Are you hoping to be part of Virginia Tech’s next matriculating class? If so, you’ll need to write strong Virginia Tech essays to supplement your application.
All Virginia Tech applicants are required to answer four short answer questions as part of their application. In this article, we’ll break down what the Virginia Tech essays are and what the admissions committee is looking for in your answer.
Why Does Virginia Tech Require Applicants to Answer Essays?
Virginia Tech requires all applicants to answer four short answer questions. If you’re applying to the Honors College, your answers will also be shared with the Honors College admissions committee. You don’t need to answer any separate questions as an applicant to the Virginia Tech Honors College.
The Virginia Tech essays are designed for the admissions committee to get a better sense of who you are, both as a student and a person. The short answers questions ask about your character, leadership, and goals. The admissions committee will use your answers to better understand you as a person - who are you? What do you care about? How will you fit in on Virginia Tech’s campus?
It’s important to put some serious effort into your Virginia Tech essays so that you represent yourself well to the admissions committee. These essays are your chance to present a well-rounded version of yourself that makes the admissions committee say, “We have to admit this student!”
What Are the Virginia Tech Essays?
Virginia Tech requires that every applicant answer four short answer questions. These short answer questions are just that - short! Each has a word limit of 120 words. Let’s take a look at the questions:
#1: Virginia Tech’s motto is "Ut Prosim" which means 'That I May Serve'. We are interested in learning more about your interests and how you have been involved and/or served. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with. Is this a special area of interest for you, and why? How long have you been involved? What role did you play? What contributions have you made to this group? Were you able influence others and/or influence decisions for the good of the group?
#2: Describe a situation where you were involved or witness to an act of discrimination. How, or did, you respond? Do you wish you would have responded differently? Did this situation cause any change to happen based on this event and did you have a role in that change? What did you learn from this experience?
#3: Describe an example of a situation where you have significantly influenced others, took on a leadership role, helped resolve a dispute, or contributed to a group’s goals. What was your role, what responsibilities did you take on? Did you encounter any obstacles, and if so how did you respond, were you able to overcome them? What would you do differently?
#4: Briefly describe a personal goal you have set for yourself. Why this goal, what is your timeline to achieve this goal, what precipitated this goal? Have you turned to anyone for advice or help, what was their role, what did you learn about yourself, are you still working toward this goal?
Virginia Tech Essays, Analyzed
Now that we know what the Virginia Tech essays are, let’s break down how to answer each one as best as possible.
Since the Virginia Tech essays are so short, the key is to be super targeted in your responses. For each prompt, we’ll break down what the essay is asking and how you can tailor your response to make sure it’s what the admissions committee wants to hear.
Virginia Tech’s motto is "Ut Prosim" which means 'That I May Serve'. We are interested in learning more about your interests and how you have been involved and/or served. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with. Is this a special area of interest for you, and why? How long have you been involved? What role did you play? What contributions have you made to this group? Were you able influence others and/or influence decisions for the good of the group?
This essay question is asking about your involvement or service with a specific organization. The admissions committee is looking for you to demonstrate a genuine commitment to a cause - what the cause is doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you genuinely care about it.
You should pick an organization that you’ve made real, lasting change at. Don’t choose the committee or group that sounds the best if you haven’t actually done a lot for them. For instance, if you were a member of your school’s Habitat for Humanity club but didn’t actually attend very many meetings, don’t talk about how meaningful it was to build houses for disadvantaged people just because you think it sounds nice. Any insincerity in your application will be very obvious.
Consider groups that you’ve had significant leadership roles in, as well as any organizations where you’ve affected policies or made choices about activities. These will be service experiences the group wants to hear about.
Describe a situation where you were involved or witness to an act of discrimination. How, or did, you respond? Do you wish you would have responded differently? Did this situation cause any change to happen based on this event and did you have a role in that change? What did you learn from this experience?
This second question can seem intimidating - are you supposed to represent yourself as a social justice warrior? What if you haven’t witnessed too many forms of discrimination?
Luckily, the key here isn’t to show that you’ve tackled the patriarchy or changed racist laws in your community. Instead, the admissions committee simply wants to know if you approach situations with compassion and an open mind. They want to know that you can reflect on your behavior and asses how your choices affect others.
You don’t need to pick a big incident. You can even choose something small that you’ve noticed daily. You also don’t need to pick an example where you were in the right - the key is to demonstrate that you’ve reflected on and learned from your experiences, not that you’ve known how to act and stand up for others from day one.
Describe an example of a situation where you have significantly influenced others, took on a leadership role, helped resolve a dispute, or contributed to a group’s goals. What was your role, what responsibilities did you take on? Did you encounter any obstacles, and if so how did you respond, were you able to overcome them? What would you do differently?
This prompt wants to know two things: first, have you taken on the responsibility of leading other people? Second, how do you deal with challenges?
The admissions committee wants to know that you don’t shy away from leadership roles and growth opportunities. You don’t have to be president of a club or captain of a sports team to demonstrate leadership. Perhaps you took on the role of project coordinator for a classroom project or are section leader of a few instrumentalists in the band. The size of the role isn’t as important as the scope of your influence - how did your choices and actions influence others?
The second half of the question focuses on overcoming obstacles. What challenges did you face? How did you defeat them? The key here isn’t to show that you can overcome problems easily. It’s to show that you’re open to growth. Admitting that you handled a situation poorly and would do so differently in the future is more powerful than saying “I was a great leader who did nothing wrong.” Show humility and self-reflection in your answer.
Briefly describe a personal goal you have set for yourself. Why this goal, what is your timeline to achieve this goal, what precipitated this goal? Have you turned to anyone for advice or help, what was their role, what did you learn about yourself, are you still working toward this goal?
The final Virginia Tech short essay question assesses your commitment to growth. Notice that the question asks about a personal goal - that means you don’t have to pick something lofty or world-changing. You just have to pick something that resonates with you.
Maybe you decided to wake up 30 minutes earlier every day so you can meditate or do yoga before school. Maybe you made it a goal to complete all of your essays two days before they were due so you could revise your work. Maybe you made it a goal to try a sport this year when you normally hate sports.
Whatever your goal is, you want to demonstrate that you’re capable of self-reflection and of positive growth - that you’re constantly assessing how to better yourself.
You also want to show humility in this prompt - that you can rely on or ask for help from others when you need it. The admissions committee doesn’t expect that you’ll have all the answers yourself. They want to see that you can collaborate with and learn from others when you need to.
Tips for Answering Your Virginia Tech Essays
Follow these general tips for making sure that your Virginia Tech essays are as strong as possible.
#1: Demonstrate Growth and Self-Reflection
Virginia Tech places a strong emphasis on service and self-reflection. These qualities are reflected in the choices of essay topics.
You should demonstrate these qualities in your answers. Show that you’re constantly working to better yourself. Demonstrate humility and understanding. Virginia Tech wants students who will grow on their campus - not ones who will matriculate already thinking they’re perfect.
#2: Be Honest and Sincere
All of the experiences that you outline in your Virginia Tech essays should be real - they need to have actually happened to you.
It can be tempting to lie about or exaggerate your experiences to make them seem more impressive. Don’t do this!
First of all, lying on your application is a major ethics violation and can get you in some pretty serious trouble if you’re caught.
Second all, insincerity will be super obvious. The admissions committee reads thousands of applications every year. They can easily sniff out people who are lying. Be as honest as possible in your Virginia Tech essays and remember - they WANT to hear about how you’ve grown.
It should go without saying, but your Virginia Tech essays should be the best examples of your work possible. Don’t just write your essays and be done with them. Take the time to formulate an answer and then go back and edit it. Make sure to proofread and run your work through a spelling or grammar checker to ensure it’s polished.
#4: Get a Second Opinion
Getting a second opinion on your work can be a helpful way to assess whether your Virginia Tech essays are demonstrating your best qualities. Ask someone to read your work who really knows you, so they can tell you whether or not you’re underselling yourself or missing a key feature of your personality that the admissions committee should know.
That being said, there’s a fine line between getting a second opinion and plagiarism. It’s okay to ask for someone’s opinion on your work. It’s not okay to steal their ideas and pass them off as your own. Make sure you’re doing the former, not the latter.
Recap: Responding to the Virginia Tech Essay Prompts
The Virginia Tech essays are designed to show who you are as a student and how you’ll fit in on Virginia Tech’s campus.
- Be honest and sincere.
- Highlight opportunities you’ve taken to grow and change.
- Edit and proofread your work to make sure it’s as strong as possible.
- Lie or over exaggerate to make yourself seem better.
- Steal anyone else’s ideas.
- Sweat the short answers too much. They’re important, but they won’t make or break your chances at admission to Virginia Tech.
Want to know how to make your extracurriculars stand out even more? Check out this guide to four amazing extracurricular activities and learn why they're so impressive to colleges.
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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.