Writing Your Leadership Short Answer
As of Fall 2018, UT-Austin requires that first-time freshman write 250-300 words submitted directly on the Apply Texas website to answer the question, "How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?"
Consider incoporating a few of these approaches into your Leadership short answer essay.
1. Take a broad definition of leadership
Leadership can mean whatever you want it to. UT is giving you an opportunity to discuss something that interests and is important to you. Relate an activity or two that highlights some of your best characteristics or personal traits like determination, active listening, taking responsibility on sports teams and group projects, or how you help others.
2. Are you introverted? That's okay!
Not every student can be the drum major, team captain, or student body president, and that's okay. There are ways to lead that don't show up on a resume or competition.
Are you the person in your group of friends who helps resolve conflicts? Do you listen well and offer constructive advice when your friends and family confront an obstacle? Are you instrumental on a larger team where your contributions are critical but not obvious?
Consider discussing your responsibilities at home or with younger siblings.
3. Cite specific examples to back up your points
In all of your essays, you should avoid empty statements and cliches. You need to provide evidence for your characteristics and personality traits. Many times students write things like "I am a strong leader who always puts forward their best effort." Great! Then provide an example or share a story that provides evidence.
College essays are a series of arguments. All good arguments need thoughtful evidence. Don't write your short answers without supporting your points.
4. If you are referencing a few examples, develop each activity fully
It's okay to cite three or four different examples rather than spending 300 words writing about one activity. Nevertheless, you should spend at least a few sentences discussing each one. Ping-ponging between activities often leaves your short answer looking like bullet points on a resume more than a fully formed thought.
5. Tie your leadership activity into your first-choice major
Admissions reviewers want to know how you will be a future leader on the Forty Acres. If you have an activity or tie that ties into your first-choice major, talk about it!
Leadership doesn't necessarily mean participating in college organizations or extracurricular activities. It can also mean contributing to classroom discussions, conducting research, or studying abroad.
It's also okay to say that you don't want to continue participating in the exact same activities you did in high school - few college students end up doing this. It is important to consider what future activities, resources, or organizations may interest you.
6. Leading can also mean following
Discuss a time you were integral to a group project or service activity but not necessarily the one in charge. Not every competitive applicant will have traditional leadership activities. I suspect one reason UT created this essay is to allow students to provide context to their resume or discuss something that doesn't fit neatly into the Apply Texas activity boxes.
It's okay to say "I'm not a typical leader, but I am really important to my group/team/family." I've even seen one particularly clever essay how they are the primary caretaker for their family's five cats and dogs. They argued it's practically a part time job since their siblings are too young and their parents are busy, and I believe them.
7. Expand upon your Essay A
Ultimately, your three short answers and Essay A should compliment one another. No essay is more important than the other because reviewers are scoring you on a scale of 1-6. Ideally, your application should read like one long narrative where each prompt allows you to portray different aspects of your identity.
If you're stuck on how to answer the leadership question, discuss what roles and responsibilities you have at home or in your community. Since there are any number of ways to approach Essay A, you can use your leadership short answer to compliment your discussion of the environment in which you are raised.
8. Discuss why UT is the best fit for you
Identify specific UT service organizations, fraternities and sororities, or cultural organizationsand why they interests you. UT has a list of all of their organizations that you can browse.
If your essay reads generically, "I look forward to all of UT's resources and living in a great city like Austin" then make it more specific and concrete. These short answers aren't a contract, and if you say you're interested in a few opportunities yet change your mind when you arrive on campus, that's okay.
You should still demonstrate that you are making an informed decision by applying to UT and how you can bring diverse perspective to UT's campus and classroom.