How to Write the University of Georgia Essays 2020-2021
So you have decided to apply to the University of Georgia, where the only thing hotter than your ardor for the Georgia Bulldogs will be your animus toward the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and 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 30,000 other undergraduates.
UGA admitted about 13,700 new undergraduates in 2020, with about 708 of those students admitted to its honors program. Because the university is a large public institution, it gives more weight to test scores and GPA than smaller private institutions. The SAT scores for the middle 50% of 2020 admitted students was 1310-1460, and middle 50% ACT scores were 30-34. Want to know your chances at the University of Georgia? Calculate them for free right now.
The Honors College is much more selective; for the one-in-twelve students admitted to the Honors College, the average SAT score is 1505 and the average ACT score is 34.
That being said, a good essay will help stand out, and much of the advice we’ll offer below will apply to the admissions essays you may be writing for other colleges.
Want to learn what UGA 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 Georgia needs to know.
University of Georgia Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: (Required) The college admissions process can create anxiety. In an attempt to make it less stressful, please tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself from your high school years that you have not already shared in your application (200-300 words)
Prompt 2: (Optional) Choose one of the following four and respond in 200-300 words.
- Option A: UGA’s 2017 Commencement speaker Ernie Johnson (Class of ’79) told a story from his youth about what he refers to as blackberry moments. He has described these as “the sweet moments that are right there to be had but we’re just too focused on what we’re doing …, and we see things that are right there within our reach and we neglect them. Blackberry moments can be anything that makes somebody else’s day, that makes your day, that are just sweet moments that you always remember.” Tell us about one of your “blackberry moments” from the past five years.
- Option B: What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What is the best part? What advice would you give to a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Option C: Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Option D: Describe a problem, possibly related to your area of study, which you would like to solve. Explain its importance to you and what actions you would take to solve this issue.
Prompt 1: (Required)
The college admissions process can create anxiety. In an attempt to make it less stressful, please tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself from your high school years that you have not already shared in your application (200-300 words)
This prompt may have given you a bit of a double-take. What? An anti-essay? Aren’t we supposed to be talking about our personal growth, aspirations for the future, and intellectual passions? Don’t worry; the admissions committee isn’t trying to trick you here. They really do want to hear an engaging story from your life.
While this may not necessarily be the essay in which you talk about your esoteric aspirations to become an aerospace engineer or your lifelong love of philosophy, it’s still a chance for you to flex your writing and storytelling skills and to showcase your personality. So, think about the stories you may tell as icebreakers or at parties. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a funny story (and if you aren’t a comedian please don’t try to make your essay funny) and avoid stories that you wouldn’t want your grandma to know about.
When you’re trying to write an interesting story, you must make every word count. There’s no room for unnecessarily lengthy descriptions. If you’ve read a mystery or adventure novel, you know that their fast-paced nature keeps them engaging. Avoid the passive tense and use verbs effectively and adjectives sparingly.
For starters, let’s look to UGA’s admissions blog for a strong a sample answer to this question:
“‘Oh no, what have I done?’ explained my facial expression after an unbelievable event happened years ago. The scene took place in my backyard. One day my neighbors left the house and their two dogs, Peanut and Lucky, to go to the store. They gave me permission to play with the dogs, but specifically told me to keep a close watch. I usually play with Lucky, the bigger one, because he was more aware of his surroundings and did not bark as much, but this time I decided to take Peanut. While we were outside, a huge hawk came flying by, but I didn’t think much of it. I remember walking inside the house and returning to see the hawk flying away with Peanut in his claws. I didn’t know what to do because I knew my neighbors would be home any minute. Shortly afterwards, I saw the hawk sitting in the tree, but Peanut was nowhere in sight, and that’s when I really began to panic. I went next door with intentions to confess until I saw Peanut sitting on the porch. To this day, I am the only one who knows that Peanut was almost eaten alive.”
It may seem a little strange, so let’s start by explaining why UGA’s admissions officers might have thought it was a good essay.
After reading this essay, you might have thought, “What? That is a college admissions essay? 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.
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 in other parts of your application.
If you would still prefer to write about something of substance, don’t worry! You don’t necessarily have to tell an amusing story, and “interesting” is a wide-spanning word.
For example, you may write upon the time you came across new and interesting information which changed your life somehow, perhaps via a quote you came across or advice you were given by a coach or teacher.
Perhaps, in your readings, you came across 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.
If you go down this route, the most important thing to do would be to detail your thought processes, explaining the impact this new information had on you, so long as it circles back to a point of interest or amusement. Perhaps this new insight urged you to see life in a different way, or maybe it sparked a period of change and self-discovery. Be careful to not make it an essay of fully self-reflection, however! Your essay should still be narrative and read like a story with a classic beginning, middle, and end.
Similarly, you could write a time you nursed a baby bird back to health, or went on a life-changing trip with friends, or went vegan for a week, or had a meaningful conversation with a stranger on an airplane. Some students don’t think they or their lives are very interesting, but we assure you there is an engaging anecdote to be found in every life, especially if conveyed through effective storytelling! Additionally, you can bring meaning into any story if you write with depth. For example, the baby bird story may have impacted you by showing you the value of compassion and your ability to help out the “little guy.”
Whether going deep or shallow, try to have fun with this essay. (Though we know that in spite of the admission committee’s best intentions, sometimes nothing can be more anxiety-inducing than the instruction to enjoy.)
Overview of Prompt 2 (Optional)
Here at CollegeVine, we always like to remind our readers that “Optional” is code for “You should probably write this if you want the admissions committee to know that you care about their school, especially if you want to get into the Honors Program.”
We advise you to not skip the optional essay, neither here nor anywhere else. Taking the time and thought to complete it not only gives you the chance to show more about yourself to the admissions officers, but also to demonstrate that the school matters to you. If you don’t write it, the admissions committee may worry that if accepted, you may not even consider attending!
Luckily, some of the following prompts are similar to ones you may find in the Coalition Application, Common Application, or even the University of California Application, so there is plenty of potential for essay-recycling here. Still, please make sure that all answers are sufficiently tailored to the school you are applying to. Also be sure that none of the essays you send to the same school overlap! If you pick one prompt in the Common Application, don’t pick a similar one for your supplement.
Prompt 2, Option A
UGA’s 2017 Commencement speaker Ernie Johnson (Class of ’79) told a story from his youth about what he refers to as blackberry moments. He has described these as “the sweet moments that are right there to be had but we’re just too focused on what we’re doing …, and we see things that are right there within our reach and we neglect them. Blackberry moments can be anything that makes somebody else’s day, that makes your day, that are just sweet moments that you always remember.” Tell us about one of your “blackberry moments” from the past five years. (200-300 words)
Like Prompt 1, this prompt is simply asking for a story. However, this time, they’re getting specific about which type of story they would like you to tell. There are two main components of the “blackberry moment:”
- They are somehow special
- They are too easily ignored when you’re preoccupied with something else
This essay should showcase a time in which you remembered to “stop and smell the roses,” showcasing a Georgia-O’Keeffe-like ability to appreciate the little things.
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.
In attending to schoolwork, extracurriculars, and even social preoccupations, we commonly overlook family, nature, or hobbies we do just for the sake of enjoyment. We may even take these things for granted, and sometimes it takes a small jolt to appreciate them again.
One way of responding to this prompt is to simply talk about a moment of unexpected joy. For example, you might talk about a regular boring commute in which a fellow bus passenger 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, as it shows your ability to take time out of an otherwise mundane routine to appreciate literature with another human being.
But this essay 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.
Prompt 2, Option B
What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What is the best part? What advice would you give to a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)? (200-300 words)
This prompt is the same as Prompt 4 of the Coalition Application essay prompts, so feel free to check it out for additional tips!
Admissions officers come from every background, but most are in their 20’s. It hasn’t been too long since they were teenagers themselves. Still, our fast-paced modern culture has ensured that a thing or two has changed since then.
So think about what makes the teen years difficult and wonderful now. Perhaps talk to a millennial friend or relative about what their high school years were like and compare your experiences.
Similarly, when thinking of good advice to give, you can consider a younger person you know and what you would tell them. If you’re having trouble thinking of the best and worst parts of teenagerhood, this is a good starting point; your advice can be centered around how to best maximize the good and minimize the bad.
Well-written essays are coherent and fluid, so try to tie all three elements — the best moments, the worst parts, and the advice — together. One potential way to do this is by linking them under a common theme.
Let’s take the social media age as an example. First, you can begin by discussing social media’s capacity to connect us with people all over the world. Then, you can transition into talking about how, ironically, social media disconnects us from our real-world relationships. Lastly, you can end with the advice you’d give to your little sister about balancing the two possibilities.
While this example provides a helpful outline for structuring your response, social media is a somewhat common topic and teenagers are stereotyped for their usage of it as it is, so you should definitely get more specific with your topic.
For example, you can talk about Gen Z’s collective fascination with social justice and politics in an increasingly divided age, or about the drawbacks and advantages of being part of a generation that’s increasingly involved in issues of racial justice, climate change, and economic policy.
You could also discuss perpetually shifting beauty standards, diversifying representation in the media, or current buying trends, such as thrifting and online shopping and their social and financial implications.
So many of the elements which make up current teenagerhood are intertwined, so feel free to talk about intersections such as the one found between mainstream political awareness and social media usage, or growing representation and shifting beauty standards.
We recommend spending lots of time thinking and brainstorming, truly considering the uniquenesses of being a teen in these times and drawing mental comparisons between previous generations and yours. Since much of this essay will be devoted to your passing knowledge on to a younger friend, write with compassion and tact, taking care to think of current circumstances and how they’ve shaped the age group you are a part of.
Prompt 2, Option C
Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (200-300 words)
This prompt is the same as Prompt 1 of the Coalition Application essay prompts and similar to Prompts 1 and 2 of the Common Application essay prompts, so feel free to check them out for additional tips!
This prompt is great because it gives you the option of talking about a time which either demonstrated or shaped your character. You could even combine the two if you choose to write about an experience which challenged you to grow in a way that brought out some of your hidden qualities.
The use of the word “demonstrate” is key in understanding that here, as well as in most other college essays, it is better to show, not tell. It’s less exciting to read a sentence that says “I’m a great leader,” than to read the story of a family emergency which challenged you to step up and take charge for your younger siblings. Your story is evidence that you possess the traits you claim to have.
We recommend taking ample time to brainstorm for this essay, as self-reflection oftentimes requires the most work when writing meaningful pieces. Think about the most impactful and life-changing experiences you have had so far, of times when you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone, been forced to do so, or learned something new about yourself. By the time you’re a senior in high school, you’ve done a lot of growing and changing, so try to pinpoint specific instances of growth and self-discovery. You have a multifaceted personality, and there are a multitude of qualities you possess that make you, you.
Remember that your story may be as big or small as you like. Anything from the time you started volunteering at a new organization to the time you taught your little brother how to ride a bike can serve as testament to the person you are today.
Maintain a narrative style in this piece, drawing the reader into the story of the time you worked with school leadership to address a schoolwide issue, or rescued a stray dog, or began work as a tutor. Use imagery and vivid language, using effective verbs and expressing ideas concisely. Write with specificity and keep the human interest element in mind, always considering the question of whether the admissions officer would like to read on. By the end of the story, the elements of your character you are trying to convey should be evident. For instance, nurturing a stray dog will show your compassion, and addressing a local issue will show your initiative.
Prompt 2, Option D
Describe a problem, possibly related to your area of study, which you would like to solve. Explain its importance to you and what actions you would take to solve this issue.
The University of Georgia and Common Application have this topic in common, so check out CollegeVine’s guide to the Common Application for more tips!
Since this prompt refers to your area of study, this essay might be an especially good choice if you already know what you want to major in.
When crafting your response, the “problem” does not have to be a particularly large problem like “all of climate change” or “world poverty.” These problems are too general, meaning almost anyone can talk about them. Instead, you will be better served by focusing on a specific problem that you have some kind of personal connection to.
So, if you aren’t yet sure what career or major you’re most interested in, don’t worry! This prompt isn’t off-limits for you. In this case, it may be helpful to connect the problem you are interested in solving to your core personality traits, extracurriculars, interests, or background.
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. Rather, you should 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 growing major in Atmospheric Sciences in order to best understand the effects of climate change on 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 lets the University of Georgia know that you really are interested in attending.
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