IMPORTANT: The UT has NEW prompts for 2017-18, so much of the information in this post is now outdated.
Here’s the link to the update-to-date information on UT prompts:New Essay Requirements for UT.
Former Admissions Counselor
at University of Texas-Austin
Shares Insider Advice
Are you planning on applying to any of the 14 University of Texas institutions, including the most popular in Austin, Texas?
(Or Texas A&M, and even some private Texas colleges, such as SMU, TCU, Baylor and Trinity College.)
I’m excited to share some tips from a former college admissions officer at UT-Austin with you. His name is Kevin Martin, founder of TexAdmissions, and he focused these tips on the one of the 3 required essays he believes is by far the most important, based on his experience.
Kevin Martin of TexAdmissions
The University of Texas essay is called Topic C, and the prompts asks:
“Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals.”
Here is what Kevin has to say about writing your college application essay for this prompt for the University of Texas essays:
Top 10 Tips for Writing University of Texas Essays
It’s all about Essay C – For universities like UT-Austin, which requires essay C, this is where you should spend the most effort. Here, they are looking to see if you are a good “fit” for your intended area of study. This means that you should focus on why they should invest in offering you a space in their program.
Only your first choice matters – When applying to UT, you are given options for a first and a second choice major.
This is an illusion; they only consider your first choice. One hundred percent of your essay should reflect on your past experiences and skills that show how you would contribute in the classroom and the overall university community.
Treat your essays like an argument – Provide proof! The biggest problem I saw when I reviewed files for UT were vague or cliché statements.
Instead of, “A strong foundation in math is important for success in engineering,” transform this statement into a “me-focused” sentence: “Because of my internship at Texas Instruments and my strong performance in calculus, I am well suited for studies in electrical engineering.”
Each sentence should tie back to the idea of “fit” – With each sentence in your essay, ask yourself: “Does this sentence contribute to my argument that I deserve a space in their program?
Does this sentence help continue the thought from the ones before and set up my argument in later sentences?
Is this sentence absolutely necessary?
If not, can I take it out and not hurt my argument?”
This is your chance to interview – UT and other Apply Texas universities do not conduct interviews as part of their admissions process. Instead, this is your only opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee.
You want the reviewer to walk away thinking, “This is a pretty neat student. We want them here!”
How many essays should I write? – UT has a somewhat confusing system where they require two essays.
You must submit the Essay Topic C, and then your choice among Essays Topic A on diversity, Essay Topic B on overcoming an obstacle, or a special circumstances essay.
Sometimes students write all four thinking it will help them.
Don’t do this!
Unless you have a very compelling reason, only submit Essay C and your choice of one of the remaining three.
Should my second essay also focus on fit? – If you can relate your second essay to why you are a good fit for your major, then I would go for it.
I worked with a student who selected electrical engineering.
His essay C was a strong piece arguing why he had the skills and experience to contribute, but his essay B told an entertaining and insightful story of how him and his friend accidentally broke some computers they were repairing and managed to fix them just in time.
What if I am undecided? – That’s okay! Most students are undecided, even those who swear they know they are going to medical school before they enroll in freshman biology.
You can still demonstrate curiosity and passion by reflecting on one or two things that capture your interest and creative energies.
How am I evaluated? – In short, you are scored on a scale of 1-6 – whether to recommend you for admission or not.
Most students receive a 3 or a 4 with only the most exceptional students scoring a 6.
The admissions reviewer looks at everything you have submitted (resume, essays, recommendation letters, coursework, etc.). If the reviewer is on the fence about giving you a 4 or a 5, you want your essay to argue decisively that you are a good fit and an interesting person.
Essays, more so than recommendation letters, are often what tips the scale where the admissions reviewer can reward you with a higher score and improve your admissions chances.
Relax! – There comes a point where your essays are “done.”
Over-editing can cause a lot of unneeded stress and be counterproductive for the quality of your essays.
Once you submit your application, it is best just to forget about it until you receive your decision in the spring.
Excessive refreshing of your My Status page never does any good. ; )
Here’s a video that Kevin put together
with more great insider advice and tips
on writing essays for the University of Texas:
Check Out These Related Posts!
The Requirements: 1 essay of 500-750 words; 3 short answers of 40 lines (or ~250 words) each.
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Personal statement, short answer
University of Texas 2017-2018 Application Essay Question Explanations
Although the University of Texas wants to drag another 1250-1650 words out of the depths of your soul, it’s quite straightforward as far as standalone applications are concerned. Each prompt drives at a different aspect of your personality, from your upbringing to your academics and career plans. So your greatest task is to budget your personal information wisely. Make sure you answer each prompt directly and exactly, with as little overlap as possible. Although there may be some overlap between your academics, career plans, and views on leadership, aim to focus on distinct stories and examples for each so that you leave admissions with a complete picture of who you are!
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. All applicants must submit an essay responding to Topic A.
UT Topic A is very much like Common App Prompt 1, asking you to describe your background, environment, and how you became the person you are today. The options for how you approach this essay are nearly endless, but keep in mind that this is your best opportunity to provide a window into your home life. How do you fill your down time? How do you contribute to and lean on your family and community? How has your world, outside of school and formal extracurriculars, shaped you and what is your role in that world?
As the prompt suggests, there are four main angles you should consider: family, home, neighborhood, or community. Maybe you grew up with three parents and that has shaped the way you think about family and build relationships. Make sure you show admissions where you come from and how your background has affected the way you live your life. Maybe you were raised in a city that shaped the way you think about diversity and multiculturalism early in life and has affected how you interact with others. Once you choose your angle, we recommend selecting one anecdote or routine and filling it with detail. Tell one rich story rather than trying to cover every aspect of your upbringing.
Short Answer 1: Career Plans – If you could have any career, what would it be? Why? Describe any activities you are involved in, life experiences you’ve had, or even classes you’ve taken that have helped you identify this professional path.
Although this prompt claims to be about your career plans, it’s really about your aspirations both academic and professional. How do your current scholastic interests connect to your future career? That’s a lot to cover in 250-300 words! So, to begin, fast forward and highlight for admissions where you see yourself in the future. It’s ok if you don’t have a specific profession in mind! Even an abstract goal is a good place to start: What impact would you like to have on your local or global community? What setting would you like to live in? What do you see as your greatest skill? Once you have a goal (abstract or concrete) in mind, build the rest of your essay around it. Give admissions the academic or extracurricular context for how these interests and aspirations came to be. For example, maybe you want to work in Finance because you’re older brother introduced you to the industry and now you wake up early everyday to turn your phone on and check the stock market. Perhaps you’re even involved in a mock stock exchange! If you’re hoping to go into Hotel and Restaurant Management, when did your interest in hospitality begin? Why do you think you are uniquely qualified to enter such a field? No matter how you answer this question, make sure the goals you are describing are attainable through your program at UT. You may even want to mention a few specific UT opportunities (a lab, an internship) that would guide you in your next steps. As admissions is getting to know you, they are also trying to assess your fit, so why not make it easy for them!
Short Answer 2: Academics – Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provide an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not?
This short answer provides a rare opportunity for applicants to directly address their academic history. You have the chance to assume some control over your numbers, to connect the dots or fill in the gaps with a story that provides depth and context to an otherwise flat list of numbers. There are two distinct cases to consider for this prompt: the struggle and the triumph. If you are someone who doesn’t test well, for example, here is your opportunity to clarify and explain why standardized tests aren’t a great assessment of your skills or intelligence. If you had a dip in your grades at any point because of life circumstances, this is a place for you to elaborate. Whatever blemish you may choose to address, we caution all applicants to be wary of the sob story. The point of this essay isn’t to evoke pity. On the contrary, UT is challenging you to be a bit defiant. What special skills and talents do you bring to the table that simply aren’t captured by your transcript alone?
On the other hand, if you are proud of your academic history and worked very hard to get to where you are, you may be tempted to emphasize that you have really given it your all. But remember, your goal with each essay is to reveal something admissions doesn’t know; and this prompt is a direct solicitation to do just that. So, perhaps you could take a risk by revealing an area in which you struggled. What was the root of the challenge and what steps did you take to overcome it? Maybe your A in Spanish belies months of seeking extra help after school and YouTubing telenovelas. Or, if you’ve always been a model student, maybe you can reveal the doors your academic success has opened for you. Did you get invited into a special advanced Calculus program? Or did you become a tutor for younger students who were struggling in your favorite subject? No matter what your angle, aim to tell a story that reveals something personal, that a statistic could never fully capture.
Short Answer 3: Leadership – How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?
The great thing about this question is that it doesn’t ask you to describe a specific leadership position. Instead, UT is asking about leadership as a quality that you can display in any area of your life — in the classroom and beyond! We can’t all be editor of the school newspaper or captain of the track team, so if you don’t have many prominent leadership positions on your activity resume (and even if you do) this is an opportunity for you to show that true leadership is more than a title. When have people looked to you for support or guidance? In what situations do you feel comfortable taking charge? Are you the type of person that likes to take the lead during group projects or ask questions in class? If you are president of student council, what steps have you taken to achieve your campaign goals? What’s the most important problem you have helped solve at home, at school, or in your community? Once you choose a solid example of your leadership qualities, make sure you can use it as a springboard to address the second part of this question: How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin? Whether you simply want to continue being editor of a publication or get into grassroots organizing, connect your personal story to a goal that is achievable at the University of Texas.
**Art/Art History and Social Work applicants should note that there are special short answers for your programs.