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University of Texas – Austin Undergraduate College Application Essays

These University of Texas – Austin college application essays were written by students accepted at University of Texas – Austin. All of our sample college essays include the question prompt and the year written. Please use these sample admission essays responsibly.

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College Application Essays accepted by University of Texas – Austin

A Future Meeting Foram Naresh Mehta

University of Texas – Austin

In a day and age when religious persecution might be expected to be a diminishing issue, one might be surprised to realize that it is in fact alive and well. While crusades may no longer be erupting to rid the world of the “non-believers” and.

El Carmen April Marie Zwerneman

University of Texas – Austin

This summer, I had the opportunity to escape from the routine of daily life and spend a week in Mexico. However, this week was no Acapulco vacation. I journeyed alongside several dozen members of my youth group to El Carmen, a small village on.

Different Jorgen Nelson

University of Texas – Austin

He walked into the classroom like any other student would on his first day of class. He carried the same books, same vaguely uncomfortable air about him, and same barely-concealed eagerness to learn as the rest of us. Yes, in all regards he was a.

Progress Jorgen Nelson

University of Texas – Austin

I wrestled open the door, juggling the unwieldy fruits of my labor. Here I was again at Sequencing, that cavernous machine-laden room on the 15th floor of the Alkek Building in the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center.

The Election James Walton Gibson

University of Texas – Austin

Near the end of my junior school year, I ran for senior class president. My decision was based on a few different factors. For one, I wanted to play a larger role in my school. Although I have always participated in school athletics, I have.

Watch Jessica Monk

University of Texas – Austin

There’s no way that it’s morning already. I hear footsteps running down the hall; eight hours ago this would have been considered typical, but now, it’s completely ludicrous. The door to my dorm room swings open with a nauseating kind of reality.

How my friend affected my life Anonymous

University of Texas – Austin

The crack of the shoulder pads atop two burly young men signals that the high school football season is in full swing. If not for the electric Friday nights under the lights of a shrine to hard work, there would be weeks when I simply existed and.

The Lab Ryan Esparza

University of Texas – Austin

The first time that science really made sense was in seventh grade, when a frog lay splayed out on the desk in front of me. While the stench of formaldehyde made others eyes water and stomachs churn, I was too fascinated to notice. I was intrigued.

Home in Texas Christopher J. Spradling

University of Texas – Austin

The statement of purpose will provide an opportunity to explain any extenuating circumstances that you feel could add value to your application. You may also want to explain unique aspects of your academic background or valued experiences you may.

Most Heroes Don't Know It Christopher J. Spradling

University of Texas – Austin

Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.

I think it’s safe to say that, though he may not know it, Ian Lokey made me who I am more than any other.

Foreign Aid is a Farce Christopher J. Spradling

University of Texas – Austin

Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your.

My Little Inspiration Brandi Kathleen Schroeder

University of Texas – Austin

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K… As I enter the house, I hear the sweet melody of this song being sung in the playroom by a vivacious voice that can do nothing but bring a smile to my face. I tiptoe as quietly as I possibly can towards the.

Human. Deborah Lin

University of Texas – Austin

It’s been a while since I curled up in my closet and carefully pried open the lid of my Blue Box: 5 X-Acto knives with 10 interchangeable blades and an array of 5 different handles. A cutter’s dream. Mom would always warn me when I borrowed that.

True Beauty Deborah Lin

University of Texas – Austin

Oprah never read me bedtime stories. Dr. Phil never advised me on my inspirations and aspirations, suggested careers that were seemingly tailored all too well to my strengths and weaknesses, gave me practical insight into the enigmatic minds of.

The Experience that Lives On Anonymous

University of Texas – Austin

“Can I touch you there?” As an 8-year-old, I didn’t know what to say. I was obedient. I was shy. I was afraid of speaking up and being judged. So instead of answering the question, I stayed silent and was sexually abused by a family member. He.

Why Do We Have to Read This Book? Haley B. Williams

University of Texas – Austin

“Darcy, why do we have to read this book?” I complained after school. “This book isn’t just stupid, it has no relevance in my life at all.” Because she was used to me asking questions like this, her only response was, “Because I told you. And I’m.

Personal Statement Joseph Austin Martinez

University of Texas – Austin

My brain never turns off. Problem solving and efficiency have always been a part of me. I am always asking myself, “Can this be done better?” I’m not sure if it’s related to my effort to eliminate distractions, my ADHD, or the nature of being a.

Seeing the Homeless Anonymous

University of Texas – Austin

The entire high school packed into the auditorium on a December morning for the weekly assembly. After a few student announcements, the chairman of the Community Service Board asked us to step up our contributions to the gift drive because we.

Father Mark's Stand Anonymous

University of Texas – Austin

Eyes lock in on the cross and follow it down the aisle as its bearer leads the procession until the last person of the seemingly endless line grabs the entire congregation’s attention. Entering the back of the sanctuary, Father Mark’s flowing.

Photography Anonymous

University of Texas – Austin

The shutter button is released, causing a chain reaction: the lens opens and closes in the span of microseconds, and, for a moment, the world stands still to allow genius or despair to be captured.

When I was eleven years old, fresh out of.

Cases Like Mine John Calvin Pierce

University of Texas – Austin

My dad is the preacher at the red-brick Southern Baptist church that I’ve attended since I was seven. It’s just down the road. Sunday school at 9:30, “big church” at 10:30. Youth Group on Wednesday nights. As the preacher’s kid, I know all the ins.

The City of Dreams Anonymous

University of Texas – Austin

I’ve been to New York once in my entire lifetime. I was six years old and my father had to travel there on a business meeting, taking the rest of us along. I’m not particularly skilled in recalling events from numerous years ago, so when I reflect.

4N6 Anonymous

University of Texas – Austin

When I first heard of Forensics, I imagined a combination of Family Feud and a presidential inauguration. There I would stand – on a wide stage, a never-ending sea of people staring, and spotlights shining down. Imagine my surprise – and immense.

Garam-miso Lasagna Terrance Alexander

University of Texas – Austin

Being Indian — and I am 100% South Indian by birth — is not about Bollywood or cricket for me. Rather, my culture revolves around food. Few countries can lay claim to cuisine influenced by Anglo-Saxons, Mongols, Turks, and Persians. No other.

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Recent Questions about University of Texas – Austin

The Question and Answer section for University of Texas – Austin is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Sorry, I do not know what your university will use.

That would depend upon the school and instructions you’ve been given. You can find ideas for application essays at the Gradesaver link below.

I think you are referring to the theme. There are many. Check out the link below and you will also find reference to the girl.

Applying for Admission

If you h ave graduated or will soon graduate from high school or receive a GED and you have not enrolled in another college or university after graduating, apply for freshman admission.

To be considered, submit the following:

The online application

Like other Texas public universities, we use the ApplyTexas application. Use it to report your complete academic record, including college credit earned as dual credit.

More Information

Application Open Dates

The ApplyTexas summer/fall application opens on Aug. 1. The spring application typically opens in late January.

ApplyTexas Processing

After you submit your ApplyTexas application, you’ll receive an email from us that includes your UT EID, allowing you to access MyStatus and the Document Upload System. During peak periods, this can take 2-3 days.

Typically, the deadline for receipt of supporting credentials (such as essays and transcripts) is extended a few days beyond the application deadline in order to allow those who complete last-minute applications time to upload items after they receive a UT EID.

International Applicants

If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and will not graduate from a Texas high school, select the ApplyTexas option to apply for freshman admission as an international applicant.

Your application fee

Pay the non-refundable $75 application fee—$90 for international applicants—when you submit your ApplyTexas application. Fee waivers are available.

More Information

Fee Waivers

If you can’t afford the application fee, request a waiver in your ApplyTexas application. We may request that you submit documentation in support of your request; to do so, use the Document Upload System to submit a copy of your SAT, ACT or NACAC fee waiver or a letter from your high school counselor or principal explaining the financial circumstances that qualify you for a waiver.

International applicants who do not qualify for Texas residency are not eligible for a fee waiver.

International Applicants

If you are an international applicant and are not able to pay your fee online using a credit card, mail your payment in the form of a cashier’s check, bank money order or bank draft in U.S. dollars to:

The University of Texas at Austin

Graduate and International Admissions Center

Austin, TX 78713-7608

Make checks payable to The University of Texas at Austin, and write your six-digit Application ID number, UT EID or UT Assigned Student ID number on your check or money order. Do not send cash or personal checks.

Along with your ApplyTexas application, submit at least one essay.

More Information

What’s Required

All applicants must submit an essay responding to Topic A.

Special Requirements

In addition to Topic A, Topic N is required for those applying to N ursing for their first-choice major.

Essay Topics

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.

Considering nursing as your first-choice major, discuss how your current and future academic activities, extracurricular pursuits and life experiences will help you achieve your goals.

Submitting Your Essays

Generally, you should plan to submit your essay in conjunction with your ApplyTexas application; do so even after you’ve submitted other portions of the application by logging in to your ApplyTexas account.

Essays written in response to Topic N may not be submitted through ApplyTexas. To submit these essays, use the Document Upload System.

You may also submit other essays using the Document Upload System—or by mailing them to the Office of Admissions—although these submission methods are not preferred.

Three short answers

Answer at least three short-answer prompts in the ApplyTexas application.

More Information

What’s Required

All applicants must submit three short answers responding to prompts in ApplyTexas. Answers are limited to no more than 40 lines, or about 250 – 300 words.

Special Requirements
Art and Art History

An additional short answer is required for those applying to Fine Arts’ Department of Art and Art History. Responses are limited to 450 – 500 words.

Social Work

An additional short answer is required for those applying to Social Work. Responses are limited to 450 – 500 words.

Short Answer Prompts

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.

Tips to consider: This is an opportunity to describe your academic and future professional interests. You may not yet be 100% certain about what you want to do, but is there a particular field that you think you want to work in, or a certain path you want to pursue after college? How have your interests and experiences influenced your choice of majors or your plans to explore in college?

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?

Tips to consider: Feel free to address anything you want the Office of Admissions to know about your academic record so that we can consider this information when we review your application. You can discuss your academic work, class rank, GPA, individual course grades, test scores, and/or the classes that you took or the classes that were available to you. You can also describe how special circumstances and/or your school, community, and family environments impacted your high school performance.

Short Answer 3: Leadership

How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?

Tips to consider: Leadership can be demonstrated by positions you hold as an officer in a club or organization, but other types of leadership are important too. Leaders can emerge in various situations at any given time, including outside of the school experience. Please share a brief description of the type of leadership qualities you possess, from school and non-school related experiences, including demonstrations of leadership in your job, your community, or within your family responsibilities, and then share how you hope to demonstrate leadership as a member of our campus community.

Short Answer: Art and Art History Applicants

Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

Short Answer: Social Work Applicants

Discuss the reasons you chose social work as your first-choice major and how a social work degree from UT Austin will prepare you for the future.

Submitting Your Short Answers

You should plan to submit your essays in conjunction with your ApplyTexas application. You will be required to complete the short answer responses in order to complete and submit your application on ApplyTexas.

Your high school transcript(s)

Send us official transcript(s) documenting all coursework undertaken during your high school career. If your high school does not rank students, include a statement from your school describing its policy, a copy of your school’s profile and a GPA or grade distribution report.

More Information

What’s Required

Transcripts must include your class rank in addition to information about high school coursework.

Rank should be indicated as your numerical position out of the total number of students in the class. For example, if you’re fifth in your class of 130, your transcript should report your rank as 5/130. Applicants should submit transcripts indicating rank for the latest completed semester prior to the application deadline.

If you attend a Texas public school, your transcript should indicate the high school diploma program you will be graduating under, as defined in the state’s Uniform Admission Policy.

Submitting Your Transcript(s)

Applicants who attend a Texas public school should ask the school to submit their transcript through TREx, a system managed by the Texas Education Agency.

Document Upload System

If TREx is not available, submit a copy of your official transcript using the Document Upload System, or you may use the system to ask someone to submit the transcript to us on your behalf. The uploaded document must be a digital scan or PDF version of an official transcript. (Be sure to include both the front and back!) Any document labeled “unofficial,” grade reports or advising reports, photos (i.e., images taken with a smartphone) and screen shots are not acceptable.

Track upload status by logging in to the Document Upload System.

Mail or Hand Delivery

You may also submit transcripts by mailing or hand-delivering them to the Office of Admissions, although these submission methods are not preferred and may result in processing delays. (International students may not use these methods.)

We cannot accept transcripts submitted via email.

Home-Schooled & GED Students

Home-Schooled Applicants

Applicants who were home-schooled must submit a transcript that:

  • Lists all courses undertaken at each grade level, along with a brief description of the course content and information about the format of the course (in a classroom, via correspondence, online, etc.)
  • Is signed by a school official, defined as the adult person who was primarily responsible for the education of the student
Special GED Requirements

Applicants who earned a GED must submit high school transcript(s) showing any coursework completed, along with a copy of the GED certificate.

Rank Will Be Assigned

In accordance with Texas Senate Bill 1543, applicants who present evidence of obtaining a non-traditional secondary education (for example, those who were home-schooled or earned a GED in lieu of a high school diploma ) will be assigned a percentile rank comparable to the average class rank of students from traditional schools who have equivalent SAT or ACT test scores.

International Applicants

If you are an international applicant, you must submit documentation showing that you have completed an accredited secondary school series equivalent to that of a U.S. high school.

Submit an official record or transcript (mark sheet) that shows all your secondary school work and grades (or marks) starting with ninth grade and continuing through at least the end of 11th grade. You should also include copies of your official final examinations taken at the end of the secondary school program, including external exams such as the General Certificate of Education (GCE) “O” and “A” level examinations, school leaving certificates and matriculation exams.

If the documents you are submitting are written in a language other than English, you must also submit complete and official English translations together with the original-language records.

Any college transcript(s)

Send us official transcript(s) documenting any college credit earned while in high school (dual credit counts!).

More Information

What’s Required

You must report your entire academic record, including all college credit earned. Such coursework must be detailed on the ApplyTexas application, and you must submit official transcripts documenting the coursework.

Submitting Your Transcript(s)

Some colleges and universities are able to submit transcripts to the university on your behalf using our SPEEDE server.

If SPEEDE is not available, submit transcripts documenting college credit earned by mailing or hand-delivering them to the Office of Admissions.

We cannot accept transcripts submitted via email.

Test scores

Ask testing agencies to send official reports of scores you earned on the SAT or ACT exams. (You must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores if you are an international applicant.)

More Information

What’s Required

You must request that a testing agency—SAT or ACT—send us an official report of at least one set of test scores. (We do not require the SAT Essay or ACT Writing scores.) Scores included in transcripts and copies of score reports first sent to you don’t meet this requirement.

When you ask the testing agency to send your scores, use the codes the agencies have designated for the university:

Multiple Score Reports

You may submit as many score reports as you like. If you submit more than one, we will consider the score from the single test date that will benefit you the most. We will not, however, “superscore,” or combine scores from different test dates (a critical reading score from one test date with a mathematics score from another test date, for example).

We strongly encourage you to send us the results from all tests you take.

SAT Subject Tests

You are not required to submit SAT Subject Test scores as part of a complete application for admission. Some students may choose to submit these scores—for instance, home-schooled students may send them if they feel they reflect academic potential, or those hoping to earn course credit by examination may submit them for consideration after the application cycle is complete.

International Applicants

International applicants must submit either an official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score report demonstrating an adequate knowledge of English. The TOEFL iBT is preferred over the IELTS. We cannot accept institutional TOEFL (ITP) scores.

International applicants are exempt from this requirement if they:

  • Are from a country where English is the only official language; or
  • Graduate from a high school in the United States or in a country where English is the only official language after completing at least three years of study.

Minimum scores acceptable for admission are:

  • TOEFL: 79 (internet-based test)
  • IELTS: An overall band of 6.5 on the Academic Examination

The university’s TOEFL code is 6882. There is no institutional code for the IELTS examination. To fulfill the requirement with scores from the IELTS, have official scores sent to:

The University of Texas at Austin

Graduate and International Admissions Center

Austin, TX 78713-7608

Major-specific items

In addition to reviewing the prerequisites , s ubmit any additional items required by the majors you’ve selected as your first and second choices.

More Information

See MyStatus

Messages prompting you to submit additional items to meet major-specific requirements post to MyStatus following submission of your ApplyTexas application or after you’ve requested a major change. Be sure to regularly monitor MyStatus, and to complete all to-do items prior to the application deadline.

Requirements by College or School

Major-specific application requirements by college or school include:

Cockrell School of Engineering

Meet the calculus readiness requirement, and demonstrate it by submitting an appropriate test score or transcript.

College of Fine Arts
Butler School of Music
  • Submit the Butler School of Music application.
  • Perform an audition.

Read more about completing Butler School of Music application requirements on its freshman or international admission webpages.

Department of Art and Art History
  • Respond to a short-answer prompt in ApplyTexas.
  • Design, Studio Art or Visual Art Studies: Submit a portfolio.
Department of Theatre and Dance
  • Acting (BFA): Complete an audition.
  • Dance (BFA): Complete an audition.
  • Theatre and Dance (BA): Complete an audition or submit a portfolio.
  • Theatre Studies (BFA + Teacher Certification): Take part in an interview.
Jackson School of Geosciences

Meet the calculus readiness requirement, and demonstrate it by submitting an appropriate test score or transcript.

College of Liberal Arts

Economics or Environmental Science (Geographical Sciences): Meet the calculus readiness requirement, and demonstrate it by submitting an appropriate test score or transcript.

College of Natural Sciences

Environmental Science (Biological Sciences): Meet the calculus readiness requirement, and demonstrate it by submitting an appropriate test score or transcript.

School of Nursing

If applying first-choice, submit an essay addressing Topic N.

Steve Hicks School of Social Work

Respond to a short-answer prompt in ApplyTexas.

Other Colleges and Schools

Colleges and schools not listed above do not have major-specific application requirements.

Submit an expanded résumé offering additional information about your achievements. While this isn’t required, it’s strongly recommended.

More Information

What to Include

Your résumé should include all your achievements, not just those that didn’t fit on the ApplyTexas application. That said, if you’re able to list everything on the ApplyTexas application, there’s no need to submit a separate résumé .

If you submit a résumé , you should include:

  • Details about what each activity involved rather than a general description
  • The number of hours per week and weeks per year you spent on each activity

Submitting Your Résumé

Letter(s) of recommendation

Ask someone who knows you well to write a letter about your character and accomplishments. Letters of recommendation are appreciated but not required.

More Information

About Recommendations

Letters of recommendation are helpful only when they provide meaningful information about you, offered by someone who can speak of you in an unbiased way. If you choose to submit a letter of recommendation, select someone who is capable of providing a well-written, sincere, personal account. Avoid recommendations from those who know you too well to be unbiased—family members, for instance.

Special Circumstances

Although you have the option to detail special circumstances in your life in Short Answer 2, you might prefer that someone else tell us about it. In that case, ask that person (even a doctor or counselor, when appropriate) to write a letter on your behalf.

Submitting Your Recommendations

Letters of recommendation may be submitted via the Document Upload System, or you may use the system to ask someone to submit their recommendation to us directly. Track upload status by logging in to the Document Upload System.

You may also submit recommendations by mailing or hand-delivering them to the Office of Admissions, although these submission methods are not preferred and may result in processing delays. (International students may not use these methods.)

Permanent resident card

If applicable, provide a copy of your permanent resident card.

More Information

Applicability

The permanent resident card requirement applies only to non-U.S. citizens who have permanent resident status in the United States.

If the requirement applies to you, submit a copy of the front of your permanent resident card using the Document Upload System.

Student Information Form

If applicable, tell us about your high-school coursework via MyStatus.

More Information

Applicability

Most applicants don’t need to submit the Student Information Form. MyStatus will prompt those who are required to complete the form.

About the Form

The Student Information Form is used to streamline our processes, allowing us to confirm that you meet our high school coursework requirements and move your application into review.

To complete the form, you’ll probably need a reference copy of your high-school transcript.

Coursework exemption form

If applicable, submit a form to claim an exemption to the state’s Uniform Admission Policy.

More Information

Applicability

Most applicants don’t need to submit a coursework exemption form. Those who do include Texas private-schooled students who do not satisfy test score requirements — either an SAT score of at least 1070 (combined critical reading and math) with a minimum of 500 on critical reading (if the test was taken prior to March 2016); a minimum SAT score of 480 on evidence-based reading and writing and 530 on math (if the test was taken in March 2016 or later); or an ACT score that meets ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks. Students who attend a Department of Defense high school who are not exempt based on test scores should also submit a form. It will be used in determining qualification for automatic admission.

Submitting Your Form

If you believe you need to submit a coursework exemption form, do so using the Document Upload System, or you may use the system to ask someone to submit the form to us on your behalf. Track upload status by logging in to the Document Upload System.

Residency affidavit

If applicable, submit the residency affidavit.

More Information

Applicability

Most applicants don’t need to submit the residency affidavit. If you aren’t a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident but graduated or will graduate from a Texas high school, you may qualify for residency for tuition purposes and should submit the affidavit. The ApplyTexas application will prompt those who indicate they meet these criteria to download the appropriate form.

Submitting the Affidavit

To submit the residency affidavit, mail it to the address listed on the form.

Track Your Status

Track the completion of your application in MyStatus—see the Admission tab.

What’s the essay limit on University of Texas at Austin?

Replies to: What’s the essay limit on University of Texas at Austin?

Actually, I found this online and on the bottom it says 1000 characters for the 2 essays.

So I think that is more accurate than I had said previously. See for yourself.

Delete that line. Just see what you can find. I think the personal statement is 1000 characters.

Maybe wait until someone knowledgable gives you an answer but generally essays that don’t list word count are around 600 words ish.

Some of my essays I’m writing right now don’t have any word limits and they range from 500 to 600 words. I would take the 500-700 as a general guideline as it shouldn’t be too far off.

SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

How to Write Perfect ApplyTexas Essays

The ApplyTexas college application has many different essay prompts—and each of the most popular colleges in Texas has different requirements for which essays they expect students to answer.

So how do you get advice on writing your best ApplyTexas essays, no matter which school you are hoping to get into? Look no further than this article, which totally unpacks all five possible ApplyTexas essay prompts. I will explain what each essay prompt is looking for, what admissions officers are hoping to learn about you, give you great strategies for making sure your essay meets all of these expectations, and help you come up with your best essay topics.

Table of Contents

To help you navigate through this long guide, you can use these links.

What Are the ApplyTexas Essays?

The ApplyTexas application is basically the Texas state version of the Common Application that many U.S. colleges use: it’s a unified college application process that’s accepted by all Texas public universities and many private ones. Note, however, that some schools that accept ApplyTexas applications also accept the Common App.

The ApplyTexas website is a good source for figuring out whether your target college accepts the ApplyTexas application, but the best way to confirm exactly what your school expects to see is to go to its admissions website.

Why Do Colleges Want You to Write Essays?

Admissions officers are trying to put together classes full of interesting, vibrant students who have different backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses, goals, and dreams. One tool for colleges to identify a diverse set of perspectives is through the college essay.

What does this mean for you? These essays are a chance for you to show admissions officers those sides of yourself that aren’t reflected in the rest of your application. This is where you describe where you come from, what you believe in, what you value, and what has shaped you. This is also where you make yourself sound mature and insightful, two key qualities that colleges are looking for in their applicants because they want to make sure to find young people who will thrive when faced with the independence of college life.

Filling a freshman class is like dealing with those Every-Flavor jelly beans from Harry Potter: admissions just wants to make sure to avoid the ones that taste like earwax.

ApplyTexas Essay Requirements

There are 4 essay prompts on the ApplyTexas application for freshman admission (Topics A, B, C, and D), and three essay prompts that aren’t on the ApplyTexas application, but are extra essay options for UT Austin (Topics N, S, and W). There are no word limits for the essays, but colleges suggest keeping the essays somewhere between 1 to 1 ½ pages long.

All Texas colleges and universities have different application requirements, including the essays. Some require essays, some list them as optional, while others use a combination of required and optional essays. Several schools use the essays to determine scholarship awards, honors program eligibility, or admission to specific majors. Here are some essay submission requirement examples from a range of schools.

UT Austin essay requirements:

  • You are required to write an essay on Topic A.
  • You also have to write one other essay on Topic B, C, D, N, S, or W.
  • If you’re applying to Architecture or the Fine Arts’ Department of Art and Art History, your second essay has to be on Topic D.
  • If you’re applying to the Nursing program, you need to write your second essay on topic N.
  • If you’re applying to the Social Work program, your second essay needs to be on topic W.

Texas A&M essay requirements:

  • You have to write essays on Topic A and Topic B.
  • If you don’t meet automatic admission standards, Texas A&M recommends (but doesn’t require) that you write an essay on Topic C.

Southern Methodist University essay requirements:

  • You can write about any of the ApplyTexas prompts for your essay, per SMU’s FAQ.
  • SMU also accepts the Common App and has its own online application, so you have the option to pick and choose the application you most want to fill out.

Texas Christian University essay requirements:

  • You have to write one essay, but it can be on any of the topics.
  • TCU also accepts the Common App and has its own online application, so it’s another school where you can figure out which application makes the most sense for you.

Dazzled by her options, she was overcome with hopeful optimism. And cuteness.

Comparing ApplyTexas Essay Prompts A, B, and C

There are three ApplyTexas essay topics that try to get to the heart of what makes you the person that you are in three different ways. But since Topics A, B, and C all focus on things that are essential to you as a person, it can be difficult to come up with a totally different idea for each—especially since on a first read-through, these prompts can sound fairly similar.

So, before I dissect all five of the ApplyTexas essay prompts one by one in the next section of this article, let’s see how A, B, and C are different from one another. This way, you can keep these differences in mind when trying to come up with ideas of what to write about. (Topics D and S are distinct enough from the others that you’re unlikely to have trouble distinguishing them.)

The Prompts

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.

Most students have and identity, interest, or a talent that describes them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.

You’ve got a ticket in your hand—where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?

How to Tell Topics A, B, and C Apart

One helpful way to keep these topics separate in your mind is to create a big picture category for each one: Topic A is outside, Topic B is inside, and Topic C is the future.

In other words, topic A is asking about the impact of the outside world on you and how you handled that impact. On the other hand, topic B is asking about your inner passions and how those passions define you. Finally, topic C wants to know about where you’re going from here.

These very broad categories will help when you’re brainstorming ideas and life experiences to write about for your essay. Of course, it’s true that many of the stories you think of can be shaped to fit each of these prompts. Still, think about what the experience most reveals about you. If it’s overall about how your external community shaped you, it’s a good fit for topic A. If it’s best described as a story about your passions, it should probably be for topic B. And if it’s primarily about an event that you think predicts your future, it will work well for topic C.

That time a spilled crate of stuffed frogs made you want to learn everything there is to know about French cooking? Probably Topic C.

Dissecting Essay Topic A

Now, I will do a thorough deconstruction of everything you need to know about Topic A, the first ApplyTexas essay prompt.

The Prompt

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.

What’s It Asking?

This prompt wants to see how your external environment shaped you. You can tell from the fact that the prompt is split up into two sentences that your essay answer will have two distinct, but interconnected parts.

1. Describe Your Environment

The first part of the prompt is about identifying and describing the overall environment in which you grew up. Of course, you’ll need to hone in on particular aspects of your environment to keep your essay from being too vague. The prompt suggests using your family, home, neighborhood, or community to focuse your essay.

You’ll want to choose some aspect of your environment that you can describe vividly and that is really important to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be important in a positive way, but it does have to have had a significant impact on your personal development. It should also be some aspect of your environment that has been or was a part of your life for a long time. You’re describing where you were “raised,” after all.

2. How It Shaped You

You shouldn’t just describe your environment. You also need to discuss how that environment impacted you as a person. How did the aspect of your environment that you selected to write about turn you into the person you are now?

It’s best if you can think of one or two concrete anecdotes or stories about how your environment has shaped you. For example, don’t just say that your family made you a hard-working person—describe in detail how watching your mother come home from a full day of work just to get ready to go to nighttime classes helped show you that working towards goals is worthwhile even when it’s hard.

What Are Readers Hoping to Learn About You?

Being a tomato in a peapod was hard on Frank, who could never really quite understand the peas’ obsession with photosynthesis.

Readers are looking for two main things. First, they want to see that you can be mature and thoughtful about your surroundings. Are you sufficiently curious about the world around you? If you have really observed and engaged with your surroundings, you will be able to describe the people and places that have impacted you as you have grown up in a nuanced, insightful way.

Second, they want to see how you stand out from your own environment. This can be accomplished in two ways: first, you can emphasize how you are somehow different from your environment and how that impacted you. Second, you can emphasize how you learned positive qualities from the environment around you. Basically, how did your environment turn you into a special, interesting person?

How Can Your Essay Give Them What They Want?

So how can you make sure your essay is really answering the question? Here are some strategies.

When You’re Planning

Pick a specific aspect of your environment. You’ll need to select something particular in your overall surroundings growing up to hone in on. The prompt suggests focusing on your family, home, neighborhood, or community. You could take most of these suggestions in several directions.

Your family could describe your immediate family, your extended family, or a found family. Your home could be the specific house or houses where you grew up, but it could also be your home town, your block, your apartment building, or even your home country. Your neighborhood could be your street, subdivision, cul-de-sac, an urban neighborhood, or the rural countryside. Your community could be any community you’ve been a part of, from your school community to your church community to your city.

When you consider what aspect of your environment to choose, think about significant things that happened to you in connection with your environment. Remember, you’ll need to get beyond just describing how the setting is important to you to show how it makes you important.

How did it make you special? Then you need to consider what about your environment turned you into a person who stands out. Again, this can be about how you overcame some aspect of your environment or how your environment positively fostered qualities or traits in you. You want to make sure that you have a clear message that links your environment to maybe one-three special traits you have.

T hink about specific stories and anecdotes related to your interactions with your environment and thoughfully analyze those to consider what they show about you. Important adults in your life can help you brainstorm.

When You’re Writing

Think of the essay like a movie. Like a good movie script, a college essay needs characters, some action, and a poignant but ultimately happy ending. When you’re planning your personal statement out, try thinking of the story you’re telling in movie terms. This way you can make sure your essay has:

  • Setting. Since you are describing your environment, taking some time to vividly give a sense of place is important. This could be accomplished by describing the actual physical surroundings, the main “characters” in your community, or some combination of both.
  • Stakes. Movies propel the action forward by giving characters high stakes. You know: win or lose, life or death. Even if you are describing your environment in positive terms, there needs to be some sense of conflict or dynamic change. In the anecdote(s) you’ve selected to write about, what did you stand to gain or lose?
  • External conflict resolution. If there is an external conflict of some kind (with a neighbor, a family member, a friend, a city council, etc.) you do need to show some level of resolution.
  • Internal conflict resolution. Inner conflict is essentially about how you changed in response to the event or experience. You’ll need to clearly lay out what happened within you and how those changes have carried you forward as a person.

Did you feel ALL the feelings? Can you even name all of these feelings? Oh, yeah? Then what’s the one on the bottom right called?

Add details, description, and examples.

For example, imagine Karima decides to describe how learning to navigate public transit at a young age made her resourceful and helped her explore the city environment where she grew up, and how exploring the city impacted her. How should she frame her experience?

I was nervous about taking the El by myself for the first time. At the station, there were lots of commuters and adults who seemed impatient but confident. At first I was very afraid of getting lost, but over time I became as confident as those commuters.

I felt a mixture of nerves and excitement walking up the Howard red line turnstile for the first time. What if I got lost on my way to the museum? I was worried that I would just seem like a nuisance to all of the frowning commuters who crowded the platform. If I needed help, would they help me? Was I even brave enough to ask? When the metal doors opened, I pressed my nails into my palms and rushed in after a woman with a red briefcase. Success! At least for the first step. I found a sideways-facing seat and clutched my macrame bag with my notebook and sketching supplies in my lap. A map hung above my seat. Pressing my finger to the colorful grid, I found my stop and counted how many I still had to go. I spent the entire train ride staring at that map, straining my ears for everything the conductor said. Now, when I think about the first time I rode the El by myself, I smile. What seemed so scary at the time is just an everyday way to get around now. But I always look around on the platform to see if any nervous kids linger at the edges of the commuter crowds and offer them a smile.

Both versions set up the same story, plot-wise, but the second makes the train ride (and because of this, the author) come alive through the addition of specific, individualizing details:

  • Visual cues. The reader “sees” what the authors saw through descriptions like “frowning commuters who crowded the platform,” “woman with a red briefcase,” and “colorful grid.”
  • Emotional responses. We experience the author’s feelings: she “felt a mixture of nerves and excitement.” She wonders if she’s brave enough to ask for help. The train ride was “so scary at the time” but feels “everyday” now.
  • Differentiation. Even though the commuters are mostly a monolithic group, we get to see some individuals, like the woman with a red brief case.

ApplyTexas Topic A Essay Ideas

There’s no one best topic for this essay prompt (or any other), but I’ve included some potential ideas below, to help you get started with your own brainstorming.

  • Describing a time that you organized the people around you around some common local cause
  • Honing in on a close relationship with one or more family members
  • Identifying a particularly significant place in your neighborhood (like a certain park or tree) and why it has been so important in your life
  • Being a minority in your school or neighborhood
  • Going through a cultural or religious rite-of-passage
  • Moving from one place to somewhere totally different and handling your culture shock

And that’s when I realized that I too had become an ostrich, accepted by and adapted into their culture of pecking and running.

Dissecting ApplyTexas Essay Topic B

Let’s go through the same process for ApplyTexas Topic B, taking it apart brick by brick and putting it back together again.

The Prompt

Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.

What’s It Asking?

At first glance, this prompt seems pretty vague. “Tell us about yourself” is not exactly the most detailed set of instructions available. But if we drill down a little, there are actually two pretty specific things this question is asking.

1. What Defines You?

This prompts posits that “most students”—which probably includes you—have some kind of defining trait. This could be an “identity, interest, or talent.” So you need to express what that defining trait is. Are you an amazing knitter? Do you spend all your free time researching cephalopods? Are you a connoisseur of indie movies or mystery novels? Or maybe you have a religious, cultural, ethnic, or LGBTQ+ identity that’s very important to you. Any of these things could plausibly be the main, framing theme of this essay.

2. How Does That Defining Trait Fit Into “You” Overall?

Even though you have some kind of defining trait, that’s not the entirety of you. Essentially, you need to contextualize your defining trait within your broader personality and identity. This is where the “tell us about yourself” part comes in. What does your “defining” trait say about you as a person overall? How does it fit into your overall personality, values, and dreams?

Only deep in the woods could she explore her one true passion: moss.

What Are Readers Hoping to Learn About You?

They are hoping to learn two main things:

1. What you’re passionate about. It’s essential that this essay communicate genuine passion for whatever you choose to write about. College is a lot of work, and passion is an important driving force when things get busy. Readers are looking for students who are really engaged in the world around them and excited about things!

2. How you view yourself (and how successfully you can communicate that). A strong, well-developed sense of self goes a long way towards helping you weather all of the changes you’re going to experience when you go to school. Even though you will change and grow a lot as a person during your college years, having a sense of your own core traits and values will help those changes be exciting as opposed to scary. So colleges are looking for that developed sense of self. Additionally, they are looking for students who can communicate messages about themselves in a clear, confident, cohesive way.

How Can Your Essay Give Them What They Want?

The challenge with this prompt is giving a complete picture of you as a person while still staying on message about your defining trait. You need to be focused yet comprehensive. Let’s explore the best ways to show off your passion and frame your identity.

When You’re Planning

Define the core message. First, you need to select that defining trait. This could be pretty much anything just so long as you are genuinely very invested in this trait and feel that it represents some core aspect of you. It should also be something that you can describe through stories and anecdotes. Just saying, “I’m a redhead and that defines me” makes for a pretty boring essay. A story about how you started a photography project that’s all portraits of redheads like you and what you learned about yourself from that experience is much more interesting.

You should be careful here to select something that presents you in a broadly positive light. If you select a trait that doesn’t seem very serious, like your enduring and eternal love of onion rings, you risk seeming at best immature and at worst outright disrespectful. You also want to pick something realistic—don’t claim that you are the greatest mathematician who ever lived unless you are, in fact, the greatest mathematician who ever lived (and you probably aren’t). Otherwise you’ll seem out of touch.

Fit it into a larger picture. Then think about how you can use that trait to paint a more complete picture of you at a person. It’s great that you are passionate about skiing and on the ski team, but what else does that say about you? Are you an adventurous daredevil who loves to take (reasonable) risks? Are you a nature lover with a taste for exploration? Do you love being part of a team? Select at least two-three postive messages you want to communicate about yourself within your essay about your key trait.

Brody added his special brand of XYZ to everything he ever made for that bro-tisanal touch.

When You’re Writing

Show, don’t tell. It’s much more interesting to read about things that you do that demonstrate your key traits than it is to hear you list them. Don’t just say, “Everyone asks me for advice because I’m level-headed and reasonable.” Actually describe situations that show people asking you for advice and you giving that level-headed, reasonable advice.

Watch your tone. It’s important to watch your tone when you are writing an essay that’s pretty overtly about how great you are. You want to show your own special qualities without seeming glib, staid, self-aggrandizing, or narcissistic.

For example, let’s say Andrew wants to write about figuring out how to grow a garden despite his yard being in full shade and how that turned into a passion for horticulture. He could launch into a rant about the garden store employees not knowing which plants are right for which light, and the previous house owner’s terrible habit of using the yard for a pet bathroom, and the achy knee that prevented him from proper weeding posture, and so on. Or, he could describe doing research on the complex gardens of royal palaces, planning the garden based on plant color and height, using trial and error to see which plants would flourish, and getting so involved with the work that he would lose track of time. One of these makes him sound whiny and self-centered, and the other makes him sound like someone who can take charge of a difficult situation .

ApplyTexas Topic B Essay Ideas

Again, there’s no single best approach here, but I’ve outlined some potential topics below:

  • Are you known for being really good at something or an expert on a particular topic? How does it impact your identity?
  • Discuss how you got involved in a particular extracurricular activity and what it means to you. What have you learned from participating?
  • Describe something you’ve done lots of research on in your free time. How did you discover that interest? What have you learned?
  • What’s your most evident personality trait? How has that trait impacted your life? (You can ask friends and relatives for help with this one)
  • Relate the importance of your LGBTQ identity.
  • Discuss your religious or cultural background and how it defines you.
  • Describe your experience as a member of a minority community.

Are you a diamond in a world of hearts?

Dissecting ApplyTexas Essay Topic C

Now we can take apart Topic C to get a good handle on how to tackle this future-facing essay.

The Prompt

You’ve got a ticket in your hand—where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?

What’s It Asking?

If ApplyTexas Topic A and Topic B were all about your past experiences, Topic C wants you to give readers a glimpse of your imagined possibilities.

There are basically two potential approaches to this question. We’ll break them down here.

1. Describing Long-Term Goals

One approach to this question is just to use this as a chance to describe your long-term goals for your career and life.

For some students, this will be an extremely straightforward endeavor. For example, say you’ve always wanted to be a doctor, and you spend your whole life volunteering at hospitals, helping out in your mom’s practice, and studying biology during the summer time. Then you can just frame your “ticket” as a ticket to medical school, pick a few of the most gripping moments from these past experiences and discuss the overall trajectory of your interests, and your essay will be a winner.

But what if you’re not sure about lifetime goals? Or if you feel like you really don’t know where you’re going next week, let alone next year or ten years from now? You can still use this prompt! Read on.

2. Demonstrating Thoughtful Imagination

While you can certainly interpret this as a straightforward question about your future, you can also use it as a chance to be more imaginative.

Note that this entire question rests on the metaphor of the ticket. The ticket can be to anywhere; you decide. So the ticket could be to a very real place, like your grandmother’s house or the highlands of Scotland or the Metropolitan Museum. Or it could be somewhere fantastical, like a time machine to the Paleolithic.

The important thing here is that you use the destination you select—and what you plan to do there—to demonstrate that you are a thoughtful person who is excited and engaged with the world around you.

Renata doesn’t want a train ticket, she just wants a boat.

What Are Readers Hoping to Learn About You?

If you are on a direct path to a specific field of study or career pursuit, admissions officers definitely want to know that. Having driven, goal oriented, and passionate students is a huge plus for a university. So if this is you, be sure that your essay conveys not just your interest but also your deep and abiding love of the subject, and any related clubs, activities, and hobbies that you’ve done during high school.

However, if you take the more creative approach to this prompt, realize that in this essay, like in all the other essays, the how matters much more than the what . Don’t worry that you don’t have a specific goal in mind yet: no matter where your eventual academic, career, or other pursuits may lie, every activity that you have done up to now has taught you something. You learned about things like work ethic, mastering a skill, practice, learning from a mentor, interacting with peers, dealing with setbacks, understanding your own learning style, and perseverance. Your essay is a chance to show off that knowledge and maturity. So n o matter what destination you choose for your ticket (the what ), you want to communicate that you can think about future (and imagined!) possibilities in a compelling way based on your past experiences (the how ).

Whether you take “where you are going” and “what you are doing” in a more literal direction or move the prompt towards somewhere more abstract and creative, the admissions office wants to make sure that no matter what you study, you will be able to make something meaningful out of it. They want to see that you’re not simply floating through life on the surface, but that you are absorbing the qualities, skills, and know-how you will need to succeed in the world.

How Can Your Essay Give Them What They Want?

Here are some ideas for how to show that you have thoughtful and compelling visions of possible futures.

When You’re Planning

Pick where you’re going. Is this going to be a more straightforward interpretation of your goals (my ticket is to the judge’s bench) or a more creative one (my ticket is to Narnia)? Whichever one you choose, make sure that you choose a destination that is genuinely compelling to you. The last thing you want is to come off sounding bored or disingenuous.

Don’t overreach. It’s fine to say that you’d like to be involved in politics, for example, but it’s a little too self-aggrandizing to claim that you’re definitely going to be president of the United States. Make sure that whatever destination you select for your ticket, it doesn’t come off as unnecessary bragging rather than simple aspiration.

Don’t underreach. At the same time, make sure that the destination you’ve chosen here is one that makes sense in the context of a college essay. Maybe what you really want is a ticket to the potato chip factory, but this may not be the place to expound upon that imagined possibility.

You can choose a whimsical location, but you need to be able to ground it in a real vision of the kind of person you want to become. After all, you always have to remember your audience. In this case, it’s college admissions officers who want to find students who are eager to learn and be exposed to new thoughts and ideas (and not just new potato chips).

Flesh it out. Once you pick a destination, it’s time to consider the other components of the question: what are you going to do once you reach your destination? What will happen there? Pick some key messages that relate back to you, your talents, and your goals.

When You’re Writing

Ground your “journey” in specific anecdotes and examples. The way that this question is framed is very abstract. So it’s important that you ground your thoughts about your destination (whether it’s more straightforward or more creative) in concrete anecdotes and examples that show that you are thoughtful, engaged, passionate, and driven.

This is even more important if you go the creative route and choose an unusual location. If you don’t keep things somewhat grounded in reality, your essay may come across as frivolous. You want to make the most of your opportunity to share some concrete examples of your desirable qualities in your essay.

Imagine Eleanor’s essay is about how she wants a ticket to Starfleet Academy (for the uninitiated, this is the fictional school in the Star Trek universe where people train to be Starfleet officers).

Which essay conveys more about her potential as a student?

My ticket is to Starfleet Academy. There, I would train to become part of the Command division so I could command a starship. Once I was captain of my own starship, I would explore the deepest reaches of space to interact with alien life and learn more about the universe.

I’ve loved Star Trek since my dad started playing VHS copies of old episodes for me in our ancient VCR. So if I could have a ticket to anywhere, it would be to Starfleet Academy to train in the command division. I know I would make a superb command officer. My ten years of experience in hapkido have taught me discipline and how to think on my feet. Working as a hapkido instructor in my dojo the past two years has honed my leadership and teaching qualities, which are essential for any starship commander. Additionally, I have the curiosity and sense of adventure necessary for a long career in the unknown reaches of space. Right now, I exercise my thirst for exploration through my photography blog. Using my DSLR camera, I track down and photograph obscure and hidden places I find in my town, on family trips, and even on day trips to nearby cities. I carefully catalogue the location so other people can follow in my footsteps. Documentation, after all, is another important part of exploring space in a starship.

Both versions communicate the same things about the imagined destination, but the seond essay does a much better job showing who Eleanor is as a person. All we really learn from the first excerpt is that Eleanor must like Star Trek. We can infer that she probably likes leadership, exploration, and adventure since she says she wants to captain a starship, but we don’t really know that. Admissions officers shouldn’t have to infer who you are from your essay: your essay should lay it out for them.

In the second essay, on the other hand, Eleanor clearly lays out the qualities that would make her a great Command officer and then provides examples of how she exemplifies those qualities. She ties the abstract destination to concrete things from her life, like hapkido and photography. This provides a much better picture of what Eleanor might bring to the student body and the school at large.

Eleanor just wants to explore the final frontier.

ApplyTexas Topic C Essay Ideas

I’ve come up with some sample essay ideas for the two different approaches to this prompt.

Possibility 1: Your Concrete Goals

  • Describe your goal to pursue a particular academic field or career and discuss how specific classes and/or extracurricular activities ignited that passion
  • Discuss how your plans to pursue politics, project management, or another leadeship role were fostered by an experience of leadership (could be a straightforward leadership position in a club or a job, or a more indirect or unplanned leadership experience like suddenly having to take charge of a group)e
  • Discuss how your desire to teach or train in the future was sparked by an experience of teaching someone to do something (e.g. by being a tutor or by helping a sibling deal with a particularly challenging class or learning issue)
  • Describe your goal to perform on stage in the future and discuss how your past experiences of public creativity (e.g. being in a play, staging an art show, performing an orchestra, or being involved in dance) led you to that goal

Possibility 2: Creative/Abstract Destination

  • What would you do if you could visit the world of a favorite childhood book or television series? What qualities does that show about you?
  • Is there a relative or friend you would like to visit with your ticket?
  • Is there a particular historical period you would like to time-travel to?
  • Is there a destination that you’ve always wanted to travel to?

Remember to tie your imaginative destination to concrete details about your special qualities!

A future as a driving coach for motorcoach drivers was a no-brainer for the founding member of the homonym club.

Dissecting ApplyTexas Essay Topic D

If you’re applying to one of several fine art fields, this mandatory essay is a way to comment on your influences.

The Prompt for Topic D

Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

What’s It Asking?

If you’re applying to study architecture, art, or art history at UT Austin, one of the essays you must write is this one. This essay topic is trying to ask as broadly as possible about an experience with art that has moved you in some way. This means that your options for answering the question are quite varied. So what are the two different parts of this prompt?

1. Observation and Reaction

Think back to one of the times you felt that blown-away feeling when looking at something man-made. This is the feeling, experience, and situation that the first part of the essay wants you to recreate. The prompt is primarily interested in your ability to describe and pinpoint exactly what quality made you stop in your tracks.The huge set of inspiring object options the prompt offers tells us that your taste level won’t be judged here.

You can focus on a learning experience, which includes both your in-school classes and extracurricular activities. Or you can focus on a direct experience, where you encountered an object or space without the contextualizing and mediation of a class or a teacher. The only limit to your focus object is that it is something made by someone other than you. Your reaction needs to be in conversation with the original artist, not a form of navel-gazing.

The key for this part of the essay is that your description needs to segue into a story of change and transformation. What the essay topic is asking you to show isn’t just that you were struck by something you saw or learned about, but that you also absorbed something from this experience that impacted your own art going forward.

When you see the Angkor Wat Temple, you can’t help but be psyched that at least humans haven’t wasted all their time on earth.

2. Absorption

This brings us to the second part of the essay prompt. This is where you need to move from the past into the present, and then at least gesture meaningfully toward the future.

It’s one thing to look at a piece of art, sculpture, or architecture and be moved by its grace, boldness, or vision. But it’s a sign of a mature creative mind to be able to really take to heart what is meaningful to you about this work and somehow transmute your experience into your own work. This essay wants to see that developing maturity in you. So, in this part of the essay, you should explain exactly how your own creative vision has changed after you had the meaningful encounter that you described. What qualities, philosophy, or themes do you now try to infuse into what you create?

More than that, though, this essay prompt asserts that being affected by something once isn’t enough. That’s why in this second part of the topic, you will also need to explain what you’ve been doing to keep having moving encounters with the creative work of others. There is some choice here as well. “What have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area” can be answered by describing how you’ve sought out other work by the same artist who moved you the first time. Or you can describe investigating new media or techniques to emulate something you saw. Or you could talk about learning about the period, genre, school, or philosophical theory that the original piece of art comes from in order to give yourself more contextualized understanding.

What Are Readers Hoping to Learn About You?

If you’re planning an academic career in the visual arts or architecture, then you’re entering into a long conversation started by our cave-painting ancestors and continuing through every human culture and society since. This essay wants to make sure that you aren’t creating in a vacuum, but that you have had enough education and awareness to be inspired by others. By demonstrating how you react to work that moves you – not with jealousy or dismissal, but with appreciation and recognition of another’s talent and ability – you show that you are ready to start participating in this ongoing conversation.

At the same time, the essay is asking you to show your own creative readiness. Describe not only the work you have produced, but also your ability to introduce new elements into that work – in this case, inspired by the piece you described. That way, you can demonstrate that you aren’t a one-note artist, but are instead someone who is mature enough to alter and develop what you make.

Inspired by Michaelangelo’s supposed advice to just “chip away the marble that isn’t the sculpture,” I will now write my essay by just not using the words that aren’t supposed to be on the page.

How Can Your Essay Give Them What They Want?

What are some best practices for teasing out the complexities of art in written form?

When You’re Planning

Pick one piece of art or one learning experience. Once you’ve chosen between these two contexts, narrow down your selection even further. If you are writing about an educational encounter, don’t forget that it doesn’t have to come from a formal situation. Instead, you could write about something you learned on your own from a documentary, museum visit, or art book.

If you’re writing about a direct experience of art, don’t necessarily fixate on a classical piece. Instead, you could discuss an unexpected piece of public sculpture, a particularly striking building or bridge you saw traveling, or a gallery exhibition. Whatever you end up writing about, make sure you know some of the identifying details. You don’t need to know the answer to all of these questions, but do your best to research at least 2-3: who was the artist, where is the piece, what kind of work is it, what are the materials used, when was it made?

Figure out why you were struck by this work in particular. The make-it-or-break-it moment in this essay will be your ability to explain what you were affected by in the object that you end up writing about. Why is it different from other works that you’ve seen? Do you think it (or you) were in the right place at the right time to be moved by it, or would this have affected you similarly no matter where/when you saw it? Did it speak to you because it shares some of your ideals/philosophies/tastes, or because it was so different from them?

Be careful with your explanation, since it can easily get either so vague as to be meaningless, or so obscure and “deep” that you lose your reader. So, before you start trying to put that down on paper, my advice is to try to talk out what you plan to say either with a friend, a parent, or a teacher. Do they understand what you’re saying, and does it make sense?

Do a timeline of your own creative work. When you think about what you have been making or thinking about making during your high school career, what is the trajectory of your ideas? How have you changed your understanding of the materials you want to work with? The message you want your work to convey? The way you want your work to be seen by others? The reason that you feel compelled to be creative?

Now that you’ve formulated this idea timeline, try to see if your changing thoughts overlap with the art experience that you are planning on describing. Is there a way that you can combine what was so exciting to you about the other work with the way you’ve seen your own ideas about your art changing over time?

When You’re Writing

Use a mix of concreteness and comparisons in your description. It might be true that just as nothing ruins a joke like explaining it, so nothing ruins the wordless experience of looking at art like talking it to death. Still, you need to find a way to use words to give the reader a sense of what the piece that moved you actually looks like – particularly if they don’t happen be familiar with the particular work, or with the artist that created it.

Here is my suggested trick for writing well about art. First, you have to be both extremely specific about the physical object. Discuss its colors, size, what it appears to be made of, what your eye goes to first (bright colors vs darker, more muted ones, for example), what it is representative of (if it’s figurative), where it is in relation to the viewer, whether or not you can see marks of the tools used (brush strokes, scrapes from sculpting tools).

Second, you have to step away from the concrete and let some flights of fancy into your language through comparative description that relies on your imagination to create emotionally resonant similes. Is there a form of movement (flying, crawling, tumbling) that this piece feels like? A piece of the natural world (a falling leaf, forest canopy being moved by wind, waves, sand dunes shifting)? If the work is figurative, imagine what has been happening just before the moment in time it captures. What happened just after? Using these kinds of non-literal descriptors will let your reader understand both the actual physical object and its appeal.

The Stormtrooper’s hypnotic performance was like plunging into a diamond-studded Sarlacc pit to be slowly digested over a thousand years by disco music.

Dissecting UT Austin Essay Topic S

The University of Texas at Austin gives its applicants the option to write a different essay explaining a relevant piece of their background.

The Prompt

There may be personal information that you want considered as part of your admissions application. Write an essay describing that information. You might include exceptional hardships, challenges, or opportunities that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, personal responsibilities, exceptional achievements or talents, educational goals, or ways in which you might contribute to an institution committed to creating a diverse learning environment.

What’s It Asking?

The University of Texas at Austin allows its applicants to mix and match essays from the ApplyTexas application from its own option – Topic S. If your particular experience doesn’t quite fit under the rubrics of the other essay topics, or if there is something the admissions officers need to understand about your background in order to consider your application in the right context, then this is the essay for you.

The prompt for this essay clarifies that the additional information you may want to share with the admissions team can be either positive or negative – just as long as it qualifies as “exceptional” in some way. They mean this distinction so deeply that the prompt actually uses the word “exceptional” twice, to really cement the idea that the everyday challenges or successes of regular life aren’t what this essay is supposed to highlight.

What this means is that evaluating whether your experiences qualify for this essay is a matter of degrees. For example, did you manage to thrive despite being raised by a hardworking single parent? That’s a hardship that could easily be written about for Topic B. Did you manage to thrive despite living in a succession of foster families only to age out of the system in the middle of your senior year of high school? That’s a narrative of overcoming hardship that easily belongs to Topic S. On the flip side, did you win a state-wide karate championship? Well done, and feel free to tell your story under Topic C. Were you the youngest black belt in the history of the sport to win a national title? Then feel free to write about it for Topic S.

What Are Readers Hoping to Learn About You?

This is pretty straightforward. They are trying to identify students that have unique and amazing stories to tell about who they are and where they come from. If you’re a student like this, then the admissions people want to know:

  • what happened to you
  • who, besides you, was affected
  • when and where it happened
  • how you participated or were involved in the situation
  • how it affected you as a person
  • how it affected your schoolwork
  • how the experience will be reflected in the point of view you bring to campus

The reasons that the university wants this information are:

  • it gives context to applications that otherwise might seem mediocre or even subpar
  • it can help explain times in a transcript where grades significantly drop
  • it creates them the opportunity to build a lot of diversity into the incoming class
  • it’s a way of finding unique talents and abilities that otherwise wouldn’t show up on other application materials

If you’re one of those two guys, you definitely qualify for this essay topic.

How Can Your Essay Give Them What They Want?

Let’s run through a few tricks for making sure your essay makes the most of your particular exceptionalism.

When You’re Planning

Double-check your uniqueness. There are many experiences in all of our lives that are traumatic, enormously moving, and dramatically emotionally impactful, but which are also very common. Conversely, there are many experiences that make us feel elated, accomplished, and extremely competent, that are also near-universal. This essay isn’t trying to take the validity of your strong feelings away from you, but it really is looking for stories that are on a different scale. Wondering whether what you went through counts? This might be a good time to run your Topic S idea by a parent, school counselor, or trusted teacher. Do they think your experience is widespread? Or do they agree that you truly lived a life less ordinary?

Connect outward. The vast majority of your answer to the Topic S prompt should be telling your story and its impact on you and your life. But the essay should also point toward how your particular experiences will shape your potential future interactions at UT Austin. One of the reasons that the admissions office wants to find out which of the applicants has been through something unlike most other people is that they are hoping to increase the number of points of view in the student body. Think about, and include in your essay, how you will impact campus life. This can be very literal – if you are a jazz singer who has released several acclaimed albums, then maybe you will perform on campus. Or it can be much more oblique – if you are disabled, then you will be able to offer a perspective that differs from the able-bodied majority.

When You’re Writing

Be direct, specific, and honest. It doesn’t matter whether you’re explaining that your GPA fell during your sophomore year because of the death of someone close to you, or whether you’re telling the story of how you came to the US as a refugee, or whether you’re sharing your Olympic medal win. Nothing will make your voice sound more appealing than writing without embellishment or verbal flourishes.

This is the one case where what you’re telling is just as – if not more – important than how you’re telling it. So the best strategy is to be as straightforward in your writing as possible. This means using description to situate your reader in a place/time/experience that they would never get to see firsthand. You can do this by picking a specific moment during your hardship or accomplishment to narrate as a small short story, and not shying away from explaining your emotions throughout the experience. Your goal is to make the extraordinary into something at least somewhat relatable – and the way you do that is by making your writing down to earth.

Possible Topic S Essay Ideas

As I’ve already described, the most important feature of any topic for this prompt is that it must be genuinely exceptional. I’ve listed some examples below.

Possibility 1: Exceptional Hardships or Challenges

  • coping with a physical or mental disability
  • growing up in poverty, or with an absent or otherwise problematic parent
  • facing the death of a sibling or parent
  • being a refugee to the US
  • surviving a natural disaster, war, or other crisis
  • being the victim of a serious crime
  • spending time in jail or in juvenile detention
  • living with a chronic illness, or overcoming a very serious illness
  • spending some period of time being homeless

Possibility 2: Exceptional Opportunities

  • being the child of a famous actor, musician, or politician
  • growing up unusually wealthy
  • getting the chance to intern at the White House, at the UN, or NASA

Possibility 3: Personal Responsibilities

  • taking care of younger siblings in the absence of parents or parental figures
  • having to work in order to support the family rather than for personal income
  • being a teenage parent
  • getting emancipated from parents as a minor
  • living alone and having to fend for yourself

Possibility 4: Exceptional Achievements or Talents

  • possessing an unusual level of talent in the performing or visual arts
  • being a chess grandmaster
  • playing sports at an Olympic or close-to Olympic level
  • winning a national or international award for academic work, or getting national or international recognition for an achievement
  • getting a book published, or getting a piece published in a prestigious magazine or journal

Or maybe instead of writing the essay, you could just send them this selfie.

Briefly: UT Austin Topics N and W

UT Austin also has two special prompts specifically for nursing applicants (topic N) and for social work applicants (topic W). They are quite similar, and we will go over both of them briefly here.

Considering nursing as your first-choice major, discuss how your current and future academic activities, extracurricular pursuits and life experiences will help you achieve your goals.

Discuss the reasons you chose social work as your first-choice major and how a social work degree from UT Austin will prepare you for the future.

What Are These Prompts Asking?

Both of these prompts are essentially asking you two things:

  • First, how have your relevant experiences up to this point led you to want to study nursing/social work?
  • Second, what do you plan on doing with your nursing/social work degree from UT Austin?

How Can You Give Them What They Want?

Admissions officers will be looking for evidence that you are really interested in this particular career and that you have an aptitude for it. So i f you have any relevant clinical, research, or volunteer experience, admissions officers definitely want to know this! It’s definitely okay to take a broad view of what’s relevant here. Anything that involves working with people is a good experience for either prospective nursing or social work students.

They also want to know that you are really interested in the UT Austin program, so be sure to identify things about the particular program (nursing or social work) that appeal to you. Why UT Austin? And what makes you a good fit there?

Finally, they are looking for individuals with clear goals and a good idea of what they want to do once they get the degree. Are you interested in working with a specific population or specialty? Why? What led you to that conclusion?

The Bottom Line: Tips for Writing ApplyTexas Essays

  • The ApplyTexas application features four essay prompts (Topics A, B, C, and D), with different schools requiring different combinations of mandatory and optional essays. UT Austin also includes its own prompt, Topic S, as one of the choices. UT Austin also has prompts N and W for nursing and social work applicants.
  • One way to keep the three similar-sounding 3 essay topics (A, B, and C) separate in your mind is to create a big picture category for each one: Topic A is about your outside, topic B is your inside, and topic C is about your future.
  • Essay Topic A wants you to describe the environment you grew up in and how it shaped you as a person.
    • Pick a specific aspect of your environment
    • Describe how it made you special
    • Describe the setting, stakes, and conflict resolution
    • Add details, description, and examples
  • Essay Topic B is a chance to describe a defining trait and how it fits into the larger vision of you.
    • Define the core message.
    • Fit that core message of your into the larger picture.
    • Show things about yourself, don’t tell.
    • Watch your tone to make sure you show your great qualities without seeming narcissistic, boring, glib, or self-aggrandizing.
  • Essay Topic C asks you to describe “where you are going” in either a fairly literal, goal-oriented sense or in an imaginative sense.
    • Pick where you’re going, but don’t over- or under-reach.
    • Flesh out your destination. How does it relate back to you?
    • Ground your “journey” in specific anecdotes and examples.
  • Essay Topic D wants you to describe being affected by a work of art or an artistic experience to make sure that you are ready to enter a fine arts field.
    • Pick one piece of art or one specific experience of learning about art
    • Figure out exactly why this work or event struck you
    • Examine your own work to see how this artwork has affected your creativity
    • Use a mix of concrete descriptions and comparisons when writing about the piece of art
  • Essay Topic S is a way for admissions officers to find students with extraordinary life stories or to give context to otherwise lackluster applications.
    • Double-check that your experience (whether negative or positive) is unique and doesn’t quite fit under any of the other essay topics
    • Explain how your background will contribute to diversity on the UT Austin campus
    • Be direct, specific, honest, and straightforward
  • Essay Topics N and W are specific to nursing and social work applicants at UT Austin.
    • Describe your relevant experiences and interests up to this point.
    • Describe what about the UT Austin program appeals to you and how you will use your degree (your future goals).

What’s Next?

Curious about the other essay choices out there? If your target college also accepts the Common App, check out our guide to the Common App essay prompts to see whether they would be a better fit.

Interested to see how other people tackled this part of the application? We have a roundup of 129 accepted essays from over 15 different colleges.

Stuck on what to write about? Read our suggestions for how to come up with great essay ideas.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We’ve written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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