “I don’t know,” I say, “Pelagius argued for a whole lot of things. He was a big proponent of free will and accountability. He thought we should do good for the sake of good, not for salvation. He even countered a lot of hang-ups that endure to this day—bedroom stuff, bathroom stuff, all of it. Where Augustine saw sin and depravity, Pelagius saw beauty and Grace.” I continue. “I mean, I’m not even religious. I just think we could use a sort of ‘reset’ for our collective psyche. People are too caught up in hating themselves. We’re subconsciously misanthropic and it hurts. It hurts when a corporation takes advantage of a mining community because profit is the only legitimate motive in a world that seems like a lost cause. It hurts all the young people who hate their bodies and strive for an unrealistic ‘cleanliness’ from deformity and irregularity. It hurts women who get told they’ll be ‘second-hand stock’ if they have sex before marriage. It hurts when the police open fire in a neighborhood because they’re scared a kid might do it first.”


“Yeah” he nods, “hey, do you mind if I tag along? Mine might be a lost cause anyways—that girl was scary.”


Just then my number comes up on the time machine’s display. I look up at Football. “Sure. Why not. Oh, and I don’t think I caught your name.”


“It’s Bryan.”


“Well Bryan, we’re off.”


Topic D:

Please Note: The essay in this section is specific to certain college majors and is not required by all colleges/universities that accept the Apply Texas Application. If you are not applying for a major in Architecture, Art, Art History, Design, Studio Art, Visual Art Studies/Art Education, you are not required to write this essay.

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 affected 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?”


Topic D is a situational prompt for students looking to engage with art, design, and image. Unlike topics A and B, topic D is specifically asking you to tell a story. Regardless of the mode of narrative you employ, your essay should start with a moment of confrontation, observation, and reaction. Whether you engage with a piece of art or a lecture from design class, this step is crucial. It is here that you will demonstrate your ability to sift through your feelings about art, pulling out the concrete variables and specific vocabularies to describe why the art made you feel that way in the first place. It’s unsurprising that the prompt is so intent on drawing this out from you—understanding how art has impacted you is the first step towards creating art to impact others.

The second part of this process should move you beyond the moment of interaction detailed in step one, either to the present or the future. In this section, you’ll want to set your compass, so to speak. Using the lessons from part one, you should forecast the ways in which your future ambitions will be uniquely impactful. This can include anything from aperture to allegory. Whether technical or philosophical, your art is largely a product of your inspiration—being able to trace and predict this link demonstrates your maturity as a budding artist or designer.


Here’s an Example Essay for Topic D:

Standing in the Musée de l’Orangerie, surrounded on all sides by Monet’s Water Lilies, I felt myself melt away. The noise of the room seemed to dim, even as my perception heightened. I was somewhere else. The water lilies had swallowed me whole. They were beautiful, certainly, but also tense. One of the lesser-known iterations, flush with the purples, golds, and oranges of autumn, reminded me of the fluttering dance of falling leaves. And yet, its leaves were static—not because they weren’t real; they were real to me in that moment—but because of the water’s tension. Tethered to the surface of the pond, equally unable to float up or down, the leaves were trapped in a planar prison. The painting was practically bursting with the energy of an infinite autumn, but the water held it all together with its sticky buoyancy. Surface tension is far crueler than gravity, I thought to myself. My throat tightened and I felt paralyzed, peacefully imprisoned along with the lilies and leaves.


“Huh.” My brother stepped up beside me. “Look, you can see the canvas poking through,” he whispered, nudging me. He was right. As my eyes latched onto those bare fibers I felt a gust of release; I was back in the room.


To this day, that remains one of my most intense experiences with art. While it wasn’t exactly euphoric, it was transformative. Spanning the whole wall, the water lilies are all you can see; they colonize your reality. It was that quality—the quality of transportation out of time and space—that has stayed with me most. Monet’s techniques, brushstrokes that infuse the canvas with texture and momentum, allowed for a sort of virtual reality. VR before VR. It was the power of that experience that prompted me to combine my art with contemporary VR techniques. My first VR project pays homage to the water lilies. Putting on the headset, you find yourself in a blue green film, replete with flowers of every kind. It’s peaceful but when you try to move you find that the further you stray, the slower you get. A few feet out and you’re snapped back to the start. The piece explores movement and energy through anxiety and ensnarement.


As I continue my education in fine art, I’m primed to explore the range of possibilities allowed by VR technology. I’m eager to create landscape experiences that more directly implicate art and embodiment. My current project also takes inspiration from Monet’s impressionism. Entering the reality, one finds oneself on the top of flower-freckled hillside, umbrella in hand despite the blue skies. It is windy and the grasses sway around you. Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, you begin to blow away, to disperse, until there’s nothing left. The viewer is utterly gone, yet utterly present.


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Short bio
Emery Jenson is a graduate of Duke University, where he studied English Literature, Global Health, and French. After teaching at a high school in Paris, he is currently preparing to move up to Madison, Wisconsin, where he will be starting a PhD in English Literature. Outside of academia, Emery is an avid rock climber and enjoyer of the outdoors.