How to Write the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Essays 2021-2022

 

Located in the vast cornfields of east-central Illinois, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is widely renowned as one of the country’s most influential public research universities. In fact, it has ranked first in National Science Foundation award funding for six consecutive years.

 

Many sources consider UIUC one of the top 50 universities in the world, and some have even ranked its engineering school in the top five worldwide.

 

Boasting over 24 million items in its library collection, it’s no secret that UIUC is an intellectual powerhouse. On top of that, it’s also a haven for sports lovers. UIUC was one of the founding members of the Big Ten Conference, a tradition that has remained strong, as evidenced by its 21 NCAA teams.

 

When it comes to the student body, UIUC’s average ACT scores range from 28-34, while average SAT scores range from 1300-1500. With an acceptance rate of about 60%, UIUC is a fairly selective school.

 

One final thing to keep in mind is that UIUC is not a Common Application school. That means you’ll have to submit a separate application either on the school’s website or by mail.

 

This also means UIUC won’t be reading your Common App essay, meaning that the school-specific essays count for even more. Luckily, we at CollegeVine are here to give you numerous tips on how to tackle your UIUC essays! Want to know your chances at UIUC? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Supplemental Essay Prompts

 

 

All Major Applicants

 

Prompt 1: If you’re applying to a major: In the past 3 to 4 years, what experience(s) have you had (inside or outside of the classroom) related to your selected first-choice major or academic interest? (150 words)

Prompt 2: If you’re applying to a major: How does your selected first-choice major relate to your future career goals? (150 words)

 

All Undeclared Program Applicants

 

Prompt 1: If you’re applying to Our Undeclared Program: What are your academic interests and strengths? You may also include any majors you are considering. (150 words)

Prompt 2: If you’re applying to Our Undeclared Program: What are your future academic or career goals? (150 words)

 

All Applicants With Second-Choice Major (Including Undeclared)

 

If you’ve selected a Second-Choice Major (Including Undeclared): Please explain your interest in your second-choice major or your overall academic or career goals. (150 words)

 

 

All Major Applicants, Prompt 1 

If you’re applying to a major: In the past 3 to 4 years, what experience(s) have you had (inside or outside of the classroom) related to your selected first-choice major or academic interest? (150 words)

 

At first glance, this prompt seems pretty straightforward, there isn’t much space for extraneous storytelling. 

 

However, what gives this prompt its difficulty is the necessity of going above and beyond. Not only do you need to identify the experiences that shaped your interest in your selected major, but you need to provide deeper reflections as to why those experiences impacted you in the way they did. 

 

For that reason, it’s not enough to simply list the experiences that led you to your chosen major. For example, you shouldn’t just say, “I first discovered my passion for film in English class, when I had to write a take home essay about the movie adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I furthered my interest in film by making my own home documentary alongside a couple friends. I also started volunteering at a local arthouse cinema to understand a more commercial perspective on film…”

 

Rather, it’s better to go deeper with a given example and provide insights into what motivates your passions. Instead of simply listing experiences related to film, you might instead say, “My English teacher assigned our class a take-home essay, where we analyzed the movie adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Looking at the movie through a closer lens gave me a deeper appreciation for the small decisions directors make and the big impacts they can have…” 

 

The admissions readers at UIUC want to see that you have the necessary experiences under your belt to thrive in your chosen course of study, and they also want to see that you will be passionate and motivated while doing so! Make sure to show them both your experiences and your deeper insights about those experiences, and you’ll have a strong essay on your hands. 

 

All Major Applicants, Prompt 2 

If you’re applying to a major: How does your selected first-choice major relate to your future career goals? (150 words)

 

The trick to this prompt is making sure you convey a clear future career goal, while also relating your intended course of study to that goal. 

 

Thus, you should acknowledge the following main points while answering this prompt: 

 

  • What are your future career goals? 
  • How will your chosen major help contribute towards those goals? 

 

Let’s address each of these points separately. 

 

1. What are your future career goals?

 

The prompt plainly states that your response needs to identify your future career goals. If you have a clear idea of what your goals are, that will make this part easy. In that situation, you would have presumably chosen a course of study that will serve as a stepping stone towards your longer-term ambitions. 

 

On the other hand, UIUC knows that your interests will change over the next four years, and that nothing is set in stone. If you’re uncertain about your career goals, it’s also okay to identify a few possible career paths that interest you. Another option is to discuss the type of work you wish to do (e.g. helping deliver aid to marginalized communities) as opposed to the specific career title. As long as you can make a compelling case as to how your chosen major relates to your future ambitions, you will be in good shape for this essay. 

 

With that said, if you are truly unsure about your career path, then perhaps you should not be applying with a declared major. It is okay to be unsure. Just don’t make the mistake of putting on a facade of certainty when your heart’s not in it, because admissions readers will notice. 

 

2. How will your chosen major help contribute towards those goals?

 

Once you have identified your career goals, you also need to indicate what aspects of your chosen course of study will help you achieve those goals. 

 

This will mean both speaking about your major in broad terms, as well as identifying some features of UIUC’s course of study that serve you particularly well. This is not a “why UIUC” essay, so showing depth of research is not the top priority, but it will strengthen your response nonetheless. 

 

While this essay does not require personal reflections in the way that many other college essays do, it is still important for your voice to come through in deeper analyses that show you understand the significance of your major-career combination at a deeper level. 

 

To accomplish this, make sure you are always stating why a particular aspect of your intended major serves your career goals. For instance, it is not enough to say, “I hope to be a lawyer for the United Nations, so I want to take the course Governing Globalizations.” You might instead write, “Courses such as Governing Globalizations, which explore the historical, moral, socio-economic, and political dimensions of an emerging global society, will provide me with the interdisciplinary background to thrive as an international lawyer.” 

 

All Undeclared Program Applicants, Prompt 1

If you’re applying to Our Undeclared Program: What are your academic interests and strengths? You may also include any majors you are considering. (150 words)

 

This prompt is similar to the one above about how your past experiences relate to your intended major; it’s just a more open-ended version. 

 

Whereas with that prompt, you would want to ground your interest in specific examples or experiences, here it’s okay to just talk about the subjects themselves. You can ground your discussion in examples, but it is not as necessary. 

 

Another distinction here is that you do not necessarily have to discuss a potential major at all, if you don’t want to. You might have numerous academic interests, and you need more time to explore them. It’s okay to geek out a little here. Admissions readers would love to hear about your passions, even if they are all over the place. There is a difference between being undecided because you haven’t thought about it, and being undecided because you can’t choose amongst strong options. 

 

On the other hand, if you do want to allude to potential majors, that will also work just fine. In either case, make sure to avoid self-deprecating language that might indicate that being undecided is a weakness. For instance, don’t say, “I want to major in math, but [insert self-doubt].” 

 

Instead, it will be better to frame things positively, where you talk about the things you love about one or more subjects. 

 

 

All Undeclared Program Applicants, Prompt 2 

If you’re applying to Our Undeclared Program: What are your future academic or career goals? (150 words)

 

As above, this prompt shares some similarity with the corresponding prompt for applicants who have decided on a major. However, rather than relating your chosen major to your intended career, this prompt gives you even more liberty. You can discuss your future academic or career goals, and furthermore, you don’t have to relate your course of study to your intended career if you don’t wish to do so. 

 

Regarding career goals, much of the same advice applies. If you know you want to be a computational social scientist, but you don’t know which degree will best help you get there, that’s perfectly fine. You can just discuss the joys of gaining social insights from large-scale network and content analysis. In general, feel free to simply discuss what jobs or careers you hope to one day pursue, and make sure your passion shines through. 

 

On the other hand, if you are unsure of your specific career path, you can speak about the type of work you hope to do. For instance, “Although I do not yet know my specific career path, I am certain it will be somewhere in the realm of environmental justice. I am excited by the prospects of participating in food justice programs at urban farms, as well as lobbying for public land preservation alike. I hope to ground myself in further environmental justice experiences by…” 

 

Similarly, maybe you know you wish to pursue a certain academic opportunity, although you do not yet know where it will lead you. It is okay to talk about opportunities at UIUC and postgraduate alike. For instance, maybe you really want to be a Fulbright scholar one day. Tell the admissions readers all about it! 

 

This prompt might be difficult for you because it is so open-ended. One piece of advice that might help is to simply ground it in yourself, your own narrative, and your own value system. Although this essay does not center a personal narrative in the way your common app essay will, relating your future plans with your core values is helpful both because it gives the essay cohesion, and because it shows you are introspective. Strong personal reflections are great for demonstrating maturity and self-awareness. 

All Applicants With Second Choice Major (Including Undeclared)

If you’ve selected a Second-Choice Major (Including Undeclared): Please explain your interest in your second-choice major or your overall academic or career goals. (150 words)

 

This prompt is similar to the previous one about your first choice major, so you should approach it in largely the same manner. The only real nuance is that, rather than ground it in experiences, you can also discuss it in the terms of your passion for the subject. For instance, instead of relating your experience with math olympiads to your future ambitions as a math major, you can simply revel in the delights you experience while undergoing the problem-solving process. 

 

It might be tempting to focus less on this essay, but you shouldn’t neglect it just because it’s your second-choice major. Admission officers will be able to tell if you’ve gotten lazy.

 

Other than that, make sure you keep our suggestions from the previous section in mind. Remember to provide adequate insight into any examples you provide, and focus on being succinct, so you can add in as much content as possible.

 

Some Final Words

 

It’s already been mentioned, but it’s important enough to mention again: These are the only essays UIUC will see. That means you have a huge responsibility to be personable and unique while also demonstrating competent writing style and academic focus.

 

While we at CollegeVine sometimes encourage riskier supplemental essays, you should avoid that for UIUC. This is because you aren’t coupling these with your Common App essay, which tends to be more grounded and central to your identity.

 

Most importantly, make sure your essays are truly a reflection of you. Don’t try to use overly elevated language if that isn’t how you normally write. If you’re unsure whether your voice is coming across, ask a family member or friend to read over your essays; they often have invaluable advice.

 

Where to Get Your University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Essays Edited for Free

 

Do you want feedback on your UIUC essays? After rereading your essay countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. Since they don’t know you personally, other students can be a more objective judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt.

 

You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!

 

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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.

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