Essay Writing

University of Virginia Supplemental Essays: "Oddball" questions

Welcome back to the UVA supplemental essays guide. Here are some brainstorming tips for the oddball prompts! 

Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.

What’s your favorite word and why?

This prompt has been posed by UVA for a few years in a row now, and it’s one that students usually love or hate. If this question immediately tickles your fancy and you have an idea for the word you’d like to highlight, go for it! If you look at this prompt and feel totally stuck, but still want to try answering it, try this trick: What might you tell admissions about yourself that they haven’t already heard from you in your Common App essay? Is there something in your history and experience worth expanding upon? Once you’ve identified what you want to discuss, think about what words might be helpful launch points for describing that experience and back into your “favorite word.” This is also a great strategy for choosing a word that is slightly less expected than those submitted by the average applicant.

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.

This is another prompt that has appeared on past UVA applications. Most students we’ve worked with seem to have difficulty defining the word “quirk” as it applied to themselves. We like to think of a quirk as something you do regularly that is a bit bizarre or charming. Whatever you choose to highlight, it should reveal something to admissions about your character and personality. If you don’t think you have quirks, you’re probably just not attuned to them – they’re hard to identify from the inside. So maybe ask a parent or a friend if you do anything out of habit that makes them laugh or even shake their heads in mock disapproval. You’d be surprised what you do routinely and never notice!

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?

Responding to this prompt is a fantastic way to showcase an area of interest or passion you have not had the opportunity to expand on already. Maybe you want to teach an entire course of the history of rock poster art. Or pizza-making. Can you combine two of the things you love and discuss the unusual ways in which these things intersect with and influence each other? Make sure you are answering the question and that you frame your subject of interest as something that would make for an interesting course. And try not to limit yourself to the academic – many subjects can be explored through an intellectual lens if you approach them in an unexpected and creative way.

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?

This final prompt choice is glorious in its infinite potential. You can choose to elaborate on anything about which you feel passionately here. Do you want to send a message to your fellow students about the environment? Maybe you want to rally students to join you at a demonstration of some kind. What is important to you, and what might be important to communicate to other people in your community? Essays responding to this prompt tend to lean in the direction of activism and community engagement, but don’t feel limited to these angles – anything you want to share with other UVA students is fair game, as long as it is reflective of something about which you feel strongly. After all, you’re trying to communicate what it important to you, both to the community and to admissions.

This brings us to an end of the UVA series. We hope you liked it! Give us a call or come on over if you want us to look at your essays! 

University of Viginia Supplemental essays: "Why college?"

University of Virginia is a public institution that was founded in 1819. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 16,331, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 1,682 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. University of Virginia's ranking in the 2018 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 25. Some of the greatest minds graduated from UVA, from Edgar Alan Poe to Tina Fey. 

UVA has two supplemental questions: the why, and the oddball essay. Lets start with the why question!

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.

 The first of UVA’s two required essays is specific to the school within UVA to which you will be applying. In most cases, the prompt bears some relation to the classic “Why” essay, which probes for the reasons you are a good fit for a school and vice versa. When you search for answers to this prompt, think about why you want to study what you want to study. What past experiences and commitments will show admissions that you are truly committed to the field you’re interested in. And how might you act on your passions and interests?
The small curve ball in these UVA “Why” prompts is that many of them ask you to demonstrate your interest by discussing a topic or providing a specific example of something that inspires you within your chosen field. In these cases, you won’t be talking about why you want to pursue your chosen field in the abstract, but rather you will prove your interest on the spot with your examination of the subject you choose.

College of Arts and Sciences

What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?

This is one of those curve balls we were just referring to. In asking you about an academic or artistic work that has captured your attention, UVA is asking you to put your love of the arts and sciences on display (which in turn will prove your interest in the school you’re applying to). These kinds of questions can be tricky if specific examples don’t immediately come to mind. Try to avoid the obvious (no Great Gatsby, please) unless you have a hyper-personal connection to the material at hand. Instead, search for concepts, ideas, art and stories that ignited your curiosity, made you fall in love with a subject, or pushed you to new academic heights. We recommend going through your bookshelf and old school notebooks to start to collect ideas worth expanding upon.

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?

Again, with this prompt UVA wants to see your interest in a subject in action. If you are an aspiring engineering and applied sciences student and those fields are a good fit for your passions and skills, you will very likely be excited by this prompt. After all, it takes a creative and innovative mind to invent something that improves the lives of others – and as an engineer or applied scientist that is exactly what you will be signing up to do. We recommend starting this prompt by interviewing some of the people that are close to you and asking them about the simple annoyances and inconveniences of their daily lives. This should give you some initial ideas for problems that need solving so you can put on your thinking cap and invent some thoughtful solutions. Again, try to stay away from the obvious here. And do your research to make sure the thing you’re trying to create hasn’t already been invented!

School of Architecture

Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.

Answering this prompt requires an interesting combo of creative interest in action and traditional why essay elements. In asking you to describe an inspiration, admissions is not simply asking you to identify something that has motivated your interest – they also want to know WHY the landmark, building, or other element of design struck your fancy. Feel free to expand upon how being exposed to creativity pushed you to explore your own talents. Another helpful hint: using terminology that showcases a command of design and architecture concepts can be really helpful in showing admissions your commitment to the field.

This brings us to the end of the first installment of the UVA supplemental essays guide! Head over to the University of Virginia category link and read more on the oddball essays! 

Welcome back to the UVA supplemental essays guide. Here are some brainstorming tips for the oddball prompts! 

Overcoming Writer's Block

We know that writing essays non stop is hard and can result in a complete brain drain. Now college essays aren't particularly hard but because they are so vital to the college acceptance process, the pressure to ace them can seem a lot more. 

Every student functions differently under pressure, some shine because they want to perform and some stumble and find themselves in a void. When that happens, track back and follow these steps! 

  1. If you haven’t found anything extraordinary about your life on which to write your essay, why not start with the small stuff? Make a list of every mundane and boring thing you have ever had to do. Taking out the garbage? Check. Changing the cat’s litter? Check. Make sure your essay about your mundane and boring activity makes a deeply reflective and insightful statement about you and shows that you are anything but
    mundane and boring.
  2. Read five different news articles. Take the fifth word from each first sentence and rearrange the words into a sentence that best describes you to create the hook of your essay. If that unique opening sentence of your essay doesn’t immediately capture the attention of the admissions officer, I’m not sure what will.
  3. Admissions officers want to get to know the real you, so what better way to do that than to start your essay by writing about your dream? And I don’t mean your life-long dream to become a doctor, I mean last night’s dream. Whether it was about driving down an endless road or fighting crime in the sewer system of New York City, your dreams give an unadulterated, subconscious look at the real you. What more could they possibly ask for?
  4.  If all else fails, go on your dream school’s website and look through it until you feel motivated enough to write that amazing essay. Eat ice cream from the tub. Have a good sob or two. It happens to the best of us.

I hope this helps. Comment below with any questions or come chat with us. We are always happy to help! 

University of Michigan Supplemental Essay Questions: Tips and Tricks

Welcome back to the second round of University of Michigan supplement essay brainstorming tips and tricks. Today we cover the community and activity essays. The aim with these essays is to facilitate in filling out a diverse class of incoming students. They ask the questions they do because they want to understand what makes you stand out from the pack. They want to know what you will bring to campus that will make you a key member of the community. Show them what you’ve got!

Part B. Community Essay

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (Approximately 250 words)

The main purpose of this question is to get at what the applicant believes to be central to their perception of self. Michigan wants to know something special about you and your background and how that will contribute to their diverse campus. No two people have the same exact story, and this is your opportunity to show how yours is different.

Often, when students read the list of possible communities in this prompt, they immediately know which of their many communities they will write about.

Others have a hard time identifying a community in their life that has shaped them. For those of you who feel that way, the most helpful path to discovering this impactful community is to write out a list of the communities you belong to or have belonged to at some point in your life. It could include your hometown, grade school, in-school club, apartment society or something that will require more explanation like a gadget that you love or your favorite food.

For those who are truly stumped, the latter approach can be a good way to spin something that most people would not see as a community into one.

Let’s take the “favorite food” community for example. You could write an essay about being part of the community that loves traditional Indian Mithais. You could talk about how your grandma always made you her famous ladoos and taught you a life lesson that changed your perspective while mixing the ingredients. This essay would discuss how you became a part of this community and why it is important to you in a very creative way. Almost anything is possible with this prompt.

No matter what approach you choose, make sure to develop your place within the community with an anecdote or deep personal reflection. Don’t forget to showcase your voice as a writer and keep this prompt personal! The communities we are a part of impact us all in very different ways. There is no right answer.

Part C. Activity Essay

If you could only do one of the activities you have listed in the Activities section of your Common Application, which one would you keep doing? Why? (Approximately 100 words)

The most important part of writing this essay is deciding which of your activities you will write about. Note that the prompt does not ask which of your activities takes up most of your time or which you have engaged in the longest. It asks which one you would keep doing if you could only choose one. For this reason, you should write about the activity to which you feel the greatest personal connection.

Ask yourself: “If I had to choose one descriptive word to describe me, what would I want it to be?”

Then, “Which of my activities showcases that?”

Use this essay to tell Michigan about one of the most important aspects of who you are.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the prompt only calls for approximately 100 words. You need to be short and sweet in your response. Do not spend too much time discussing the specifics of what the activity is. If the activity is widely known (e.g., Model UN, Speech and Debate) you may jump right into your personal involvement and connection. If the activity is not well known by outsiders, you may want to spend a short sentence discussing the activity before transitioning to its significance.

Because of the personal nature of this prompt, it is nearly impossible to list exemplary activities. If five different people participated in the same five activities, they could very well all have different responses to this prompt. The one thing that should not differ in their responses is the development, or the level of detail of the “why.”

If you were to write an essay about being on the varsity soccer team, you would want to talk about the leadership skills you gained as captain, how you learned to be a team player, and other formative experiences. You could talk about technical aspects of the game if they have a personal meaning for you or if they contain a metaphor for your life. Maybe you discuss how being a goalie helps you think differently because you need to anticipate the next move and developing these skills helps you on and off the field.

No matter what, always go one step further in your analysis.

This brings us to the end of another essay series. Come chat with us for more questions and meeting our expert team of writing mentors! 

University of Michigan: "Why College" Essay Tips and Tricks

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is a top-ranked public university with a long history of excellence in sports, the arts, and academics. Founded in 1817 with the motto, “Arts, Knowledge, Truth,” the university now has one of the largest alumni networks in the world. No matter which of Michigan’s 19 schools or colleges they attended, alumni are always willing to help out fellow alum because of their adoration for their shared and beloved alma mater.

Year after year, the university receives a record number of applicants, and last year they accepted around 42.4% of their in-state applicants and 24.5% of their out-of-state applicants. The school is currently home to 28,312 proud undergraduate Michigan Wolverines. Michigan’s location in Ann Arbor provides its students with access to one of the continuously best-regarded college towns. It is not only a fun and attractive place to live, but it is also home to many work opportunities and an entrepreneurial spirit.

With a campus spanning 3,211 acres, more than 250-degree programs, and more than 900 student organizations, Michigan is home to endless opportunities. Students looking for a large school with a diverse student body and a lot of school spirit find exactly that and more at the University of Michigan.

The University of Michigan accepts the Common App.Read on to learn how to write the University of Michigan supplemental essays.

Part A. Main “Why Michigan?” Essay

Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual-degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (500 words)

This prompt represents a common category of supplement prompts that ask you why you want to study a specific program at a specific school. The main purpose of these “Why Us?” essays is to show the school why you are interested and why you are a good fit. This is done in two parts: 1. why you want to study what you have indicated and 2. why you want to study it here at this specific school. Make sure to do some research so you can provide more than generic examples like “I want to go to a big school“ or “I like sports” that could apply to many other schools. 

When you start to write this essay, you first want to develop why you wish to study what you have indicated on your application. An anecdote is often the most effective means of accomplishing this. You could recount how your time in physical therapy, love for your biology class, and long history of playing sports fueled your passion to learn more about the human body and how it moves. This perfectly lines up with the field of Kinesiology.

Next, you need to demonstrate why Michigan is the perfect place to study what you have selected. Continuing with the Kinesiology example, you could talk about its excellent reputation and some specific classes you really look forward to taking.

With preferred admission applications, it is important to discuss your future goals as well as past experiences that make you sure you will want to be a part of this program. For example, if you apply for the Pharmacy program, you will want to discuss why you are interested in pharmacy and detail the moments in your life that have led you to this decision. Perhaps you have always had a passion for chemistry and helping others, and hearing from your friend’s mom about her career in pharmacy was consistently one of your favorite parts of your weekly hangouts.

With dual-degree programs, the key is not only discussing why you want to pursue a degree in each of them, but why you think the combination is especially important for you. For example, if you are applying to the dual-degree Ross School of Business and College of Engineering program, you could discuss your dream of beginning your own tech startup and needing both the technical engineering knowledge and business savvy. You could write about how you first came up with your idea and when/how you realized Michigan’s dual-degree program would be the perfect place to bring it to life.

We hope this helps! Come chat with us for more questions and meeting our expert team of writing mentors! 

University of California Essay Prompts 7+8: Tips, Tricks, and Ideas

Welcome back for another edition of UC app essays. Today, we go through essay prompts 7&8. Let’s get to it!

Prompt 7

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Your community, which includes your school, could be as small as your local grocery store, your nearby pet adoption center, or even the adult baseball team that practices nearby. It could also be as large as your country or your ethnicity. Remember to illustrate your role in this community and why you identify with this community the most. This will lead you to talk about your underlying motives for the service you have done, and in turn, demonstrate the positive influence you have made. Do not be afraid to talk about your actions even if they did not produce a sweeping change; as long as the effort was genuine, change is change, no matter the scale.

Additionally, touch on what you learned from others through this service action or initiative, and how you will continue to learn from other community members in the future. This is a good safe essay since most of us do some community service which means its all about composing a good essay. 

Prompt 8 

Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

This is the most open-ended any question can get. Of course, you can literally write about any and everything. However, the key is to ensure that whatever form you choose for it to be, the content’s focus can be summarized into two sentences that describe the uniqueness of your candidacy.

We highly recommend this particular process for this type of open-ended essays, but this same procedure could be used for any prompt.

This is the most open-ended any question can get. Of course, you can literally write about any and everything. However, the key is to ensure that whatever form you choose for it to be, the content’s focus can be summarized into two sentences that describe the uniqueness of your candidacy.

We highly recommend this particular process for this type of open-ended essays, but this same procedure could be used for any prompt.

1. On a blank piece of paper, jot down any and every idea, feeling, phrases, and keywords that pop into your head after reading this prompt.

2. Narrow your ideas down to one topic — for example, your habit of pausing at least five seconds before you respond to a conversation in writing or in real life.

3. Outline the structure of your essay, and plan out content for introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

4. Now, before you start writing the actual essay, condense into one to two sentences how you would like the admissions officers to perceive you after reading the essay.Piggybacking on the previous example: Natalie’s ability to force herself to thoroughly gather her thoughts before responding to any question or provocation allows her to avoid gaffes and undesired animosity during heated verbal exchanges. This has not only helped her maintain strong relationships with all the staff members of the clubs she leads, but will also help her navigate the political environment that she will face in the professional world.

5. Your entire essay should be dedicated to constructing the image you devised in step 4. At least 50% should be directly or indirectly referring to elements mentioned in your two-sentence summary. This allows you to avoid spending too much time recounting various anecdotes and lose track of what kind of personality you originally wanted to portray to the admissions officer.

This concludes our UC essay series! We hope that this helped! College essays can be challenging especially when deadlines are November 30th. Come chat with us if you have more questions!