How to Write the University of Pittsburgh Essays 2019-2020

Did you know that reviewing essays makes you a better writer?

Our free Peer Essay Review allows you to get feedback on your own essay and review your peers' essays. Sign up now to review essays and improve you writing skills.

University of Pittsburgh is a public research university with 17 schools and over 9,000 undergraduates across 5 campuses. The school is known for its highly ranked School of Education and School of Engineering, as well as its top-ranked sports teams.

 

University of Pittsburgh has a 60% acceptance rate and a rolling admissions policy. Applicants have the option of applying through the Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the Pitt-specific application. 

 

Pitt strongly recommends completing the following list of short answer questions in lieu of an essay or a personal statement. Even though these essays are optional, we strongly recommend completing them, as they’re another chance to demonstrate your interest in the school, and share more about who you are. University of Pittsburgh requires that international applicants complete the three short answer questions. 

 

You can find the Pitt short answer questions on their website. To learn how to respond to these prompts, read on! Want to know your chances at Pitt? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

Essay #1

Optional: Tell us about something you have read/watched/listened to that made an impact on you. Tell us why it made an impact. (200-300 words)

This prompt seeks to assess your values and what is meaningful for you. You should briefly explain the plot or central theme of your book, film, or musical work. However, don’t spend too much of your time recounting the facts as you have limited space. Only provide the reader with the facts relevant to why you found the work to be impactful. 

 

Your answer should clearly explain how the work made an impact on you. What about the piece resonated with you? What about this particular book resonated with you? Why did this artist’s latest album impact you? What about the latest hit movie stood out to you?

 

For example, you could write about Kendrick Lamar’s social justice-oriented lyrics in To Pimp a Butterfly inspired you to examine more aspects of the world around you. You could also write about how Surviving R Kelly made you relate to the stories of survivors in a new and inspiring way. Alternatively, you can write about you personally related to the struggles of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. 

Want to see current examples of college essays?

Improve your own essay and gain exposure to other students' essays with our free Peer Essay Review. Sign up now to get started for free.

Essay #2

Optional: If you could create a new product, process, business, or organization, what would this entity look like? (We especially encourage applicants interested in the College of Business Administration or the Swanson School of Engineering to respond to this question.) (200-300 words)

With this prompt, Pitt wants to see your creativity and problem-solving skills. In other words, you should show the admissions office how you think. The key is to think small when answering this question: what’s a problem you see, and how would you fix it?

 

We suggest you stay away from big national or global issues like “zero hunger” or “world poverty.” However, you may be able to concentrate on smaller, more specific issues within these broad zones, and most likely, the problem you’re interested in solving will be somehow related to family or interests or specific life experiences. (Bonus points if you can combine multiple areas of specialty together, drawing on your skills and experiences from two or more different academic or extracurricular areas!)

 

Some examples:

 

  • You edit for your high school newspaper, and you’re passionate about educational inequities in your city. You want to form a new publication with editors from other schools that highlights specific student experiences, with the hope of eventually attracting the attention of city officials.

 

  • You’re a dedicated ballerina who also loves biochemistry. You and your friends often suffer from painful calluses on the balls of your feet, and you have an idea for a home-made, inexpensive balm that would be more effective than usual drugstore remedies.

 

  • You regularly volunteer at the local soup kitchen, and you have just a tiny change you’d like to make to the process of forming and organizing lines on weekend mornings, specifically. You think that your proposal will really speed up the distribution process without dramatically affecting current procedures.

 

The key takeaway here is that this prompt does not require a well-tested research project that’s been presented at multiple conferences — just pick any problem you see in your daily life and come up with a creative solution for it!

 

As a word of caution, the only constraint is the word limit. In your answer, you should aim to have a brief background of what inspired your idea, an explanation of your idea, and the potential impact you’d like to see it cause. If you present something that requires a great deal of highly technical explanations, try your best to simplify it down so that any person walking down the street can understand your proposal. And worse comes to worst, pick something else!

 

Remember: your actual product, process, business, or organization doesn’t matter so much as your inspiration and process – the story of your creativity, problem-solving, and compassion.

Essay #3

Optional: What else should we know about you? Take this opportunity to tell the Admissions Committee anything else you think we should know as we review your application for admission. (200-300 words)

This prompt broadly asks you to share any information that you have not discussed in your application materials. Use this space to discuss aspects of your identity, background, or personal interests that may not be apparent to the admissions committee. 

 

There is no right answer to this question. Topics can range from personal hardship such as unusual family circumstances to personal hobbies such as your pilot’s license. 

 

Your response to this question should be relatively concise and direct, as you have limited word space. Focus on one aspect of yourself so that you have enough room to fully explain your circumstance and why you believe it is relevant to your application. Avoid talking about traditional academic subjects, as the rest of your application should fully demonstrate your academic prowess.

 

For example, you could discuss how growing up in a large family cultivated your team-centric mentality. You could also discuss how losing your father at a young age allowed you to develop resilience and led you to volunteer at a grief center. On a lighter note, you could discuss how getting your pilot’s license inspired your interest in aviation and passion for engineering. 

 

Want help on your college essays to get into your dream schools? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses, as well as our Essay Manager.

Want more college essay tips?

We'll send them straight to your inbox.


Short bio
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. Learn more about our consultants