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How to Write the University of Oregon Essays 2022-2023

 

The University of Oregon asks all applicants to respond to two required prompts and one optional prompt. Applicants must also write separate essays for the honors college and architecture program if they choose to apply.

 

While this may appear to be an intimidating number of essays, many of them are short-response questions that will challenge you to be creative. This blog post will explain how you can answer these questions in a way that will showcase your personality and unique interests. 

 

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

 

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)

 

Architecture and Interior Architecture Applicants

 

Prompt 1: Why have you decided to study this design program? Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations that have shaped your desire to apply to the major. (350 words)

 

Prompt 2: Describe your engagement with an experience, activity, or creative project (as in art, construction, or craft, etc.) that has influenced your interest in design. What did you learn from this experience? (350 words)

 

How to Write the University of Oregon General Supplemental Essays

 

Prompt 1, Option 1—All Applicants

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. 

 

 

Prompt 1, Option 2—All Applicants

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!

 

 

Prompt 2—All Applicants (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. 

 

Finally, 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.

 

 

Architecture and Interior Architecture Applicants—Prompt 1

Why have you decided to study this design program? Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations that have shaped your desire to apply to the major. (350 words)

 

This prompt is similar to a “why this major” essay prompt, but it is different in that it asks about a specific program as opposed to one particular major. The first step to writing your essay is to do your research. Go through the university web pages about the program and note its specific features that pique your interest. You want to demonstrate that you are truly committed to this program and uniquely suited for it by mentioning appealing resources by name. 

 

Here are strategies to consider for this prompt:

 

  • Hone in on your academics. Discuss in-depth as to why Oregon’s program matches your goals. For example, a hypothetical student might be interested in obtaining a Bachelor’s of Interior Architecture. The student could write an essay about how the major program interests them because it would uniquely allow them to explore their passion for connecting virtual reality to the architecture of the real world. They could then mention specific resources that the program offers to help them achieve their learning goal, including: a class called “Introduction to Architectural Computer Graphics,” Assistant Professor Siobhan Rockcastle’s virtual reality research into building skylights, and virtual reality architectural design exhibitions on campus. Highlighting these specific resources and reasons for choosing the major program will make the student stand out, and will show that they are passionate enough about UO’s offerings to do research into its offerings that set it apart from other schools.

 

  •  Link opportunities to your skills and experiences. Be sure to connect your extracurriculars, high school classes, and life stories to your academic interests. Show how you are a good fit for the program by highlighting relevant prior experiences. For example, if a hypothetical student worked in construction in the past, they would talk about how they gained a deeper understanding of how houses are built, and they would explain how their knowledge inspires them to pursue an architecture major with a focus on townhome design. Maybe they also visited a lot of museums, churches, and other buildings with history, and they were fascinated by the methods each architect took in their construction process. This would explain their interest in studying architecture and one day recreating historical styles.

 

  • Discuss unique features of the program. For instance, one key aspect that a hypothetical student would highlight in their essay is that Oregon’s design program heavily emphasizes a hands-on approach throughout their curriculum. Their essay would talk about their appreciation for the fact that students are given their own work area in studios and are granted a high degree of independence. Another specific detail that their essay would include is that Oregon’s faculty focus on having discussions about students’ work rather than giving letter grades, so that students can gain constructive feedback and learn from their mistakes.

 

 

Architecture and Interior Architecture Applicants—Prompt 2

Describe your engagement with an experience, activity, or creative project (as in art, construction, or craft, etc.) that has influenced your interest in design. What did you learn from this experience? (350 words)

 

This extracurricular essay prompt is asking you to write about a specific experience, activity, or project that has inspired your interest in Oregon’s architecture program. The approach to answering this prompt is different based on whether you choose to discuss an experience/activity or a creative project.

 

If you choose to discuss an experience that you have had, then you will want to select an experience that truly influenced your interest in design. Outline specifically what this experience was and what your role in it was. For example, say a hypothetical student was an Instructional Design Intern at a plastic manufacturing company. They would want to focus on explaining what their role in the organization was and how they made an impact. They could write, “As a design intern, I conducted material science research and provided administrative support to a team to develop a new type of packaging — one that is made from more sustainable materials than plastic and paper. My work helped create more environmentally friendly packaging that is biodegradable, and it will reduce the microplastic waste that ends up in the world’s soils and oceans.

 

If you chose to discuss a specific project, you will want to outline the creative process that you took. For example, a hypothetical applicant could talk about how they always start a creative project by taking a walk through a local park listening to calming music. Here is an example of a paragraph they would write:

 

“Before every creative project that I work on, I always go on a calming walk through the trails of a local park. This helps clear my mind of everything besides the project and gives me creative ideas as I am immersed in the nature around me. Once I finish my walk, I go back to my house and begin jotting down different ideas for 15 minutes straight. I write down everything that comes to mind without worrying about whether or not it will make for a good project — I just want the creative ideas to flow.”

 

This could serve as a plausible way to explain how you use your creativity for projects, and it shows how they influence your interest in design.

 

After choosing either an experience or project, make sure to discuss what you learned from that experience. Do not just simply state that you learned how to draw an elephant, for example. Instead, if you drew a colorful painting of a forest or garden, write that you learned how different colors are able to work together to form a complete picture.

 

Where to Get Your University of Oregon Essays Edited

 

Do you want feedback on your Oregon essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can 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!

 


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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.