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How to Write the University of Georgia Application Essays 2018-2019
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the University of Georgia and discuss the application’s essay prompts. After reading this article, you will understand what these questions are really trying to get at when they ask you about “blackberry moments” and “creativity.” More importantly, you will have some ideas about how to write a compelling essay that will help you stand out from UGA’s other 26,000 applicants.
About the University of Georgia
So you have decided to apply to the UGA, where the only thing hotter than your ardor for the Georgia Bulldogs will be your animus toward the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or the Georgia summer heat.
While the school is known for football, its campus boasts a wide array of pre-professional career tracks into any one of its specialized colleges, such as the Terry College of Business, the College of Veterinary Medicine, or the School of Social Work. Whichever field of study you end up choosing, you’ll get all the excitement that comes from going to a large research university with almost 28,000 other undergraduates.
UGA admits about 5,750 new undergraduates every year, with about 745 of those students entering its honors program. Because the university is a large public institution, it gives more weight to test scores and GPA than smaller private institutions. In 2018, the SAT scores for the middle 50% of admitted students ranges between 1320 to 1490, and the average ACT score for the middle 50% of admitted students ranges from 28 to 33.
The Honors College is much more selective; for the one-in-twelve students admitted to the Honors College, the average SAT score is 1490 and the average ACT score is 33. If you would like help getting your numbers up to this level, check out CollegeVine’s test prep program. That being said, a good essay can still help you stand out, and much of the advice we’ll offer below will apply to the admissions essays you might be writing for other colleges.
Read on for CollegeVine’s guide to tackling the UGA essays.
University of Georgia Application Essay Prompts
There are two different ways to apply to the University of Georgia. The first is using the Coalition Application, and the second is UGA’s own application. UGA says it has no preference, so if you are applying to other schools that use the Coalition Application, it probably makes sense to use that. However, no matter which application you use, you will need to write two essays.
For the first essay, applicants must respond to a question where they tell an “interesting or amusing story” about themselves. For the second essay, applicants must respond to one of four different prompts. One of these prompts (“describe an experience that demonstrates your character”) comes from the Coalition Application, so if you have already have a version of that essay written, you might just use that.
However, as I’ll discuss below, you may still need to do some careful editing in order to make your Coalition essay fit the school’s preferred word count. UGA’s admissions officers say that they want all of your essays to be between 200 and 300 words, which is slightly less than the 500-word essays that many other colleges require.
UGA’s admissions blog contains a sample answer to this question, but it may seem a little strange, so I’ll start by explaining why UGA’s admissions officers might have thought it was a good essay. The sample reads as follows:
After reading this essay, you might have thought, “What? That is a college admissions essay? Aren’t we supposed to be talking about our own personal growth, our aspirations for the future, and our intellectual passions? As stories go, this may be entertaining, but does it really fit the genre of the college admissions essay?”
We’d like to point out that it does one thing quite well: It makes for pleasant conversation. In your future careers, as you continue to meet new people in new places, it can be useful to have a few entertaining and uncontroversial anecdotes to tell. In most social contexts, when you are introducing yourself, you do not start out sharing your deepest secrets. Instead, you offer something light: a story about your cat, or something cute your niece did, or an interesting bug that appeared on your window.
The social benefit of these “small talk” stories lies precisely in their lack of hard-hitting content; they give people room to be comfortable in each other’s company. You can take the prompt at its word when it tries to sympathize with how stressful the admissions process can be. The prompt is trying to get you to do something other than talk about the activities and test scores that the admissions officers can already see by looking at other parts of your application.
There are, of course, many other ways to approach this first essay. Maybe you still prefer writing about things with substance. One way to write a short essay about a big idea is to address a quote you find particularly interesting, like Oscar Wilde’s quip, “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” You could write about how, on one level, you disagree with this quote: Stretching your paycheck to make ends meet might require some very imaginative budgetary thinking.
But on another level, maybe you think this quote is getting at something true: What would it take to imagine a society where people who work full-time did not live from paycheck to paycheck? If you do decided to include a notable quote in your essay, make sure you are engaging in a conversation. Many admissions essays suffer from plopping in over-worn phrases like Gandhi’s “be the change you wish to see in the world” without engaging it in discussion.
Whether going deep or shallow, try to have fun with this essay. (Though, in spite of the admission committee’s best intentions, sometimes nothing can be more anxiety-inducing than the instruction to “enjoy.”)
Essay 2: Choose one of the four following prompts, respond in 200-300 words
In this prompt, Eli Johnson is asking you to tell UGA about a happy moment — something unexpected — that shows you are more than a person driven to succeed. While aiming for success is important, the University of Georgia also wants to know if you are capable of attending to the world around you.
One way of responding to this prompt is to simply talk about a moment of unexpected joy. For example, you might talk about how a fellow passenger on the bus once asked you what you were reading, and you had the pleasure of introducing her to Octavia Butler’s strange stories about interspecies communication and male pregnancy. Sharing such an anecdote would certainly fit the prompt.
But this essay also offers you another possibility. That moment of joy might also be embedded in a larger narrative about how you have to make tough choices.
For example, you might discuss the challenges of balancing your commitment to the high school soccer team against your responsibility to babysit your little brother while your mom is at work. Tending to your family might very understandably make you feel as though you don’t have as much time for the sports team as you might like. But maybe when you first went into the backyard and started kicking the soccer ball around with your brother, you got to see how sports and family might intersect in a “blackberry moment.”
Finally, remember: Blackberries are prickly, sticky, sweet, and warm after resting in the sun. They are objects of the senses. An essay prompt that encourages you to think about your memories as blackberries is also calling out for some good descriptive prose.
If you write about learning to pickle cucumbers with your grandfather, tell us about how you winced your nostrils when taking a whiff of the brine. If you write about running the 100-meter dash after recovering from a hip injury, tell us about feeling the vibrations from the cheering crowd stomping on the aluminum bleachers. Show us that you are a thoughtful observer of the world who can draw us into the exquisite pleasures of small things.
If you are an artist, this should be a pretty straightforward prompt. Tell the admissions committee about something you’ve made, whether it be a painting, a quilt, or even a miniature-golf themed marble machine. No matter what innovative or strange project you share, be sure to explain how the work says something about you as a person. In the marble machine example, maybe you first got interested in mathematics and physics while playing miniature golf with your aunt and you thought this machine would be a fitting tribute to the role she played in your intellectual formation.
You can still answer this question even if you are not much of an artist. Creativity in your “intellectual pursuits” might mean how you find new applications for the skills you’ve learned in school. Maybe you’ve taken what you’ve learned from your high school statistics class and combined it with your love of baseball to start participating in online discussions about sabermetrics? Creativity in “social interactions” might mean that you have found new ways to bring people together for a common purpose.
Maybe you were on social chair for your student council and were faced with the problem of attendance at school lunch rallies being low until you started going around to different clubs and groups and asking them to do a showcase performance? Again, no matter what you write about, be sure to both tell us about something specific that you have done and what you’ve learned about yourself as a person by doing it.
This is the question that the University of Georgia’s application and the Coalition Application share in common. If you’d like a primer on this question, check out CollegeVine’s guide to the Coalition Application.
There is, however, one thing that you should keep in mind. Most colleges ask for essays around 500 words, but UGA wants a 200-300 word essay. In the comments section of UGA’s admissions blog, an admissions officer says, “We are okay if an essay is slightly above the word count, but 100-200 words above is a little excessive. Be concise.” This means that even if you’ve already written a response to this question, you might need to revise it.
Not every 500-word essay can be successfully changed into a 300-word essay by trimming a few words and shortening a few sentences. Sometimes a more substantial rewrite will be necessary. For example, consider an essay on how marching band taught you that you need to listen in order to become a good leader. The 500-word version of this essay might start with you learning to listen and stay in tune as a nervous little freshman trumpet player.
The second half of that longer 500-word essay might then talk about how you later became drum major and needed to listen to the concerns of your individual band mates in order to mediate personal conflicts and get everyone marching in step. In the shorter 300-word version of the essay, you will probably need to forgo the developmental story that takes us through all four years of your time with marching band. Instead, you might focus on a single anecdote that shows how you need to listen in order to lead.
This essay might be an especially good choice if you already know what you want to study. The “problem” does not have to be a particularly large problem like “all of climate change” or “world poverty.” Anyone can talk about those general problems. You will probably be better served by focusing on a specific problem that you have some kind of personal connection to.
For example, maybe you live in a region where increased rainfall in recent years has caused unexpected flooding that was not accounted for in old flood-insurance maps. Maybe you lost a family photo album, or maybe your neighbors had difficulty getting insurance companies to cover the damages. After telling the admissions committee about this problem and your personal connection to it, you can say that you plan to study economics and atmospheric science in order to learn how our society can respond to changing weather patterns.
Though the essay prompt asks what actions you would take to “solve” the problem, you should be aware that complex problems do not have solutions that can be explained in 300 words. You would do better to talk about how you will use your studies at UGA to start tackling the issue from multiple angles.
In our flood insurance example, you might mention that you are especially excited to check out the university’s new major in Atmospheric Sciences in order to better understand how climate change is affecting local weather patterns. You might also mention that you are interested in attending talks at UGA’s institute for Climate and Society that gathers thinkers from a wide variety of disciplines to discuss complex issues. Referring to specific programs at the school can let the University of Georgia know that you really are interested in attending.
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