How to Write the University of Tennessee Essays 2023-2024
The University of Tennessee has two supplemental essays, but both of them are optional. Although we normally advise that you respond to any optional prompt you encounter, these are different, as they are asking for specific, additional information related to unusual circumstances or struggles you’ve dealt with. So, in this case, you should only respond if these prompts are truly relevant to your life–this isn’t a second (or third) personal statement.
If you do think your application would be incomplete without the information these prompts are asking for, read on, as we’ll break down each one and how to write an informative, reflective response.
University of Tennessee Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: If applicable, please share any circumstance(s) that would have had an adverse impact on your academic performance. (Optional, 250 words)
Prompt 2 (UT Go Vols Portal Only): Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces. (Optional, No word count provided)
If applicable, please share any circumstance(s) that would have had an adverse impact on your academic performance. (Optional, 250 words)
As noted above, while optional prompts are usually a great way to show further interest in your school, unusual circumstances prompts are a bit different. So, you should only respond to this prompt if you truly did have unusual circumstances that impacted your ability to participate or succeed in school. What would an impacted experience look like?
- You were unable to attend school for a period of time or regularly missed significant amounts of school. An example might be a natural disaster or family emergency.
- You did not have sufficient time or access to resources to complete work inside or outside of school. An example might be helping family with childcare or a lack of regular Internet access that prevented you from completing homework.
- Though you were present and had access to resources, you were unable to fully engage with school. An example might be an undiagnosed learning disorder, or a personal tragedy that made it difficult to focus.
If your experience falls into any of these broad categories, or is closely related, you might consider writing this supplement, so the admissions committee can be aware of this circumstance as they evaluate your application. If you experienced something difficult in high school but it did not affect your academic performance, do not answer this prompt.
If you do choose to write this essay, keep your writing clear and concise. Write specifically and plainly about what your circumstances were and how they affected your ability to attend school, focus in school, or complete work outside of school. This is not an essay where you need to worry about unique narrative structure, vivid description, or sophisticated language choice; just be clear about what your situation is or was.
Finally, make sure to clearly state exactly how this circumstance affected your academic performance. If you write that you suffered from Lyme disease, explain how those symptoms made it difficult for you to focus or attend school; do not expect admissions officers to know how that condition might impact a person’s life. Even if you feel it is relatively obvious how something would have affected you, it is better to state it explicitly in your own words, and describe it in relation to your own life and scholastic career.
Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces. (Optional, No word count provided)
Note that, in order to access this prompt, you’ll have to log in to UT’s “Go Vols” portal–you won’t find it on the Common App. Now, once again, this is a prompt that you should only answer if it truly applies to your life. Answering this prompt does not make you seem any more invested in the University of Tennessee. If you do feel COVID or a natural disaster has impacted your academic record, there are many ways it might have done so. Here are some things to consider.
- Maybe contracting COVID once or repeatedly, or fleeing or recovering from a natural disaster, meant that you missed critical times in school that you were unable to make up or catch up on.
- Perhaps you had to switch suddenly to online schooling, or take extra precautions for yourself or an immunocompromised family member, and the stress of these changes took a toll on your focus and classroom performance.
- You may have developed long COVID, or a medical condition or disability in relation to a natural disaster, like smoke from fires aggravating your asthma.
- Many families’ finances and access to resources were severely affected by COVID or by other natural disasters. If your financial situation or access to resources changed suddenly, your ability to perform academically or remain involved in activities may have been affected.
- Maybe you lost someone or some important things, like a home or material possessions, as a result of COVID or a natural disaster. The grief associated with this may have affected your academic record or activities.
If you do choose to write a response to this essay, keep your answer clear, detailed, and specific. There is no word limit, but try to keep to the facts of what happened and how it affected you. This is not a prompt where you should think about uniqueness or dynamic story structure; focus on explaining your circumstances concisely and clearly, with attention to how the experience affected you.
You don’t need to explore global effects, or describe a catastrophe in detail. Keep it personal, and keep it precise, describing how this event looked in your own life. You can be a bit broader here in terms of impact—this prompt allows you to talk about impacts not just in school, but on your family, safety, circumstances, and future plans. Statements should still be specific—“Having long COVID made me doubt that I could handle leaving home to go to college, which made me less motivated to get back to school” is a stronger statement than “Having long COVID changed everything.”
If you do have unusual circumstances that have affected your life and your college application, the University of Tennessee wants to consider that as they review your application. Make sure in this essay that you are giving the admissions team all the information they need to make a fair, holistic evaluation of your application.
Where to Get Your University of Tennessee Essays Edited
Writing essays can be tricky, especially when you’re facing the pressure of explaining unusual life circumstances that have impacted your academic career. Going through the editing process with another pair of eyes can help identify areas where your essay could be stronger, as well as areas that you’re already doing well. CollegeVine has created a free Peer Review Essay Tool, where you can get feedback on your essay, and give feedback to other students just like you!
CollegeVine also offers essay review by our team of experienced advisors, who have helped hundreds of students submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you and get the feedback you need to make your application a success!