How to Write the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Essays 2019-2020
At #5 on the U.S. News and World Report’s Top Public Schools rankings and #30 on the National Universities rankings, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has long been considered the best of the 17-member University of Carolina school system and one of the finest public institutions in the nation.
With more than 70 majors and minors ranging from Real Estate to Speech and Hearing Sciences, UNC’s dynamic academic program provides “Tar Heels” opportunities to study subjects that are not always offered at other colleges. Though first-year students may only apply to the College of Arts and Sciences, upon completing a year of study, students may apply to the undergraduate programs of UNC Chapel Hill’s graduate schools, such as the Kenan-Flagler School of Business.
While in 2018, the overall acceptance rate was 21.9%, nearly half (41%) of North Carolina candidates were admitted, compared to 13% of out-of-state applicants. The average SAT score ranges from 1280-1470, and the middle 50 percent for the ACT ranges from 29-33. Official stats from the 2019 admissions cycle have yet to be released, but it’s likely that they are even more competitive.
Some quick facts about UNC’s student life: Each year, the intense North Carolina-Duke rivalry in basketball culminates in the final game of the season in a game played in either the Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke) or the Dean E. Smith Center. Both are dominating forces in the Atlantic Coast Conference; in fact, the two universities hold more than half of basketball championship titles between them.
The Daily Tar Heel, the 88 years-old independent student newspaper, has accumulated numerous accolades throughout its history, including the National Pacemaker Award. The student-run radio station WXYC is notable for orchestrating the first Internet broadcast.
Have the charms of UNC moved you to apply? Do the overwhelmingly low acceptance rates have you hesitating? Never fear, here at CollegeVine, we have compiled a few tips and tricks to help you write your best essays for UNC Chapel Hill.
UNC Chapel Hill Application at a Glance
The university requires all prospective students to submit two 200-250 word essays (out of four prompts) in addition to completing the Common Application and its accompanying personal statement. Want to know your chances at UNC Chapel Hill? Calculate your chances for free right now.
Tell us about a peer who has made a difference in your life.
This question is clearly different from those asked in the Common Application. Hence, it is a wise choice if you are afraid of repeating yourself across your Common App and your UNC supplement.
Here, the school hopes to understand what kind of peers you like to surround yourself with — namely, whether they are comparable to the type of students at UNC.
Therefore, it is helpful to research the qualities and skills UNC values in its students. These are only points of consideration for your reference if you are having a hard time pinpointing a specific interaction with a particular peer. At the end of the day, writing about an authentic moment is the critical factor to a successful essay.
Here are some (fictional/non-fictional) examples that could jolt your memory:
- In your freshman year, a senior who you did not know personally invited you to join a team of high school volunteers leading a summer camp for underprivileged middle-school students in your home-state. Not only did you have to create a fun and interactive 10-day curriculum in core subjects like Science, English, and Social Studies, you also had to plan out exciting games and prizes to engage the campers’ energy after class. This unique opportunity was one of the most sought-after positions in school, and applicants had to be first recommended by an existing member. As you wondered how the senior knew of you, he explained that he was very impressed by your performance in a school-wide debate. Through this experience of curriculum-design and real-life teaching, you gained newfound confidence and became a charismatic leader who went on to host other summer camps in different states.
- As a rookie volunteer at the summer camp, a fellow camp counselor stopped your rehearsal presentation every 20 seconds to comment on everything from your posture, to tone of voice, to hand gestures, to the lack of animation in the presentation. While you knew that he simply wanted to help you improve your ability to engage the audience, you still felt humiliated and were not sure whether you would really be able to hold the attention of a roomful of middle-school students when you cannot seem to keep one fellow high schooler interested in the class. You contemplated all sorts of excuses to skip out on the actual teaching, but after a night of calm deliberation, you forced yourself to ask for your peer’s help before you could change your mind. After three more nights of practice laced with multiple interruptions, you faced your first class of campers. Somehow, the moment you met their expectant faces, you smiled, and the words flowed out. That colleague who first criticized your performance catalyzed the experience that gave you self-assurance in the fact that your capability exceeds the limitations of your perception.
What do you hope will change about the place where you live?
Like the first question, this is the second of all the UNC choices that is obviously distinct from the Common App prompts. Choose this if you are wary of regurgitating your Common App on your supplements.
Here, UNC Chapel Hill is trying to understand your criteria for the “ideal place to live,” and thereby evaluate whether the resources and community at the school fit your description. In other words, do your expectations and aspirations for UNC as a place match the actual characteristics of the university?
Therefore, like the previous prompt, it is beneficial to research the current community initiatives and programs in place at UNC that are specifically geared toward enhancing the quality of student life.
For example, UNC Chapel Hill offers a variety of Living-Learning Communities under its Residential Learning Programs. These communities allow you to live on campus with all the usual benefits of doing so, in addition to living among students who share common career aspirations, social interests, or family backgrounds. Pride Place, First Gen, Global Scholars House, and Blue Sky Innovation are among the variety of residential learning programs at the school.
Here is an example of how you could connect your desire for friendly competition in your living environment to the UNC Living-Learning Communities:
- As an only child living in an ethnically homogenous community in Maine, you wish that, within your vicinity, you were able to meet a range of people who hold diverse social views, who hail from culturally different states and countries, and who are determined to learn as much as they can wherever they can. You are curious about the friendly competition between siblings that ultimately pushes each beyond individual limits. Growing up, you crave the camaraderie brothers and sisters share in presenting a united front against adults, and most of all, though you never had the opportunity to travel, you wanted to explore the world with people who were of similar dispositions. Hence you are especially interested in the Global Scholars House, where you aspire to learn different languages and exchange the myriad of cultural customs present in our daily life.
This is an example of a discussion on the lack of peer support and competition that you wish would be different in your current place of residence. This was turned into a vehicle by which to show your interest in a living-learning community at UNC. Though this example focused on the availability of people where you reside, the same thing could be done for the availability of physical resources, academic resources and mentorship. Ultimately, pick something that is of sincere importance to you, even if that is not something specifically based on UNC in the first place.
What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want us to know?
This is the open-ended, unlimited-creative-license essay. It is also the easiest in which to lose focus, because with no guiding direction, you cannot ask yourself the classic revision question: Have I answered the prompt? Since virtually any and every response would answer the prompt, your essay may be bogged down by unnecessarily many anecdotes and lose coherence.
Moreover, applicants easily lose track of the purpose of this narrative as an admissions essay. Common mistakes include recounting a specific incident without in-depth elaboration on how the story demonstrates a character trait, and how this trait has/will benefit your personal growth or community. Hence, it is of paramount importance that you nail down the exact perception you wish to convey to the admissions officers before you start drafting this essay. If you are an avid writer or reader, this essay is the perfect opportunity to showcase your creative writing prowess.
Also, ensure that your topic of choice cannot be reasonably categorized under any of the other prompts. The admissions office asks specific questions in their application because it would most like to understand those aspects of their applicants. It would show that you do not understand the objective of the other questions if your response to this answers another prompt.
One last thing — the open-ended nature of this prompt allows you to reuse an essay you’ve written for another school. If you are positive that your essay also makes sense in the context of the UNC app, you can save time by repurposing an existing essay.
Here’s an example to inspire you for this topic:
- Your attention to detail has always driven your family nuts — the precision with which you insists the house’s furniture is arranged and the way you follow recipes to the dot all make your friends and family label you as “weird.” However, it is this same attentiveness that allowed you to recognize when two reactive chemical ingredients were mixed in the wrong ratio, and addressed the problem before the mixture combusted.
What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?
At first glance, this last question sounds eerily similar to the longstanding #1 prompt of the Common Application. However, translated into simpler words, the question could be rephrased as: What will you contribute to the UNC student body? Worded this way, choosing prompt #4 no longer runs the risk of rehashing your Common App.
This can be categorized as a typical “fit” question; essentially, UNC wants to know whether your character would complement and match that of the greater student body. This is an excellent choice if you have conducted very in-depth research about the university and know its reputation among the general public as well as the way the school prefers to be officially portrayed (more on this later).
To successfully answer this prompt, it is important to remember what UNC values in the education it provides its students: opportunities in research and public service. If you do not have any outstanding ideas at the moment, you can start the brainstorming process with a family background, personal accomplishment, or memorable encounter tinted with the themes of research and public service.
Here is an example:
- As the child of a diplomat, you and your family were constantly on the move, establishing a home in the new location only to receive the next assignment. Though such a lifestyle was exciting and unpredictable, you often wondered why your father, whose personality favors certain, predictable routines over surprises, never considered working in the private sector instead. Once, when you followed your father to work, watching as citizens of your country rushed in to the embassy with various demands and issues ranging from passport inquiries to safety concerns about being on foreign soil, you understood why your father insisted on serving overseas — to serve as a connection and aide to these people far away from home. Since then, you have actively examined the cultures and beliefs of each country you have resided in, producing research reports which have been published on popular blogs and magazines. You plan to pursue the Global Studies program at UNC, focusing on transnational cultures, identities, and arts. Your firsthand experience in many of the countries you will study, and your detailed, written record of their customs will be brought to class discussions during which you will share your knowledge as well as refine your records based on the input of your classmates. You hope to be a voice of influence for all the countries you have lived in on UNC’s campus, and promote cultural festivals that will pique the interest of your fellow students in peaceful dialogue that transcends national boundaries.
As the competition for these coveted spots at UNC Chapel Hill intensifies, it is even more important to ensure that your supplemental essays are especially tailored for the UNC to indicate your strongest interest in the school.
Everyone can write about themselves, but not every applicant has taken the time to research the specialties of the target school, especially since more and more people are applying to a larger number of colleges. Thus, customizing your content to the university’s values will help you stand out amongst the sea of applicants. Just remember, keep your anecdotes authentic and specific!
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