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How to Write the UIUC Essays 2022-2023

 

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.

 

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: Explain, in detail, an experience you’ve had in the past 3 to 4 years related to your first-choice major. This can be an experience from an extracurricular activity, in a class you’ve taken, or through something else. (150 words)

 

Prompt 2: If you’re applying to a major: Describe your personal and/or career goals after graduating from UIUC and how your selected first-choice major will help you achieve them. (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 

Explain, in detail, an experience you’ve had in the past 3 to 4 years related to your first-choice major. This can be an experience from an extracurricular activity, in a class you’ve taken, or through something else. (150 words)

 

At first glance, this prompt seems pretty straightforward, and 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 

Describe your personal and/or career goals after graduating from UIUC and how your selected first-choice major will help you achieve them. (150 words)

 

The trick to this prompt is making sure you convey a clear personal or 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 personal or 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 personal and/or career goals?

 

The prompt plainly states that your response needs to identify your future personal or 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.

 

Keep in mind that UIUC gives you the option of specifying your personal goals as well, and not just your career goals. This is a wording change from the 2021-2022 cycle, so it’s certainly intentional. Your personal goals should still be related to your major, but don’t have to be as career-focused. For instance, some solid personal goals to mention would be things like becoming a stronger public speaker, learning to program in a certain coding language, doing research on a specific topic, or writing a novel. 

 

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. 

 

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

 

Once you have identified your personal or 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-goal combination at a deeper level. 

 

To accomplish this, make sure you are always stating why a particular aspect of your intended major serves your 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. However, you still want to ground your interest in specific examples or experiences, rather than talking about your interests in a broad way (anyone can do that, so you want to connect it to who you are). It’s also best to limit your selection to 2-3 interests/strengths, as you only have 150 words. Otherwise, you may appear too unfocused.

 

For example, say you’re interested in creative writing and political science. You might share how you wrote a collection of short poems based on your family’s immigration experience, and how you found it a great way to reflect on those experiences. You may describe how fulfilling it was when the poems were published in a local magazine and strangers reached out to tell you how much they resonated with them. For political science, you have just started exploring the field after taking AP Government, and may be interested in immigration policy, but are trying to decide between that and your more creative endeavors.

 

One distinction here is that you do not necessarily have to discuss a potential major at all, if you don’t want to. You can simply focus on some of the topics you’re interested in or have a talent for. On the other hand, if you do want to allude to potential majors, that will also work just fine.

 

It’s okay to talk about the reasons you’re undecided (and you should), but 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 your potential 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 nuance is that you don’t necessarily have to relate your second-choice major to any personal or career goals, if you don’t want to (though it’s always helpful to!). 

 

It’s still important to ground this essay in meaningful experiences with this field. Since the essay asks about your interest in this major, it can be easy to simply write all the reasons you love the major without actually sharing more about who you are. You want to avoid that! For example, anyone could write an essay about why environmental science is so great and important, but only you can discuss how the river in your hometown was polluted by a garment factory, or how fulfilling it was to teach kids at the elementary school how to compost. 

 

After explaining your interest, make sure to share how this second-choice major relates to your future goals. Since it’s a second-choice major, you may not have as concrete of an answer, and that’s okay, but UIUC still wants to know how you might make an impact with this major should you study it. For the hypothetical student interested in environmental science, they may want to work in environmental policy to prevent pollution, or become a teacher so that the younger generation learns to love and care for the earth.

 

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

 

Do you want feedback on your UIUC essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

 


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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.