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3 Writing Tips for the University of Florida Essay Prompts

Posted by Christine Sarikas | Aug 15, 2020 5:00:00 PM

College Essays

 

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Are you applying to the University of Florida? There are six essay prompts you'll need to answer as part of your application: one long essay and five shorter prompts in the University of Florida supplement. Many people rush through the shorter UF essay prompts, but they are an important part of your application. Read this guide to learn what the University of Florida essay prompts are, what admissions officers are looking for in your response, what you should include and avoid in your answers, and what strong UF college essay examples look like.

 

What Are the University of Florida Essays?

The University of Florida accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application, and applicants must answer one of the Common Application or Coalition Application prompts, depending on which application you use to apply.

You must also complete the University of Florida supplement, which includes five short prompts. Your answer to each prompt can be up to 250 words. Here are the prompts:

  • List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility.

  • List and describe each job you've had, including dates of employment, job titles and hours worked each week.

  • [OPTIONAL] Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? Please describe.

  • List any programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, etc.

  • Is there any other information for the Admissions Committee to consider when your application is reviewed?

We'll go over how to best answer each of these supplement questions in the next section.

 

The UF Essay Prompts, Analyzed

In this section, for each of the five UF essay prompts, we explain what the prompt is asking for, why UF is interested in this information, what information you should include (and what information to avoid), and what a strong example answer could look like.

 

Prompt 1

List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility.

  • What the prompt is asking for: A brief description of volunteer work you've done.

  • Why UF is interested: Students who participate in community service show they are interested in helping others, giving back, and promoting their own personal growth. These are all characteristics colleges want their students to have, so being involved in community service can give your application a boost.

  • Potential topics to discuss: Any volunteer work you did, whether it was a one-time event or ongoing commitment. It can be as part of a volunteer organization as well as more informal work, such as shoveling snow for elderly neighbors. If you run out of space, focus on the activities you feel are most important and best showcase your strengths to UF. For each topic, make it clear how long you were involved in the activity, what your main responsibilities were, and if you had a leadership role.

  • Topics to avoid: Activities you were paid for, as well as clubs or sports that aren't related to community service.

  • Example: "Reading tutor at Sanderson Elementary School (2018/2019 school year, 2 hours a week): Organized fun and educational activities to help two first graders learn to read and write during an after-school program."

 

Prompt 2

List and describe each job you've had, including dates of employment, job titles and hours worked each week.

  • What the prompt is asking for: A brief overview of each job you have had.

  • Why UF is interested: Having a job in high school can often indicate the applicant is mature, motivated, and able to balance multiple responsibilities. Knowing you have a time-intensive job can also help UF understand why you may have fewer extracurriculars than the average student.

  • Potential topics to discuss: Any job where you were paid. This can also include unofficial jobs such as babysitting or mowing lawns where you were simply paid in cash. Be sure to include every key duty you had for a job so the admissions team gets a full sense of the work you did.

  • Topics to avoid: Volunteer work (that goes in Prompt 1), chores you did for your family (Prompt 3, but only if they were extensive enough to limit extracurricular activity).

  • Example: "Job title: Lifeguard and Swim Instructor. Duties: Teaching children aged 3-15 how to swim and be safe in the water, monitoring the pool, enforcing rules and safe pool behavior, and providing first aid. Place of employment: Belleville Park District. Dates of employment: June 2018 to present. Hours worked per week: 20-30 in the summer, 10-15 during the school year."

 

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Prompt 3

[OPTIONAL] Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? Please describe.

  • What the prompt is asking for: A job or family expectation that limited you from participating in extracurriculars. (That second part is key. Most students won't have anything to put for this prompt.)

  • Why UF is interested: Some students don't the time ability to get involved in a sport or club because they have other obligations. That's much different than a student who simply chooses not to join any extracurriculars, and UF wants to know this so it can evaluate your application fairly. Note that this essay is optional, so if you don't have anything to write about here, don't.

  • Potential topics to discuss: Jobs whose hours made it hard to join an extracurricular, regularly watching your siblings, chores you needed to complete each day that made it difficult to stay after school, not having access to transportation needed for extracurriculars.

  • Topics to avoid: Anything unrelated to a job or family obligation. For example, don't discuss being really busy with classes as a reason. Also, don't include things that would be considered regular chores or family obligations for a teenager to have. Washing the dishes every night likely doesn't prevent you from playing a sport. For whatever you do include, don't turn it into a rant or whine about the work you did. That's not a good look to colleges. Just state what prevented you from joining extracurriculars, without adding additional commentary. Additionally, if you had a job or family obligation but were still able to participate in as many extracurriculars as you wanted, leave this prompt blank (and congrats on balancing everything!). This prompt is only for things that actually limited your extracurriculars.

  • Example: "I'm in charge of watching my two younger siblings from 3:30pm until my parents get home at 7pm. This prevented me from joining sports and extracurriculars that meet after school."

 

Prompt 4

List any programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, etc.

  • What the prompt is asking for: The programs listed are all primarily aimed at helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for college and higher education. UF wants to know if you participated in any of them.

  • Why UF is interested: Participating in one of these programs can show you're committed to attending college and are developing the skills you need to succeed there.

  • Potential topics to discuss: If you did participate in one of these programs, list it, along with when you attended. Since the prompt says only to list them, there's no need to describe what you did with the programs.

  • Topics to avoid: Anything unrelated to one of the programs listed or a similar one meant to help disadvantaged students prepare for college. This is a pretty narrow range of programs they're interested in, and if it's not one of the Federal TRiO programs or something similar, it isn't what they're looking for in this prompt. This includes private tutoring, working with your academic advisor, a paid college-prep summer camp, etc.

  • Example: "Participated in Upward Bound during the 2017/2018 school year."

 

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Prompt 5

Is there any other information for the Admissions Committee to consider when your application is reviewed?

  • What the prompt is asking for: Any information that you feel is important for UF to know in order to have the most accurate idea of your application.

  • Why UF is interested: In order to make the admissions process as fair as possible, UF wants to give you a chance to explain anything else you think could impact your chance of being accepted but weren't able to mention in another part of the application.

  • Potential topics to discuss: Any extenuating circumstances that you feel may have had a negative impact on your application. For example, you may have had mono your sophomore year and your grades dropped, your school may not have offered AP Calculus so you had to take it at a community college, etc. You can also use this space to mention test scores or awards you won that don't fit in elsewhere in the application, but remember to only include them if you think they're important enough to actually have an impact on your chances of being accepted.

  • Topics to avoid: Don't include anything you've already mentioned elsewhere in the application. Also, avoid anything that sounds too much like an excuse, i.e. "I didn't like my geometry teacher so I didn't do well in the class." Stick only to situations completely beyond your control that you really feel could negatively impact your application.

  • Example: "Although I made the soccer team as a junior, I broke my arm before the season started, which is why I didn't participate that year."

 

Tips for the UF Essay Prompts

Follow these three tips when completing the University of Florida supplement essays to make sure your answers are as strong as possible.

 

#1: Keep Your Answers Concise

You only have 950 characters per prompt. That's about 150-200 words (or slightly more than three tweets, if you prefer). This means your responses need to be brief and to the point if you're trying to fit a lot of information in. Prompt 1 is the most common prompt students run out of space on because, if you've done multiple volunteer projects, it can be tough to fit in information about each of them.

Instead of trying to squeeze in a dozen different projects, we recommend focusing on the community service work you spent the most time on/felt most connected to. Highlighting a few experiences that you were really committed to paints a much better picture for the admissions teams than a string of one-time volunteer projects. The same advice goes for Prompt 2 if you've had a lot of short-term jobs.

 

#2: Don't Think You Need to Answer All the Prompts

Almost no student will answer every prompt. You should try to have examples for Prompt 1, but it's not unusual for that to be the only prompt you answer. Few students will have answers to Prompts 3 and 4. If a prompt doesn't apply, simply put "N/A." Don't try to make up information just to have an answer; that will hurt your application instead of help it.

 

#3: Show Your Strengths

Even those these prompts are short, they are still an opportunity for you to impress the admissions committee. Prompts 1 and 3 are typically the best places for this, as you can discuss jobs and volunteer that is important to you and given you a high level of responsibility. Try to include themes you've mentioned in other parts of your application, such as your longer essay. For example, if you mentioned that your dream is to be a doctor, try to highlight experiences that reflect that, such as volunteering at a hospital.

 

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Summary: UF College Essay Examples

There is one main University of Florida essay, and it'll be the Coalition or Common Application (depending on which application you use) prompt of your choice. But there are also additional UF essay prompts to answer. These five short prompts are a way for the UF admissions committee to learn more about you and have the most accurate look at your application.

Here is where you can discuss volunteer work, jobs, anything that prevented you from participating in extracurriculars, certain programs you took part in, and anything else you think is important for the people reviewing your application to know. As you answer these UF essay prompts, remember to keep your responses short, don't feel pressured to answer every prompt, and highlight your strengths.

 

What's Next?

Considering the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship? Our guide to Bright Futures Scholarship programs answers all the questions you're wondering about.

Want to bring up your GPA? Read about four ways to bring up your high school grades fast.

Interested in community service ideas? Check out our guide to 129 great community service projects.

 


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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.



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