Colleges Continue to Get Creative With Collge Application Essay Prompts The 2015-16 college application season is officially underway after the opening of the Common Application over the weekend. Many essay prompts were made available by colleges over the summer, but the launch of the new Common Application has allowed more insight into what colleges want students to write about this year – no matter how strange.
One prevalent college admissions trend we’ve seen over the past few years is the use of strange, unusual, or alternative supplemental essay questions. Whether it’s an odd essay prompt, a short answer response, fill-in-the-blank, or even the option to answer a prompt with a video, colleges are getting more creative with their applications, forcing students to think outside of the box when applying to certain colleges.
Every year we like to highlight some of the funniest and quirkiest college application essay prompts that students will have to answer. Here are some of the most unusual essay prompts from the 2015-16 application season.
- Every name tells a story: Tell us about your name – any name: first, middle, last, nickname--and its origin. (Dartmouth College)
- What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit) (Stanford University)
- Science and society are filled with rules, theories and laws such as the First Amendment, PV=nRT, Occam’s Razor, and The Law of Diminishing Returns. In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. A green light on a roadway means “go.” Pick any law and explain its significance to you. (Tufts University)
- Biggest little worry (10 words or less) (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill)
- Hashtags trend worldwide. Give us a hashtag you wish were trending. #__________________ Why? (75 - 150 words) (Wake Forest University)
- Georgia Tech's motto is Progress & Service. In 25 words or less, what is your personal motto? (Georgia Institute of Technology)
- Orange is the new black, fifty’s the new thirty, comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll, ____ is the new ____. What’s in, what’s out, and why is it being replaced? —Inspired by Payton Weidenbacher, Class of 2015 (University of Chicago)
- If you were offered the role of the villain or the hero in a movie, which role would you accept and why? (University of Florida)
- You’ve just reached your one millionth hit on your YouTube video. What’s your video about? (Lehigh University)
- What’s broken, and how would you fix it?(University of Notre Dame)
New Essay Requirements for ApplyTexas and University of Texas for Fall 2018
Jul 13, 2017
UT Austin Essays Just Got Easier!
If you are applying to be an incoming freshmen to the University of Texas at Austin for Fall 2018, I believe this is a piece of good news for you.
The application essays you need to write have changed from writing three longer essays (Topics A, B, and C) to one long essay (Topic A) and three supplements, which they call “short answers.”
To address Topic A, you need to write one personal statement type of essay about your background for the prompt they call Topic A. There is no stated word length, but a good range is around 500 words. read more…
Want to Go To University of Texas? Get This Book!
Jun 14, 2017
The Ultimate Insider’s Guide
to UT Admissions
Get it FREE Now on Amazon!
My friend, Kevin Martin, just published this guide, Your Ticket to the Forty Acres: The Unofficial Guide for UT Undergraduate Admissions, on Amazon (Kindle) to help students quickly figure out what they need to do to game the admissions scene at the University of Texas, especially its Austin campus.
What I love about this book is that Kevin was a first-gen student who graduated top of his class, and then went on to to work for their admissions department as a counselor.
So he has experienced both sides of the process. read more…
3 New Prompts for University of Texas and ApplyTexas essays for Fall 2017
Apr 5, 2016
UPDATE as of July 13, 2017:
ApplyTexas CHANGED prompt requirements for incoming freshmen for Fall 2018!!
Click to see new requirements: Learn about changes.
To sum them up: Students must write one core, personal-statement type essay about their background (Same Prompt A as before), and three short answers about their Career Plans, Academics and Leadership (under 300 words each.)
*Below is the original post I wrote about UT essay requirements in 2016. All advice on how to strategize for Prompt A still applies perfectly. Incoming freshmen no longer need to write essays for Prompts B and C; instead they need to write the new 3 short answer essays (refer to ApplyTexas web site for details).
ORIGINAL POST BELOW:
*(Only the advice for Prompt A is still relevant!)
ApplyTexas, which handles the applications for the public universities in Texas, as well as many private colleges, has announced on its web site that they have all-new essay prompts for Fall 2017.
These new ApplyTexas essays apply to students who would be starting as freshman in Fall 2017, and applying to schools such as the University of Texas at Austin, or its other locations, as well as other Texas colleges.
They replaced the three main prompts, called Topic A, Topic B and Topic C, with new questions. read more…
How to Write Short Essays: A Slideshare Tutorial
Mar 31, 2016
Learn the Secret to Nailing a Short Essay
for Your College Applications
Students applying to college often spend most of their energy on their core essay for The Common Application or larger universities.
They will soon learn, however, that they need to master the art of writing shorter essays.
Lots of short essays. read more…
10 Insider Tips for Your University of Texas Essays
Feb 13, 2016
IMPORTANT: The UT has NEW prompts for 2017-18, so much of the information in this post is now outdated.
Here’s the link to the update-to-date information on UT prompts:New Essay Requirements for UT.
Former Admissions Counselor
at University of Texas-Austin
Shares Insider Advice
Are you planning on applying to any of the 14 University of Texas institutions, including the most popular in Austin, Texas?
(Or Texas A&M, and even some private Texas colleges, such as SMU, TCU, Baylor and Trinity College.)
I’m excited to share some tips from a former college admissions officer at UT-Austin with you. His name is Kevin Martin, founder of TexAdmissions, and he focused these tips on the one of the 3 required essays he believes is by far the most important, based on his experience.
Kevin Martin of TexAdmissions
The University of Texas essay is called Topic C, and the prompts asks:
“Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals.”read more…
ApplyTexas: Help for Essay Topic C
Jan 9, 2016
URGENT! ApplyTexas changed their essay prompts in 2017-18.
Click HERE for the current essay prompts!
Photo Via Texas Lutheran University
(THIS POST IS OUTDATED!)
How to Link Your Life Goals to Current and Future Activities
In the previous post, I wrote about ideas on how to answer Topics A and B in the ApplyTexas college application.
Students who want to apply to most public colleges and universities and some private colleges in Texas must use the ApplyTexas application.
Depending on the school(s) in Texas that you are applying to, there’s a good chance you will need to answer any combination of Topics A, B or C. read more…
ApplyTexas: Essay Help for Topics A and B
Dec 28, 2015
URGENT! ApplyTexas changed their essay prompts in 2016-17.
Click HERE for the current essay prompts!
(THIS POST IS OUTDATED!)
All public universities, and some private and 2-year colleges, in Texas do not use the Common Application. Instead, they have their own consolidated system called ApplyTexas.
If you are applying to any of the schools that use ApplyTexas, you need to figure out what essays they require (if any), and then which specific prompts. read more…
6 College Application Essay Tips for First-Gen Students
Oct 17, 2015
Advice for Students Who Are Underrepresented
for Whatever Reason:
Tell Your Personal Story
In my previous post, I shared my experience working with teachers and students from the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, where I’m giving a series of workshops on how to write college application essays.
It was my first time working with a large number of students who were mainly from underrepresented backgrounds. Most of the students were Hispanic and would be the first to attend college in their families.
I wanted to share some insights, tips and advice on what I learned, in case this helps other similar students struggling with their essays.
Here are 6 Essay Writing Tips for Students
from Underprivileged or Underrepresented Backgrounds
ONE:Students who come from underprivileged backgrounds can be more reluctant to open up and reveal their tribulations, pain and vulnerability. Many believe they need to show only their strengths and victories. They are rightfully proud and don’t want to appear weak, deficient or complaining.
However, colleges are eager to hear about the obstacles students have faced, and their real-life stories of hardship, and these essays are the perfect place to share them. The best college application essays are almost always highly personal. read more…
Creating a College-Bound Culture along the Texan Border
Oct 16, 2015
First-Gen Students Learn to Write
College Application Essays
Last month, I had the privilege to work with a group of teachers and students on their writing and college application essays from the Rio Grande Valley in the southernmost tip of Texas.
Almost all of the 50-some English teachers and 165 students were Hispanic, and most of the kids will be the first in their families to attend college.
The College Essay Writing Workshop, which is a four-part series of workshops for the most promising students from 30 high schools in the Valley, was sponsored by the Texas Graduate Center, which is an initiative of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation (a non-profit community organization), and the Region One GEAR UP Program, whose mission is to help create a college-bound culture in this part of the U.S.
Earlier in the year, their students toured top colleges and universities around the country, including Harvard, Princeton and other ivies.
During these visits, the admissions officers from the various schools told the sponsors one thing over and over: The college application essay played a huge part in who they accepted, and urged them to help their students write better ones.
So they got in touch with me.
This is me working with a student.
I’d never spent time in that part of Texas, where the Rio Grande river winds up along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s been in the news lately, mainly as ground zero in the U.S. for the flood of illegal immigrants, many children, fleeing unrest in Central America, and violence in Mexico due to drug-related activity. read more…
Should You Write About Your Job?
May 21, 2015
Colleges Encourage Students to Write About $ and Work
in College Application Essays
The New York Times today published the seven college application essays it liked the best for its contest about writing on the topic of money.
Most of the winners wrote about their experiences facing various types of financial hardship and challenges.
They are worth reading simply as sample essays, which could give you ideas for topics of your own. read more…
2 Sample Outlines for “Why You?” Supplements
Aug 14, 2014
Oops. Not again! We are talking about supplements for college application essays. Not vitamin supplements. Geez!
Even though supplemental essays usually are short—usually a paragraph or two—many students are stumped on how to structure them. Or on just how to start or end them.
In general, since they are so short, you don’t have to get fancy. Jump right into your points or answers. Be direct, but include details and specific examples.
Here are a couple ideas to help you get going. These are for the most common supp: “Why you at our college?” or “What will you contribute to our college?” or “Why do you want to go to our college?” My last post, 10 Tips to Power Your Supplemental Essays, can help you find great information to include in these short essays. read more…
What’s Sup? 10 Hot Tips to Power Your Supplements
Aug 13, 2014
Oops. Wrong SUP. We are talking college application essay supplements here. Haha.
I just gave a workshop on how to write college supplement essays to a group of college-bound students yesterday, and wanted to share some of the advice and tips on how to make them stand out. We talked mainly about the most common supplement prompt you will find this year: Why you at our college?
On applications, this prompt is stated in a variety of ways, from asking you to tell them why you are a fit, or what you will bring or contribute to their school, or just why you want to go there.
This prompt, though tiresome, is worth spending time on, especially for your top pick schools. read more…
“Enrich Our Diverse and Inclusive Community.” Say what?
Dec 16, 2013
Stumped by the University of Colorado Supp? Me, too!
I’ve had quite a few students this “season” who were flummoxed by the supplement for the University of Colorado. It kind of threw me a bit as well. But behind all that blah, blah, blah, I believe it was just another way of asking: Why Our College? or more specifically, Why YOU At Our College?
This is a common theme of many of the supplemental college application essays. And even though most students are pretty fried after writing their core essays, they shouldn’t overlook these supps and just give back a bunch of blah, blah, blah. It can be challenging, but it’s worth the time to find some tangible, specific and personal details to give your answer meaning and interest. I’ve bolded some key words in the official prompt to get you thinking of ways to respond: read more…
Some Supps Are Just Asking for BS
Sep 7, 2013
Many of the students I work with have finished their core essays for their college applications, and are now asking for help on the supplements. For most, writing their personal statement-type essays wasn’t that bad, searching for their stories and unique topics to tell and share. But these supps are not nearly as fun. In fact, for most of the supplements I have seen so far, it’s a major drag.
So I ask: What’s the point? These supplements that want students to tell why they are the perfect fit for their school, or what they are going to give back to a university, or why they have selected a certain college. Most of my students tell me, “I have no idea what to write.” And why should they? Answering these questions is almost always an exercise in making up a bunch of stuff. read more…
#YOLO and The 2013-14 Essay Supplements
Jul 13, 2013
Students must write one core college admissions essay if they are applying to a college or colleges that use The Common Application. But most schools also require additional essays, called supplements. The supp prompts for this year are starting to trickle out, and the trend so far is toward questions that are quirky and try to get students to think out of the box. read more…
How to Answer the Most Common Supplement Question: Why College X?
Jan 6, 2012
Most of you will write one or two “core” essays for your college applications.
These essays will focus on revealing who you are and why you are unique.
But you will also write numerous supplemental (shorter) essays.
The good news is that many of these “supps” ask similar questions. So if you are smart, you will find ways to re-use parts of your answers and streamline the process.
At the same time, you also will hone, sharpen and improve your answers.
Here are some examples of typical sup questions that are looking for similar answers:
- Why do you want to go to OUR UNIVERSITY?
- Why are you a “good match” for OUR UNIVERSITY?
- What is it that you like the best about OUR UNIVERSITY?
- How will you contribute to OUR UNIVERSITY?
Basically, there are two parts to these prompts. One: Why YOU? Two: Why COLLEGE X? Your job is show how and why they fit together. Here is a short guide on how to do this:
ONE: State your main goal for your education at your target schools. To be an engineer? To get a liberal arts education? To play waterpolo? To become a filmmaker? To earn a pre-med degree? To figure out what you want to do in the future?
SOS for The Short Answer: How to Write About an Extracurricular Activity or Work Experience
Oct 14, 2011
College Admissions Essays:
How to Answer the Supplemental “Short Answer” Prompt
The Common Application requires one long college admissions essay.
But it also has a short essay, a supplemental question that asks students to “briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.”
And they mean brief, no more than 1, 000 characters (about 150 words).
That’s really short, about one long paragraph.
The tendency is to simply describe an activity or experience.
Trouble is that this description often ends up as a broad overview–BORING!
But how the heck do you give details when you can only use a few words? Here’s the trick: You have to pick something within that activity or work experience and focus on that.
Let’s say you want to pick your cross country running as the activity.
My advice is to pick something within cross country that means a lot to you, such as a quality you have learned. How about endurance? Or mental discipline.
Now just zero in on how you learned that quality while running cross country, and then give an example. The example is key. It will be like a little piece of a story or a specific moment.
“I developed mental discipline from the times I had to run when I had a cold, or when the last 500 feet of the race was straight uphill…I learned to use little mental games to distract myself from the physical pain and fight back the voice that told me to quit…” This will make your answer feel real and specific (and interesting), instead of general and vague (and boring.)