How to Write the University of Texas at Austin Essays 2020-2021
The University of Texas, Austin is a large public research university with an enrollment of over 51,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. UT Austin is the flagship institution of the University of Texas system, and is the home to some of the best engineering, architecture, and business programs in the nation.
UT Austin’s overall acceptance rate for the 2019-2020 application cycle was 38.5%, making it one of the more competitive public universities in the country. In-state acceptance rates hover at around 49%, while out of state acceptance rates are around 26%.
To apply to UT Austin, students choose between applying through the ApplyTexas or Coalition for College portals as UT Austin doesn’t take the Common Application. The writing component of the application includes one long essay and three short essay questions, with additional writing requirements for students applying to these programs: Art/Art History, Architecture, Nursing, and Social Work.
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UT Austin Essay Prompts
This is Topic A of the ApplyTexas Essays. The long essay is the space to tell your story and let the admissions office know something about you that does not appear on your high school resume or transcript. The long word limit gives you time to develop and reflect on an important experience. It’s not enough to just tell a story of an opportunity or challenge; you need to dive into what aspects of your experience influenced you to be the person you are currently.
This prompt is very open-ended, so it is important to take time before you start writing to think about what subject matter you want to talk about. Make sure all elements in your essay tie together and don’t overwhelm the reader with too much information. Focus on only a few, or even just one, experiences within your essay, and dive into good detail on how your experience has shaped you as a person.
The prompt asks you to describe “unique opportunities or challenges” that you have experienced. While brainstorming ideas for your essay, don’t get too caught up in thinking that you must find something that is an obvious opportunity or challenge; think about hobbies, extracurriculars, or personal experiences that have influenced you to this day.
Here are some examples:
- A chance job opportunity that allowed you to push yourself — Maybe you grew up in a rural area and you spent part of your time in high school tending to cows and goats. You’d wake up early before school to tend to the animals, and through that you learned to be reliable and developed a passion for caring for animals. Or maybe an acquaintance runs a small business and you were given the opportunity to run their social media to promote the business. This opportunity taught you the difficulties of running a small business, and also helped you find a creative outlet through advertising design. Either of those examples, or more unique job opportunities that you may have stumbled upon in high school, requires time and dedication, and teaches responsibility.
- Creative hobbies — You like to design and sew clothing for yourself. While designing your prom dress, you came across an intricate bodice design that you wanted to emulate. Figuring out how the pattern came together was like solving a complex puzzle, and because of all of the challenges you have come across while attempting to translate a 2D idea into real life, you have become better at visualizing how different things around you come together, and it’s a skill you’ve carried through all parts of your life. It’s helped you visualize difficult math concepts, or organize your desk and closet space to optimize your productivity.
Short Answers—All Applicants
For your UT Austin application, you are required to respond to the first three prompts. This year, the admissions committee added an additional prompt to let the committee know about any extenuating circumstances that may have affected your high school performance.
Ah, the common “Why This Major” college application essay. This essay is important to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are passionate about the area of study you are interested in. Whatever major is your first choice, you need to take time to reflect and think about what drew you to pursue this field of study.
As detailed in CollegeVine’s article about writing the “Why This Major” essay, a couple key topics to cover are how you developed this interest, and your goals in studying this major.
Show how you’ve looked into research or career opportunities that appeal to you, and the steps you have taken to pursue your interest, whether it be through hobbies, jobs, research opportunities, readings, etc. Do you have personal reasons for choosing this major? Detail those reasons, and explain how either a personal experience, inspirational character, or more have impacted your life and decision to study your major.
Here are some examples:
- Biology — You have been a passionate bird-watcher for most of your life. Your father would take you around to various parks and teach you how to identify various bird calls, differentiate between males and females within a species, and more. This has developed into an interest in the evolutionary and migratory behavior of birds, and you wish to pursue biology as the stepping stone to further graduate studies specializing in birds.
- Radio-Television-Film — Growing up, you’ve always had a fascination with movies and have become a huge movie buff. You’ve been especially interested in how the creative team creates and rig up the physical special effects and props. In your spare time, you and your friends make your own home films, and you are often the one who researches and creates any special effects and props with your available budget and resources. Though your home productions are not the most well-refined, you have had fun, and you want to pursue Film to get a better understanding of how to professionally create crazy shots and break into the film industry.
- Linguistics — Your family moved around a lot throughout your childhood, and in every new town or city you lived in, you were fascinated by the different slang and accents of the people around you. You’ve lived everywhere — Louisiana, Vancouver, Long Island, South Dakota, Southern California, and more, and you want to further understand how these regional quirks developed and how they affect the culture of an area today.
Here, the UT Austin admissions office is looking for any initiative that you have taken in your life. Leadership isn’t just becoming an officer in a school organization, or a captain of an athletic team. Leadership can also be demonstrated by taking charge and caring for your siblings while your parents are busy, organizing your friend group’s yearly Secret Santa, or coaching your neighborhood swim team. Even if something you did isn’t explicitly a “leadership role,” you can demonstrate guidance and management skills in other ways.
Avoid just listing off a list of all leadership positions you have held. This information is most likely already elsewhere in your application, and doesn’t give the admissions committee a more in-depth view of why you are passionate about the areas you have shown leadership in and what you did to better the group/environment/area around you. Pick 1-3 related experiences, and tie together how you took initiative to shape things around you. The admissions committee wants to make sure they are accepting students with initiative and determination to impact their environment.
Here are some examples:
- Family Responsibility — Your parents had to work late hours a lot to earn enough for your family when you were younger. Though you and your siblings have always been responsible, you’ve noticed that it’s been difficult for your younger brother when your parents were away in the evenings, so you took the time to create different activities for him. You had your brother explore various hobbies that were accessible to you, such as drawing or tree climbing around your neighborhood, to keep him busy, mentally stimulated, and help your parents. This has taught you a lot of responsibility.
- Friend Group Activities — You have a small group of friends who enjoy spending time with each other, but are terrible at planning larger, more ambitious activities. You decided that you were sick of just doing the same old thing, hanging out in the park or a parent’s basement. You started organizing day trips to the city nearby, Secret Santa gift exchanges, a day kayaking trip, and more to help you and your friends explore different activities. You coordinated everyone’s schedule and made sure to accommodate all your friends’ likes and dislikes, and have become the unofficial “leader” of your friend group.
What can you do for UT Austin? The admissions committee wants to know what unique quirks, knowledge, and outlooks you can bring to the university and student body. They are looking for students who can add to the campus community and bring new, innovative ideas to add to the university’s student and alumni achievements. With this prompt, make sure to talk about things that are important to what makes you, you.
This prompt also hints at another question for the applicant: why UT Austin? Be sure to research the academic and extracurricular activities you want to be involved in at UT Austin, whether it be with a research lab, a unique club, or specific classes you want to take. Be specific, and show the admissions committee that you have done your research and are committed to UT Austin.
Here are some examples:
- Local Music Scene — You have contributed to the local, underground music community in your neighborhood, and you want to get involved with the Austin music community. You play multiple instruments, and you’re interested in the intersection of various music genres. Living in Austin will give you the opportunity to connect with many different artists, both at UT Austin and in the local community, and you want to study music while being able to connect with these creatives.
- Activism — You’ve gotten involved in advocating for an increase in educational opportunities for underprivileged children in your small hometown. You want to dedicate your career to bring opportunities to underprivileged peoples across the U.S., and you want to live in a larger city to meet a more diverse population and understand privilege in communities different than your own. You want to bring the same changes you’ve helped make in your community to the Austin area, and increase awareness of different opportunities and backgrounds to the UT Austin community.
Here, the UT Austin admissions committee is asking about any extenuating circumstances that may have affected your academic performance. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many students across the world in various ways. Other non-COVID-related experiences may have also impacted you.
If there is a circumstance, such as a loss of job, sickness of a close relative, mental health or more that has affected your school performance, let UT Austin know here so the admissions committee may take it into consideration while reading your application. However, do not use this space as a way to excuse poor performances. Be direct, and let the circumstances speak for themselves. There’s no need to take up the full allotted space or even really write a whole essay; just use as much space as needed to explain your situation.
Major-Specific Short Answer Questions
Certain majors at UT Austin require submitting 1-2 additional short responses. These prompts are brief and dive deeper into showing your passion for your intended area of study.
For the art/art history major at UT Austin, the admissions committee wants to see a commitment to the arts in your everyday life. Dive deep and think about what artists inspired you, or what specific art pieces you find yourself going back to.
Think across various mediums of art. Painters, sculptors, cinematographers, poets, or more can serve as inspiration to you. Maybe a piece of art inspired you to create your own art and got you interested in different painting techniques across different cultures, inspired you to change habits within your life, or start a band. Whatever inspired you, make sure to relate how your inspiration directly impacted you. Don’t get caught up in just describing your favorite artist or work; tie it into your own life experiences and goals.
As a prospective architecture major, chances are you express your creative visions through various forms of art. Let the admissions office know about your paintings, designs, or the music you create. Even if your creativity isn’t expressed in a traditional artistic sense, there are many types of creative outlets. Maybe you find beauty in solving difficult math proofs in various ways, or you enjoy fixing up your old car until it becomes a piece of art to you.
Make sure to detail what you do, why you enjoy expressing yourself through your outlet, and how you have applied your own creativity to the work you have done.
This is a short prompt! The admissions committee wants to see through your eyes and get an idea of your vision of the world. Be concise in your statement, and make sure your photos have a common thread, even if it’s not initially obvious. For example, you could submit photos of the skyline at important locations or times to you, or you could submit photos of various objects that inspire you. This is a very open-ended prompt, and you can spin it to really show the admissions committee your unique outlook on life and the environment around you.
While neither of these prompts have a defined word limit, make sure to answer the question thoroughly while also keeping it brief — remember, the admissions committee is reading many applications and you want to keep them engaged! We recommend no more than 500 words.
This question allows you to discuss why you chose Nursing as your first choice program. Although you have already answered why you want to pursue your first choice major in the short answers section of the application, this extra space really allows you to dive deeper into why you decided to pursue nursing as a career.
You can add additional anecdotes about why you chose nursing that you might not have had space to include in your short answer prompt. For instance, you can go into detail on how you grew up listening to stories from a relative about their experiences as a nurse. Or, maybe you’re an immigrant, and meeting a nurse who spoke your language put you at ease during a visit to the doctor, and how you want to be a familiar face in medicine as well.
Just like the previous nursing prompt, this space allows you to dive deeper into your reasoning for pursuing nursing and allows you to show off your work towards your goal.
Before beginning this essay, write down the qualities you feel a good nurse would have. Are they compassionate, culturally aware, patient, knowledgeable, etc.?
Then, write down the activities you did that correspond with those qualities. Did you volunteer for your local Red Cross, or organize a fundraiser for your local care facilities? Did you work in a nursing home, or at a daycare to gain experience working with people with varying needs? What academic classes did you take in high school to prepare yourself for a college nursing program?
Be specific, and dive into details on how your activities relate to developing an interest in nursing and a nursing career. Chances are, you have already listed your activities out in another section of your application. Using anecdotes about specific instances or events is crucial in offering new information that will keep admissions officers engaged, and teach them about your passion for nursing.
Similar to the nursing prompts, the UT Austin admissions committee is looking for additional information that may not have fit into previous essay answers. How do you want to give back to your community by doing social work? What specific area of social work do you want to work in? Do you want to work with mental health, child protection, human rights, or other aspects of social work? For example, if you grew up in the foster care system and you want to help children who grew up in a similar situation to you, elaborate on that.
The second part of this question asks you how specifically an UT Austin degree can help you with your future goals and career. Make sure to show that you have researched the program itself. Name specific research institutes you may want to work in, such as the Addiction Research Institute, and elaborate what issues you want to study. Relate these to the work you want to do in your future.
If you’re unsure of the specific specialization of social work you want to do, narrow it down to 2-3 interests, and talk about how you can explore various subjects through courses or clubs at UT Austin. Show the admissions committee that you have done your research on the school and truly believe that it is the best place for you to achieve your goals. For instance, someone interested in working with seniors might want to join the research team for the project Telehealth treatments for depression with low-income homebound seniors.
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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