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How to Write the University of Maryland, College Park Essays 2022-2023

The University of Maryland does not have any traditional supplemental essays, but they do have six required “complete this sentence” prompts. Though your answers to these questions will be about the length of a tweet, you’ll have plenty of space to reveal unique and distinctive parts of your personality to the admissions committee.

 

Make sure you give yourself enough time to craft thoughtful responses to these prompts, as you want to take full advantage of every opportunity you have to share something about yourself with the admissions officers. This unique kind of prompt presents a great opportunity to showcase something that might not be found elsewhere in your application. Considering how competitive college admissions have become, the more your responses stand out to admissions officers, the better your chances of admission will be.

 

Want to know your chances at UMD? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

University of Maryland Supplemental Essay Prompts

 

All Applicants

 

  1. If I could travel anywhere, I would go to… (300 characters)
  1. The most interesting fact I ever learned from research was… (300 characters)
  1. In addition to my major, my academic interests include… (300 characters)
  1. My favorite thing about last Tuesday was… (300 characters)
  1. Something you might not know about me is… (300 characters)

 

Prompt 1

If I could travel anywhere, I would go to… (300 characters)

This is a very straightforward prompt. A strong response will identify a place, and share a little bit about why you’ve picked this particular place.

 

Keep in mind that your response should be unique to you and should teach your reader something about your personality or interests. If your answer sounds like something any random person might say, you need to work on specificity. Here are some examples to show you what we’re talking about.

 

Generic response: “Rome, because I’ve always wanted to see the Colosseum.”

 

Personal response: “Rome, because I’ve studied Latin since middle school. I feel deeply connected to the Greco-Roman world, so I think that seeing historic sites like the Colosseum in person would enrich my understanding of classical antiquity.” (224 characters)

 

The first response is very generic because just about anybody you ask would probably love to see the Colosseum. The second response answers the crucial question – why? – which should be at the core of your response. Your particular reason for choosing the place you choose is where your personality will shine through.

 

Obviously, the source of specificity will depend on you and your personal experiences. If you haven’t studied Latin (or if you studied it but didn’t like it), this response clearly wouldn’t work for you. Think about what truly interests you, then narrow your thinking down to places that are integral to that interest. For example, if you’re really invested in country music and its history, you might be particularly interested in visiting Nashville, the epicenter of that genre.

 

Finally, remember that this place doesn’t have to be a city. You could also say something like “The Pro Football Hall of Fame” or “Abbey Road Studios.” In fact, you even have the freedom to be a little more creative with your place in history. You might want to travel to a different time period entirely. The prompt posits that you can travel anywhere, but doesn’t specify that it has to be somewhere modern. Perhaps you love early R&B and disco music. You might want to travel to Detroit in the 1960s, when Motown Records was beginning to dominate those genres.

 

A word of caution: If you are going to get extra creative and pick a different time period, be sure to avoid generic clichés. For example, writing that you want to travel to the future – to give your future self advice, or to drive a flying car, or to see where climate change has gone, etc. – is a cliché and won’t contribute much to your application.

 

In terms of location, you probably shouldn’t go much bigger than a city. Saying something like “The United Kingdom” or “China” may make you sound clueless, as countries are too large and diverse to understand in their entirety with just one trip. Aiming for something too broad detracts from the specificity that a strong response to this kind of essay requires.

 

Rather than settling for a generic response, think about the main reason you personally want to go to this place, and narrow your response from there. Instead of “The United Kingdom,” you could write “The Scottish Highlands,” and instead of “China,” you could write “The Great Wall of China.”

 

Prompt 2

The most interesting fact I ever learned from research was… (300 characters)

If you haven’t done research before, don’t worry. Most high school students haven’t done a serious research project, and nowhere does the prompt say the research has to be yours.

 

Your response should show your reader that you are informed about the research that goes on at places like the University of Maryland. Of course, research is not the only thing universities do, but being surrounded by cutting-edge researchers in a wide range of fields is an opportunity that is difficult to find outside of a university campus.

 

We don’t mean to say you have to cite some dense, obscure study on molecular neuroscience. If that’s what you’re interested in, great! As long as your response is genuine, your chosen topic is fair game. Don’t make the mistake of writing about some deep scientific research if that isn’t what piques your interest, but be careful not to write about something too trivial either.

 

That being said, research is done in a vast array of subjects, so there’s no pressure to write about any one topic over another. Below are some examples of facts from a variety of fields that would work just as well as something from a hardcore STEM study.

 

  • Consistent physical exercise throughout life correlates with better mental health in old age.
  • Sea turtles use magnetoreception to find the same breeding grounds each year.
  • The Egyptian pyramids have passages leading up from the burial chamber, which ancient Egyptians believed the dead pharaoh could climb through to join the gods in heaven.

 

Given the 300 characters you’re allotted, you should also share a short explanation of why you find this particular fact so interesting. For example, for the aforementioned sea turtle fact, you could write “[The most interesting fact I ever learned from research was…] sea turtles find the same breeding grounds each year with magnetoreception. Magnetoreception is a sense that allows turtles (and other animals) to perceive Earth’s magnetic field. This fact makes me truly appreciate nature’s diversity ― turtles have an entire sense that we lack.” (279 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)

 

If your fact is so long that you don’t have space for this kind of elaboration, that’s okay too. Sharing a fact you found genuinely interesting will already show your reader something about your intellect, and just explaining what the fact is may take up most of your space ― the pyramid example above is already 168 characters. You don’t necessarily need to elaborate to have an excellent response.

 

Prompt 3

In addition to my major, my academic interests include… (300 characters)

The key phrase here is “in addition to my major.” Remember that you should use these supplemental prompts to share information about yourself that your reader cannot find elsewhere in your application.

 

So if your intended major is neuroscience, your answer here shouldn’t be “biology.” That is technically a different academic interest, but it doesn’t really tell your reader anything new. If they know you want to major in neuroscience, they can already safely assume you have at least some interest in biology.

 

Remember that your reader also has your high school transcript and activities list. Maybe math isn’t your intended major, but if you’ve taken AP math classes and done math camps during your high school summers, writing about math won’t be sharing something new with your reader. Your personal experiences already strongly indicate that you’re interested in math.

 

Your response also shouldn’t just be a list of other interests you have. A laundry list of interests won’t give the admissions committee any sense of why you’re interested in these things. The “why” is where your personality shines through. Without it, your reader won’t really have anything to take away from your response.

 

Now that we’ve covered what you shouldn’t do, let’s talk about how you should approach this prompt. As noted above, you want to pick an interest that is genuinely different from the things already seen in the rest of your application. As long as you’re honest, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. UMD wants to see that you’re academically inclined and intellectually curious, not that you’re only interested in one particular thing.

 

The second part of your response is the why. Say you’re a prospective history major and the other area you’re interested in is sports psychology. Your response might read something like this: “[In addition to my major, my academic interests include…] sports psychology because I was raised a diehard Miami Heat fan, and I’ve always wondered what helps some players thrive under pressure while others fold. I think that the field is interesting as it explores not only how players play, but also how they act in their personal lives in the spotlight.” (298 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)

 

Alternatively, say you’re a prospective engineering major and you also have an interest in music theory. A strong response would be: “[In addition to my major, my academic interests include…] music theory because I’ve always wanted to know how movie and television composers use sound to enhance the emotional content of a scene. I have been teaching myself guitar for four years, and even though I’m competent on a technical level, my theoretical understanding is lacking.” (281 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)

 

These responses share interests that are not only not distinct from their respective majors, but also probably not discussed anywhere else in the application. It’s an unfortunate reality that college applications often capture only a thin slice of who you are while leaving out things like sports fandom, which may be a huge part of your personality and identity. If you can share one of those things here, your response will be all the better for it.

 

Prompt 4

My favorite thing about last Wednesday was… (300 characters)

Only you know what you did last Wednesday, so the best advice we can give here is not to overthink your answer. Most people don’t do anything revolutionary on an average Wednesday. UMD doesn’t expect you to have cured cancer on a normal day of the week. What they do expect is that you can engage with – and bring energy to – seemingly mundane situations. This is a useful skill that will help you thrive in college and beyond.

 

In order to address this prompt successfully, all you really have to do is describe the situation and give your reader some sense of what made it your favorite part of the day. Bear in mind that you don’t have to write about last Wednesday literally. Think of something eventful that you took part in recently, but don’t feel restricted to the day mentioned in the prompt. UMD’s use of “last Wednesday” is figurative. You can write about any average day that didn’t happen too long ago. No one is going to check that your event happened on a Wednesday.

 

Here are some examples of weak and strong responses to this prompt.

 

Weak: “getting dinner with my friend.”

 

Strong: “having a picnic at dinnertime with my friend and watching the sunset. She and I grew up together and are as close as sisters. We used to hang out a lot before she moved, so I feel lucky whenever I get to spend quality time with her on an otherwise average day.” (260 characters)

 

For this particular prompt, even a few extra details – like those that are included in the strong example – can go a long way. Most people enjoy getting dinner with friends, but the strong response shows the reader why, for you personally, this particular dinner was so meaningful.

 

As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, 300 characters is more than you might assume. Take advantage of the space you have to make your response as personal as possible. Based on the rest of your application, the admissions committee has some understanding of what you’re like in the classroom or on the basketball court. Now show them what you’re like on a regular old Wednesday.

 

Prompt 5

When I think of diversity, I think of… (300 characters)

This is an interesting variant of the very common diversity prompt. Generally, when colleges have a diversity prompt, they want to know about your own personal background and how it has influenced your worldview and perspectives.

 

You can complete this sentence with something akin to a traditional answer. You might want to approach this prompt with what you think is the most important part of someone’s identity, then discuss a little bit about how that aspect of diversity is relevant to you. Such an answer might look something like this:

 

“[When I think of diversity, I think of…] ethnicity. I am half Korean and half Mexican, a combination that isn’t too common. It can be a struggle identifying with both parts of my descent, yet neither half alone defines me. I believe that race, especially among mixed people like me, is an essential part of cultivating a diverse community.” (298 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)

 

Simply listing things that generate diversity should be avoided. Sure, diversity includes different ethnicities/races, gender identities, sexual orientations, countries of origin, and languages, but writing that laundry list out doesn’t contribute much to your application.

 

Also, bear in mind that the traditional markers of diversity aren’t the only ones you can discuss. There are other aspects of identity that contribute to a diverse campus, including socioeconomic classes, hometowns, illnesses/disabilities, and even interests or hobbies.

 

Diversity encompasses all the aforementioned attributes, but you should strive for individuality and specificity in your response. This prompt, like all the others, is an opportunity to showcase your unique perspective. You don’t want to waste this opportunity by writing down some bland dictionary definitions. Think of what diversity means to you and what you consider to be a particularly significant aspect of diversity. From there, think of personal anecdotes or reasons for holding that aspect of diversity in such high regard.

 

Prompt 5

Something you might not know about me is… (300 characters)

A prompt this open-ended can be overwhelming at first. But as we advised with Prompt 4, don’t overthink your answer! This fun fact doesn’t have to be anything crazy or an attempt to impress the admissions committee ― that’s what the rest of your application is for. Just share something unique to you that isn’t already discussed elsewhere in your application.

 

This last part about being unique is key ― if your answer to Prompt 3 (the one about academic interests) was something about liking astronomy, your answer here shouldn’t be something about stargazing every night. Remember that you only have so many opportunities to share information about yourself with the admissions committee, so take advantage of each one.

 

Below are some examples of potential responses to this prompt. Your response also may look nothing like these, which is completely fine. We just want to get your mental gears turning by giving you a sense of what a good response might look like.

 

Something you might not know about me is…

 

  • I can do a double backflip off a diving board.
  • I have every word to Taylor Swift’s album Reputation memorized.
  • For my eighteenth birthday, I went skydiving and passed out in the air.
  • I’ve won my fantasy football league three years in a row.
  • Every New Year’s Day, my dad cracks the ice on the pond near our house and my family does a polar plunge together.

 

There are a couple of things we want you to take away from these examples. First, you might not use all 300 characters, which is okay. For most supplemental essays, you want to take advantage of the space they’re giving you as much as possible, but this is one prompt where writing a longer answer can actually detract from your point.

 

For example, if the first response above were instead “I can do a double backflip off a diving board. One time I was at the pool and kept making the lifeguard nervous every time I did it,” by the end of the response your reader might not even remember what the original fun fact was. It’s not a problem per se if you need the space to share whatever it is you’re sharing, but keep in mind that short and sweet can go a long way for a prompt like this. Sometimes less is more.

 

Finally, the examples above hopefully show that your fun fact can be just that – fun. You don’t have to be super serious with every single supplemental essay prompt you come across. A more lighthearted response can actually be a good thing – college applications are generally quite dry, so it can be a good idea to remind your reader that you’re more than a GPA and a Common App essay you’ve revised 43 times.

 

Where to Get Your University of Maryland, College Park Essays Edited

 

Do you want feedback on your UMD essays? After rereading your essays over and over again, it can be difficult to gauge where your writing needs improvement, especially since these prompts are so short. We created our free Peer Essay Review tool to help students like you 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.