How to Write the University of Florida Essays 2020-2021

The University of Florida is a top public research university in the suburban center of vibrant Gainesville, Florida. Known for its abundant research opportunities, business programs, and engineering school, the university is widely considered the strongest public school in Florida.

 

With over 37,000 undergraduates spread out over 2,000 acres, the university is famed for its fantastic sports teams—the Gators—which are supported by a strong undercurrent of school spirit.

 

With an acceptance rate of 39%, admission to the University of Florida is rather competitive. To win over admissions officers, you need to go beyond strong grades and test scores by crafting compelling essays, especially if you hope to join the Honors College. Want to know your chances at UF? Calculate them for free right now.

 

Want to learn what UF will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering the University of Florida needs to know.

 

University of Florida Short Answers

All Applicants

 

List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility. (250 words)

 

List and describe each job you’ve had, including dates of employment, job titles, and hours worked each week. (250 words)

 

List any programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, Boys and Girls Club, etc. (250 words)

 

Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? If so, please describe. (250 words)

 

Is there any other information for the Admission Committee to consider when your application is reviewed? (250 words)

 

Honors Program 

 

Prompt 1: Why is applying for the UF Honors Program important to you? Which aspects of the program’s three pillars of opportunity, community, and challenge pique your interests? How would you engage with the program to exemplify these pillars yourself? How does the program factor into your long-term goals? (400 words)

 

Prompt 2: During high school, what is the most enriching long-term or ongoing activity in which you have participated outside of the classroom? Tell us about it– Why is it enriching to you? What have you learned about yourself by participating in it? How does this activity fit into plans to maximize your college experience? The activity does not have to be sponsored by your school, but you should have participated in it since you started high school. Please limit to one activity that has been significantly meaningful to you, and be specific. (300 words)

All Applicants

List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility (250 words)

List and describe each job you’ve had, including dates of employment, job titles, and hours worked each week. (250 words)

List any programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, Boys and Girls Club, etc. (250 words)

These three prompts are straightforward and very similar, so we will be breaking them down together. Notice the use of the word “list;” these aren’t meant to be “essays” in the typical sense, so don’t worry about flowery language or complex literary devices here. 

 

Instead, enter all of the information they ask for with as much specificity and detail as possible. Don’t worry if you end up re-mentioning experiences you’ve already noted in the Common Application’s Activity Sheet; if anything, see this short answer as an opportunity to elaborate on some of them.

 

See the below example of a student explaining a community service activity:

 

During the summer of 2018, I was a volunteer counselor for Happy Earth Horizons, a day camp for children in grades K-6 focused on environmentalism and service. I led groups of children through hikes, team-building activities, cooking activities, and field trips to the aquarium. I helped them build social skills, cooking skills, and a deeper ecological understanding through communicating clearly, practicing patience, and leading social-emotional skillset exercises.

All Applicants

Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? If so, please describe. (250 words)

This is similar to the Additional Information section listed in the Common App. Explain what the employment/obligation entailed and why you had to take it on, as well as the results of you taking on said extra responsibility.

 

Some potential obligations involve working to contribute financially to your family, taking care of an ill relative, or babysitting younger siblings.

 

For example:

 

For a period, my single mother was let go when the insurance company she worked at was struggling financially and going through a period of transition. As a result, we both had to take on additional jobs to make ends meet, so I briefly left the Robotics Team throughout the second semester and summer following junior year. Instead, I worked at a local grocery store after school and on the weekends, learning how to work efficiently under pressure while supporting my family.

 

If you have no obligations to write about, just write in “Not Applicable” or leave it blank.

All Applicants

Is there any other information for the Admission Committee to consider when your application is reviewed? (250 words)

This also resembles the Additional Information section listed in the Common App. This is essentially your shot to either explain a lapse in your performance somewhere or to introduce something new about yourself that isn’t evident elsewhere in your application. 

 

You may elaborate further upon an extracurricular activity you feel isn’t clearly explained throughout your application (For example, say you were a Head Designer for your town’s Environmental and Aesthetic Initiative, and admissions officers may not know what that is). You could also talk about a personal story or history that has affected you greatly. You may even discuss a previously unmentioned extracurricular activity which says a lot about you.

 

This is a wonderfully free space for you to dive into whichever information you feel will give adcoms the most complete version of your identity. If you don’t think this space is necessary for you, that’s fine too! Just write “Not Applicable” or leave it blank.

Honors Program Applicants

Why is applying for the UF Honors Program important to you? Which aspects of the program’s three pillars of opportunity, community, and challenge pique your interests? How would you engage with the program to exemplify these pillars yourself? How does the program factor into your long-term goals? (400 words)

The Honors Program offers many unique opportunities to its students, including honors-specific course selections and their respective professors, smaller class sizes, sponsorship for study abroad programs, undergraduate research, unique internship programs, and specialized advising.

 

This wealth of opportunity is abundantly available to Honors College students, but the University of Florida is looking for the students who will actually push themselves to engage with said opportunities.

 

This essay is looking for elements of not only a “Why this College?” essay, but also a “Why this Program?” essay. Of course, you should incorporate concrete examples of what UF has to offer here, but notice how they ask you to engage with their core values in chasing after your goals.

 

Remember, this prompt is asking four key questions, so you have a lot to cover in only 400 words. Write concisely and try to tie related ideas together. 

 

We recommend starting off with a brief introduction stating what drew you to apply—i.e., why the Honors Program is important to you. Perhaps you felt unchallenged academically in your high school, so you would like a more rigorous education, or you cherished your close academic relationships with your high school teachers and you would like to pursue meaningful relationships with your new professors as well. In a sentence or two, make a careful distinction in explaining why you are aiming for honors instead of just matriculating as a “regular” Gator. 

 

Avoid saying or implying that you’re applying for the impressiveness or prestige of being in an honors program.

 

Next, dive into the program’s three pillars. The Honors Program offers an array of opportunities, each of which may be viewed as contributing to values of opportunity, community, and challenge. For example, study abroad program sponsorships foster a greater sense of global community, while rigorous course selections and research are both opportunities and challenges. 

 

Making these connections between values and concrete examples isn’t enough, however. You must also explain how engaging with each exemplified pillar of this program will play into your long-term goals. 

 

Write with enthusiasm, curiosity, and energy to convey your genuine excitement about each aspect of this program. For example, a prospective engineer may write about how challenging themselves through the mandatory Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering thesis project (which requires completion of a written thesis and research) will make them a better writer and analytical thinker, spark their innate curiosity, and make them a more resilient and focused engineer.

 

Here are some suggestions for exploring the UF Honors Program’s core values throughout your essay.

 

Opportunity: Quite literally every offering under this program, from course selection to mentorship to internships, is an opportunity, so we recommend focusing on how you will use it to achieve your goals. 

 

Here’s an essay excerpt from Sophia, a prospective doctor who hopes to join UF’s summer study abroad program in Merida, Mexico:

 

The University of Florida is rich with opportunity, a quality which extends far beyond the university borders. I’ll have three college summers, and I hope to spend one studying abroad in Merida, Mexico. While shadowing a doctor in high school, I quickly realized just how many patients were Spanish-speaking. Nearly a fifth of Floridians are, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised. 

 

I know now that developing bilingual fluency is essential to becoming the doctor that my patients need me to be, and there is no better way to do so than to immerse myself in Spanish language and a Hispanic culture by living with a Mexican family. I’ll build upon the mechanical grammar and semantics I rotely studied in high school through developing a rich, well-rounded, near-intangible cultural understanding to make my treatments and communications accessible to my patients. 

 

I have the same love for math and science as most pre-meds, but truly earning the title of “Doctor” entails a love of people, and with it, a willingness to learn for and from them. 

 

This essay works for a few reasons. Sophia highlights a past experience which reveals the roots of her motivation to learn Spanish and a simultaneous passion for her career path paired with a desire to do it well. Importantly, it’s clear why the particular study-abroad program at the University of Florida appeals to her so strongly; after all, not all university study-abroad programs allow you to live with a native host family.

 

Community: Community is a wide-spanning term, and you can build it almost anywhere within the honors program, especially considering its small class sizes, mentorship opportunities, student organizations, and study abroad programs. 

 

Consider this sample from John, an applicant planning to join the PRISM Honors Student Magazine:

 

When I entered high school, my introverted disposition and general nervousness initially inhibited me from reaching out to people. I had a small, lifelong group of friends with whom I had everything in common, but it wasn’t until I joined the school Newspaper Club that I truly understood the meaning of community. 

 

I saw then that community wasn’t about commonality, but bridging the gaps built by differences. I challenged my shyness through becoming a strong interviewer and worked with my introversion in collaboration with club members on layout designs. 

 

As a journalism major and PRISM contributor, I hope to find that same sense of community, surrounded by a like-minded and diversely-minded group of individuals. I know we’ll be a mixed bag of writers, editors, planners, and visual artists, but we’ll be unified by a common desire to create a fantastic magazine. This desire to create quality and to collaborate creatively will push and enhance my skills in written and verbal communication, making me a stronger and more empathetic journalist.

 

John’s essay works because he is able to tie past experiences into his future aspirations at UF and beyond. He kept his aspirations specific to the school and was able to connect it to his goals in journalism. He also connected it to his own understanding of the word “community” and how both UF and his career plans relate to it.

 

Challenge: Surprise, surprise! Being an honors student will challenge you and hold you up to high academic and personal standards. Here, you will have to develop strong work ethic, time management skills, and even interpersonal skills as you engage with your professors and peers. Write with specificity about how you expect to be challenged in your own way and where it will take you.

 

For example, a first-generation student may write about how she expects to be challenged as a first generation college student. With no parents to tell her how to apply to college or what to expect when she gets there, she doesn’t expect things to be easy, though she has faith in her ability to persevere. The Honors First Generation organization provides mentorship to first-generation freshmen, so as an upperclassman, this student plans to give back, helping younger students navigate this challenge and growing her leadership skills as a mentor.

 

At the end of this essay, admissions officers should be able to see you as someone who embodies the values of the University of Florida’s Honors Program. Do your research and write about the aspects of their programs which interest you the most so that your genuine enthusiasm will shine through. Write with specificity and care, tailoring your goals to the opportunities you will find as a UF Honors Student.

Honors Program Applicants

During high school, what is the most enriching long-term or ongoing activity in which you have participated outside of the classroom? Tell us about it – Why is it enriching to you? What have you learned about yourself by participating in it? How does this activity fit into plans to maximize your college experience? The activity does not have to be sponsored by your school, but you should have participated in it since you started high school. Please limit to one activity that has been significantly meaningful to you, and be specific. (300 words)

This question is written with specificity that renders it almost self-explanatory, and in detail that demands you write concisely to cover everything you need to. Luckily, they ask you to write about just one experience, allowing you to go in-depth about its impact on your life.

 

Introduce your chosen subject quickly. We encourage you to use lively, animated language in demonstrating how this activity was enriching to you. Invoke anecdotes and a narrative-like tone to engage your readers. Take some time to reflect deeply upon how you learned about yourself through this activity so you can write with depth and self-awareness. Ideally, this new self-knowledge will translate into your college plans.

 

Consider this example answer from a student who was a member of their school’s Mock Trial team:

 

We were fake-defending a fake suspect in a fake trial, so we carried ourselves with an almost laughable solemnity. Still, we sat stone-faced in front of the judge’s bench. 

 

Standing to deliver our opening statement, my carefully coiffed curls and opaque foundation masked the hours of work we’d poured into an airtight argument. Despite sleepless nights, I cherish those times of sifting through dense law texts, memorizing legal jargon and case details, and bouncing new ideas off of my dynamic and intellectually diverse team. 

 

Instead of growing tired of the heavy paperwork and long hours, I felt invigorated by the stories I found in our case studies and told to our judges. My empathy grew as I learned to accommodate diverse perspectives, as did my attention to detail while ensuring nothing would slip through the cracks.

 

Mock Trial showed me my deep interests and skills in close communication, critical analysis, and human connection. As a pre-law student and philosophy major at the University of Florida, I’ll pour those same newfound skills into my studies and career. 

 

It’s one of my biggest goals to debate my fellow Gators during an Ethics Cafe. There, I’ll build my intellectual diversity while publicly addressing important advocacy issues close to my heart such as wealth inequality and free speech.  

 

I look forward to questioning commonly-held beliefs surrounding material reality and free will as I craft my honors thesis. The depth of the research I embark upon will be further enhanced through the close connections I’ll foster with mentors and professors.

 

An endeavor of depth and breadth, Mock Trial has taught me more lessons than I can count, but above all, it has shown me that I thrive under pressure, that I throw myself into complexity and nuance, and that the courtroom is where I belong.

 

This essay works for a few reasons. A quirky anecdote draws the reader in before the author delves into what makes them so passionate about Mock Trial (without actually using the oft-hackneyed buzzword “passion,” of course!) We quickly understand that the author sees Mock Trial as an enriching experience, as it is intellectually rigorous, fulfilling, and requires deep empathy. We understand that Mock Trial helped her both grow her skills and learn where they lie, fulfilling the “What have you learned about yourself?” requirement. These play into her future goals, which are well articulated in the context of both college in general and the University of Florida’s Ethics Cafe program specifically.

 

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.