How to Write the University of Alaska Fairbanks Essays 2019-2020

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The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a public research university located in the aptly-named city of College, Alaska. It is the state’s flagship university and has space-grants, as well as land- and sea-grants, meaning it has ample research opportunities in various fields. 


UAF has an acceptance rate of 77%, making it a moderately selective school. Its Fall 2018 freshmen had an average high school GPA of 3.4 and an average ACT composite score of 22. In 2018, the university had 6,669 undergraduates, and a student-faculty ratio of 11 to 1.


If you’re interested in attending UAF, read on to learn about its supplemental essays! Want to know your chances at UAF? Calculate your chances for free right now.


For All Applicants


Optional: Why are you interested in UAF?


Although this prompt is presented as optional, we highly recommend that you respond to it. This is an example of the ubiquitous “Why School?” prompt, a tool college admissions officers use to distinguish between students who are genuinely interested in the school, and those who aren’t. By giving a detailed response to this prompt, you can demonstrate your interest in the school while setting your application apart from that of others. To effectively answer this essay question, you need to “show, not tell” why you are applying to UAF. To use this strategy, your essay should contain the following components (1) details specific to UAF’s offerings, (2) a personal connection, (3) a narrative-like quality.


Note: Everyone who writes this essay will have different things to say – there is also no word count, so responses may vary drastically in length. For this essay, we recommend a 250-500 word response, as this is typical of most “Why School?” essays.


First, you need to have content that reflects your interest in UAF. The amount of detail you put and the level of your perceived interest are pretty positively correlated – so you need to do your research! We suggest starting at the school’s website, as this will probably be the most navigable resource to help you visualize your future at UAF. Unless you have another trustworthy source of information, stay on official UAF pages or credible sites to ensure the information you’re seeing is accurate. 


Some topics to include in your essay could be your prospective major, so look up your department and see if there are any special programs in place for your desired major, such as a field opportunity, concentration, or class that stands out to you. Below are examples of what to do and what not to do when crafting a response based on the details component outlined above. 


Don’t: Give a generic response that could be used for any school.


“I want to be a part of UAF’s Geoscience department because I believe that I will get a good education from this accredited program. UAF’s wide course selection and talented staff will provide me with many interesting opportunities. I believe a Geoscience major will afford me valuable knowledge about Earth’s past.”


Do: Delve into UAF’s specific offerings.


“I believe that the Geoscience major at UAF is the perfect fit for me. In particular, the paleontology concentration will allow me to observe the remnants of creatures of the past. I look forward to classes like Mass Extinctions, Neocatastrophism and the History of Life, in which I can learn more about the global catastrophes that predated humans.”


The second component of your response is the personal connection. Explain why UAF or why the program you selected is a good opportunity for you specifically. This can set the background of your response or be incorporated throughout. Make the response personal by incorporating your interests and potential future aspirations. 


Don’t: Give a response that lacks your personal reasons as to why UAF is a good fit for you, or one that is too general.


“I feel that UAF is a good fit for me because of the small class size and student-focused learning opportunities. This matches my learning style and will ensure that I get the most out of this learning experience. UAF has an accredited geology program that will provide me the resources to thrive in my future career. With the tools I gain inside and outside of the classroom, I plan to embark on a career in paleontology. I believe this will be fulfilling because I enjoy learning about the biology of ancient creatures.”


Do: Use your personal interests and existing background to enhance the school-specific details. 


“Many kids fear dinosaurs, but I was always fascinated by them. While my siblings got Barbies and toy cars for their birthdays, my parents gave me a kids’ paleontology kit. I spent my summers dusting the rocks in our garden and unearthing sticks, which I would call velociraptor bones. As I enter college, I plan to pursue my passion for paleontology by enrolling in the minor under the geoscience major. I cannot wait to embark on research projects to the North Slope, where I can reconstruct ancient ecosystems via plant macrofossils.”


This personal connection adds depth to your response and connects it to your application as a whole. By mentioning what specifically drew you to this opportunity, and by illuminating how you plan to spend your time at UAF, you can demonstrate credible interest to admissions officers. 


Finally, you will need to incorporate a narrative-like quality into your essay. This means to make your response more analogous to telling a story rather than answering to a prompt. Many students struggle with this as they haven’t written an essay with this approach before, so don’t worry if this writing style doesn’t come naturally to you. Below are a couple of tips for how to narrate, rather than state, and “show, not tell” your story.


  • Set the scene. Start your response in medias res, or in the middle of the action. Talk about a moment in time – describe where you were, who was with you, and what you were doing. Starting off with descriptive language will draw readers in from the get-go.  


  • Use imagery. Throughout your response, draw on the five senses – touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound. These details will help readers mentally visualize the situation, making your response more compelling. 


Do say something that shows how you shows your passion, like this: “It was 103 degrees outside. Our neighbors’ children lazily pedaled down the road, and flies buzzed about in their cloud-like clusters. And in my backyard, I was teaching my cousins about fossils.”


Don’t merely state what you did, like this: “This summer, I taught my younger cousins about the basics of paleontology. I taught them how to determine a tree’s age by its rings, and how tooth fossils could reveal an animal’s diet. Teaching them that information helped me realize my passion for geoscience and paleontology.”


As you can see, there is a clear discrepancy on how connected the reader feels to each response. The goal is to add enough vivid details and imagery to make admissions officers feel like they are standing beside you. While the latter response can be a starting point, it needs restructuring and imagery to be more narrative-like. This quality will add authenticity to your application and demonstrate your character while conveying your story.


For Applicants to the Honors Program 

Please tell us why you would like to be in the Honors Program at UAF. (300 words)


This essay prompt is similar to the last in that your response needs to be school-specific. However, you will need to zoom in even more on what UAF has to offer; particularly, on its Honors Program. UAF’s honors program has mandatory Capstone Development and Research courses. In addition, honors students are required to formulate a thesis, and participate in the Honors Summer Reading Program. A viable method of approaching this prompt is by picking one or two of these opportunities and writing in-depth about how you would potentially take advantage of them.


Writing down a plan for the next four years may seem daunting – but don’t worry, its not set in stone! You can use hypothetical language or posit a couple of options (but to retain focus, we recommend that you keep the number of topics to no more than two) if you are unsure of what you want to do. The biggest focus here is your application of UAF’s Honors offerings to your current and potential interests – admissions officers want to see that you are invested, but don’t expect you have every detail of you college career planned out. 


A good strategy is to mentally map potential combinations of Honors Program opportunities that can provide a compelling narrative. For example, if you are interested in the Summer Reading Program & Research Courses, talk about how staying intellectually engaged over summer will encourage you to read other books, that will inform your research in the following year. For example, maybe a novel about climate change will spur you to look into the city of College’s greenhouse gas output, or a fascinating book about Alaskan wildlife will inspire you to conduct an investigative project about the fish species in the Tanana River. Merging the opportunities together to tell your story is a great way to complete the bigger picture while still providing an enriching level of detail.


In addition to program requirements, you can weave some of UAF Honors’ benefits into your response as well – but make sure that you are being specific as many honors colleges offer similar opportunities. Aspects such as smaller class sizes, priority registration, and private study spaces are fairly generic and typically not worth mentioning. Other opportunities, such as individualized career planning, mentoring, and a travel fund to attend research conferences, can be made specific; that is, if you relate them to yourself. Ask yourself: What career do you want help planning? Who would you want to network with? What conference would you go to, and for what research project? Including these details will demonstrate greater genuine interest and add depth to your response.


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