SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

3 Expert Tips for Tackling the UVA Essay Prompts

author image
Posted by Hayley Milliman | Sep 18, 2022 12:00:00 PM

College Essays

 

5a99e8cc5cc89.image

Founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia boasts impressive academics, competitive sports team, and a long list of notable alumni. Though about 17,000 students attend UVA, the school has an admissions rate of 19%—meaning you'll have to work hard if you want to be a Cavalier.

One of the best ways to boost your chances of admissions is by writing great UVA essays as part of your application. In this article, we'll break down what the UVA essay prompts are and how you can write responses to each prompt that will make you stand out.

 

What Are the UVA Supplemental Essay Prompts?

In order to apply to UVA, you'll submit the Common Application. No matter which option you choose, you'll have to complete the UVA supplement, which includes three writing prompts.

The first prompt requires a response of about 100 words, and the other two recommend 50 words each. So these are definitely more short responses than full-length essays. For the first UVA supplement essay, you're required to write a response based on the school within UVA that you're applying to. For the second and third UVA writing supplements, you get to choose the topic that resonates most with you.

 

UVA Essay Prompts

Here are the UVA essay prompts for 2022-2023:

 

Prompt #1

We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer this question, which corresponds to the school/program you selected above in around 100 words.

  • College of Arts and SciencesIf you could create a college course that all UVA students would take, what would it be about and why?
  • School of Engineering and Applied SciencesHow will you use an engineering degree to change the world for the better?
  • School of Architecture—Describe a significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.
  • School of Nursing—Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.
  • Kinesiology ProgramDescribe an experience that has deepened your interest in studying kinesiology.

 

Prompts #2 and #3

Answer one of the following questions in around 50 words. (You'll answer one question from this set for prompt 2 and a different question from this same set for prompt 3).

  • What's your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • About what topic could you speak for an hour?

  • Take us to your happy place. 

  • You can wake up tomorrow and a skill you already have will become expert-level. What skill is that?

  • What is the last gift you gave someone that wasn't bought with money?

  • What website is the internet missing?

  • After a challenging experience, how do you recharge?

  • Tell us about a place you'd like to share with everyone, but also keep to yourself.

  • Tell us about a time when, faced with an opinion or perspective that differed from your own, you responded as an empathetic speaker or a generous listener.

 

filename-university-of

 

UVA Essays, Analyzed

Looking for advice on how to write amazing UVA essays? Let's break down how to answer each prompt.

 

UVA Prompt #1

The instructions are the same for all of the first UVA essays:

"We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer this question, which corresponds to the school/program you selected above in around 100 words."

Let's look at how to answer each one.

College of Arts and Sciences—If you could create a college course that all UVA students would take, what would it be about and why?


This slightly unusual prompt lets you show UVA what knowledge you think every student there should know. The prompt isn't asking what you think would be an interesting or fun course necessarily, but a course that every UVA student should need to take and pass in order to graduate. To answer this prompt, you'll need to decide: what topic is important for every UVA student to think about and know before they graduate? 

You could take this in a lot of different directions. You might choose a practical topic, like Intro to Paying Taxes, Basic Home and Car Repairs, or Financial Planning 101. Certainly everybody will need to know that information sooner or later! You could also choose a more abstract topic that you think no one should graduate college without thinking critically about. Topics in this area could include living sustainably, understanding prejudice, or how to be a good communicator.

Whichever topic you choose, be sure to give a brief overview of what the course would cover and, most importantly, why you think every UVA student should take it. The topic you choose is less important than your reasoning behind it, so make sure you make a strong argument for why your course choice is valuable to the entire UVA community.

 

School of Engineering— How will you use an engineering degree to change the world for the better?

This prompt is all about you and your plans for the future. What specifically do you plan on doing as an engineer? UVA asks this to understand your goals and motivations for wanting to enroll in their School of Engineering.

When answering this prompt, you might feel pressured to write something really impressive, like designing a space shuttle that'll allow humans to travel to Mars or developing a cheap water purification system that can be distributed to the millions of people living without access to clean drinking water. And if you do have those goals for yourself, then go for it! 

However, if you have more modest goals, don't feel like you need to "dress them up" in order to impress UVA. Wanting to become an engineer so you can create safe buildings, help people  manage and protect their data, or even just build cool roller coasters that people enjoy are just as valid.

The key is to be honest and enthusiastic about your career goals. Let your passion for engineering and your excitement for your future plans shine through, and you'll be all set for this prompt.

 

School of Architecture—Describe a significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.


Inspiration comes in many forms—what's important for this prompt is to think about an experience that has inspired you. Also, keep in mind that this prompt isn't asking you about a specific building or project that you love. Instead, it wants you to tell a personal story about how architecture has inspired you...and how that inspiration led you to choose architecture as a major.

The trick for this essay prompt is connecting your experience to architecture. For example, maybe you wanted to be an architect because you visited the Academy of Sciences in California, and you thought their underground aquarium was amazing. That inspired you to want to learn to build structures that create that sense of awe in others.

Whatever you choose, you should be sincere about your inspiration. Anything that sounds trite will be really obvious to the admissions committee. They'll read thousands of applications about wanting to make the tallest building in the world—make yours sound different.

 

School of Nursing—Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.


Don't feel like you need to highlight a huge moment here—rather, focus on something that's significant to you even if that experience was small!

The key to this prompt is to make sure that you're highlighting something real that happened to you or someone important to you. The more personal you can make the experience, the better.

Saying something like "I want to solve cancer for everyone" is less impactful than saying that you have seen firsthand how cancer affected your grandmother. Nursing is a personal profession—lean into that for this essay.

 

Kinesiology Program—Describe an experience that has deepened your interest in studying kinesiology.


For this prompt, focus on one experiences and discuss it in detail. Don't give an entire overview of your history—describing something more fully will resonate more than trying to cram a lot of experiences into a relatively short essay.

Be honest about what drove you to kinesiology—don't write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Write what's true for you.

 

rotunda_summer_ss_header_3-2

 

UVA Prompts #2 and #3

Again, for both prompts 2 and 3, you'll choose one prompt from the list below (so two different prompts total) and write a response of roughly 50 words each.

  • What's your favorite word and why?

  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.

  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?

  • About what topic could you speak for an hour?

  • Take us to your happy place. 

  • You can wake up tomorrow and a skill you already have will become expert-level. What skill is that?

  • What is the last gift you gave someone that wasn't bought with money?

  • What website is the internet missing?

  • After a challenging experience, how do you recharge?

  • Tell us about a place you'd like to share with everyone, but also keep to yourself.

  • Tell us about a time when, faced with an opinion or perspective that differed from your own, you responded as an empathetic speaker or a generous listener.

This is quite an eclectic list! Of the 11 prompts, you only need to answer two, so don't worry if you can't think of a good response to some or even most of the prompts. Don't worry about choosing the two "best" prompts either; UVA chose each of these prompts which means they think they're all valuable. Choose the two that speak to you the most and that you can answer in a way that lets UVA learn more about you as a person.

Also aim to choose two prompts that show different sides of yourself as opposed to two prompts where your answers are quite similar. That helps UVA get more of a look into who you are as a person, which is the entire point of the prompts.

To choose your prompts, go through the list and think about potential responses for each question. Some you might not come up with anything for, but hopefully for a few an answer will jump out at you. For example, do you have a passion for collecting Minnie Mouse figurines? Do you have to run four miles every single morning? Do you stop everything you're doing whenever the Red Sox are playing? Do your parents always make fun of you for pronouncing a word strangely? Then you might want to answer the question about quirks. 

Or maybe the prompt about students writing messages on the Beta Bridge speaks to you. As with the other prompts, the "why" is the most important part of this prompt. Whatever message you land on, make sure you have a good reason for it.

Avoid trite or cliched phrases, like "Be the change you wish to see in the world." The admissions committee will have seen thousands of these—and those words are probably already written on Beta Bridge. What do you have to say? What message is personal to you? What lesson have you learned that you specifically can communicate?

For whichever prompts you choose, be honest and reflective so that your response gives a window of insight into who you are and what matters to you. Another thing to note: 50 words is not very long at all! So keep things concise in order to stay within the word count.

 

How to Write UVA Essays

Here are some general tips for how to write UVA essays that will wow the committee.

 

#1: Be You

Your UVA supplement essays are a chance to show the admissions committee who you are. Take that opportunity to flesh yourself out. You're not simply a collection of A's and B's printed on a transcript. You're a real person! Show that in your UVA essays.

 

#2: Feedback Is Cool; Plagiarism Is Not

It can be tempting to bounce essay ideas off your peers, parents, and teachers. That's fine! But don't rely on them too heavily. Your work should be your own—from the ideas to the execution. There's a fine line between receiving helpful feedback and using that feedback in a way that misrepresents your work and ability. Seek out help, but know that you have the first and final say.

 

#3: Play With Form

Your UVA essays don't have to follow the traditional five paragraph structure. UVA encourages you to play with form. That means you can submit a poem, if you want!

Take advantage of the freedom from structure to write in a way that feels authentic to you. If that means starting every sentence with the letter "E", then go for it! As long as your work is well-written and engaging, the form doesn't matter.

 

What's Next?

There are over 5,000 colleges in the United States—how can you possibly decide which to apply to? Using a college finder tool can help you sort through your options and find your ideal school without having to tour every single campus.

Once you've decided on some colleges or universities that you're interested in attending, our guide will help you narrow down your list to safeties, matches, and reach school.

Still not sure what you're looking for in a college? Read our articles on whether you should go to a school close to home and whether you should attend a large or small college.

 


Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.

Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Craft Your Perfect College Essay

 

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!


author image
Hayley Milliman
About the Author

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.



Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com, allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!