How to Write the University of Vermont Essays 2020-2021

The University of Vermont is a public research university in suburban Burlington, Vermont. According to the U.S. News & World Report, it is ranked #121 in National Universities and #55 in Top Public Schools. The university is in close proximity to Lake Champlain and picturesque mountain ranges, providing students ample access to copious forms of outdoor recreation. 

 

UVM has over 100 majors in seven undergraduate schools and colleges, and four pre-professional options: pre-medical, pre-dental, pre-vet, and pre-law. Additionally, the institution places a strong emphasis on learning outside of the classroom. By the time they graduate, 92% of students have participated in some type of experience-based learning such as research or an internship. The school has nine residential complexes across its four campuses, with all first year students living in themed residential communities such as Cultural Crossroads and Arts and Creativity. 

 

UVM has a somewhat selective acceptance rate of 68%. The university is seeing an upward trend in student statistics, with each of the last five incoming classes’ statistics superseding the last and having the highest academic credentials in the university’s history. The class of 2023 had an average SAT score of 1275 and an average ACT score of 28.9.

 

In addition to the Common App’s personal statement, UVM has an optional supplemental essay with five prompt options. Read on to learn more about these prompts and how to answer them! Keep in mind that there are an infinite number of ways to answer these prompts and that these ideas are just a starting point. 

 

University of Vermont Supplemental Essay

 

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 in 500 words (optional).

 

Option 1: Why UVM?

 

Option 2: Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined!) best describes you?

 

Option 3: Whether they’re building a robot, a stronger sense of community, or an identity. UVM students are builders. What do you want to build?

 

Option 4: UVM learning experiences go far beyond the walls of our classrooms. From student lead organizations, to internships, to study abroad, UVM students are encouraged to learn in any environment. Describe a time when you’ve learned in a non-traditional setting.

 

Option 5: Communities are stronger when they incorporate many differing opinions, how do you create meaningful connections or conversations with others who have differing opinions than yours?

 

Though the supplemental essay is optional, we strongly recommend that you write one as it can be an invaluable asset to your application. Many students have similar academic statistics and test scores; these essays have the potential to help you stand out and craft a unique narrative that resonates with admissions officers. Your essay is a chance for you to discuss aspects of yourself that were not captured in other areas of your application. Using this opportunity to make your application memorable is important, and with five vastly different prompts to choose from, it can feel overwhelming – but don’t fear! This essay guide will help get your creative juices flowing. 

 

As you read through the prompts, try to see which prompts you naturally gravitate to and jot down potential topics you can write about. This will help you narrow down which prompt to write to and spur your writing process along.

 

Option 1: Why UVM?

 

The “Why This College?” prompt is a classic way for schools to gain a better sense of your interest in attending. Schools get hundreds of applicants with very similar academic statistics and test scores, so your response to this prompt adds another dimension along which your application can be evaluated. 

 

To begin researching for this prompt, you can utilize UVM’s website, which has valuable information about majors, programs and student life. When you write to this prompt, you should envision your future as a college student at UVM specifically. Your level of detail should be so specific that you should not be able to replace the college’s name with that of another one. 

 

In addition, colleges have ample opportunities for you to explore new passions and continue your existing interests. For the sake of this prompt, it might be easier to build off of your current passions. Establish a link between your current self and your potential future self will add credibility to your essay while teaching admissions officers more about you. Here are two examples of ways to answer this prompt.

 

Bad: “One thing I look forward to exploring more in college is my passion for hiking. I have been hiking with my family from a young age and feel extremely at home in the outdoors. I really enjoy exploring new trails and learning about new creatures. At UVM, I plan to join a hiking club so that I can continue to pursue this passion. I can’t wait to explore the beautiful scenery in and around Vermont.”

 

Good: “As long as I can remember, my family has gone on hikes in our hometown in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We have spent many summers traversing the trails in Damascus and birdwatching at Shenandoah National Park. I can’t wait to continue to explore my passion for the outdoors at UVM and was thrilled to learn about the Outing Clubhaus. Through opportunities like the Wilderness Instructor Leadership Development program, I can take a Moon Hike in the Worcester Range, or ski in the Vermont Backcountry. As a ‘WILDee’, I look forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the beautiful wilderness around UVM.

 

The first response is vague and lacks information that distinguishes the student or the school from other applicants and institutions. The lack of detail undercuts the passion for the outdoors that the student is trying to convey, telling rather than showing readers about it. In comparison, the second prompt exudes a level of detail that clearly demonstrates that this specific student has done extensive research into the school. 

 

Keep in mind, however, that your essay should focus on a balance of academic and extracurricular aspects of UVM. If you only talk about extracurriculars, it may seem like you’re not academically-motivated. Likewise, you shouldn’t only discuss academics because you want to show how you’ll contribute to the campus community.

 

Finally, be sure to explain why the UVM resources you mention appeal to you. We can’t emphasize this enough! Anyone can say they like UVM for X, Y, and Z reason. You need to show that you’re a good fit. By tying past experiences to potential future actions, you can craft an easy-to-follow narrative that feels genuine and is pleasurable to read. This approach helps admissions officers better gauge your interest in the school and can easily distinguish your application from others.

 

Option 2: Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined!) best describes you?

 

With flavors like “Boom Chocolatta” and “Chip Happens,” Ben & Jerry’s is known for their quirky, zany variety of ice cream treats, and this unique prompt invites you to apply them to yourself or even generate your own. Admissions officers want to know about you, so regardless of topic, it is important that the essay content centers around you. 

 

The flavor you select or create is not as important as how you develop your answer. What matters is that your response matches the creative, fun nature of this prompt in a way that shows your personality. This prompt is extremely open-ended and might seem overwhelming at first – however, there is really no wrong way to answer it. The key is not to try to encapsulate your entire self into a single flavor, but rather, to pick one aspect of yourself and delve into it. When you’re thinking about how to answer the prompts, consider the following questions:

 

  • What do I want admissions officers to know about me that isn’t mentioned or fully developed in other parts of my application?
  • What is something I am deeply knowledgeable or passionate about?
  • How do my identities intersect in unique ways and how have these intersections shaped me?
  • Which of my personality traits and values are the most important to me?
  • What is something that I genuinely enjoy thinking/talking/writing about?

 

Ben and Jerry’s are known for packing several distinct tastes into one pint and including all kinds of chunky treats, drizzles, and toppings. It can be tempting to want to explain every aspect of your identities or personality, but you should narrow your topics down to a couple major aspects that fit neatly under an umbrella topic.

 

One way of going about this prompt might be to link specific components of the flavor to your identities and future. For example, a student could write about how they embody the Justice Remix’d flavor. Each component can correlate with a different identity or character trait. The cinnamon elements can represent their family because the flavor’s warmth brings back cozy memories of baking with their loved ones. On the other hand, the spicy brownie fudge can symbolize their burning passion for immigration justice. They can then detail how the individual flavors coalesce into their desire to become a civil rights lawyer that understands the importance of keeping families together and has the fiery drive to fight for justice in the courtroom. 

 

Another student’s pint creation strategy might involve pairing a standard flavor on the outside with a non-traditional core flavor. They might use this metaphor to discuss a hidden talent or secret hobby that people rarely expect from them. In this instance, the flavor itself is more of a minor detail and the main focus of the essay would be the structure of the pint, centering on the contrast between the person’s exterior identities and some nontraditional aspect of themselves that they wish to share with the admissions committee.

 

Note that because this prompt is very casual, your tone can be a little less formal and more conversational in nature. However, you should still ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Your word choice and humor should also be tactful and appropriate.

 

Option 3: Whether they’re building a robot, a stronger sense of community, or an identity. UVM students are builders. What do you want to build?

 

This prompt is intentionally open-ended and can be answered a number of ways. It is future-oriented, asking you to craft hypotheticals based on your current goals and values. This response has the potential to be creative and go copious directions, yet it can also stay fairly realistic and be equally strong. Keeping a loose interpretation of the word “build,” think about goals you want to accomplish in the future and how they fit into a framework of creating something that uniquely stems from yourself.

 

First off, you should avoid making your essay about building a robot, or explicitly stating that it is about a stronger sense of community or an identity. Using the examples in the prompt can come across as lacking creativity. Instead, try to think about answering the prompt in a new way that speaks to your identities and values.

 

A natural inclination might be to focus entirely on hypotheticals and talk only in terms of what you want to accomplish in the future. However, it is important that your response is grounded in the present so that it comes across as genuine. You can also tie it to your prospective major or potential future career in order to add more dimension to your application. 

 

For instance, if a student has a green thumb, they can talk about how they see their skills in the backyard expanding in the future. If they are applying as an environmental science major or public affairs major, they can discuss how they want to build a communal garden in their hometown to combat food insecurity in the area, or how they want to build a sustainable herb garden that can be mounted on city apartment walls. A prospective computer science or marketing major could discuss building an app that keeps track of watering schedules for different plants, or designing an Instagram-type social media platform exclusively for plant-related content. 

 

This prompt could go a myriad of directions based on your current interests and future intentions. However you choose to meld your existing skills and hobbies with your potential future is up to you.

 

Option 4: UVM learning experiences go far beyond the walls of our classrooms. From student lead organizations, to internships, to study abroad, UVM students are encouraged to learn in any environment. Describe a time when you’ve learned in a non-traditional setting.

 

This prompt is designed to learn about your experiences in a non-traditional setting. Think about extracurriculars, people, and ideas you have encountered outside of typical hierarchies like school and other structured organizations. With this prompt, it is important to show, rather than tell, readers what you experienced. You can achieve this by writing your response as a narrative, starting in media res and using descriptive language. 

 

For example, instead of listing out the context and background details of the instance first, you would start writing in the middle of the action as if you were telling a story rather than giving a textbook answer. Here are two examples of responses to this prompt:

 

Example 1: “Two years ago, my niece, Samantha Ray, was born. I promised my sister I would always take care of her, and for the past couple of years she has been my number one priority. Since then, I have been constantly cleaning up spills, changing diapers, and soothing her cries. But living with her has taught me invaluable lessons in how to handle unpredictability, and for that I am grateful.”

 

Example 2: “Coos and giggles filled our kitchen as I wiped my little niece’s spaghetti sauce-stained hands with a paper towel. As I turned around to dispose of it, she proceeded to enthusiastically bury her entire face in the bowl of pasta. Two years ago, I would have felt frustrated that I had to redo a task seconds after completing it. But living with Samantha has shown me that life doesn’t always go perfectly, and plans often going astray even as we create them.”   

 

While the first response lays out background for readers, it lacks a story-like quality that pulls readers in and makes them want to read more. The excerpt tells, rather than showing readers what the applicant is trying to say. On the other hand, the second response utilizes imagery, evoking the senses of sound and taste, to help the reader better picture the scene. The latter applicant can go on to describe how their niece taught them to embrace unpredictability, and how they plan to continue seeking out spontaneity and adventure during their college career. 

 

Focus externally on your senses and internally on how you felt. Maintaining a narrative-like quality for at least half of the response will capture readers’ attention and make your application much more memorable. Using descriptive imagery and connecting your current learning experiences with future pursuits will add more depth to your application. 

 

Then, at the end of your response, zoom out and briefly mention how what you learned will impact your future behavior. You can discuss how it will impact your mindset going forward, or how you plan to implement what you learned in your future career. But you don’t have to zoom out too much either – don’t be afraid to simply say how the specific narrative will influence your experience at this particular university next year. 

 

Option 5: Communities are stronger when they incorporate many differing opinions, how do you create meaningful connections or conversations with others who have differing opinions than yours?

 

With this prompt, admissions officers want to know more about your views and values, how you will contribute to UVM’s diversity, and how you will interact with students from different backgrounds than you. 

 

Using your current knowledge and past experiences, your task is to describe a methodology of practicing open-mindedness that draws from your unique experiences. To brainstorm content for this essay, start by listing out your identities, beliefs, and values. These can stem from culture, religion, or politics, but do not necessarily have to be of that nature. Your answer can even be more whimsical – applicants could write about ongoing pop culture debates like pineapple on pizza, or if water is wet. Here, the opinion you choose is not as important as how you write about reconciling the differences with others.

 

For this essay, we recommend choosing one of two methods of prompt response: narrative and collection. A narrative essay centers on one main incident and has a story-like quality for a substantial amount of the response. You would begin your response with a specific, imagery-soaked anecdote and then pan out to the broader lesson or idea at hand. 

 

A collection essay is composed of multiple anecdotes that are more brief and connect via shared themes. Because this prompt is 500 words, you may have the room to incorporate a couple anecdotes. If you plan on using this method, you should ensure that they are similar enough to each other that they have a shared theme, but not so similar that they sound repetitive. Furthermore, they should share a core idea or sentiment as stating too many opinions within the essay will detract from the depth of your response. 

 

A rough potential framework might be starting with an anecdote that details the difference of opinion, delving into how it made you feel, and adding background information and more narrative content as it becomes relevant. You should spend the majority of your response focusing on how you fostered meaningful connection or sparked important conversations with people whose opinions did not align with yours.

 

For example, maybe an applicant grew up in a household with a patriarchal mindset. They could write about coming to realize that these views were not something they shared and that they received a lot of backlash from their family for feeling that way. The applicant can describe specific instances in which they engaged in productive conversations with their family, or how they slowly learned to advocate for themselves in a space where their gender was not valued.

 

Another applicant might detail how growing up as a picky eater stopped them from trying a lot of cuisines. They might recount how their mentality often led them to be closed-minded in other regards as well. Their essay would center on becoming more open to their friends food-related opinions and starting to expand their palate. This essay would add another dimension to their candidacy for admission that is not captured in other areas of the application.

 

There are a myriad of ways you can answer this prompt, but overall you should focus on showcasing an ability to mediate, learn, and grow. Conflict-resolution skills and open-mindedness are key elements to a successful (and fun!) college experience, and admissions officers want to see that you are ready to embrace this type of change.

 

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