How to Write the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Essays 2020-2021
We’ve updated this post! Read the 2021-2022 UMN Twin Cities essay guide.
The University of Minnesota is a public university with two separate campuses three miles apart in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The Minneapolis campus is divided into the East and West Bank by the Mississippi River. Considered a “Public Ivy,” UMN ranks #70 according to U.S. News.
UMN is considered the top University of Minnesota school, with 19 academic divisions, from the College of Continuing Education to the College of Veterinary Medicine. The alumni of the university have been credited with major discoveries and inventions such as Melvin Calvin with the Calvin Cycle and Robert Gore’s GORE-TEX.
The university has a 52% acceptance rate. The middle 50% of admitted students had an SAT score of 1270-1480 and ACT scores of 26-31. All students must respond to one required essay, and Nursing students will have an additional 3 essay. The University of Minnesota also offers a University Honors Program and certain scholarships that you do not need to apply for separately. Want to know your chances at UMN? Calculate your chances for free right now.
Want to learn what UMN will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering UMN needs to know.
Please include an explanation of why you would like to study the major(s) you have selected. You may also use this space to indicate your interest in other major(s) in the colleges listed above. (150 words)
This is a classic example of the “Why This Major?” essay question. In approaching this prompt, try to think of it as straightforwardly as possible; the university wants to briefly know what your reasoning behind studying your major is, and whether you are considering other fields as well. Colleges ask this question to differentiate applicants who might have similar grades and test scores.
Note that you only have 150 words, so keep your answer succinct. The key here is to be specific to UMN’s offerings as well as your prior experiences and current interests. A common blunder is to mention money or prestige — avoid these topics at all costs. The admissions officers want to see that you are genuinely passionate about what you do or want to pursue.
To effectively answer this prompt, you need to show admissions officers why you like the subject rather than merely telling them. Focus on why you enjoy the subject: What niches in this subject area appeal to you most? Why do you have a personal connection to it? Use imagery and descriptive language to create an immersive level of detail that engages your readers.
You also need to connect your passions to UMN’s school-specific offerings. This underscores your interest in the school to admissions officers. A great way to research for this response is by perusing the school website. You can also communicate in-person or virtually with admissions staff, alumni, or current students to get a better idea of how you and your interests fit into UMN. For instance, a prospective food science major could respond like this:
“Ever since I can remember, cheese has been my favorite food. Whether I’m spreading a smoked gouda on a cracker or melting some creamy parmesan into a bowl of noodles, cheese consistently provides me with a reliable, hearty meal. Last summer, my sister and I experimented in the kitchen and made our own mozzarella; that intricate process sparked my desire to learn more about the science behind food. I want to further explore my passion for this delectable substance through UMN’s CFANS Food Science program. Through classes like Sensory Evaluation of Food Quality, I can learn what factors go into a nutritious cheese and how to taste the difference between a healthy and spoiled block of cheddar. Through the Baumler Lab, I can explore whether antimicrobials in chili peppers can help keep a wheel of brie fresh for an extra week or two.”
This response deftly weaves the student’s current passion and knowledge of cheese with potential future endeavors they could carry out in college. The essay tone is casual but the use of specific detail demonstrates passion. The author grounds each hypothetical activity to a specific UMN offering.
If you have another major you are considering, split the 150 words to devote enough time to both subjects. However, keep in mind that you might not be able to elaborate on each one enough to craft a thorough response. Try explaining why both subjects are interesting to you, and if you have any space left, you may want to write about how the subjects relate to each other, and why studying one gives you a deeper understanding of the other. This will tie the essay together, and give a clearer picture to admissions officers as to why you would like to pursue both.
For instance, a student could first write about studying mathematics, then follow-up with writing about art as a second interest. Additionally, the student could end with how mathematics influences art in symmetry, space, and perspective, and how the study of mathematics is necessary for creating art.
With this in mind, you are equipped to write a stellar response to UMN’s supplement prompt. Good luck! If you’re applying to Nursing, stick around for a breakdown of those prompts.
Nursing Major Applicants
Nursing Prompt 1:
Why have you chosen to pursue a nursing career? Explain how your experiences shaped your decision. (250 words)
This question, like most questions for specialized programs, is intended to assess your commitment to a difficult, long-term path–as a high school senior. As such, your primary focus here should be to convey, with concise focus and concrete examples, your commitment to and passion for this path.
Furthermore, in such a short space, it’s crucial that you remain focused. There might be a million reasons that you want to be a nurse–and that’s great! Just don’t list them all here. Your reader won’t assume that this response is an exhaustive list of all the reasons you want to be a nurse–instead, they’ll assume that you’ve chosen one or two of the most compelling experiences you’ve had to illustrate the core motivation behind this aspiration.
This brings me to the final important thing to note: With why-driven essays, your focus should be on digging beyond basic explanation. Try to show not only the experiences that have inspired you but also what your deepest motivations and aspirations are. What drives you? What makes you tick? What do you aspire to do with your life? Use specific examples to offer insight into these important, deeply personal questions, even as you explain why you want to be a nurse.
Though strong responses will have an abstract/aspirational dimension, your response should still be grounded in concrete examples. This means that your writing process should still begin with some brainstorming as you search for concrete examples. Think back: is there an obvious experience that made you go “Aha! I want to be a nurse?”
Strong experiences to focus on can include:
- Family or close friends in health-related fields who have inspired you.
- Your own medical experiences, as a patient.
- Experiences with close family members or friends who have been patients and who have been cared for by excellent nurses.
- An internship or shadowing experience.
- An academic or pre-professional course that exposed you to nursing.
The experiences you choose to depict should be vivid and meaningful enough that you can offer a brief, but detailed, description that shows the reader how they impacted you. As such, a brief glimpse of a nurse on a break from work or an impression you got from watching a TV show might be too superficial to develop as an experience that “shaped your decision.”
One note of caution: Note that the next prompt asks about how your “studies and activities” have prepared you for a career in nursing. This means that you’ll get a chance later to focus on specific academic or extracurricular things that have given you the skills and knowledge to dive into nursing studies. Here, your focus should be on motivations and interests, not preparation.
Digging a little deeper
Once you’ve chosen your example, take a moment to consider what this experience touched in you. Was it your desire to help others? Your anger at the suffering in the world? Your fascination with biology and the mechanisms of the human body? These sorts of more abstract motivations are what, ultimately, will provide a deep, satisfying answer to this question’s “why.” However, you need to “pull” these sorts of deeper points out of your examples.
If your deeper motivation is a fascination with the human body and a desire to help others, you could focus on a personal medical experience.
- Describe a moment of reflection as you sat in your bed while a nurse drew your blood. You could watch her care and consideration intently, moved by it, but also fascinated by the procedure itself. This “moment” could be framed as helping you realize that these two passions could go together.
Structuring your response
A strong response will seamlessly interweave introspection/deeper reflection and concrete examples. In order to plan your essay, you should consider the relationship between your motivations/interests and the example(s) you’re giving. It’s sort of a “chicken and egg” question, but your job is to decide which came first.
Perhaps you had an interest in helping others, which motivated you to pursue an internship at a local hospital, which, in turn, cemented your desire to become a nurse.
- In this case, you might start by describing that initial impulse, then jump into the example of your shadowing experience, then reflect on how it shaped/specified your long-term aspirations.
Perhaps you really hadn’t realized your passion for the science of the human body until a particular medical experience you had.
- In this case, it might make sense to dive right into the “moment” when you found yourself in a hospital, fascinated by the procedures going on around you/happening to you. Then, you can extrapolate from this example, discussing what you realized about yourself and your long-term goals.
Nursing Prompt 2
How have your studies and activities prepared you for a career in nursing? (250 words)
This is a fairly straightforward question. However, as with the previous question, the key here is to not go overboard. Your focus should not be to exhaustively list everything that has prepared you in any way for a career in nursing. Instead, pick 2-4 specific academic and/or extracurricular activities to discuss.
Crucially, this should not just be a list: for each example, go into detail. Explain what specific skills or information each experience you cite has given you; explain how this has prepared you to become a nurse.
Choosing your examples
This essay should cite specific studies and activities, so your first order of business should be to pick which studies or activities you want to discuss. However, your examples shouldn’t be chosen just because they “seem” like the good nursing prep. Instead, try working backward.
First, think about what skills and knowledge you have that would make you a good nurse. Then, think about how you acquired these competencies. Whatever comes out of this last reflection will be a potential “study or activity” to include in your response. Given the framing of the prompt, however, you should try to focus on clearly defined things, like courses or extracurriculars, rather than on personal experiences.
Strong examples could include:
- Your anatomy course.
- Your internship at a local hospital.
- Your job, which has given you strong administrative skills (record-keeping is essential for nursing!).
- Your biology course.
- Your food science course, which has taught you a lot about nutrition (also key for nursing, though not always adequately covered!).
- Membership in a club like Best Buddies that lets you connect with and help those who might be differently-abled than you are.
Importantly, avoid choosing redundant examples. Each course or activity that you describe should touch on a different aspect of your preparation.
Writing your Essay
Once you’ve chosen your examples, the key is just to weave them together. The key, however, is to make sure that for every example you give, you do three things: (1) Explain the study experience activity in some detail; (2) describe what skills or knowledge you gained; and (3) explain how this has prepared you to become a nurse.
If several of your examples do show similar knowledge/skills, you can group them together.
For example, if your overall thesis is that you have the specific knowledge of the human body and practical experience of engaging empathetically with others that you’ll need to be a nurse, you could have two main paragraphs.
The first could focus on your knowledge of the human body, describing your anatomy course and your experience working in a physical therapist’s office.
- You can explain how this knowledge base will allow you to rapidly develop efficient mastery of everyday procedures that nurses must conduct.
The second could focus on your experiences empathetically helping others: you could describe your involvement as a peer mental health counselor and your volunteer work at a local nursing home.
- Then, you could explain how this comfort with comforting and helping others will allow you to be an effective and compassionate nurse.
- The first could focus on your knowledge of the human body, describing your anatomy course and your experience working in a physical therapist’s office.
If your examples all feel quite disparate, that’s fine. Each paragraph can focus on a different skill/area of knowledge–just be sure that all three components (example, detailed description, and explanation of how this will allow you to be a good nurse) are present. Then, try to add transitions and tie all your examples together in a strong, specific, personal conclusion.
Nursing Prompt 3
Please provide a brief reflection about why you feel the University of Minnesota School of Nursing will be the best fit with your degree and career plans. (250 words)
First, a note about what this prompt is not asking: This prompt is not asking you to explain why you want to be a nurse (you’ve already done that, hopefully, in your first response!) or why you like the University of Minnesota in a broad sense. This is a very specific question about why this particular program fits your degree and career plans.
Given this, your response should contain three elements:
(1) A statement of your career and degree plans;
(2) a reflection on key elements of the University of Minnesota’s Nursing Program; and
(3) an explanation of how these elements facilitate the achievement of your plans).
These elements can be combined in different ways, but all strong essays will contain all three in some form.
Defining your goals
Unlike most essays here, this one doesn’t require the incorporation of specific examples, though you might end up giving specific examples of what you aspire to do with your life.
Instead, you should begin stating your goals. What do you aspire to do with your nursing degree? Note that you need to go beyond “I want to be a nurse” as your career plan–this is already self-evident. Instead, you should explain the particular kind of nursing you want to practice, or, more abstractly, the kind of impact you want to have on your patients.
Furthermore, you might also mention aspirations beyond simply working as a nurse: perhaps you would like to eventually advocate for better nursing practices on a policy level, or work in a more managerial or administrative role in a hospital. Feel free to be as specific as you like here. The more clearly you set your “targets,” the more focused, personal and powerful your essay will be.
Familiarizing yourself with the program
Though you are hopefully already familiar with the program, take some time to brush up on its essential features. Identify particular requirements that really fit your goals. Go beyond what is readily accessible on their website’s front page.
Try making a list of all the unique features of the program that excite you and that you know you couldn’t find on a regular undergrad-nursing school path. Then, dig a bit deeper. Find specific mentors, courses, labs, etc., that really excite you.
Once you have this list, go back to the goals that you’ve defined. Which of these resources fit your goals? Can you draw a line from one particular offering of UMTC’s Nursing Program to achieving that aspiration?
Linking Program features to your goals
This brings us to the final step: explaining exactly how the features of the Nursing Program fit your goals. Remember, the key here is to show how this program will better fit your aspirations than a normal path (undergrad, then nursing school). You should not spend too many words explicitly making negative statements about a “normal” path–however, you should avoid elaborating on things that a “regular” path could also provide to you.
- If you’re really interested in supporting patients suffering from cognition-altering brain conditions, you might want to talk about how the opportunity to work closely with faculty from an early point in your education will really steep you in different approaches to brain trauma. Emphasize how this sort of close study and mentorship simply wouldn’t be possible in another program; you could explain how this sort of close work early in your studies will allow you to focus, as you continue to take classes, on problems and questions that arise as you start to learn more about current approaches to brain maladies and trauma.
- If your long-term goal is to work in hospital administration, trying to raise nurse’s voices in hospital decision-making, then you might focus on aspects of the program that will allow you to become more familiar with administrative dimensions of nursing.
Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.