How to Write the University of Vermont Essays 2019-2020
University of Vermont is a public research university located between the scenic Adirondacks and Green Mountains. Often called a Public Ivy, UVM offers students the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning in a broad range of academic programs. 92% of University of Vermont undergraduates participate in research, internships, or other forms of experiential learning during their time at the college.
UVM is somewhat selective with an acceptance rate of 68%. It uses the Common Application, and also invites applicants to respond to one of five supplemental essay prompts. UVM’s Music Program also requires that students submit an additional essay. Want to know your chances at UVM? Calculate your chances for free right now.
How to Write the University of Vermont Essays
If you would like an opportunity to further present yourself to the Admissions Committee, you may submit a response to ONE of the following prompts.
(While this essay is optional, we highly recommend that you complete it. An extra essay is another opportunity to share more of your story, and to demonstrate your interest in UVM).
Option A: Imagine it is the morning of August 28, 1963 and Twitter has already been developed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has contracted the flu. Rather than giving his historic “I Have a Dream” speech from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, he instead sends out a Tweet that highlights the central point of his speech. What does he Tweet (in true Twitter fashion, no longer than 280 characters) and why? (optional, 500 words)
This prompt seeks to assess your creativity and communication capabilities. Before you begin writing your prompt, do some research into both Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Twitter, specifically in the political or news sphere.
Although you likely have some familiarity with Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words, a close read will allow you to have a better grasp of its nuances and to write a more detailed explanation of your tweet. If you are unfamiliar with news and politics on Twitter, take a few moments to look at the Twitter profiles of news outlets such as the New York Times, or prominent political figures. How do these accounts condense nuanced main ideas into 280 characters or less?
Your tweet should express the main idea you believe Martin Luther King wanted to send with his speech. Your tweet shouldn’t read simply like a synopsis or a book report though; it should show creativity and passion.
Your explanation should take up the bulk of this essay, as your tweet will only be 1-2 sentences. You should be able to explain why you believe your tweet captures the heart of Martin Luther King’s speech.
Consider incorporating literary and rhetorical elements into your explanation. Does your tweet capture some of King’s most powerful imagery for pathos? Does your tweet use parallel structure to reinforce King’s main ideas? Put what you learned in English class to use!
Option B: A time traveler gives you a remote with two buttons: pause and rewind. Which would you prefer to use on your own life and why? (optional, 500 words)
This prompt seeks to assess your self-reflection skills and creativity. There is no right answer to the question, so long as you can provide a thought-provoking and well-reasoned response.
Before you begin writing, think about the advantages and disadvantages of both alternatives. How would you benefit from having the ability to pause your life? On the other hand, how would pausing your life potentially cause unintended negative consequences? How would having the ability to rewind benefit your life and have negative consequences?
Avoid giving broad, generic responses that anyone would consider immediately. For example, review this response:
“I would like the ability to rewind my life so that I could go back and fix my mistakes”
Most people would think of this explanation right away. The rationale does not show any creativity or allow the reader to learn more about the author. Try to incorporate more personal details and creative insight. Consider this response instead:
“I would prefer to pause my life instead of having the ability to rewind. I often stay up wondering what would have happened if one event in my life went differently. If I had the opportunity to rewind and see the outcome of every alternative, I don’t think I would ever live in the present. However, if I could pause time, I would have a better opportunity to think everything through and make one choice confidently”
This response demonstrates more self-awareness and provides novel insight into the question. Your response should reflect an understanding of yourself and explain how you tackle problems. You should also show that you can think outside of the box.
Be sure to incorporate a personal anecdote where you could have used a pause or rewind button for your life. For example, did you forget about a science test and wish you could take an extra hour to study? Did you ever say something unintentionally hurtful and wish you could go back and change your words to be more kind? Anecdotes help engage the reader and reveal more about your life experiences and who you are.
Option C: Congratulations! You have been elected to give a TED Talk. You will give an 18-minute presentation on the topic of your choice to a room full of people who are eager to hear your insights. This talk will also be recorded and made available online, with the opportunity to go viral and affect millions. What is the title of your talk? What is the message you are trying to get across? What would you say in the final minute of the presentation that would leave a lasting impression? Explain. (optional, 500 words)
This prompt aims to evaluate your personal interests and your communication abilities. Your topic choice should reflect something meaningful to you that could also bring value to a broader audience. Some examples of previous TED talks are “What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection” and “How to Speak so that People Want to Listen.”
Before you begin writing, familiarize yourself with the format of a TED talk. Watch a few of the most popular ones, or search for some that align with your interests. If you’re having trouble thinking of a topic, ask yourself:
- What are the important lessons you’ve learned?
- What are you good at?
- What are you passionate about?
- What is an unusual experience you’ve lived?
- What do you want to teach others?
- What can you talk about for a full 18 minutes?
A good TED talk will most likely be a strong response to more than one of these questions. For example, maybe you’re passionate about slow travel, and even biked around the border of your state over the course of one month. You might give a TED talk called “The Art of Slow Travel: Biking Around My State in 30 Days,” where you discuss your experience and how others can travel in a more environmentally conscious way. Or, maybe you love chemistry and cooking, and want to teach others how to use science to improve their dishes. Your speech might be called “Molecules and Meatballs: The Chemistry Behind Our Food.”
Be sure to remember your audience when designing your TED talk. The average TED Talk viewer is quickly scrolling through their internet feed, so you want the title of your talk to be eye-catching. The ideal TED talk should also be easily understood by any viewer, so avoid using jargon or niche phrases in your title.
When discussing the message you would like to send in your final minute, imagine you are pitching your talk to the average TED conference. Your final minute should have the greatest emotional impact on your listener and succinctly reiterate the key points of your talk. Why is your topic important and why should your listener follow your advice? What is your most persuasive point?
As long as you pick a topic you’re genuinely excited about, and frame it in a way that makes it applicable to others, your TED talk should be strong. Definitely have some fun with this one!
Option D: At the University of Vermont, we have a set of core values called Our Common Ground, which define how we work, live, study, do research, and participate as members of the community. Each core value statement falls under one of the following words: Respect, Integrity, Innovation, Openness, Justice, and Responsibility. Choose one word from Our Common Ground and explain why it is important to you, how it has impacted you, and how you have incorporated it into your life. (optional, 500 words)
UVM’s Common Ground defines the university’s value system. Your response should make clear that you share these ideals. Although you are likely familiar with these words, take a moment to read UVM’s definition of the terms on their website. Tailor your response to this definition.
The structure of this prompt lends itself well to a longitudinal essay structure. Begin your piece by explaining when you first realized the importance of this value. You can then transition into describing how you have incorporated it into your life and why it is important to you in the present.
For example, you could begin your essay by telling the reader about the first time you learned the importance of responsibility after you lost your favorite Pokémon card when you were a child. You could then transition into how you then incorporated responsibility into more important areas of your life such as academics and your friendships. Finally, you could close out your essay by explaining what respect means to you today.
Use personal anecdotes to enrich your response. Remember the classic writing advice to “show, don’t tell.” Instead of simply telling the reader that you embody integrity in your everyday life, provide specific examples of times that you upheld integrity in the face of adversity.
For example, you could discuss letting a teacher know that they accidentally marked your wrong answer as correct on a test. You could also write about the time you returned a wallet full of cash to the police station without being tempted to take any money. These examples will allow your essay to feel more personal and authentic.
Option E: Why UVM? (optional, 500 words)
The “Why School” prompt is a cornerstone of many universities’ undergraduate applications. Your response should clearly explain why you want to attend the University of Vermont. Aim to address at least one academic and non-academic reason to show a holistic interest in the school.
Your response should focus on UVM-specific classes, programs, or activities. Do not discuss general aspects that could be found at any university, such as location or a low student to faculty ratio. Use UVM’s open course catalog, faculty biographies, school organization websites, and YouTube videos by current students to find school-specific subject matter.
For example, do not simply say that you want to attend UVM to be an ecological agriculture major. Many other schools have similar programs that would allow you to study similar subjects. What in UVM’s ecological agriculture program interests you?
Instead, discuss why you want to study ecological agriculture at UVM specifically. You could discuss your interest in taking classes at the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory, whose research vessel would allow you to explore aquatic ecology on Lake Champlain firsthand.
Use the same approach when discussing the non-academic aspects of the school that interest you. For example, your desire to attend school in the Northeast is not a compelling response to this prompt. However, your love of hiking and your desire to join UVM’s Outing Club definitely show you’ve thought about your fit with UVM.
For more insight on campus culture, look to UVM’s event schedule—labeled the Bored Calendar on their website—or the school’s campus life page to gain more information about UVM’s extracurricular offerings.
For Applicants to the Music Program
Please tell us why you are interested in majoring in music at the University of Vermont.
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