Uic essay prompt (order an essay inexpensively)

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Personal insight questions

The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations.

Think of it as your interview with the admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.

While this section of the application is just one part we consider when making our admission decision, it helps provide context for the rest of your application.

Undergraduate Admissions University of Illinois Admissions wordmark The iconic orange block letter I with the words ILLINOIS ADMISSIONS written next to it

Holy bananas! The application essay prompt is posted for you!

As many of you know, the application opens on September 1. We realize that things can get hectic and stressful senior year, so we post the essay questions early to give you the opportunity to work on them before you find yourself busy with school, activities, part-time jobs, and football games.

Some things you should know…

  1. This year, we are asking all students (except those applying to DGS) to select a second choice major.
  • This means that you will be writing an essay that applies to each of the majors you are interested in. If your majors are similar, your essays may be very similar and that’s ok!
  1. The essay is your opportunity to tell us about you. This is not the time to rattle off how much you love Illinois (we assume everyone does) and tell us a lot of facts (that we already know). You are way more interesting than statistics at this point.
  2. The best thing you can do for your essay is to edit it. Read it aloud. Check your grammar and word choice. This is most critical and least completed step. It’s very clear when an essay hasn’t been proofread.

The most common question I get is, “Is the essay really even used?” and the answer is a resounding YES! When reviewing applications, we use a holistic review process. The role of the essay is to demonstrate that you understand how your skills and interests fit into your major of choice and also how that relates to career goals. Additionally, the essay demonstrates that you can follow instructions and write at a collegiate level.

So, start working on it now, get some help with proofing, and tell us who you are! We look forward to reading them!

Please note that comments close after 90 days.

August 1, 2015, 7:24 pm

About the second tip, I understand that we shouldn’t just list facts about UIUC, but would it be appropriate to identify specific activities we are interested in, such as research or study abroad? Or should the focus really be on ourselves?

Also, I love the Jennifer Lawrence gif on your bio page.

August 3, 2015, 9:00 am

I’m glad you appreciate my small tribute to Jennifer Lawrence. I think she’s a very funny lady! ��

To answer your question, you are welcome to talk about research and study abroad if it plays a significant role in answering the essay question. The main point of the second tip is that we are much more interested in an essay that tells us more about the student than an essay that was written to demonstrate a strong interest in the university. We assume you’re strongly interested since you’re applying. I hope this clarifies things for you. If you have more questions or want additional explanation, please contact our office to speak to one of the admissions counselors: admissions@illinois.edu or call us at 217.333.0302.

August 4, 2015, 10:44 am

Can you send link to the prompt or post it? Thank you.

August 6, 2015, 11:15 am

The first line of the post: “Holy bananas! The application essay prompt is posted for you!” contains a hyperlink to the essay prompt.

Let me know if you need anything else! Happy writing. ��

August 24, 2015, 8:34 pm

One of my friends (whose in college right now) told me that UIUC had two essay prompts when he was applying.

The link provided only contains one prompt. Is my friend mistaken in saying

that UIUC has two essay prompts? Or has one of the prompts been removed

August 25, 2015, 1:05 pm

I can understand why that would be confusing. You will be asked to write an essay for each of the majors you apply to. The prompt is the same, but your response should be customized to relate to the major(s) of interest.

In short, there is one prompt but you will potentially be writing two essays if you’re applying with a second choice (which you are strongly encouraged to do).

August 26, 2015, 10:39 pm

Thanks for the quick reply!

Sorry to bug you again, but I have one more question.

I want to apply to the computer engineering major(as my first major) and the computer science major (as my second major). Since these two majors are very similar and are both located in the college of engineering, how would I go about writing two different essays?

August 31, 2015, 9:35 am

If the two majors you’re applying to are similar, your essays may also be very similar. That’s ok! Tell us about the reasons/experiences that stimulated interest in each of these areas and what you would plan to do with the corresponding degree. While they are similar programs, they are still different and your essays should reflect an understanding of these subtleties. To learn more about the similarities and differences in the programs, I suggest you reach out to the College of Engineering: engineering@illinois.edu

September 13, 2015, 5:45 pm

So for this essay, I’m having trouble differentiating between something interesting/unique about me and why I am interested in my major. In such a limited amount of words, where should I focus?

September 15, 2015, 11:19 am

Thanks for asking! I think it would be best to explain why you’re interested in your major as that more accurately answers the prompt:

“Explain your interest in the major you selected. Describe an experience related to this area of study, what first introduced you to this field, and/or your future career goals.”

I hope this helps!

October 8, 2015, 11:06 am

Should the essay have a formal tone? I have absolutely no experience writing essays for universities, so I would appreciate if you could guide me through.

Also, is there any link which provides examples of essays that worked?

Just one more thing, how important is this essay? I mean, is it capable of ‘making or breaking’ your decision to accept me?

October 9, 2015, 6:22 pm

Those are all great questions! I don’t have any examples of essays to share but I can tell you that the tone varies. I see some that are formal and others that take on funny or casual tones. It’s totally up to you. It typically works best if you write in a tone that feels most natural to you.

While we do have a holistic review process, the essay does play a role in the decision and there have been circumstances where academically borderline students were denied or offered an alternative option based on essay. So, I encourage you to be concise, address the question in the prompt, and proofread multiple times.

I hope this is helpful! If you have more questions, I encourage you to call our office: 217.333.0302.

October 16, 2015, 12:26 pm

I was just wondering wether it is mandatory that we list a second choice major. I want to major in computer science and my second choice would have been mechanical engineering but since mechanical engineering is not available as a second choice major I don’t really have another discipline in mind that I would want to major in.

October 16, 2015, 5:54 pm

That’s a great question. No, it is not mandatory to put a second choice program. However, it is the only way to be considered for all avenues of admission including the Division of General Studies (perhaps you can put that for a second choice).

To learn more about our review process, see my other post: http://blog.admissions.illinois.edu/?p=20504

I hope this is helpful.

October 18, 2015, 10:35 am

Hi, I am applying for Computer Science.

Can I give a personal tone to my essay? What i mean is, not just the technical aspect of my interests, but why that makes makes me interested? My question is should the essay be more about HOW the course is significant to you, or WHAT part of the course is significant to you. Should we go into detail about the course itself? or ourselves?

October 19, 2015, 11:36 am

Thanks for reaching out. We would love a personal (yet appropriate) tone to your essay. We leave the prompt a little open-ended to allow space for creativity. Regardless of approaching the prompt from a “what” or “how” perspective, I think that as long as you establish a clear connection between your personal interests/goals and the opportunities available through the program, you’ll be moving in the right direction.

I hope this helps. If you want more direction, I encourage you to call our office: 217.333.0302.

October 20, 2015, 6:55 pm

If you apply to DGS as your second major, must you write a second essay?

October 23, 2015, 9:25 pm

My essay’s word count is 430, it 30 words more than the limit. Will that matters?

will they count anainst me?

October 24, 2015, 12:32 pm

I want to apply to the accountancy major as my first choice and finance major as my second choice, but I cannot get into the business school directly. For choosing the major, should I choose business unassigned for both and then write essays about these two different majors(accountancy and finance)?

October 25, 2015, 7:03 am

Hi! i was wondering, can my essay be 410 words? I didnt want to ruin my essay by trying to reduce the words…

October 26, 2015, 9:24 am

DGS as a second choice does not require a second essay (it’s the only exception). Glad to hear you’re applying!

October 26, 2015, 9:25 am

Hi Jacky and Shruthunjay,

We give you a target range of 300-400 words. You need to keep your essays within that range. Good luck editing!

October 26, 2015, 9:27 am

Accountancy and Finance are both in the College of Business. As a freshman Business applicant, you apply to the college as a whole (Business-Unassigned) rather to the individual programs. Therefore, you will write one essay for the College of Business and another essay for whatever you choose for your second choice (unless you list DGS as your second choice-no essay required).

I hope this helps!

October 27, 2015, 1:28 am

Who is the audience of the essay? Will it be somebody in my desired department? I’m afraid of mentioning technical jargon and events that may not be very meaningful to a general reader.

October 27, 2015, 10:30 am

Congratulations on being “That Guy” ��

Just kidding! That’s actually a really great question to ask! Primarily your audience will be an admissions counselor (potentially yours truly!). If we don’t understand your essay due to technical jargon- we look things up. Part of what I like about being a reviewer is I get to learn so much from our applicants! There is also a chance that your application may go to college review. In that case, it will be someone from your college and/or department reading your essay.

Long story short, a lot of people will read your essay. So, it should be accessible and easy to read but don’t be afraid to use specific vocabulary/jargon. If we don’t know it already, it’s our job to learn. ��

Best of luck to you!


Opinions expressed in the blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and we cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided. We assume no liability for any reliance by any person on the blog.

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Some classic questions from previous years…

Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story.

—Inspired by Drew Donaldson, AB’16

Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Milo drives through the tollbooth. Dorothy is swept up in the tornado. Neo takes the red pill. Don’t tell us about another world you’ve imagined, heard about, or created. Rather, tell us about its portal. Sure, some people think of the University of Chicago as a portal to their future, but please choose another portal to write about.

—Inspired by Raphael Hallerman, Class of 2020

What’s so odd about odd numbers?

–Inspired by Mario Rosasco, AB’09

Vestigiality refers to genetically determined structures or attributes that have apparently lost most or all of their ancestral function, but have been retained during the process of evolution. In humans, for instance, the appendix is thought to be a vestigial structure. Describe something vestigial (real or imagined) and provide an explanation for its existence.

—Inspired by Tiffany Kim, Class of 2020

In French, there is no difference between “conscience” and “consciousness.” In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.

– Inspired by Emily Driscoll, Class of 2018

Little pigs, French hens, a family of bears. Blind mice, musketeers, the Fates. Parts of an atom, laws of thought, a guideline for composition. Omne trium perfectum? Create your own group of threes, and describe why and how they fit together.

– Inspired by Zilin Cui, Class of 2018

The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain. Seriously, how cool is the mantis shrimp: mantisshrimp.uchicago.edu What might they be able to see that we cannot? What are we missing?

–Inspired by Tess Moran, AB’16

How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy.

–Inspired by Florence Chan, AB’15

The ball is in your court—a penny for your thoughts, but say it, don’t spray it. So long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew, beat around the bush, or cut corners, writing this essay should be a piece of cake. Create your own idiom, and tell us its origin—you know, the whole nine yards. PS: A picture is worth a thousand words.

—Inspired by April Bell, Class of 2017, and Maya Shaked, Class of 2018 (It takes two to tango.)

“A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.” –Oscar Wilde. Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Autobots and Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).

–Inspired by Martin Krzywy, AB’16.

Heisenberg claims that you cannot know both the position and momentum of an electron with total certainty. Choose two other concepts that cannot be known simultaneously and discuss the implications. (Do not consider yourself limited to the field of physics).

–Inspired by Doran Bennett, BS’07

Susan Sontag, AB’51, wrote that “[s]ilence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.” Write about an issue or a situation when you remained silent, and explain how silence may speak in ways that you did or did not intend. The Aesthetics of Silence, 1967.

“…I [was] eager to escape backward again, to be off to invent a past for the present.” –The Rose Rabbi by Daniel Stern

1. Something that is offered, presented, or given as a gift.

Let’s stick with this definition. Unusual presents, accidental presents, metaphorical presents, re-gifted presents, etc. — pick any present you have ever received and invent a past for it.

—Inspired by Jennifer Qin, AB’16

So where is Waldo, really?

–Inspired by Robin Ye, AB’16

–Inspired by Benjamin Nuzzo, an admitted student from Eton College, UK

Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?

–Inspired by an alumna of the Class of 2006

How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)

–Proposed by Kelly Kennedy, AB’10

Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.” Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of the Celestial Highway. Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.

UChicago professor W. J. T. Mitchell entitled his 2005 book What Do Pictures Want? Describe a picture, and explore what it wants.

–Inspired by Anna Andel

“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”—Miles Davis (1926–91)

–Inspired by Jack Reeves

University of Chicago alumna and renowned author/critic Susan Sontag said, “The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.” We all have heard serious questions, absurd questions, and seriously absurd questions, some of which cannot be answered without obliterating the very question. Destroy a question with your answer.

–Inspired by Aleksandra Ciric

“Mind that does not stick.”

–Zen Master Shoitsu (1202–80)

Superstring theory has revolutionized speculation about the physical world by suggesting that strings play a pivotal role in the universe. Strings, however, always have explained or enriched our lives, from Theseus’s escape route from the Labyrinth, to kittens playing with balls of yarn, to the single hair that held the sword above Damocles, to the Old Norse tradition that one’s life is a thread woven into a tapestry of fate, to the beautiful sounds of the finely tuned string of a violin, to the children’s game of cat’s cradle, to the concept of stringing someone along. Use the power of string to explain the biggest or the smallest phenomenon.

–Inspired by Adam Sobolweski

Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.

–Inspired by Katherine Gold

People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you’re startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.

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How to Apply as a Freshman Applicant

1. Complete your application.

You’ll provide your high school courses and grades, choose your major and an alternative program, write an essay, and list your extracurricular activities, honors, and awards. We’ll also use your application to determine admission into campus honors programs and award merit-based scholarships.

2. Pay the application fee.

  • $50 Domestic
  • $75 International

When you submit the application, you’ll pay a nonrefundable fee by credit card. If you’re a domestic student who qualifies for a fee waiver, your guidance counselor must submit our fee waiver form.

3. Submit your test scores.

  • ACT Code: 1154
  • SAT I Code: 1836

Standardized test scores are required for admission review. We accept the ACT or SAT I. You don’t have to take the essay portion of the SAT. You also don’t have to take the writing portion of the ACT unless you’re applying to a teaching licensure program. Official test scores must be sent directly from the testing agency in time to meet our deadlines; we don’t accept copies of score reports.

4. Prove your English proficiency.

You need to demonstrate a command of the English language. If your first language isn’t English or you’re attending high school in a non-English-speaking country, we recommend you submit a TOEFL (code 1836) or IELTS score from a test you’ve taken within the past 2 years.

5. See if you have further application requirements.

Depending on the major you’re applying to, you may have a few more things to do.

International Applicants

You should also be aware of some additional requirements.

Art + Design Applicants

You also need to submit a portfolio. More information is available through the School of Art and Design or by calling 217-333-6632.

Dance Applicants

You also need to complete an audition. More information is available through the Department of Dance or by calling 217-333-1010.

Music Applicants

You also need to complete a music application and audition or interview. More information is available through the School of Music or by calling 217-244-7899.

Theatre Applicants

You also need to interview and complete an audition or portfolio review. More information is available through the Department of Theatre or by calling 217-333-2371.

6. Check your status.

Once you’ve submitted your application, check its status by clicking on your application in myIllini. If you applied through the Coalition Application and already have a myIllini account, you can use that existing account to view your status. If you didn’t have a myIllini account, we’ll create one for you and you’ll receive an email a few days after submitting the Coalition Application with instructions on how to access your myIllini account.

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Essay Questions for Freshman Applicants

We want to give you enough time to craft the very best essays you can—and the best way to do that is to tell you what they are now.

Explain your interest in the major you selected and describe how you have recently explored or developed this interest inside and/or outside the classroom. You may also explain how this major relates to your future career goals. If you’re applying to the Division of General Studies, explain your academic interests and strengths or your future career goals. You may include any majors or areas of study you’re currently considering. Limit your response to 300 to 400 words.

If you select a second-choice major other than the Division of General Studies on your application, write a second essay explaining your interest in this major, too. Again, limit your response to 300 to 400 words.

Tips for Writing Your Essay

Be memorable.

The essay part of the application is important because it gives us more insight into who you are and who you want to be. Make us remember you!

Be prepared.

Take time to think about and brainstorm your message. Create an outline, write a good first draft, and edit multiple times.

Be yourself.

We want to know more about you, so be honest and let us into your world. Instead of making broad statements about what you want to do, give specific examples from high school or extracurricular activities. And don’t be afraid to add your personal style and voice to your writing!

You only have a couple of paragraphs to tell us about your experiences and goals. Choose your words wisely.

Be focused.

It’s not necessary for you to repeat information that’s already elsewhere in your application. Stay focused on explaining how those credentials and qualifications will lead to a successful future here.

Be professional.

Submitting a sloppy-looking essay with spelling errors and glaring mistakes sends us the message that you’re not serious about Illinois. Proofread your essays and ask your counselor, your English teacher, or a parent to take a second look.

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Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST, Monday – Friday (closed on all campus holidays)

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Requirements & Deadlines

Application Deadline 1/15/18

All First-Year & some transfer programs (Nursing & Nutrition)


What type of applicant are you?

First Year

Current high school students (including those with college credit) or high school graduates who have not attended a college/university.

  • Fall 2018 Regular Decision – Jan 15, 2018

Students who have earned college credit since graduating from high school.

  • Fall 2018 Transfer – Nursing/Nutrition – Jan 15, 2018
  • Fall 2018 Transfer – Apr 2, 2018


Students who have studied at a foreign secondary school or university or require a visa to study in the U.S.

Same as First Year or Transfer


Former degree-seeking undergraduate students returning after two or more terms away from the university.

Same as Transfer

Second Bachelor's Degree

Applicants who have already earned a bachelor’s degree and want to pursue a second degree in a different field.

Same as Transfer

Applicants wishing to take UIC courses without working towards a UIC degree.

Same as Transfer

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