How to Write the University of Oregon Essays 2020-2021

The University of Oregon is a public university in Eugene, Oregon with over 19,000 undergraduates. Its location makes it an ideal location to engage in outdoor activities, and Eugene also has a thriving cultural and artistic community. 

 

Ranked #104 in the nation, and #44 for public universities, the University of Oregon offers a wonderful education to all its students. With over 300 undergraduate programs, there is something for every Oregon Duck to pursue.

 

With an acceptance rate of 83%, the University of Oregon is not overly competitive, but they’re still looking for driven, dedicated students. The average SAT scores of applicants range from 1080-1290, while the average ACT scores range from 22-28. 


In addition to test scores and GPA, an applicant’s essay is a great way to show the admissions committee their personality and can really boost their application. Want to know your chances at the University of Oregon? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

The University of Oregon Supplemental Essay Prompts

All applicants

 

Choose one of the topics below and respond in 250-500 words. (optional) 

 

Option 1: Describe an experience with discrimination, whether it was fighting against discrimination or recognizing your contribution to discriminating against a person or group. What did you learn from the experience? In what ways will you bring those lessons to the University of Oregon?

 

Option 2: The University of Oregon values difference, and we take pride in our diverse community. Please explain how you will share your experiences, values and interests with our community. In what ways can you imagine offering your support to others?

 

Honors College applicants

 

Please write an essay that responds to one of the three quotations below. Reflect on how the quotation relates to your own experience, beliefs, and attitudes. (required)

 

Select one of the three quotes listed below. (650 word maximum).

 

Option 1: Hannah Arendt: “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from the ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable.”

 

Option 2: Maya Angelou: “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”

 

Option 3: Mary Oliver: “Instructions for living a life: 1. Pay Attention. 2. Be astonished. 3. Tell about it.”

All Applicants (Optional)

All Applicants, Option 1

Describe an experience with discrimination, whether it was fighting against discrimination or recognizing your contribution to discriminating against a person or group. What did you learn from the experience? In what ways will you bring those lessons to the University of Oregon? (250-500 words)

This would be a good option if you’ve had an impactful experience with discrimination. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an experience where you were the one being discriminated, and it also doesn’t have to be a time when you did the right thing and actively stood up to discrimination. In fact, the prompt suggests discussing an experience where you contributed to discrimination or didn’t prevent it. If you decide to answer this prompt, you need to be prepared to share personal experiences and stories that might be uncomfortable for you to address. If you don’t feel comfortable writing a detailed, personal essay on this topic, it is probably wiser for you to choose the other prompt.

 

If you decide to write this prompt, you first need to find an experience to write about. You might have something off the top of your head or it might take a little longer to figure out what you want to write about. Some possible experiences you could consider include:

 

  • Being a minority in a predominantly homogenous school
  • Being told you can’t do something because of your gender
  • Bullying someone or not preventing bullying 
  • Participating in racial justice or gender equality marches
  • Reading a book or watching a documentary that opened your eyes to discrimination

 

Whatever you decide to write about as your experience with discrimination, positive or negative, you should start the essay with an anecdote to help the admissions officers understand what your experience was. Were you walking down the hall, on your way to your calculus class, when you heard your friends calling a girl racist names? Did you keep your head down and ignore the situation because you didn’t want a late pass to class, or did you go over to your friends and call them out for their actions, and ask the girl if there was anything you could do to help her? By setting up your experience in a very personal, anecdotal fashion, you can quickly establish what your experience was and ground your essay so it feels very personal.

 

The important part of this essay is not your story about discrimination—albeit that is still the focus of the essay—but how you overcame that that discrimination and grew from that experience. Or maybe you weren’t able to overcome it, but what did you learn about yourself and society from that experience. 

 

After you have established what your experience was, now you should focus the remainder of your essay about how that experience changed you as a person, or opened your eyes to something that had a deep impact on you. If you carefully chose an experience with personal significance, you will be able to figure out why it was significant to you fairly easy. You want to show the admissions officers that this experience taught you something that you carry with you everyday and will continue to carry with you on campus. 

 

Maybe you learned never to judge anyone for a physical trait or disability again after you were belittled and profiled yourself. Perhaps you saw the need for more social justice lawyers in the country after you read stories about innocent people on death row who couldn’t get the representation they deserved. Or maybe you decided to stop letting society define what is “appropriate” and started encouraging other students to embrace their own personalities rather than societal conventions.

 

The final part of your essay is how you will bring those lessons to the University of Oregon. You could choose to talk about how you vow to be accepting of everyone you meet with your new perspective on life, how you want to talk to students who have experienced similar or different versions of discrimination, or your plan to study gender studies or social problems to continue learning about injustices. 

 

If you end up choosing this essay, the key is to be as introspective and personal as possible. The admissions committee wants to hear if you have suffered any hardships or even if there are moments you aren’t proud of in life, but they are most interested in your personal growth from these events. As long as you are willing to open up about your experiences and reflect on what you have learned, this would be a great option for you!

All Applicants, Option 2

The University of Oregon values difference, and we take pride in our diverse community. Please explain how you will share your experiences, values and interests with our community. In what ways can you imagine offering your support to others? (250-500 words)

While the previous prompt focused on a student’s experiences with discrimination, this essay focuses on a student’s background. Every student on campus contributes to making it a diverse and vibrant community, so you want to share with the admissions committee how you will add to the community. We recommend writing this essay if you come from a background that afforded you interesting and unique experiences and perspectives. Even if you feel you come from a “boring and generic” community, there’s probably still a lot you could find to write about. 

 

No matter where you come from, the person you are has been influenced by your background and many converging factors, so there is a wide variety of experiences, values, or interests that you could pick from. Here are a few ideas:

 

  • Family traditions
  • Religious holidays
  • Music tastes
  • Unique hobbies
  • Cultural values
  • Moral values you live by

 

As opposed to Option 1, where they asked you to describe an experience, this prompt is more focused on how you plan to share your unique background with your fellow students on campus, thus contributing to and expanding the diverse community. So, don’t spend too much time describing your background without discussing how you plan to share it. 

 

Similarly, this also means you don’t just have to pick one thing to discuss for the entire essay. A Chinese American student could talk about his tradition of making dumplings with his dad’s side of the family and the filial piety that is a core aspect of their culture, while also mentioning his deep-rooted love for the Yankees that he got from his mother.

 

The admissions officers reading this essay are really looking to hear about how you plan to share your unique personal culture with other students on campus. As you write, make sure you both describe what is important to you and why you want to share it with others. Including stories or anecdotes would be a great way to establish the personal connection to these experiences that you value, and provide the admissions committee with a deeper understanding of your personality. 

 

This prompt also asks how you plan to offer support to others on campus, and a great way to answer this question would be to tie it back to whatever you plan to share with the campus community. You might write about how you will pack extra curry powder with you so you can cook chicken curry for your friends when they’re upset, because your mom makes that at home to cheer you up. You could write memories and pictures from Hanukkahs you spent with your family, and how you’ll share them with friends who don’t know anything about Judaism. Maybe you lost a parent when you were younger and know how hard it is to struggle with loss, so you will be there to comfort and console your friends who experience similar loss.

 

If you decide to choose this option as the topic of your essay, you want to make sure your voice and personality come across. Be careful that you don’t sound too generic or cliche in your essay. If you are writing about your heritage or cultural ethnicity, you don’t want to accidentally stereotype yourself. The best way to avoid that is writing about things from your heart and including personal stories in your essay. This essay should be about something so unique and specific to you, only you could have written it.

 


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Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story

 

Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographic, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

Calculate your acceptance chances

 

Honors College Applicants

 

Please write an essay that responds to one of the three quotations below in 650 words. Reflect on how the quotation relates to your own experience, beliefs, and attitudes (required).

 

Before you begin, here are some things to keep in mind:

 

Do some background research. You might want to start by doing some research on the quotes and who the intended audience was. While you don’t want to include this information in your essay, as that could easily become a literary analysis, you might find information that will help you make connections to your own life. If you are able to find a connection, that could be very helpful in grounding your essay and proving to the admissions officers that you really thought about this prompt. However, if you can’t find any connection, that’s all right too. Either way, getting some background on the quote won’t hurt.

 

Think about how the quote relates to your life. While you can decide to agree or disagree with the quote, the ultimate goal is to share a story about who you are. Don’t spend too much time arguing the merits of the statement, and instead focus on your personal experiences and values.

Honors College Applicants, Option 1

Hannah Arendt: “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from the ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable.” (650 words)

This would be a good option for those with a meaningful experience or attitude towards education, or a special value they place on it. A student shouldn’t pick this essay if they say getting good grades was all that was important to them in school—the admissions committee is looking for the impact education has had on your life and your future aspirations. If you think you have a story or perspective that would show that, you might want to consider this option.

 

First, consider what this quote is actually saying. Arendt is basically saying that once a person receives an education, they have the ability to decide if they want to help the world and make it a  better place, or leave it to be ruined until the next generation comes and gets to make the same decision. 

 

Here are some examples of ways to respond: 

 

  • Some students might want to connect it back to a specific experience they had in school that ignited their desire to save the world. A student could write about when he learned about the depleting ozone layer in his earth science class and decided to bike to school everyday to cut down on his carbon emissions, and now he wants to go into city planning to make bikes more accessible. 

 

  • Another student might address the barriers to saving the world, even for those who are educated. Perhaps she’s tried to get her high school to fund a free SAT tutoring program, as there is a strong correlation between income and performance on the test. She gathered data and perspectives from the community and presented them the school board, but the plan was rejected due to no space in the budget. The student offers free tutoring on her own, but laments how she’s unable to help everyone who needs it. She plans to continue pushing for this cause during board meetings, and potentially bringing in community sponsors.

 

  • Others might discuss their belief that education isn’t a catalyst for loving the world, but rather a tool. A student could talk about how she tried to help others less fortunate than herself from a young age, before she even attended school, and her education showed her new ways to help others.

Honors College, Option 2

Maya Angelou: “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.” (650 words)

You might want to consider this quote if you have an experience with prejudice, or are passionate about fighting against it. You could also pick this option if you find related history or current events interesting, since the quote mentions the confusion of the past and inaccessibility of the present. Or maybe Maya Angelou is one of your favorite figures, and you feel you have to use her quote. Just be careful you answer the question instead of spending your essay talking about your love for Maya Angelou. If you don’t have a strong affinity for this quote and don’t want to discuss prejudice in your essay, then maybe look at the two other options they offer you.

 

Before you begin, think about what the quote means to you. Angelou is discussing the harm of discrimination when one tries to understand the past, think about the future, or just try to live in the present. Notice how she doesn’t define the prejudice against a specific person, group, idea, or place, so you can interpret that however you wish.

 

Here are some examples:

 

  • Maybe you want to talk about your personal experiences with prejudice and how it threatened your future. A student could describe how he has been judged in the past because of his ethnicity, and how he approaches opportunities or situations knowing that that prejudice exists. 

 

  • Or maybe you want to explore your love for history, and talk about a time when prejudice against a group created more problems for the world. One student might write about how the Armenian genocide has been covered up, and there is a lot of confusion surounding it to this day because of the prejudice that existed a hundred years ago.

 

  • Perhaps you want to talk about prejudice you see in the current climate and express your concerns about what might happen down the road. Maybe a student who closely follows politics could write about the systemic racism towards Black people in the US and how US history courses skim over these inequalities, so he wants to fix that by studying government and education in college.

Honors College, Option 3

Mary Oliver: “Instructions for living a life: 1. Pay Attention. 2. Be astonished. 3. Tell about it.”

This quote is possibly the most open-ended out of the three options, so if you didn’t feel connected enough to the other two, this essay is probably your best bet. You might want to write this essay if you are a fan of Mary Oliver, but make sure your essay isn’t just about why you admire Oliver, but also about you and your perspectives. 

 

Let’s first consider what the quote is actually saying. Oliver is providing her instruction for how to live in the world, and it’s very simple, only three steps. Pay attention to what you’re doing or what’s around you, get excited about what you see, and share your observations with others. She doesn’t define what it means to live a life, what you should pay attention to, or who you should tell. This quote leaves a lot up to you and your analysis.

 

Here are some examples: 

 

  • Some students might write about an experience they had observing something that they found so surprising or amazing they have never been able to stop thinking about it. A student’s essay could focus on a story of her watching a ballet dancer and being so excited about the performance she decided to start telling stories through dance. 

 

  • Other students could relate the quote to one of their defining characteristics, like their organization skills. A student could write about how she makes lists in her head and loves to cross things off, so she also tries to live her life in an orderly fashion like Oliver.

 

  • Or maybe some students want to write about how they don’t think there are certain instructions to live by. For example, a student could describe a time they were impulsive and decided not to be held back by any rules and ended up doing something exciting they would have never had done before. 

 

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