I hope the rising seniors out there are having a great summer. I share our essay prompts for the next year each June with the hopes that we'll give you plenty of time to think about which one is right for you. If you are thinking about writing your essays this early, I hope you'll revisit them before you actually submit an application. It's amazing how much can change in a few months.
I have three pieces of advice for you as you think about your essays:
1. Don't overthink the topic. These questions are deliberately broad so that people can take their essays in many directions.
2. Don't feel limited to the essay formula you may use for academic writing. While the five-paragraph essay (an intro, three supporting sections, and a conclusion) you use in school is technically correct, it might not be the best way to get your style and voice to come across.
3. Don't feel obligated to use all of the advice you get. You'll obviously want to get some people you trust to read your essays and give you feedback, but it's okay to ignore feedback that doesn't fit your style.
I'll elaborate on those points in future posts. Now, let's get to the prompts. This past year's applicants submitted some really wonderful essays, so we didn't feel the need to make major changes to our prompts. Remember that these short essays are in addition to your longer Common App essay.
2017-2018 First-Year Application Essay Questions
1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words.
- College of Arts and Sciences - What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
- School of Engineering and Applied Sciences - If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?
- School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
- School of Nursing -
- Kinesiology Program - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
- What’s your favorite word and why?
- We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
- Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
- UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
I'm happy to answer questions about our prompts in the comments!
Essay questions evolve as our students' reactions to them change. Our goal is to present prompts that serve as jumping off points for many types of students. There have been times when I've thought a question was amazing, but it hasn't inspired too many (like the "Dumbest Generation" question from 2010-2011) and times when I've thought that it was time to retire some questions just to have students passionately advocate for them to stay.
This year, the required essay that is on the Common Application is changing. The Common App prompts (PDF) cover some of the topics we had in our supplemental questions, so it made sense to wipe the slate almost completely clean and come up with some new prompts.
2013-2014 UVa Supplement Essay Questions for First Year Applicants
1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school you selected. Limit your answer to a half page or roughly 250 words.
- College of Arts & Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
- Engineering: If you were given funding for a small engineering project, what would you do?
- Architecture: Students in the school of architecture study the physical design of the environment in which we live, including cities, landscapes, and buildings. That environment has a profound effect on the way that people and societies interact and develop. Describe how a particular physical place has influenced your growth as a person.
- Nursing: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of Nursing.
- Kinesiology: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words:
- What is your favorite word and why?
- The Honor Code at U.Va. states that students will not lie, cheat, or steal. This strengthens our Community of Trust. What would you add to the Honor Code and why?
- In 2006, graduate student Robert Stilling discovered an unpublished poem by Robert Frost while doing research in U.Va.’s Small Collections Library. Where will your Stilling moment be in college?
- We are a community with quirks, both in language (we’ll welcome you to Grounds, not campus) and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
- To tweet or not to tweet?
Believe it or not, I have nothing to do with that last option.
What do you think?