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How to Write the University of Texas at Austin Application Essays 2018-2019

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest public research universities in the United States, with an enrollment of over 51,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. This “Public Ivy” is ranked at #49 by U.S. News and World Report and is home to top business and undergraduate engineering programs.


As the flagship campus of the University of Texas system, UT Austin’s acceptance rate hovers between 48% (for in-state applicants) and 31% (for out-of-state applicants), making it one of the most competitive public institutions in the country.


To apply to UT Austin, students must choose between the ApplyTexas or Coalition application portals (no Common Application!). The basic writing components include one essay (Topic A on ApplyTexas) and three short responses. In addition, for certain majors like nursing or art and art history, there are between one to two additional essays to submit. Consult the end of this post to view the extra essay prompts.


Now, let CollegeVine guide you through the general writing requirements for this 2018 – 2019 application cycle!


UT Austin Application Essay Prompts

Essay 1

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person. (500 – 700 words)

This is the moment to write your story. As the essay with the highest word limit and a prompt that encourages self-reflection, you have the space to craft a narrative arc that you feel best represents who you are. Don’t get hung up on the word “environment,” and remember that admissions officers want to know what your upbringing was like and how it has influenced you.


In this respect, the last part of the prompt is key: explain how [your environment/upbringing] has shaped you as a person. It is not enough to simply describe your community or your family. These elements must be the means through which the reader gets to know you.


Because of the open-endedness of the prompt, the selection of the material to feature in your essay is a very important step. Don’t run the risk of overwhelming the audience with too many anecdotes and life experiences — in other words, with too much information. While this is the longest essay, 700 words do not provide the space to compose an autobiography. Focus on a limited number of related experiences and make use of the extended word count to fully develop details.


It may be helpful to think of this essay in terms of the Common App Personal Statement, so consult CollegeVine’s guide for more tips on how to approach brainstorming!


Limiting the number of topics or anecdotes can also benefit the organization and structure of the essay. Having a solid organization will not only make your essay more readable to a fatigued admissions officer, but it will also be easier to emphasize those all-important links between you experiences growing-up and who you are as a person.


Here are some examples:


Responsibilities as an Eldest Sibling

As the oldest of three siblings in a single-parent household, from a young age you have had to collaborate at home. From taking out the trash and washing clothes to checking homework and cooking, these responsibilities have evolved over the years. While they have sometimes come into conflict with your own schoolwork, through your household tasks you have also developed a close relationship with your family.


Living in a Foreign Country

When you were nine years old, your father’s work in diplomacy made it so that your family had relocated to Riga, Latvia. The transition proved difficult for you as an only child. After an initial period of isolation, you decided to learn Latvian and make friends in your new neighborhood. Those three years living in Riga helped you mature and widened your conception of the world.


Close Relationship to Nature

Living in rural Florida, you developed a close relationship with the unique ecosystems of the peninsula. You spent vacations with your siblings kayaking among mangroves and collecting bugs. Discovering the dangers that threaten the environment, you joined a non-profit organization that protects wildlife and cleans natural areas.


One final suggestion: proceed with caution when describing other people. While it is perfectly valid to mention hardworking parents or a beloved best friend, students often fall into the misstep of focusing on the other person rather than themselves. An admissions officer once told me: I knew nothing about the applicant after reading her essay, but I did feel like offering a spot to her amazing mother!

Short Response 1

If you could have any career, what would it be? Why? Describe any activities you are involved in, life experiences you’ve had, or even classes you’ve taken that have helped you identify this professional path. (40 lines, 250 – 300 words)

Wait, what?! UT Austin wants you to have your life figured out? Before panicking, rest assured that the admissions team is aware that: You may not yet be 100% certain about what you want to do. So, whether you have your entire trajectory through law school mapped out or whether you feel completely undecided going into undergrad, this prompt is completely answerable.


This first short response posits an idyllic hypothetical – you have free choice of a career, without facing economic, family, societal and practical restraints. The purpose of this phrasing is to encourage students to share what authentically excites them in life. Interest in salary or prestige doesn’t prove to be convincing motivations for many colleges. They want assurance that something more genuine drives you to succeed and contribute to your field.


As a result, if you have a ten-year plan ready to go, make sure you that describe in a way that transmits a real passion for your intended career path. A professional path that is too perfected and leaves no room for growth or change can appear to lack humanity.


On the other hand, if you are figuring things out as you go, demonstrate that you have a guiding star. It can be a fascination with world religions and spirituality or a lifelong interest in gardening. It can also be various things that you haven’t been able to marry together quite yet. Should I choose poetry or computer science? Is there an intersection I can discover in college? As long as you express an earnest curiosity and willingness to learn, your ambivalence will not hurt your application.


Here are some examples:


Cardiothoracic Surgeon

After an experience shadowing a surgeon in high school, you have made the resolution to go to medical school and specialize in cardiothoracic surgery. While well aware of the workload and sacrifice that lies ahead, you are motivated by the prospect of having a positive impact on other’s lives. The human connections that you made during your shadowing experience deeply impacted you.




The tactile relationship between artist and raw material inspires you to create. Inspired by your AP Art History course in high school, you studied the biography and artistic philosophy of Michelangelo Buonarroti. You are sure this is your passion but are also conscious of the financial instability of embarking upon an art career. This is why you are looking to double major and seek to explore options in the social sciences and humanities during your first year.



A cross between a botanist and an architect

Having grown up eating fresh fruits and vegetables from your family’s garden, you have a deep appreciation for the earth. Over the years you have learned to tend to a wide variety of plants. At the same time, you have a talent for drawing and are inspired by the modernist buildings you saw during a visit to Barcelona. You feel torn and are hoping to find answers in college.


High school and college are moments of discovery and change. Universities are aware that many undergraduates change majors, undertake unexpected minors or graduate to work in careers completely unknown to them in the past. However, they want to make sure that their future students are motivated and possess background interests that will make them valuable contributors to the university community.

Short Response 2

Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provide an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not? (40 lines, 250 – 300 words)

With this prompt, the UT Austin admissions team is providing you with the space to explain extenuating academic circumstances. Came down with the flu while you took your SAT subject tests? Difficulty adjusting to a new school? Issues at home affected your mental wellbeing? Behind the impersonal application interface, there is a group of humans that understand that life circumstances can affect your performance at school and during test taking. If this is the case, make use of this response to explain the situation. Avoid a tone of self-pity, rather maintain a candid and direct style. Let the events speak for themselves.


This being said, the short response isn’t a space to make up excuses for poor performance that is your responsibility. Honesty is very important. If you find yourself in this scenario, take advantage of this place to truthfully own up to a mistake. Explain the steps you have taken to rectify this error and what you learned from this experience. This type of response demonstrates maturity and integrity.


Now, let’s say that you are lucky enough to have not had outside circumstances affect your academic performance. In fact, your school provided a wide range of courses of high rigor and you were able to develop and explore academic passions. This doesn’t mean you should neglect this short response! The prompt also asks why in case you find that your academic record does represent you well. Make use of this space to write about coursework you enjoyed or academic obstacles you successfully overcame. A transcript often is the result of hours of hard work — demonstrate this to the admissions commission!

Short Response 3

How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin? (40 lines, 250 – 300 words)

While leadership can be defined in terms of officer positions in school clubs or in founding an organization, there are other ways to demonstrate the qualities of a leader. Even if you consider yourself shy and introverted, that doesn’t exclude you from being able to demonstrate these characteristics. On the other hand, if you consider yourself to be a leader in your school or community, listing off a series of positions and projects is not enough to answer this question.


Colleges just want to see if students have the initiative and conviction to impact others. A sound structure to answer this type of prompt often looks like this: you identify a problem, you react to it, and you describe the impact of your reaction. The scale of the problem can range from tackling systemic racism in your county to organizing AP exam study groups in absence of course offerings at school. You can even be a leader at home!


The second part of this question is essential. Not only do the admissions committees want to gauge how you will contribute to the Longhorn community, but this also serves to gesture at the question “Why UT Austin?” Take advantage to demonstrate you have done your research on the school. Write about your interest in becoming an editor of the literary journal or initiating research at the School of Education.   

Final Wrap-Up

Every year the admissions team at UT Austin is faced with an enormous applicant pool – these writing prompts present the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd! From the personal to the academic and vocational, these essays are designed to provide a full picture of you as a candidate. For those faced with the extra essay or two, make the most of the extra space to prove that you will contribute something unique to the Longhorn Community.


The CollegeVine team wishes all applicants the very best of luck with all their UT Austin essays!


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