How to Write the University of Oregon Essays 2021-2022

 

The University of Oregon requires all applicants to write two prompts. There is a third prompt; however, only applicants interested in the Honors College should complete this supplement. 

 

Because of how many applicants The University of Oregon receives each year with comparable GPAs and test scores, essays are the chief way admissions officers differentiate between applicants. In this post, we’ll cover how you can write a great essay worthy of admission to a school like The University of Oregon.

 

Read these University of Oregon essay examples to inspire your writing.

 

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The University of Oregon Supplemental Essays

 

All Applicants

 

Prompt 1: Choose one of the topics below and respond in 250-500 words. 

 

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?

 

Prompt 2: This section can be used for various purposes, and gives you an optional opportunity for discussing any of the following:

 

  • Your academic record might have included periods of low performance such as grades of D or F, inconsistent or downward trends in grades, deficiencies in particular subject areas, or discrepancies between your test scores and GPA. This might be because of special personal circumstances such as death or illness of a parent, caring for a family member, homelessness, frequent moves, or due to learning disabilities/differences or study habits. If relevant, be sure to let us know what actions you have taken in order to be successful, and what you have learned from the experience.

 

  • You want to help us better understand how your involvement in activities was limited by work or family obligations, or by the unique setting of your school or community.

 

  • You need to share any other information with us about yourself that is not provided elsewhere, or UO admissions staff told you to provide certain information in this space.

 

Honors College Applicants

 

The Robert D. Clark Honors College (CHC) endeavors to be a diverse and inclusive place. THe faculty are involved in the review of applications and are eager to learn about how you think, and how your mind works. The Best essays will demonstrate effective storytelling, include thoughtful analysis, synthesize themes in a meaningful way, and give us a sense of your personality and perspective. 

 

Tell us one specific story about yourself. Choose something that illustrates what you would contribute to the CHC and/or what you hope to get from your time at the CHC. (650 words)

 

All Applicants, Prompt 1, 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)

 

Discrimination is a very personal topic. After reading the prompt, you will probably have an idea whether or not you have enough experience to select it as your essay. Your essay doesn’t necessarily have to be about an experience where you were the one being discriminated, and it also doesn’t have to be about 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 racial 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
  • Being treated differently because of your sexuality 
  • Witnessing discrimination and not standing up 

 

 

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 choose an experience with personal significance, you will be able to figure out why it was significant to you fairly easily. 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!

 

Some helpful tips for this essay: 

 

  • Check your privilege. This prompt has the potential to become a “White Savior” essay. 

 

  • Use “I” Statements. It is very difficult and complicated to speak on behalf of an entire subset of people, but you can speak for yourself and speak from your experience. 

 

  • Show What You Learned. If you choose to write about an event where you did not speak up, it would behoove you to show some personal growth and/or a time that you did. If you are writing about a time when you were discriminated against, do not forget to include what you learned and how you will rely on that experience at The University of Oregon. 

 

 

All Applicants, Prompt 1, 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 a diverse and vibrant community, so, in this prompt, you will want to share with the admissions committee how you will add to the University of Oregon community. We recommend writing this essay if you come from a background or identity that has given you a unique experience and perspective. 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 you are asked 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 or make monolithic statements about an entire group of people. The best way to avoid that is by writing about things from your personal experience. This essay should be about something so unique and specific to you: only you could have written it!

 

 

All Applicants, Prompt 2 (Optional)

This section can be used for various purposes, and gives you an optional opportunity for discussing any of the following (500 words):

  • Your academic record might have included periods of low performance such as grades of D or F, inconsistent or downward trends in grades, deficiencies in particular subject areas, or discrepancies between your test scores and GPA. This might be because of special personal circumstances such as death or illness of a parent, caring for a family member, homelessness, frequent moves, or due to learning disabilities/differences or study habits. If relevant, be sure to let us know what actions you have taken in order to be successful, and what you have learned from the experience.

  • You want to help us better understand how your involvement in activities was limited by work or family obligations, or by the unique setting of your school or community.

  • You need to share any other information with us about yourself that is not provided elsewhere, or UO admissions staff told you to provide certain information in this space.

 

After reading this prompt, perhaps you experienced a great sigh of relief. There may have been a time where you feel as though your academic performance did not match your ability, or, simply, that an academic record is not indicative of you as an entire person. 

This prompt allows you the opportunity to explain a blemish on your academic record.  

It’s important, however, to keep in mind when choosing whether to write something in the additional information section that you should not simply be making excuses for a bad GPA or trying to downplay getting suspended for cheating; whatever you choose to include should substantially improve and develop your application, as well as offer a perspective on your record and you as a person that is not otherwise reflected in your essays.

  

See CollegeVine’s article on this essay archetype to gain a further understanding of what to include. 

 

Essentially, this essay should provide explanations, not excuses. 

 

When writing this essay, you should highlight personality responsibility and growth, in place of justifications or apologies. 

For example, if you were caught in an academic integrity scandal, it is much more compelling and refreshing to hear you explain how you are a different student and grew from that experience instead of reading a laundry list of excuses about the pressure you were under.  

 

This is also a place to discuss any personal hardships you experienced during your high school experience. It is important to remember the gravity of this question. The school cites “death or illness of a parent, caring for a family member, homelessness, frequent moves, or due to learning disabilities/differences or study habits” as possible reasons. 

 

While the year 2020 may have been difficult for you, it affected most students in similar ways, in terms of disruption to normal studies. If you choose to write about the disruption to learning in 2020, make sure to make it as personal to you as possible. Perhaps you did not have a reliable computer or internet at home, or you were splitting your time taking care of your siblings while trying to study. The more specific you are, the more the admissions panel is able to see you as a holistic candidate. 

 

 

 

Honors College Applicants Prompt

The Robert D. Clark Honors College (CHC) endeavors to be a diverse and inclusive place. THe faculty are involved in the review of applications and are eager to learn about how you think, and how your mind works. The Best essays will demonstrate effective storytelling, include thoughtful analysis, synthesize themes in a meaningful way, and give us a sense of your personality and perspective. 

 

Tell us one specific story about yourself. Choose something that illustrates what you would contribute to the CHC and/or what you hope to get from your time at the CHC. (650 words)

 

An open-ended prompt like this one is both a challenge and a blessing. One on one hand, the endless amount of stories to share about yourself can serve as a strength–as there are no boundaries to the essay you can write; however, because it is so open ended, it can be daunting to choose just one. 

 

It is important to follow the prompt, and to only select one story. 

 

Perhaps one story is so essential to your identity that you already know which story you are going to share. More likely than not, you are struggling to identify a singular story that encapsulates your essence. 

 

1. Brainstorming 

 

If you are stuck on this prompt, you are in good company. 

 

To begin, you might draft a list of formative points in your life. A change in your life most often indicates a strong story. This could be anywhere from your decision to quit horseback riding after an injury, or the time that you forgot all your lines in the school play. The story you choose should reveal a greater truth about yourself–something that the reader would not know about you from your application. 

 

If you are still struggling, you might think about what story your friends or family would share to demonstrate your character. Maybe it is something that was initially embarrassing, but now is empowering, or perhaps it is merely a time when you were a very good friend. 

 

Finally, if you are still thinking about this prompt, you might draft a list of experiences that fall into certain emotional categories (i.e. pride, fear, excitement, jealousy). By breaking down stories into subcategories, it might be an easier way to access your memory. 

 

2. Writing

 

When writing, you should outline the beginning, middle, and end of your story. 

 

The beginning should be an engaging hook: an anecdote, a feeling, a setting… You want to capture your reader’s attention as quickly as possible. 

 

For example, if you are writing about the time that you tried something scary, a forgettable prompt might begin like this: 

 

I feel like a story that really encapsulates who I am is the time that I dove off the highest diving board. 

 

Although this is an acceptable answer, it is merely a regurgitation of the prompt’s language! The prompt asks you to utilize “effective storytelling.” There are several ways you could restart this essay. 

 

You could begin with an anecdote:

 

My feet shifted over the aircraft-grade aluminum. All I could think was, “This is not going to be pretty.” 

 

You could begin with a bold claim: 

 

My mother begged me not to do it. 

 

or:

 

To be completely honest, I’ve never been much of an athlete. 

 

Finally, you could start with a question, a statistic, or an interesting fact: 

 

When a dive is being adjudicated, there are four essential criteria: your approach and starting position; your take-off from the platform or springboard; your flight through the air; and your entry into the water. 

 

Once you have a strong hook, you can move on to the body of the essay. This is where you should detail the basic plot points of your story. Asking yourself some questions might help you figure out what to include. What was the situation you found yourself in? What emotions/thoughts did you feel in the moment? How did your actions affect the outcome of the story? 

 

Your story should paint you in a positive light; however, it should not be a clever way to rehash your resume. This story should share information with the admissions panel that they can’t find elsewhere in your application.

 

Writing about the time you took care of a neighbor’s dog could have the same success, if not more, than writing about winning your soccer championship as captain of your school’s team. 

 

It is important that you write positively about yourself. While that doesn’t mean that the essay has to be an uplifting piece about how fantastic you are, you should make sure not to tell a story that might be misinterpreted or misunderstood by the admissions panel. If your story is about directly ignoring a reasonable rule of your high school’s administration, that might signal to the admissions community that you are constantly “defying authority.” 

 

The end of your essay should have some reflection. What did you learn from this experience? In which ways are you different from where you started the story? How do you plan to apply the lessons you learned in the future?

 

Whatever story you choose, both you and the admissions officers reading your essay should be able to answer this question: Why share this story? If you feel like you can answer this question with a response like it showcases your grit, it demonstrates you are an intellectually curious person, it exemplifies your love for your family, etc, then admissions officers will likely learn the same thing while reading.

 

Where to Get Your University of Oregon Essays Edited for Free

 

Do you want feedback on your University of Oregon essays? After countlessly rereading your essays, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. Since they don’t know you personally, they can be a more objective judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt. 

 

You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!

 

 

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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.

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