UT Austin Essay Example: Breakdown + Analysis

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the hardest colleges to get into in Texas. With less than a 40% acceptance rate, the school is moderately selective. Writing strong essays, however, will certainly boost your chances. 

 

UT Austin requires one long essay and three short answers, with an additional optional short answer question. There are also a handful of program-specific prompts. 

 

In this post, we’ll be going over a former UT Austin essay prompt. We’ll outline what admissions officers are looking for, and we’ll analyze a sample essay written by a real applicant!

 

UT Austin Supplemental Essay Prompt

Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay. 

Note: this prompt is not among those required for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. This is a prompt from a previous cycle. It will still be valuable to look at a UT Austin essay example, but we just want to make it 100% clear that you shouldn’t be responding to this prompt.

 

This UT Austin prompt asks applicants to tell a story about themselves that relates to a quotation of their choice. The quotation is just a jumping point, and is much less important than the story you tell. The goal of this prompt is to understand your perspective, and how that perspective came to be.

 

While the quote itself isn’t the crucial part of the essay, it’s still important to find an engaging quote that isn’t cliche. To ensure your choice is as unique and memorable as possible, avoid selecting an essay or book that was required for a school, as others are more likely to choose these as well. 

 

Remember that your choice doesn’t have to be totally academic in nature. You could choose even a quote from a children’s book, if it allows you to lead into a compelling story about who you are. This could be especially meaningful if the book is associated with certain experiences or memories that are meaningful to you.

 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try coming up with an essay topic or even writing your personal narrative first, and then search for a quote that matches it. Brainstorm the experiences that really changed you, and led you to approach your life differently. Maybe it was starting a new extracurricular. Or, perhaps it was having a deeply-held belief challenged. Maybe it was befriending an older couple at your job. Whatever it is, bring us into your world with imagery and emotion.

 

In the end, the personal narrative you craft to demonstrate your growth is the focus. Rather than agonizing over finding the perfect saying, you should channel your energy into crafting a compelling story that shows a part of yourself that isn’t addressed in the rest of your application.

 

UT Austin Essay Example

 

Let’s look at a sample response to this essay prompt:

“Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father.”

– Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart 

 

Like most children, I aspired to my father. 

 

I saw my dad as an image of whom I wanted to be. Charismatic, genuine, respected among his peers – he embodied the qualities I saw essential to being a successful person. 

 

The most appealing to me, however, was my father’s medical background. As the first person to attend university in our extended family, he had always been revered for his accomplishment of becoming a doctor. 

 

As a direct consequence, biology was a keen passion during my childhood. I remember how each evening, as I was being tucked into bed, I would unload an avalanche of questions on my dad, many of them amusingly simple such as: If my body is 70% water, why don’t I have water spilling out of my finger every time I get a papercut? In school, I’d stay after class to probe my teachers about the topics I had read of but did not yet comprehend. And anytime I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I, without a whiff of doubt, bolted out I was going to be a doctor. 

 

However, as I got older, I developed new interests – in particular, social science and leadership – which did not always align with my childhood goals of medicine and biology. 

 

With this dichotomy in my mind, I decided to spend my sophomore summer volunteering at a hospital. 

 

Once there, it suddenly dawned on me that, for my entire life, I had viewed being a doctor through rose-tinted glasses since the reality of being a medical professional differed wildly from my perceptions. The dozens of biology textbooks I had read had not prepared me for a single drop of blood, as seeing just one could send me into an exhausting realm of dizziness. With every additional day of volunteering, it became painfully clear – I could not follow in my father’s footsteps. 

 

Disappointed, I began contemplating what made my experience in the hospital so bad and if anything could be done to improve people’s – whether patients’, doctors’, or volunteers’ like myself – experience. Then, a light-bulb switched on: what if I could improve the look of the hospital? As it stood, the hospital was incredibly run-down and inspired depression rather than hope. 

 

With a goal to improve the hospital’s appearance and thus create a friendlier environment for the people inside, I started the Better Setting – Better Getting project, which was going to decorate the hospital with photographs of nature. Having done so, there was a question of financing ー with the hospital administration over-budget, I had to source the funding entirely from the private sector. It was challenging but, a few dozen cold-calls and a handful of live-pitches later, I found a corporate partner that recognised my vision. Finally, I was ready to make my goal a reality. Legal roadblocks and printing nuances still stood in the way, but, with the enthusiastic support of the hospital community, I was able to navigate my way through. Today, dozens of wall-sized nature photos emit joy and hope into the halls of the hospital. 

 

My hospital volunteering, which had begun with heartbreak and disillusion, turned out to be a defining experience of self-discovery. It helped me close my chapter on medicine, a chapter I had so often doubted, and helped me validate my passion for leadership; it allowed me to operate free of doubt, knowing that I don’t have to follow my father’s footsteps. Above all, it made me realise that, although I would never be a doctor, I could nonetheless have a positive impact on society in my very own way.

Analyzing This UT Austin Essay Example

 

“Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father.” 

– Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart 

 

The author starts with a quote from a historical fiction novel that the author has read. Although their essay topic doesn’t tie directly in with the novel’s plot, the quote they chose is profound and piques the reader’s interest about the essay subject. 

 

I saw my dad as an image of whom I wanted to be. Charismatic, genuine, respected among his peers – he embodied the qualities I saw essential to being a successful person. 

 

The most appealing to me, however, was my father’s medical background. As the first person to attend university in our extended family, he had always been revered for his accomplishment of becoming a doctor. 

 

The author starts by mentioning their father. Their use of first person and way of writing makes their writing seem like the narration at the beginning of a film. This introduction draws the reader in as it seems like the author is building up to something. Similarly, your introduction should start as if you are telling a story to provide the most engaging experience for the reader. 

 

The author delves more into their father’s background and describes his medical prowess by showing, rather than telling, readers about it. Instead of saying that his father is exceptional, the author presents a specific detail about how he was the first in his family to attend university. Phrasing your writing like this allows the reader to infer through descriptive detail rather than simply absorbing your words at face value. Ensuring that you create this immersive writing style might take more time, but it is worth it as it will make your essay more memorable to admissions officers.

 

Another noteworthy aspect of this essay is that the subject is the author’s father. When writing about someone else, it is important to make sure your essay does not end up centering them. While it is a bit cliche to mention people as inspirations, it is still possible to do well. However, a major mistake many students make is elaborating on someone else for most of the essay, and then tacking on a bit of what they personally learned or did only at the end. This is a grave mistake as it deprives admissions officers of learning more about you, and in the worst case, it can seem like you’re trying to pass off someone’s accomplishments as your own.

 

Here, the author mentions their father in a succinct manner to set up the rest of their essay. In the next portion, they introduce themselves into the narrative: 

 

As a direct consequence, biology was a keen passion during my childhood. I remember how each evening, as I was being tucked into bed, I would unload an avalanche of questions on my dad, many of them amusingly simple such as: If my body is 70% water, why don’t I have water spilling out of my finger every time I get a papercut? In school, I’d stay after class to probe my teachers about the topics I had read of but did not yet comprehend. And anytime I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I, without a whiff of doubt, belted out I was going to be a doctor. 

 

This portion of the essay shows, rather than telling admissions officers about the applicant’s interest in the medical field. Instead of saying “I was extremely intellectually curious about this field,” the author shares memories that showcase this character trait. Their use of figurative language such as “avalanche of questions” and rhetorical language demonstrates their writing prowess and keeps readers engaged with their story. 

 

However, as I got older, I developed new interests – in particular, social science and leadership – which did not always align with my childhood goals of medicine and biology. 

 

With this dichotomy in my mind, I decided to spend my sophomore summer volunteering at a hospital. 

 

These next couple sentences start to hint at a turning point in the essay. The author slowly builds to a climax, and alludes to their moment of personal growth. They have set up their interest in medicine solidly enough to be credible, and are now taking readers through the process of how things changed drastically for them. This smooth transition keeps the essay flowing in a manner that keeps readers invested. 

 

Once there, it suddenly dawned on me that, for my entire life, I had viewed being a doctor through rose-tinted glasses since the reality of being a medical professional differed wildly from my perceptions. The dozens of biology textbooks I had read had not prepared me for a single drop of blood, as seeing just one could send me into an exhausting realm of dizziness. With every additional day of volunteering, it became painfully clear – I could not follow in my father’s footsteps. 

 

In this next section, the author lays out the essay’s main conflict. Conflict or discomfort of some kind is necessary for growth, but it can feel difficult to verbalize these feelings in your writing in a genuine manner. While it may feel scary to be vulnerable, keep in mind that this is your chance to offer admissions officers insight into your life in a way that simply cannot be conveyed through statistics like test scores and grades. Therefore, try to make the most out of this opportunity by walking admissions officers through your thought process.

 

For instance, the author of this example essay is honest about their sudden desire to switch career paths. They confront their internal struggle and admit to themselves, and the reader, that they realized they made a mistake in choosing a career path. Their inclusion of specific details like queasiness at blood and exhaustion with volunteering paints a genuine conflict that will resonate with readers.

 

Disappointed, I began contemplating what made my experience in the hospital so bad and if anything could be done to improve people’s – whether patients’, doctors’, or volunteers’ like myself – experience. Then, a light-bulb switched on: what if I could improve the look of the hospital? As it stood, the hospital was incredibly run-down and inspired depression rather than hope.

 

This is the climactic point the reader has been waiting for, and now comes the most important part of the essay ー it’s time for the author to describe how they grew from the incident. During this portion of your essay, you should take readers through your thought process as you begin to formulate a solution for your conflict. It is not enough to say that you learned something new or to merely state that you felt like a changed person. You must provide concrete examples of how you reached a solution and what that solution entailed. Here, the author mentions their distaste for the hospital, specifically, its aesthetic. This sets readers up to hear their solution. 

 

With a goal to improve the hospital’s appearance and thus create a friendlier environment for the people inside, I started the Better Setting – Better Getting project, which was going to decorate the hospital with photographs of nature. Having done so, there was a question of financing ー with the hospital administration over-budget, I had to source the funding entirely from the private sector. It was challenging but, a few dozen cold-calls and a handful of live-pitches later, I found a corporate partner that recognised my vision. Finally, I was ready to make my goal a reality. Legal roadblocks and printing nuances still stood in the way, but, with the enthusiastic support of the hospital community, I was able to navigate my way through. Today, dozens of wall-sized nature photos emit joy and hope into the halls of the hospital. 

 

In this next paragraph, the author describes how they resolved part of their issues with the hospital and were able to grow into their new career path. When detailing your solution, make sure you are centering yourself as the agent of change and give specific details as to your specific impact in your environment. In this essay, the author doesn’t just say “I learned that I had a passion for business.” Rather, they show readers how their skills developed and mention specific steps they took, like live pitching and navigating legal roadblocks. 

 

The author centers themselves and truly makes the first person narrative feel like their story. When writing about your actions and accomplishments, it might seem strange to not thoroughly give others credit. Writing about yourself in this manner might feel like boasting, but it is appropriate as admissions officers want to learn more about you. This essay mentions the support of the hospital staff and alludes to financial donors, but the author keeps the focus on their personal contributions. This is the manner in which you should aim to address your growth. 

 

One area of improvement for this essay is that this section is relatively brief. The author spends multiple paragraphs giving context but only dedicates one to the actions behind their growth. The author might want to trim other areas of the essay in order to fully develop this paragraph. They could describe what they did more thoroughly, and really delve into the steps they took to carry out the mentioned processes. 

 

My hospital volunteering, which had begun with heartbreak and disillusion, turned out to be a defining experience of self-discovery. It helped me close my chapter on medicine, a chapter I had so often doubted, and helped me validate my passion for leadership; it allowed me to operate free of doubt, knowing that I don’t have to follow my father’s footsteps. Above all, it made me realise that, although I would never be a doctor, I could nonetheless have a positive impact on society in my very own way.

 

The author concludes this essay by summarizing their journey and bringing their essay back to their chosen quote. By wrapping up their essay in this manner, they underscore their growth in a way that flows well and is easy to read.

 

Furthermore, their open-ended, future-facing final thoughts demonstrate that they intend to continue growing. This inclusion is a key part of any good essay; ending your essay on a strong, future-facing note evokes confidence and illustrates a readiness for the challenges that come with college and beyond.

 

When writing your essay, try to think about how you will apply what you have learned to your future and allude to it in your concluding paragraph, so that admissions officers can visualize your upward trajectory as well as you can.

 

Want more help with answering UT Austin’s supplemental prompts? Check out CollegeVine’s guide with more tips and examples on how to write these essays! 

 

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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.