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Founded by the Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin is home to 51,000 students and 3,100 faculty members. As the “Public Ivy” of the South, UT Austin annually ranks among the Top 20 public universities.


As UT Austin’s reputation grows, its applicant pool becomes increasingly competitive as well, leaving its current acceptance rate in the low 40% range, one of the lowest among public schools. Noted departments at UT include petroleum engineering, history, and linguistics. Additionally, UT permits students to apply directly to programs that are occupation-specific, an aspect that differentiates UT from other institutions.


UT Austin provides multiple essay prompt options for students to choose between. There is one mandatory essay prompt that all students must respond to, as well as secondary questions that you may answer depending on your intended major.


Note: UT recommends that you keep your essays between 350 and 500 words, with no more than 650 words. 650 is also the word limit for the Common Application, so it’s easy for you to get an idea for how much room you have to get your point across. For more tips on how to write the Common Application Essay, feel free to check out CollegeVine’s Common App 2017-2018 Guide.


UT Austin Application Essay Prompts

Prompt A: Personal Background (mandatory)

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.

As the only essay prompt required by every applicant, this topic allows you to expand and describe your personal background or story. Where are you from? How did you get here? How has your community influenced you to become the person you are today? Because every applicant will write this prompt, the goal is to be as original as possible.

Here are a few strategies to craft a response:


  • Consider Your Upbringing – For example, you could discuss how, as an international student from Japan, the stringency of subway transport solidified your punctuality early on. Alternatively, if you have had work experience growing up, you could explain how working as a waiter/waitress has taught you how to interact with customers, a skill that has translated to many facets of your life.


  • Write What You Know – You are already unique in that no other applicant, or person in the world, shares your experiences. Simply writing about your story, and how you perceive it, is an excellent approach to being authentic. Don’t be afraid to write candidly about important events in your life, even if they seem mundane. For example, if you want to write about how a childhood pet has impacted you in a compelling way, you should explain the significance that the pet holds for you, even though people do not usually associate pets with shaping a person into who they’ve become. Using this strategy will allow your true voice to come through the response, which can make a lasting impact on the reader.


  • Focus on Your Mentality – Remember that your background is not defined only by heritage, ethnicity, and family income, but also your mental diversity. Aspirations, light bulb moments, and passions — it’s these things that set you apart from others and will help you stand out. For example, you can explain how ever since you were a kid, your father, who is a judge, drilled into you a sense of fairness. Or, perhaps if your mother is a chef, discuss how watching her work toward perfection in her dishes influenced your disciplined mental approach to all aspects of your life.


  • Think Outside the Box – The prompt lists environment, family, home, neighborhood, and community as potential themes of responses; however, don’t let strict definitions restrict you from branching out. You can take a creative approach by defining these types of themes in your own terms. For example, perhaps family can mean your basketball team, or community can be staff, patients, and doctors in the hospital where you interned.

Prompt A is the only mandatory question out of the topics in UT’s Essay requirement. For your second essay, you should choose just one from the following prompts.

Prompt B: Identity, Interest, or Talent

Most students have an identity, an interest or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.

Prompt B, if you choose to write it, is very open-ended and can complement your response to the previous prompt. In this case, you are asked to discuss an essential identity, interest, or talent that defines you as a person.

Here are a few strategies to tackle this response:


  • Focus on Internal Identity – Identity can be understood as an internal quality. UT wants to better understand your internal qualities and experiences that are personally significant to you and where they come from. For example, you could write about how experiencing a childhood illness has instilled an innate determination for helping others that are in the same situation that you overcame. Or, you could discuss how you father’s American background and your mother’s Chinese heritage mix to form your distinct Anglo-Asian identity, which motivates how you view yourself culturally. If there are no illnesses or clash of cultures (which is completely fine), it’s also excellent to explain internal qualities, such as meticulousness, patience, or integrity, so long as you use real experiences and examples to demonstrate how they manifest in your life.


  • Write a Structured Narrative – You can employ a narrative to show the reader where one of your essential interests or talents originated. For example, if you plan on studying geology, you could begin your response by explaining how you became interested in fossil-hunting while your brother was taking topography classes in college. From there, describe how you immersed yourself in every book you could find on the topic. In this case, you would want to dedicate space to explaining what exactly about fossil formation is fascinating to you. In the end, you could explain that although fossil-hunting constantly forces one to look back in time for answers, you have realized that geology is essential for climate change analysis today.

Prompt C: A Trip of Choice


You’ve got a ticket in your hand — Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?

If you prefer to be creative and craft a more spontaneous response, you may want to choose this prompt over the previous one. With such an open-ended prompt, it’s clear that this essay is UT’s challenge for you to bring a refreshing response to the table.

Some advice on how to approach this prompt:


  • Incorporate Your Goals – Because the prompt doesn’t provide any information about what the ticket is for, you can be the one to fill in the gaps of information. Instead of contemplating every scenario, it’s straightforward to construct a holistic response when you use your desire to pin a destination. You can let your aspirations motivate the selection of a certain location. For example, if you want to cure people of disease in a hands-on way, you may want to consider using your ticket to go to Uganda to aid in treating malaria. Next, focus on explaining what arriving at this location would fulfill. What would it mean for you? What would you learn? Answering these crucial points will give your response the impact and practicality that it needs to impress the reader.


  • Extrapolate Creatively – To answer the question “What will happen when you get there?” you will have to think about various scenarios and decide upon which one is the most compelling. Employing this type of strategy can give you the opportunity to dictate the nature of your essay. For example, if you have a ticket to ancient Hawaii in hand, what do you think will happen? Will the native islanders accept you into their culture? Will they worship you as a time-traveling god? Perhaps they will invite you to carve a boar at their luau. Even further, would you seek to arm them with new future knowledge to avoid diseases or destruction? Extrapolating creatively opens up infinite avenues for you to let your voice and ideas be heard.

Prompt D: For Architecture, Art History, Design, Studio Art, Visual Art Studies, and Art Education Majors ONLY

Personal interaction with objects, images, and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image, or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

This topic confirms that UT is searching for two things in applicants applying to a degree in architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education: 1) relevant past experiences, and 2) how and why those experiences motivate you to pursue one of the above mentioned fields.

Some tips to consider:


  • Explain Your Passion Descriptively – Admissions officers are actively searching for ways in which your work affected your perspective in a certain field. As with any college essay, it is exponentially more effective to delineate how your interest in the field was the driving impetus behind your accomplishments, rather than simply stating your passion and hoping they take your word for it. For such visual realms of study, it is advantageous to spend time describing closely the details of architectural or artistic aesthetics. You could discuss how certain aesthetic decisions were motivated by ideologies, and how your own choices as an artist stem from your background.


  • Consider the Program’s Alignment With Your Interests – The second portion of the topic asks what you have done to “prepare yourself for further study in [your] area?” Make sure to touch base on how attending UT Austin’s program for your degree will help you develop yourself within the field. For example, your passion could be design, which stems from sketching characters ever since you were a child. Perhaps your mother enrolled you in a painting studio in middle school, but by eighth grade you pinpointed your interest in design. Taking action on that interest, you were able to score an internship in a medium-sized, local design, where after a year you designed and produced an article of clothing. Along the same lines, explaining how attending UT’s design program could allow you to explore all the different options that design has to offer would complete your essay. Relating steps of an experience, in this manner, is a great method of organizing your experience into writing.

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Prompt N: For Nursing Majors ONLY

Considering nursing as your first-choice major, discuss how your current and future academic activities, extracurricular pursuits, and life experiences will help you achieve your goals.

Answer this topic by explaining the origin and goals of your decision to pursue nursing; UT seeks to understand how your specific experiences will aid you along this path. Additionally, explain the future opportunities you want to participate in, and how these will help you reach your long-term goal in nursing.

How to tackle this prompt:


  • Align Yourself with Career Traits – Many applicants will not have prior nursing experience, and that is fine if nursing is the path you choose to pursue. However, it is in your best interest to show off a side of you that aligns itself best with the qualities required to be a nurse. These qualities include empathy, perseverance, and decision-making skills. You can display these qualities through storytelling and creating narratives. For example, you can consider all of your real-life experiences with nursing and healthcare. How did the teacher’s anecdotes about her experiences inspire you to pursue nursing? How did the two summers spent at San Francisco Children’s Hospital for 8 hours every day affect your perception of the profession? What did working in a nursing home teach you about empathy, specifically how to broach delicate topics to patients?

Prompt W: For Social Work Majors ONLY

Discuss the reasons you chose social work as your first-choice major and how a social work degree from UT Austin will prepare you for the future.

This topic essentially asks the same thing as Prompt N, but for social work. Describe how your decision to pursue social work came about. Relate previous experiences in social work to how they will guide you in your pursuit down this career path.

Some tips for Prompt W:


  • Align Yourself to Career Traits – It’s perfectly fine to have limited social work experience, but it is always in your best interest to present yourself in a manner that aligns with the qualities of a social worker. These qualities include endurance, empathy, and magnanimity. Social workers are instrumental in helping individuals, communities, and groups enhance overall well-being and social functioning. Consider ways in which you have worked with someone to overcome a challenge. Perhaps you were an avid tutor in high school, and learning how to adapt to the student will help you deal with the variety of individuals you will face as a social worker.


  • Consider the Program’s Role – Describe how you will take advantage of what UT offers in its social work degree. Explain the specific opportunities you want to participate in, and how and why you will take these opportunities to help you reach your long-term goal of benefiting the economy, health, or society. We recommend conducting thorough research on relevant clubs, organizations, or resources that you can tie into your response.

Prompt S: Additional Information (optional)

There may be personal information that you want considered as part of your admissions application. Write an essay describing that information. You might include exceptional hardships, challenges, or opportunities that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, personal responsibilities, exceptional achievements or talents, educational goals, or ways in which you might contribute to an institution committed to creating a diverse learning environment.

This might just be the most open-ended topic in essay-writing. It is asking you to do one thing: write about yourself. However, this does not mean you have free reign.

Here are some rules to abide by:


  • Focus on the School – Gear your essay toward UT. How did your past affect you, and how will it help you success at UT? While it seems like the prompt allows you to write on just about anything, make sure to select a subject that actually has relevance to UT Austin. Otherwise, your response may seem to lack context.


  • Get Creative – There are almost endless options to choose from in writing about this topic. For example, explain your rare talent. Write about how you feel omniscient with the piano keys at your fingertips and how it empowers you, as your own creativity is your only restriction. Or, consider focusing your response on an obstacle you overcame. For example, you could describe how your single mother cannot support you financially, and how a part-time job has affected you academically and socially.


  • Don’t Be Repetitive – Since this response is optional, be careful to write about experiences that do not simply repeat information you’ve already focused on in your common app or other supplements. You shouldn’t feel compelled to manufacture a response simply to check off on your application. Say something new and different about yourself.

In Conclusion

UT’s requirement of Prompt A and an additional essay of your choice is a chance for you to show off yet another aspect that readers have not been exposed to. Remember that an unforgettable essay can go a long way in convincing readers to grant you admission to the home of the Longhorns!


Happy writing!


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CollegeVine College Essay Team

CollegeVine College Essay Team

Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work. Learn more about our consultants
CollegeVine College Essay Team