How to Write the University of Maryland Essays 2023-2024
The University of Maryland does not have traditional supplemental essays, but it does have six required “complete this sentence” prompt. Your answers to these questions will need to be within 650 characters, but 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 in just a few years, the more your responses stand out to admissions officers, the better your chances of admission will be.
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University of Maryland Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: If I could travel anywhere, I would go to… (650 characters)
Prompt 2: The most interesting fact I ever learned from research was… (650 characters)
Prompt 3: In addition to my major, my academic interests include… (650 characters)
Prompt 4: My favorite thing about last Thursday was… (650 characters)
Prompt 5: Something you might not know about me is… (650 characters)
Prompt 6: Because we know that diversity benefits the educational experience of all students, the University of Maryland values diversity in all of its many forms. This includes (but is not limited to) racial, socio-economic, gender, geographical, and sexual orientation. We are interested in hearing about your own individual life experiences. In a few sentences, will you please describe how you have learned, grown, been inspired or developed skills through one or more components of diversity. (650 characters)
If I could travel anywhere, I would go to… (650 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. My father, a classics professor, spent so many happy hours teaching me how to read the works of Ovid, Virgil, Cicero, and the other greats, in their original language. Whenever we happen to pass by old churches or college buildings, we stop to read their insignias and mottos, which are most often in Latin. All these fond memories make me feel deeply connected to the Greco-Roman world, and I think that seeing historic sites like the Colosseum in person would augment the reading I’ve done and enrich my understanding of classical antiquity.” (598 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 and individuality 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.”
The most interesting fact I ever learned from research was… (650 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 that 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 650 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. Learning this fact made me truly appreciate nature’s diversity—turtles have an entire sense that we lack! This newfound appreciation created by one fact I just stumbled upon inspired me to embark on an exploratory journey that culminated in an internship at a local environmental center.” (467 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)
Try to avoid picking a fact that is so long that you don’t have space to elaborate. 650 characters isn’t the largest amount of space, but simply stating your fact probably shouldn’t take up most of it. That being said, you don’t necessarily have to elaborate at a level as deep as the above example to have an excellent response. You may have a strong and thorough response with just 300 characters or so.
In addition to my major, my academic interests include… (650 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. Even to those not interested in sports, the field is very useful in that its findings can be extrapolated and applied to society at large. After all, everyone wants to be able to perform at an optimal level.” (507 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’ve always been fascinated by the ways music is used to complement cinema. There are videos online in which a song is changed or removed from a scene, and something that simple can have a profound impact on the 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.” (501 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)
These responses share interests that are not only not distinct from their respective majors, but that are 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.
My favorite thing about last Thursday was… (650 characters)
Only you know what you did last Thursday, so the best advice we can give here is to not overthink your answer. Most people don’t do anything revolutionary on an average Thursday. 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 Thursday 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 Thursday” 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 Thursday.
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. There’s nothing like munching on a DIY vegan charcuterie board and drinking sparkling cider at the golden hour. My friend and I grew up together and are as close as sisters. For years we did everything together, from shopping to cooking and from learning to swim to learning to drive. She and I 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.” (495 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, 650 characters is more than you might assume. Take advantage of the space you have to make your response as personal as possible, but also don’t write more than you need to just to reach the limit. 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 Thursday.
Something you might not know about me is… (650 characters)
A prompt this open-ended can be overwhelming at first. But as we advised with the previous prompt, 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.
That being said, you have free rein to write about pretty much anything! Below are some examples of potential topics you could respond to this prompt with. 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 begin with.
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.
Since you have a longer character count, you should elaborate on your fun fact, whatever it may be. For example, a hypothetical student might extend the above skydiving example and write something like this:
“[Something you might not know about me is…] for my eighteenth birthday, I went skydiving and passed out in the air. As a child, I saw a show about skydiving and became so infatuated with the idea that it became the one thing I had to try. My parents were not thrilled but agreed that I could try when I was 18. The time finally came, and the plane ascended with me finally on it. I was signed up for a tandem jump where I was tethered to an instructor. We jumped, and some combination of excitement, dread, and altitude made me pass out, so I missed most of the experience! By the time I came to, we were near the ground already, so I definitely need to try this experience again someday.” (644 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)
You might not use all 650 characters to respond to this prompt, and that’s okay. Don’t try to reach the character limit and end up rambling or writing something confusing. For example, imagine if the backflip example above read like this:
“[Something you might not know about me is…] 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. It ended up being fine though, because it’s a skill I had gotten really good at by then.” (221 characters, excluding the prompt’s characters)
By the end of this response, a reader might not even remember what the original fun fact was, even though it’s only 221 characters.
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.
Because we know that diversity benefits the educational experience of all students, the University of Maryland values diversity in all of its many forms. This includes (but is not limited to) racial, socio-economic, gender, geographical, and sexual orientation. We are interested in hearing about your own individual life experiences. In a few sentences, will you please describe how you have learned, grown, been inspired or developed skills through one or more components of diversity. (650 characters)
This is one instance of the very common diversity prompt. When colleges have a diversity prompt, they want to know about your own personal background and how it has influenced your worldview and perspectives.
In June 2023, the United States Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions. The ruling, however, still allows colleges to consider race on an individual basis, which is one reason many schools are now including diversity prompts as one of their supplemental essay prompts. If you feel that your racial background has impacted you significantly, this is the place to discuss that.
In general, such a common prompt can be approached with a traditional answer. You might consider answering this prompt with what you think is the most important part of your identity, then a small discussion about how that aspect of diversity is relevant to you and your general life experiences.
Such a response might be written about one of the following scenarios:
- Using your fluency in another language to help members of a specific community.
- Interpreting a text in class differently from your classmates because of your ethnic culture.
- Having a friend of a different background who has changed your perspective on something important (this speaks to the “been inspired” part of the prompt).
- Having an illness or disability that helps you view accessibility through a different lens than your peers.
- Being part of a niche interest group/fandom and trying to represent the group faithfully when talking to people who aren’t members of it.
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 life 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 stories about how that aspect of diversity has contributed to your growth or development as a person.
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!