How to Write the Texas A&M University Essays 2023-2024
Texas A&M University has three required essay prompts on its application. You are asked to write about your personal story, a life event that has prepared you for success in college, and a person who has profoundly impacted your life. There is also an optional essay prompt about any additional challenges or opportunities you have had to overcome. There is another prompt specifically for applicants to the College of Engineering.
Texas A&M receives tens of thousands of applications from students with a strong academic record, so the essays are your opportunity to paint a unique picture of yourself that separates you from the crowd.
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Texas A&M Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today? (750 words)
Prompt 2: Describe a life event which you feel has prepared you to be successful in college. (250 words)
Prompt 3: Tell us about the person who has most impacted your life and why. (250 words)
Prompt 4 (Optional): If there are additional personal challenges, hardships, or opportunities (including COVID related experiences) that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, which you have not already written about, please note them in the space below. (250 words)
Applicants to the College of Engineering:
Describe your academic and career goals in the broad field of engineering (including computer science, industrial distribution, and engineering technology). What and/or who has influenced you either inside or outside the classroom that contributed to these goals? It is important to spend time addressing this question as it will be considered as part of engineering review process. (500 words)
Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today? (750 words)
Notice how you are encouraged to speak about an opportunity or a challenge. Many students believe that they must talk about a tragedy in order to grab the attention of admissions officers, but this isn’t true. An essay can easily be thoughtful, insightful, and an engaging read without utilizing this specific emotional appeal.
Still, stories about difficult circumstances are often memorable. They are most effective when focused primarily on the student’s journey of working through the challenge instead of the challenge itself. Check out Collegevine’s article if you would like more tips on writing about challenges.
You’re trying to stand out, so beware of overused tropes like the following:
- Mental illness: It takes enormous strength to heal from and learn to manage a mental illness. Still, they may be tricky to write about. Read our article for more information on covering mental illness and disabilities within your application.
- Getting a bad grade in a class but then working hard to raise it.
- Sports stories such as winning/losing the “big game” or getting injured.
- Death of a pet or family member.
- Mission trip which made you realize how lucky and privileged you are.
Side note: Sometimes students face challenges that are outside of their control and which have negatively impacted their academic and/or extracurricular performance. If this has been your experience, and you don’t want to explain them within this essay response, you may ask one of your recommenders to do so through their letter of recommendation, or explain it in the shorter prompt #4.
Now, there’s no such thing as a “bad” or “good” essay topic; students have gotten into top schools with essays about Costco, pizza deliveries, and sparkling water. It often matters less so what you write about than how you write about it!
These common essay topics are only doable when well-written, specific, and featuring a fresh take. The story of how fixing your Calculus grade taught you the value of hard work is not nearly as interesting as that of a student who is diagnosed with dyscalculia—a disability which creates a difficulty in understanding and working with math and numbers—and then opens up a dyscalculia awareness club with plans to become a special education teacher. The latter story would demonstrate the student’s ability to turn preconceived weaknesses into strengths, and admissions officers will quickly see that though he may initially struggle with long division, this student is nonetheless a creative problem-solver.
Please be aware that although it is possible to make a “common” topic interesting, it is easier to write about a situation that is unique to begin with. Also, don’t feel pressured to write about a challenge, especially if the situation has happened so recently that you haven’t fully finished processing or growing from it.
With all of this in mind, let’s get into brainstorming! Many people begin their ideation process through writing long lists or even talking into their phones in an untethered stream-of-consciousness. Do whatever it takes to get your creative juices flowing!
As you reflect, you may consider these questions:
- Which values and skills do you hold closest to your heart? Honesty? Hard work? Clear communication? Diversity? Environmental stewardship? Activism? Where did these priorities come from?
- What are you most grateful for? What are you most proud of? What risks have you taken which have paid off?
- What do you like to do? When and how did you get into it?
- How would your family and friends say you have changed for the better over the years, and why?
- Look back at your list of extracurricular activities. Which ones were challenging and/or special opportunities? When have you tried something new?
Practice self-compassion while considering topics, and know that none are too big or too small. You can write about anything from taking a summer math class (even though you’re more of an English person) to being a camp counselor to giving your first speech in front of a crowd.
Overall, the admissions officers are looking for growth. They want to see the circumstances you turned into opportunities for improvement. You may even reflect upon a situation that initially seemed like an unpleasant challenge but later revealed itself as a hidden opportunity. For example, you may have reluctantly let your friend drag you to a business club meeting before discovering a passion for economics and rising as a club leader.
Ideally, your story will be unique and offer a fresh perspective. Be specific about the challenge or opportunity you were presented with, and think about how it changed you for the better.
Remember, they are literally asking for you to “tell [them] your story,” so consider using a narrative format, especially if storytelling is a talent of yours.
Here’s a general outline:
- If you choose to go with a traditional storytelling format, we recommend beginning with a vivid anecdote featuring rich imagery to draw the reader in or an unexpected premise which makes one have to read on in order to fully understand.
- From there, you may dive into who you were at the time, how you felt and how you acted, before moving towards your turning point—the challenge or opportunity—from which you decided to grow.
- Explain how, exactly, the turning point influenced you. Ask yourself: How did it make you feel? Excited and ready for more, or initially anxious? How did it impact you? Perhaps you learned something new about yourself, or maybe now you’re kinder, more confident, or a harder worker.
- To mix it up a bit, you could even play with sequencing, perhaps starting with a moment of success before reflecting on all of the growth you had to complete to get to that point.
Finally, you are human, so you don’t have to portray yourself as perfect in the end. You are using this essay to talk about what may be one of your greatest strengths or sources of pride, but make sure to stay balanced with a humble tone.
Describe a life event which you feel has prepared you to be successful in college. (250 words)
This prompt is similar to the first in that it is asking about a life event, but there are two things to note. Firstly, the word limit is quite small, so there is less room for a vivid, image-laden introduction. Secondly, the prompt does not specify challenge or opportunity, so you have more creative freedom in your answer.
Before you begin writing, you should think about the different paths you can take when answering this question:
- Is there a unique event (that you didn’t write about in the first prompt) that has made a substantial impact on how you study, take exams, learn in general, or see a certain aspect of the world (that might have inspired your desired major, if you have one)?
- Besides any unique events, what other occurrences have prepared you for any aspect of college life? The aspects can be academic, interpersonal, career-oriented, social, etc.
- Which of these events are positive and which are negative?
- Based on whether you answered the previous prompt with a challenge or an opportunity, do you want to double down on positive/negative or do you want to have one of each?
One effective way to address this prompt is to think of what you want to major in. If there is a life event that drew you to a specific field, you can discuss how you have looked into this field already and how you are equipped to take classes in it. If you haven’t decided on a major, you can think of skills you have picked up that aren’t necessarily academic but can translate well into being a student.
Examples of some events that helped prepare you for college success include:
- How experiencing a long drought inspired you to study agriculture to explore more sustainable farming practices.
- How deciding to teach yourself ukulele for 3 years straight improved your learning strategies, taught you self-discipline and time management, and encouraged you to be open to new ideas.
- How an internship at a publishing company improved your reading and writing skills, taught you to work collaboratively, and gave you experience working within deadlines. (This can segue into you wanting to study publishing/English, or it can just be used as an example of skill-honing even if you don’t want to study that!)
You have ample opportunity to talk about intriguing and unusual experiences, but as with the first prompt, you should avoid cliché topics unless you are able to add depth to them. For example, you would not want to write about how losing a school baseball game taught you to accept failure. However, you might be able to spin that kind of story into something more interesting by talking about how you lost that game because you stayed up the night before studying for a physics exam, which ended up revealing to you how much you love physics more than baseball. You could then move into a discussion about how that turning point taught you how to manage time better, how to set priorities better, and what you wanted to pursue in college. Again, be mindful that the word limit is small so you must be succinct.
These supplemental essays are supposed to give an impression of who you are as a person. Don’t be afraid to go outside the boundaries of common, everyday life events if there is something really distinct that you experienced. The questions are intentionally vague to give students elbow room to write something unique if they want to.
Tell us about the person who has most impacted your life and why. (250 words)
This is a common prompt in essays and interviews, and it can be difficult overwhelming to decide on a role model. Many students default to a parent/sibling for this question, and though that’s a valid choice, it’s extremely common. You can write a good essay with this choice, but it’s harder to stand out.
If you do decide on a family member, be sure to provide granular detail about how this person impacted your life. While anyone can write about their family members, only you can tell the specific stories of how your family member impacted you. Admissions officers don’t want to hear how caring your mom is; they want to know about the time she gave the scarf off her neck to someone who said they were cold.
Some other potential people to write about include a teacher or close friend. Some people have teachers who completely changed their outlook on a subject or on learning as a whole. If this describes a teacher you once had, you might be interested in this choice. Be sure to provide detailed examples about the teacher’s personality and/or pedagogy. Don’t just say, “Mrs. Johnson made me like math.” Describe how she did it and why you like math now. Some people have friends who have completely changed (or even saved) their lives. Often, our closest friends are people we grew up with and know intimately. This deep knowledge of a person and his impact on your life can give you a lot of details to write about.
You might have a community leader (pastor, coach, shopkeeper) who taught you to think beyond your immediate circle and begin to engage with the wider community. This kind of person is another great example of someone outside your nuclear family who influenced your life for the better.
Though there is a plethora of people you can write about, there are a few that you should do your best to avoid, even if they truly have impacted your life:
- Cliché famous historical figures – Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr. are all very important figures with highly potent influence all the way to the present day. Unfortunately, they are also written about far too much.
- Polarizing political figures – It’s hard to keep bias out of the admissions process, so you risk putting off whoever is reading your essay. It’s also not likely that politicians impact your life more than your immediate circle.
As with the previous prompt, be mindful of the lower word limit. You can definitely share 1-3 anecdotes, but you only have 250 words, and you want to spend some of that on reflection.
Prompt 4 (Optional)
If there are additional personal challenges, hardships, or opportunities (including COVID related experiences) that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, which you have not already written about, please note them in the space below. (250 words)
This prompt is optional, and while we typically recommend that you respond to optional prompts, this one is asking about additional info not reflected in your application—so you should only write a response if you truly have something to add.
Notice that this is very similar to the first prompt, but it’s more focused on hardships and challenges. Unlike the first prompt, this would be a fine space to address any issues in a straightforward manner—you don’t have to worry about coming up with an original topic. Some potential things you can address include divorce, tragedy, financial hardships, family responsibilities, learning disabilities, etc.
The specification of “COVID related experiences” also allows you to discuss any particular issues you faced due to the pandemic. Since everyone has been going through the pandemic, we only recommend discussing COVID if you had a particularly disruptive experience.
Finally, don’t forget that this prompt also allows you to elaborate on any positive opportunities that shaped your high school career. If you have a unique extracurricular that you haven’t written about yet (beyond the Common App Activities section), you can write about it here. You could also talk about your experience at a leadership program or a mentor you had.
Basically, anything goes, as long as it impacted you significantly, and isn’t addressed properly in the rest of your application.
Prompt for Applicants to the College of Engineering
Describe your academic and career goals in the broad field of engineering (including computer science, industrial distribution and engineering technology). What and/or who has influenced you either inside or outside the classroom that contributed to these goals? It is important to spend time addressing this question as it will be considered as part of engineering review process. (500 words)
This prompt is your opportunity to show Texas A&M you are a good fit for both the university and its programs. You are asked to cover a lot of ground here, so it is important to be specific throughout your essay. Use precise wording and double-check that each word, phrase, and detail has a place in your piece.
Let’s start by breaking down the academic and career goal components of this prompt. If you don’t have a clear plan for your future, don’t worry; most high schoolers don’t! Also, you aren’t tied down to whichever path you decide to write about, so feel free to get specific.
If it helps, think of the research you will perform for this prompt as an exercise in thinking about your future. Follow your natural curiosity while reading about the academics within the College of Engineering and the careers graduated Aggies often pursue. Hone in on the programs and opportunities which appeal to you most, many of which are featured on Texas A&M’s website.
Academic goals aren’t limited to getting good grades in school. These accomplishments may take many forms, including the following:
- Research opportunities! These are readily available to undergraduates, especially through the competitive Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Texas A&M offers potential research goals through independent research-based courses, employment, summer programs, special honors and awards, and more. Check out current research programs and see which professors and projects you resonate with most.
- Graduating with a specific major(s)/minor(s)
- Continuing to a graduate school or program
- Receiving specific academic honors or scholarships
- Entering the Honors Program, which will create special opportunities that are in line with your academic and personal priorities.
A solid engineering degree such as the one you will receive at Texas A&M will likely open up to a fascinating and challenging career within any of a multitude of given specialties. The engineering umbrella is broad, but you have to pick one to focus on for this prompt when describing your career interests. What’s your dream engineering job, or your target field? What type of engineering most interests you and why?
When discussing your aspirations both within your career and academic world, directly connect them to opportunities offered by Texas A&M to demonstrate that you’re a strong fit. Don’t just say that you would like to perform research; say that as a prospective aerospace engineering major and computer science minor, you hope to join Professor Jacques Richard in his aero-propulsion studies under the Aero-U program. Due to circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, some opportunities may be delayed, canceled, or altered, so be aware of this and look deeply into each option.
Now that we’ve covered which goals you would like to pursue, let’s get into explaining why these goals matter to you. Instead of focusing on relatively superficial aspects of your aspirations, like prestige and pay, think about what makes it interesting, worthwhile, or personally fulfilling. This may be linked to your description of the “whats or whos” which have influenced you to pursue these goals.
Finding a “who” to write about is relatively straightforward, as many of us can point to the people in our lives who have pushed us in the right direction. Think back on your family members, friends, mentors, and teachers who believed in your ability to succeed academically or in the general world of engineering. This could be anyone, but most importantly, this person somehow pushed you to work harder or simply led by example.
For example, having a mechanic as a father may have sparked your fascination with deconstructing and reconstructing mechanical systems for maximum efficiency, leading you to a path in manufacturing and mechanical engineering.
The “What,” our second potential motivator, is much more open-ended. Yours may be an event, background, special interest, closely-held value, childhood fascination turned adult aspiration, or even an innate personality trait.
For example, your childhood fascinations with puzzles and remote-controlled robots, followed by your later software position with your high school’s Robotics Team, may all be indicative of your inclination towards problem-solving, which influenced your decision to major in Computer Science.
As you’re tying all the aforementioned aspects of your response together, make sure to maintain cohesive links between all of them. Your academic and career goals should be aligned with your professed personal qualities as well as the influences you claim the people and things in your life have had on you. Through writing clearly and concisely, you’ll paint a compelling portrait of your character as someone with direction, drive, and a future as a fantastic asset to Texas A&M’s vibrant community.
Where to Get Your Texas A&M University Essays Edited
Want feedback on your Texas A&M University essays to improve your chances at admission? When you’ve proofread your essay a dozen times, it can be hard to even spot where there’s room for improvement. That’s why we’ve created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also sharpen your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays!
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, CollegeVine advisors have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!