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How to Write the University of Kansas Essays 2022-2023

 

The University of Kansas is a public research university with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 19,000 students located in Lawrence, Kansas. Jayhawks can choose from over 140 different undergraduate programs, including top-ranked business and engineering programs.

 

The university has no school-wide supplemental essays; however, students applying for the Honors Program or the Engineering SELF Program must submit additional written responses along with their Common App.

 

Want to know your chances at the University of Kansas? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

University of Kansas Supplemental Essay Prompts

 

Honors Program only

 

First, we ask that you upload a single Word or PDF document that contains responses to all three short-answer questions below. Responses should convey the factors that shaped you and demonstrate skills of clarity and brevity. Please keep your responses to 1,200 words combined.

 

  • Prompt 1: List no more than five items — clubs and organizations, employment, community service, awards and recognition, extra-curricular interests, personal or family obligations — in descending order of significance, with the most significant item first. For each, explain your role, time commitment, length of involvement, and responsibilities.

 

  • Prompt 2: How have your experiences affected your sense of who you are and what you hope to accomplish in college? There are no wrong answers.

 

  • Prompt 3: Honors students make the most of available opportunities. Based on course availability at your school, how did you select the classes you took? Is there anything you want the admissions committee to know about your transcript?

 

 

Self Engineering Leadership Fellows (SELF) Program only

 

The SELF Program’s primary goal is to develop passionate future engineering leaders in business, industry, and entrepreneurship. Keeping that in mind, tell us why you are interested in becoming a SELF Fellow and what are one or two unique contributions you believe you might make to the SELF program over the course of your involvement. Limit your response to 500 words.

 

 

Honors and SELF Program

 

Honors Program instructions: Next, we ask that you upload a single Word or PDF document that responds to one of three essay prompts below. Essays should be expansive yet focused, well-organized, proofread, and limited to 500 words. Note: You may submit the same essay to both UHP and SELF if responding to a shared question.

 

SELF Program instructions: Please respond to one of the following essay questions. Your essay will be evaluated by the selection committee for demonstration of qualities needed to be a successful SELF Fellow including potential for leadership growth and connection to engineering and technology. Your response should demonstrate intellectual curiosity and academic rigor, and should be well-organized and generally free of grammatical and spelling errors. Limit your response to 500 words.

 

  • Option 1: KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction fosters a community “exploring the limitless potential of the human imagination, whether that be to question, to play, or to dream the future.” Envision a future — imaginative or realistic — and describe your role in it.

 

  • Option 2 (SELF Program Only): When it’s all said and done, what do you want your legacy to be? This could relate to your family, community, future profession, or society. 50 years from now, what will others say about your impact?

 

  • Option 2 (Honors Program Only): Author, professor, and autism advocate Temple Grandin has often spoken about how the world needs “different kinds of minds.” Discuss how considering perspectives or problem-solving approaches different from your own will strengthen the work you do at KU and beyond.

 

  • Option 3: As a research institution, part of KU’s mission is to “make discoveries that change the world.” Focus on a topic or problem that you would like to explore through your education and experiences. What kind of discoveries do you hope to make, and why?

 

Honors Program only

 

The University of Kansas Honors program aims to bring together a diverse, motivated group of students. Students in the Honors program can take Honors courses, receive priority enrollment, and specialized housing, among other perks.

 

First, we ask that you upload a single Word or PDF document that contains responses to all three short-answer questions below. Responses should convey the factors that shaped you and demonstrate skills of clarity and brevity. Please keep your responses to 1,200 words combined.

 

  • Prompt 1: List no more than five items — clubs and organizations, employment, community service, awards and recognition, extra-curricular interests, personal or family obligations — in descending order of significance, with the most significant item first. For each, explain your role, time commitment, length of involvement, and responsibilities.

 

  • Prompt 2: How have your experiences affected your sense of who you are and what you hope to accomplish in college? There are no wrong answers.

 

  • Prompt 3: Honors students make the most of available opportunities. Based on course availability at your school, how did you select the classes you took? Is there anything you want the admissions committee to know about your transcript?

 

These questions are meant to let the admissions committee understand you better, and give them a better picture of your background and motivation.

 

The first question asks you to list the five most important items in your life. The admissions committee is looking to see what is important to you, and why. This space gives you an opportunity to elaborate on some of the extracurricular activities listed in your resume, or let the admissions committee know about a hobby or activity not previously mentioned in your application.

 

Avoid just listing off the things you have done. Take time to really think about what you have done and why it’s important to you, and give the admissions committee an in-depth view of why you are passionate about the items you listed. For example, maybe you were a guitarist in a garage band, and that was your creative outlet for when you were happy, sad, or frustrated. The few hours you spent every day with your bandmates expressing yourselves through music allowed you to break from your daily routine of schoolwork and chores at home, and you were able to meet many local musicians within your community and develop lifelong friendships.

 

The prompt also asks you to rank the items in order of importance to you. Why is your part time job at your neighbor’s farm more important than your participation on your high school’s varsity volleyball team? While you learned good teamwork and leadership skills from being the captain of the volleyball team, maybe your time caring for animals helped you develop a lifelong passion for them. Because of that experience, you decided to study animal science, and that’s why that work is more important to you. Elaborate on the significance of each item, and what they mean to you.

 

The second prompt asks you to talk about your experiences and how they have affected you. This is a very open-ended prompt, and the admissions committee is looking for an extra look into your motivations. Try not to jump around and list off a large list of experiences; make sure all of the topics you talk about are related in some way, and detail how these experiences have impacted your motivations and goals.

 

For example, growing up, maybe your father took you to go watch a new movie every weekend. You would always look forward to seeing new films and discussing the plot, acting, cinematography, and details of the movies with your father, and this led to a passion for the behind-the-scenes process of creating movies. This has led you to want to pursue the Film and Media studies program at KU.

 

The third prompt is asking for a deeper understanding of your high school academic path. The admissions committee is looking to see why you chose to take the classes you did, and what inspired you to go down that path. Whether or not the classes you took have relevance to your intended major, there is a reason why you decided to take certain classes and you should dive into those details to answer this question.

 

Don’t just list off your graduation requirements, make sure to elaborate on your electives and specifically why you took them. Maybe you took all of the Art and History classes your school had to offer because you are interested in evolving art forms. You wanted to understand the creative process across different art mediums, so you took painting, photography, and other art classes offered at your school, and you took history classes because you have a general interest in learning about history, and you’re trying to refine the topic and time periods you’re interested in. 

 

Alternatively, maybe you took a variety of classes spread across different subjects like math, psychology, photography, or others because you wanted to get a good surface level understanding of a variety of different topics because you were unsure of what you wanted to study in college. Make sure to mention specific takeaways from these courses, or specific connections you’ve drawn between seemingly disparate subjects, to give your response a personal tinge that demonstrates the way you approach learning. 

 

If your school also didn’t offer certain opportunities, like specific courses or programs, this is important to mention as well. For example, if you wanted to take World History but only U.S. History was offered, you can mention that. If your school lacked certain Honors classes or an AP curriculum, you can mention that here as well. 

 

Finally, maybe you feel that your transcript doesn’t accurately represent your abilities because of external circumstances. This prompt also invites you to address any discrepancies. Maybe you had a concussion and got your only C ever because you couldn’t focus in school for months after. Or, maybe you had to take care of your siblings, and couldn’t study as much as you wanted. Whatever the situation, simply share the details in a straightforward manner that accepts responsibility for anything caused by your shortcomings.

 

SELF Program Only

 

The University of Kansas Self Engineering Leadership Fellows (SELF) program allows engineering students to develop a variety of skills, from communication to management, in order to become better leaders across campus and in their future careers.

 

The SELF Program’s primary goal is to develop passionate future engineering leaders in business, industry, and entrepreneurship. Keeping that in mind, tell us why you are interested in becoming a SELF Fellow and what are one or two unique contributions you believe you might make to the SELF program over the course of your involvement. Limit your response to 500 words.

 

With this prompt, the admissions committee is looking to see your commitment to the SELF program and your reasons for applying. To show that you truly want to be a part of the SELF program and let the committee know what you can contribute to the program and community, your response will need to contain lots of specific detail. Research the requirements and perks of being a SELF fellow, and reflect on what aspects of the program you are drawn to based on your past experiences and current interests.

 

Why are you interested in becoming a SELF Fellow? The SELF program is looking for students with a passion for engineering and who will become future leaders. The SELF program offers many unique opportunities such as participation in workshops, seminars, and meetings with mentors and advisors, scholarship grants, and other opportunities. Make sure to include what specific aspects of the program you are interested in so that your passion for the subject comes across as tangible and genuine.

 

For example, a hypothetical applicant might write:

 

As an engineering major with a business background, I plan to use the skills I gain from SELF to take part in product management within startup culture. Through professional development seminars such as “Women in Mechanical Engineering Networking,” I can learn about opportunities that intersect with my identities and forge the relationships I will need for success in the tech-startup field. I also look forward to attending the SELF Speaker series and learning from industry leaders like Beth Ellyn McClendon. Her work in product management for Google was a large catalyst in my own desire to pursue the business side of engineering.

 

The second part of this question asks for one or two unique knowledge, experience, and outlooks you could contribute to the program. The admissions committee is looking for students who can bring new ideas and be a positive influence on the program as a whole. Make sure to elaborate on what unique things you could specifically bring to the program. You can do this by elaborating on your past experience and current interests.

 

Here is another example from the hypothetical applicant:

 

One of the events that draws me to KU’s SELF program is my desire to help organize and run the annual high school design competition. At my high school, I started Her Hackathon, an annual hackathon for girls who are interested in the technology sector. Introducing these concerns at the high school level has allowed me to spread awareness of gender inequity in STEM in my community. I plan to bring this same energy to KU and continue implementing women-friendly programs that will help bridge this gap in our events. During the high school design competition, I will make sure that the design criteria addresses gender inequality and that the students must reflect their understanding of this issue in their submissions. 

 

Required for Honors AND SELF Program Applicants

 

Both the Honors and SELF programs require the completion of an additional essay prompt, and there are three options to choose from. The prompts are the same for both programs, other than the second prompt, which is specific to the Honors or SELF program. Because of this, we recommend picking the first or third options if you’re planning to apply to both programs, as you can reuse your essay.

 

Here are the instructions for the prompts:

 

Honors Program instructions: Next, we ask that you upload a single Word or PDF document that responds to one of three essay prompts below. Essays should be expansive yet focused, well-organized, proofread, and limited to 500 words. Note: You may submit the same essay to both UHP and SELF if responding to a shared question.

 

SELF Program instructions: Please respond to one of the following essay questions. Your essay will be evaluated by the selection committee for demonstration of qualities needed to be a successful SELF Fellow including potential for leadership growth and connection to engineering and technology. Your response should demonstrate intellectual curiosity and academic rigor, and should be well-organized and generally free of grammatical and spelling errors. Limit your response to 500 words.

 

And here is each option that you can respond to:

 

Option 1

KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction fosters a community “exploring the limitless potential of the human imagination, whether that be to question, to play, or to dream the future.” Envision a future — imaginative or realistic — and describe your role in it. (500 words)

 

This prompt does not necessarily ask you about the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, though it would be helpful to do research on the program’s mission and history. The Gunn Center seeks to foster a community of imagination and explore the limitless possibilities surrounding it.

 

The prompt gives you the ability to be as creative as you want to be. You are tasked with envisioning a future and then describing your role within it. First, you need to determine what kind of world you want to create. Will it be imaginative or realistic?

 

If you create an imaginative world, then make sure to outline what it is like being there. Outline the political, social, and economic state of the world as well as any other information that is important to share.  

 

For a realistic world, you should also make sure to create a basic outline of the world and where you are in relation to it. Include any necessary information that will help create the foundation of the story and what matters to it.

 

Regardless of what kind of future you create, think about what your role will be in it. Determine what matters to you and what is important in your future. Imagine where you might be ten or twenty years down the line, and dream about what your ideal career and lifestyle might be like. Let your creativity shine, and immerse your readers in the world that you create through imagery and vivid descriptive words. College admissions want to get to know you better, so clearly outline what your future is as well as what your future role will be.

 

Option 2 (SELF Program Only)

When it’s all said and done, what do you want your legacy to be? This could relate to your family, community, future profession, or society. 50 years from now, what will others say about your impact? (500 words)

 

With this prompt, admissions counselors are trying to learn what is important to you and why. Your response should show what your values, aspirations, and passions are.

 

First, start off by looking into what matters to the University of Kansas in terms of student life and academics. Some of the key values that Kansas emphasizes are leadership, inclusivity, and ambition. To learn more about what is important to Kansas, go to their home and student life pages.

 

A good way to begin your essay is to think about what you want your future to look like. What is your dream job or dream community? Discuss how you would feel and what it would mean to you to achieve these dreams. Kansas emphasizes ambition, so if a hypothetical student’s dream was to go to medical school, become a surgeon, and then become the Surgeon General of the United States, they would write the following: “I have always wanted to be a surgeon, specifically a cardiovascular surgeon. I want to be the best at what I do and eventually become the US Surgeon General so that I can make the entire country a healthier place.”

 

The second part of the prompt is asking you what others will say about you in 50 years. Here you have an opportunity to demonstrate the traits you value most in yourself. For example, will you be the kind and inclusive IT worker who always went above and beyond for their clients and co-workers? Think about what you want to change for the better in the world and how you want to be remembered.

 

Option 2 (Honors Program Only)

Author, professor, and autism advocate Temple Grandin has often spoken about how the world needs “different kinds of minds.” Discuss how considering perspectives or problem-solving approaches different from your own will strengthen the work you do at KU and beyond (500 w0rds)

KU Honors wants to admit open-minded students who will collaborate well with those who have different perspectives from them. This prompt is a great opportunity to share an example of how you considered other perspectives in the past, as well as how you plan to incorporate a diversity of ideas into your future work.

 

First, brainstorm experiences where you were open-minded to other ideas and perspectives. Some potential examples are:

 

  • Your environmental club wanted the school cafeteria to ban plastic straws, but then several disabled students spoke out and explained how they needed them due to mobility issues and how alternatives didn’t work as well. This made you realize how even well-intentioned ideas could be harmful if they didn’t take into account the accessibility of a diverse range of people. The club pivoted instead to installing a composting system and fun challenges for reducing food waste.

 

  • Your engineering class was tasked with building a car from paper, straws, and Lifesavers that would run the furthest when blown. Almost everyone in your group wanted the car to have Lifesaver wheels, but one member suggested not having any wheels at all, which reduced the weight of the car and helped it travel the furthest in your class. This helped you realize how working in groups with different people can lead to more innovative ideas.

 

When sharing your example, you want to explain the opinion you had and how it differed from the other person’s, and how having these different opinions ultimately enhanced the results.

 

Next, reflect on your college and career goals and how having diverse perspectives will improve your work. Here are some examples:

 

  • The student interested in environmental science will ensure that they recruit students from all income classes, ethnicities, and abilities when they join Students for a Sustainable Future at KU. This will help the group’s initiatives stay accessible while making the most impact. They hope to go into environmental policy, where considering a variety of approaches and perspectives will lead to the most effective policies that benefit the most people.

 

  • The engineering student plans to organize group study sessions to go over problem sets and prepare for exams. Teaching others will strengthen her grasp of the concepts, and working with others will help the whole group come up with the most efficient solutions. She plans to go into Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at KU to eventually design energy-efficient buildings. She knows that working in a team is central to engineering and that combining problem-solving approaches can lead to the strongest designs.

 

This essay is difficult to write in that you don’t know what kinds of approaches or perspectives your future teammates will have, so you have to remain somewhat vague in parts. To write the most engaging response, we recommend focusing on the past experience where having multiple perspectives was beneficial, what you learned from that, and how you plan to incorporate those lessons to your future goals.  

 

Option 3

As a research institution, part of KU’s mission is to “make discoveries that change the world.” Focus on a topic or problem that you would like to explore through your education and experiences. What kind of discoveries do you hope to make, and why? (500 words)

 

This essay does not necessarily ask you about a specific major or program, though it would be helpful to look into specific research opportunities at Kansas. Kansas is a research university, which is important to keep in mind when writing your essay. You do not have to be an aspiring laboratory scientist, but you should be interested in learning new things. For example, a hypothetical applicant who is interested in neuroscience could discuss how they want to research the effect music has on runners by conducting mentored research at the Higuchi Biosciences Center.

 

If you know what you want to major in, then think about topics related to that major that interest you. For example, if a hypothetical applicant wanted to be a Biology major at Kansas and learn about a new enzyme, they could write about that and also tie in a past related experience like so: “I want to be a Biology major at the University of Kansas so I can discover a new enzyme. I have always been fascinated by enzymes and the impact they have on our bodies. During my junior year of high school, I was a research assistant to a scientist who specializes in enzyme research.”

 

Convey your passion for the subject you want to explore, and highlight it throughout the essay so that the admissions counselors can feel your love for the topic through your writing. It is important to note that the research topic you want to explore does not have to be groundbreaking — it should simply be something that you are excited to learn more about. 

 

Where to Get Your University of Kansas Essay Edited

 

Do you want feedback on your Kansas 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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