Six Examples of Apply Texas Essay A Describe the Environment in which You Were Raised

Mom and I in Costa Rica for my 27th birthday

Mom and I in Costa Rica for my 27th birthday

UPDATE: UT-Austin has updated Essay A to the new prompt “Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?” I discuss tips and advice here and examples in this post.

Here are six real student Apply Texas Essay As that we worked on together followed by a few thoughts on why they're effective essays. Each student gained admission.

I provide a variety of examples to demonstrate that there are many ways to approach this essay and that any student can share thoughtfully in a page or two a few interesting aspects of their upbringing.

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood, or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.

Check out this post for tips and ways to approach answering Essay A.

Essay A Example: Family Paella, Tomas, and Cuban-German Heritage

"When I think of family, I taste Cuban “paella,” – but with something a little extra. My family’s unique mixture of second-generation Cuban and German-American makes large family gatherings all the more interesting. My dad’s German side of the family is more traditional – every great paella needs a strong base of white rice. The Cubanos from my mom’s side mix in the exotic ingredients, the varied colors, and spices. While our family recipe contributes to who I am today, one of our most special ingredients stands out – loudly at times.

Holidays are a hive of activity. Pots clang while people loudly shuffle between rooms and from the kitchen to the backyard. Even I have trouble following the conversations. Any outsider may be intimidated by this chaos. For me, it’s normal. My Cuban grandparent’s house bustled. I love my grandmother’s traditional Cuban cooking, my favorite part.

Her savory concoctions helped endure the sometimes frustrating and unnecessarily excessive amount of visitors popping in to chat. Amid all the chaos, there remained one constant. Every weekday around 4 pm, a voice rose above the din, “Tyleeer!” Tomas announces his arrival.

Tomas is one of my closest cousins for many reasons. Not only is he a permanent fixture at grandparent’s house, but he also requires a bit of attention. Tomas has autism. He is our paella’s most special ingredient.

It feels awkward writing this because I know how much of a stigma the word “autism” carries. Once someone hears “autism,” that, unfortunately, becomes his defining characteristic. Tomas is much more than his autism, and what others see as a weakness, our family views it as one of his greatest gifts. Tomas is one of the smartest and most compassionate kids that I know. It's just sometimes he requires a little bit of extra attention. I learned this very quickly. Like many things in life, I adapted.

I am not going to lie, sometimes, settling Tomas down or working through a task with him proves a huge struggle. Small tasks are easy to manage like helping with his homework or playing around the house. But when he starts knocking things off the shelves at Tom Thumb, and the stares from other customers turn their gaze and judgment, things become complicated. In these moments, he pushes our patience to their limits.

These often daily occurrences began wearing me down. Looking back, I recognize that with every “grocery store tantrum,” I grew as a person. Tomas grants me the humility that I will never be able to teach or change him. With each test, I become a little more conscientious and composed. Most importantly, he reminds me of the importance of accepting others no matter the label attached to them. While I see strangers in public judging Tomas based only on a limited snapshot or one instance of an outburst, it falls on the responsibility of each individual to withhold judgment and put yourself in someone else's shoes. I can’t control their stares.

No matter what stigma or connotation someone’s appearance or disability may have, I do my best to look past appearances and see the whole person. I started to realize this importance when I perceived qualities in Tomas that others wouldn’t have allowed their own time or energy for him to share. People are complex and multidimensional. When we apply labels and make assumptions, these sometimes become unintentional put-downs. In the end, Tomas and I’s unconditional love and trust cannot be broken.

Tomas pushes me to my temperamental boundaries, and sometimes I want to surrender, but I don’t. As I’ve become older, I’m especially grateful for this special ingredient in my life. Without it, our paella wouldn’t be complete."


I feel this essay is thoughtful for a few reasons. It's an engaging essay that captures their reader's attention, is thoughtful, and well-written.

They integrate the metaphor of paella throughout their essay to describe their mixed background. It's always more effective to illustrate rather than tell. What better way to illustrate your family background than making your reviewer's mouth water?

The metaphor is effective because it lays the foundation to discuss their homelife, parents, and grandparents. Moreover, this student does an effective job of painting a nuanced portrait of their cousin Tomas.

Tomas plays an important role in this essay and is more than just a recipient of Tyler's generosity, for example. Tyler effectively conveys how Tomas is a central part of their family and, in turn, a key ingredient to their paella.

He also takes it the next step by discussing how Tomas encourages him to be more patient and understanding while also considering the larger context of society's perceptions of people with special needs.

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Essay A Example: Band Birds of a Feather

"Band students flock together. Like birds of a feather, we flutter to school way too early for sectionals and we dedicate crazy hours after school for the marching band half-time show. We would rather eat crow than place second in competitions. Though each of us flies our own path, we set aside our individuality to harmonize with the group. Sometimes, fatigue and stress squawk. Any good flock helps restore the ruffled feathers of an upset pal. I’m fortunate to have nested the past seven years in a community that soars like ducks forming a perfect V.

I haven’t always been a proud fowl in my school’s band. When I first joined the sixth-grade beginner band, I hated it. My parents forced me to pipe the clarinet. Eleven-year-old me wondered how sounding like a dying goose could help me with my true interests – math and science. I didn’t want to lag behind my more-talented friends, so I practiced religiously. Nobody wants to be the timid, forgotten ugly duckling chirping out of tune.

Over time, I received promotions to higher chairs and began soaring in individual contests. Don’t tell my parents this, but I began taking to band like a duck to water. I was a fledgling finding its call. I appreciated the payoff that came from hard work and the support I received from my friends. Earning my seed in band encouraged me to take my academics more seriously. Maybe band wasn’t such an albatross after all.

In high school, band began playing a central role in my life. I dedicated more time to building my nest. To maintain my grades, I got my social, academic, and extracurricular ducks in a row and, like an owl, began managing my time more wisely. In band, there is always one more feather requiring plucking. We winged an entire drill movement on the field a week before a marching competition. We still managed to successfully execute our routine thanks to unflagging determination.

Once, despite feeling like a dead duck, I powered through a marching competition following a concussion. I even relearned how to march before I mastered walking after having my feather clipped from knee surgery. Quitting isn’t for us birds.

Our determined work often pays off. I recall my favorite memory when our gaggle placed first in a big marching competition in San Antonio. Our entire band rushed the Alamodome field celebrating like a flock of pigeons descending on a loaf of bread in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square. It was humbling to be just one duck in our band’s perfectly-aligned flying V.

When I first arrived at Flower Mound High, we seemed to march like quail scattering from buck shot – reflected in our poor rankings. A few leaders emerged and took younger members under their wing. Collaboration and selflessness emerged while discontent and apathy slowly flew from the coop. Consider us the bald eagles of the band kingdom. We currently rank among the best marching and concert bands in the country.

My individual performance also flourished. I earned first chair Bass Clarinet, received a spot in the Texas All-State band, and roosted over my own nest as section leader. At first, I wasn’t the leader I aspired to be, but after a year-and-a-half of leading sectionals and resolving conflicts, I think my coop would consider me effective, sensitive, and helpful. I am now achieving my goal of overseeing a constructive environment that will leave a positive legacy for the mallard who replaces me after graduation.

Every fall season comes with a new marching band show to coo about. My band’s show this year is about birds! At times, it seems the experienced seniors let puff their feathers a bit too enthusiastically overshadowing timid yet potentially great freshmen. Guilty as charged, I try to caw quieter for the sake of my burgeoning brood, but it’s easy to let my enthusiasm slip…"


This is undoubtedly the most quirky and experimental essay I've ever worked on. It started with the student referencing birds a few times, and we just ran with it. Previous versions had even more puns, hyperbole, similes, and play on words. This final version is a tamer version of some truly wild early attempts.

They ended up gaining admission to Aerospace Engineering despite below average academics.

I like this essay because it discusses the environment in which they were raised as outside of their family, home, or community. It's an effective example of how any setting where you have spent a lot of time or has influenced you in some ways can be ripe territory for Essay A.

Undoubtedly hundreds if not thousands of students will submit essays about Band, either in Essay A or the Leadership short answer. I am certain this is the most interesting Band essay their particular reviewer had ever read.

What makes this essay unique isn't just the panoply of puns. It identifies specific, concrete examples to support their points. It has both substance and flair. There is a thoughtful development of ideas and connections across different areas how band makes them a better student, son, and leader.

I share this essay to demonstrate that anything is possible. If you've got an unconventional or creative idea, let it fly away!

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Essay A Example: The Saigon Spirit, Recent Immigrant

"It was flaming hot! The Vietnamese sun takes no prisoners.

I could feel the scorching sun with its invisible, piercing rays sneaking under my skin burning it relentlessly. Automatically, my body reacted to the enveloping heat by protecting itself with a blanket of sticky sweat.

My hands hurt. My back begged me to release my incredibly heavy box of iced milk-tea bottles – it was nearly as big as me! With all of my might, my grip clung to both sides of the box. My classmates and I wandered the streets of Saigon aimlessly, desperately hoping to sell some of these bottles. It was a refreshing drink on a hot summer day, after all.

Taking the lead, I shouted and rallied my lagging friends. “Come on! Keep moving! We can’t give up. We need money badly. People depend on us.”

As we dragged ourselves and the hefty box down the road, we heard a question inquiring from behind. “Hey kids, what are you doing?”

We turned to face the croaky voice. Our eyes rested on a man in his mid-forties with thin, balding hair. He was a typical motorcycle driver with an old, scratched Honda Wave 125CC.
“We are raising funds to buy school supplies for underprivileged kids of Binh Phuc Nhut Middle School in Tien Giang Province,” I responded with measured optimism. Five drivers had already rejected my offer earlier that day.

To my surprise, he not only bought our product. He offered to take our name cards to spread the word about our project. “What you are doing is wonderful. That’s the Saigon’s spirit!”

Hearing his compliment felt like a cool breeze passing through our aching bodies allowing us, momentarily, to forget about our sweaty skin and aching hands. His statement reminded me fondly about the spirit Saigon’s inhabitants – people are willing to work hard and sacrifice for others, especially those less fortunate. My taste of success selling milk-tea bottles on the street served as inspiration for continuing my journey of community service.

Most of people living in Saigon – also known as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s major city in the south – are immigrants. Many destitute farmers migrate from the northern countryside – home to boundless rice terraces as far as the eye can see – in search of a better life. They also come from the west the territory of immeasurably vast mangroves. Life in Vietnam’s countryside is extremely laborious, so it is fathomable that many people are attracted to the allure of city life.

People come from every corner of Vietnam to Saigon to follow their dreams. Since the majority of people in Saigon come from rural areas, they own very little and must work their way from the bottom. Many residents share this same history and remember the hardship of the early days.

People in Saigon help each other with everything they have because we understand the struggle. They sympathize with the difficulties faced by many people to feed and provide shelter for their families. Without this sense of community, Saigon would not be an easy place to live.

We don’t wait until we are rich to give a hand. Mr. Pham Van Luong runs a small motorcycle repair shop on the sidewalk of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. Even though he struggles to make a living, Luong provides free service for poor students and disabled people anyways.

My favorite example of the Saigon Spirit is free iced-tea boxes set up anonymously. The owners don’t need recognition or appreciation from the public. Putting names on buildings is trivial. I believe that we help each other out of kindness and respect. Someday, we may also be in need of help. There are other public services as well: pharmacy boxes donated by everyone, rides to desire destination given by some motorcycle drivers, and free meals by multiple of restaurants. Of course not everyone is kind-hearted, but those who are help earnestly."


I love this essay because it shares a lot of nice details about the city they come from and rich anecdotes to illustrate their points.

A non-native speaker wrote this essay. Maybe surprisingly, this final version looks relatively similar to their first draft. They supplied a lot of the rich details and context, and we worked together on word flow, word choice, style, grammar, and tone.

Their other essays discussed their family's recent transition from Vietnam to Texas, so the overall strategy were essays about where they came from, where they are, and how UT can help take them to where they want to be.

It also demonstrates that non-native English speakers can produce great essays if they are willing to work hard, revise through multiple drafts, and consider thoughtfully their life circumstances, identity, and future goals.

I firmly believe that any student regardless of their background, culture, language, or socioeconomics can build outstanding college essays if they're willing to put in the work. 

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Essay A Example: A Loving Family

"My dad has the quickest wit of anyone I that know. His sense of humor commands any audience and you can guarantee that he will make the room laugh. Delivering lightening quick, often genius comebacks will not only top yours, but you cannot help releasing a delayed chuckle from his playful sting. I would like to think that, with each joke, I am absorbing his wit even if my own humor continues to find its own voice and blossom.

My dad loves to be in the sun - consider me his sunflower. We love any excuse to be outside whether we are fishing on the gulf coast or strolling down the Riverwalk on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. We love playing in the yard. When Texas summer thunderstorms roll in, we enjoy taking in the show in the middle of the night on our front porch. He has taught me to embrace dirty feet, grass stains, and sunburns while stressing the importance of not taking myself too seriously.

My mom is the most selfless and perceptive person that I know. She makes sure that everybody around her is having a good day, has a full stomach, and wears a smile. Absorbed in her selfless commitment others, sometimes she forgets to do the same for herself. Wherever there is a need, she can be found. She has taught me to be encouraging, loving, and generous in all that I do; she truly has a servant’s heart.

The word “no” is not in her vocabulary although she occasionally reaches her limits when navigating absurd requests from my brother or me. She is always the first to volunteer at church and school activities. She proudly held the position of “room mom” for both of us in elementary school. I fondly recall my parents bringing the donuts and chocolate milk after our 8am YMCA basketball games. My mom and dad cheered in the stands at countless games and matches throughout my basketball and tennis careers, and they continue to do the same for my brother. They are our biggest fans and never fail to prove it.

I know a lot of people who are not necessarily happy people, and I realize that I am fortunate to have such loving parents. I am thankful for a home where the door is always open to others. My parents fill our house with laughter, smiles, and light. My parents both have a passion and deep appreciation for art and learning. We have books stacked all around our house strewn across tables and shelves. They cover a myriad topics ranging from art to history, flower arrangements to architecture, and travel to fashion. Growing up around so many books, I couldn’t help but flip through whatever covers struck my fancy.

I intend to carry this intellectual curiosity, love of nature, and concern for others with me to college and beyond. I want to be like my dad and make people smile. I cherish my mom for instilling me with a caring heart to better the lives of others. I want to be like both of my parents by staying curious, being fascinated with the world, and never settling for easy answers for as long as I live. If I can honor these parts of my parents, then I can consider myself a success."


A lot of students come to me, "I don't have anything interesting about my family. We're white and from the suburbs and there are thousands of families like ours. How can I stand out?"

I appreciate this essay because it answers the prompt straight forward. There is some development of a metaphor, flowers and the sun, but for the most part, it provides a thoughtful and literal answer to the prompt.

They begin with a discussion of their father and their community and home. They next move onto mom and discuss how their parents support them and their siblings. This provides a lot of rich detail and context that makes the response unique to the applicant.

They share how their parents and homelife shape who they are as a person and conclude with how they will carry on their family values to university and beyond.

You don't need to be clever or tell some crazy story to write thoughtfully and authentically. No doubt this is one of the best Essay A's their reviewers received.

Essay A Example: Beaufort, South Carolina

"Salty breezes blow from the ocean and swim through the wetland marshes. Ancient oak trees draped in Spanish moss sprinkle the landscape. Downtown houses predate the Civil War, and tourists explore by foot and horse-drawn buggies. In Beaufort, South Carolina you’re never more than a few minutes’ journey from the water. A nineteen-mile drive east brings you to idyllic Fripp Island where it’s best to go on weekdays to avoid the throng of weekend tourists.

Occasionally, sonic booms from F-16s break the tranquility of my hometown. “The noise you hear is the sound of freedom,” boasts the entrance to the nearby Marine Corps Air Station. This sign is the first indication that the government and service industries dominate our local economy. While I love Beaufort, growing up here inspires me to expand my horizons and pursue studies elsewhere.

It is easy to understand why Beaufort is a popular retirement destination. Directors of popular movies like The Big Chill and The Prince of Tides recognize Beaufort’s quintessentially American qualities. When Forrest Gump runs across the Mississippi River on his itinerant journey to the west coast, he is actually crossing the Beaufort River.

But the beauty of my hometown belies some stark economic truths. Beaufort is home to the Marine Corps Air Station and Parris Island, the eastern training facility for all new Marines and our largest employer. Local businesses are a mix of chain restaurants, car dealers, tourist shops, branches of banks headquartered elsewhere, and service providers like doctors, attorneys, hairdressers, and veterinarians. We rarely manufacture, grow, or export anything.

Can a community dominated by government and services survive? Sometimes, I think about my mother’s hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio. Through the 1970s, Portsmouth had steel mills and factories producing shoes and bricks that employed thousands of people. Portsmouth’s now abandoned factories slowly give way to forest overgrowth. In two generations, the population has declined by half. The town leads Ohio in opioid overdoses, and the visible poverty is a hollow reminder of Portsmouth’s once prominent past.

My concerns about our local economy drive me to take every business course available to me at my high school. I have taken a college economics course on DVD from a well-known professor. Because my high school lacks courses or resources for financial planning or investments, I founded our school’s Investment Club.

Outside of school, I was fortunate to be selected for an internship with Beaufort’s most active real estate development and operations business. I have run studies and produced reports analyzing area real estate trends and property and hospitality taxes. Our local campus of the University of South Carolina utilized some of my data to influence student housing policies. I have also assisted the company’s marketing efforts. I have even cleaned hotel rooms and worked the front desk. In my free time, I read many nonfiction business books about many of the world’s great businesses and innovators, which have helped grow the economy.

I believe that the wealth and security of a community depend on the prosperity of its businesses and the diversity of its economy. Corporations and start-ups constantly innovate to drive down costs and provide consumers with quality products and services. Years ago people did not anticipate how Amazon would revolutionize how we purchase products, or how smartphones would be a ubiquitous and useful presence in our daily lives.

These developments, however, are unevenly distributed to urban centers with young populations like San Francisco and New York City. I don’t see any compelling reasons why these innovations cannot happen in my community if talented leaders choose to return home.

I want to be a part not just of cutting edge innovations but finding ways to distribute access to economic opportunities more evenly. I consider the sign warning of military tests, and I think about how I can make a noise that boosts the sound of freedom."


If the previous essay was almost all about the family, this student chose to focus almost entirely on their community and how it's shaped their future professional goals. They are a current McCombs student, and this Essay A is a perfect example of how your response can demonstrate a fit for your major.  

They begin with a few rich introductory details describing where they come from. Indirectly, they demonstrate how they will bring a diverse perspective to campus as an out-of-state student from a smaller city in the South.

The later paragraphs identify an issue in their community and what they have done to research and address it. It provides a lot of useful context for their resume and demonstrates to reviewers that they are concerned with local issues and go beyond expectations to be a contributing member to their community. 

Their conclusion ties together nicely the "sound of freedom" reference at the beginning and how they want to leave an impact on the Forty Acres.

Essay A Example: Grandparents in India

"Out of all their arguments, there is only one that I still vividly remember. I was tip-toeing down the stairs, anxiously angling my neck to eavesdrop. I heard my mom whisper, "Those kids are the only reason I made it through that time." Even though I was only twelve, I understood exactly what she meant.

Seven or eight months before I was born, my maternal grandmother passed away from cervical cancer. A few months later, my maternal grandfather died of brain cancer. I was born into the world with only one set of grandparents and, mostly, only my father’s side of the family. After the passing of my grandparents, my mother’s relationship with her siblings and relatives fractured under the sadness and pain of their sudden losses. She only speaks to a few of her American relatives and her brother in India.

The importance of their relationships wasn’t immediately apparent to me. I dutifully went on our many family trips to India. I didn’t make a fuss. I wasn’t sure why we visited so frequently or what we were supposed to gain from our journeys. I always just assumed my parents wanted to maintain contact with our extended family. Only later did I realize exactly the trauma my mother experienced and continues to struggle with.

Our trips to India allow my mom to relive her childhood by spending time with her brother. As I began to understand more, our trips became more personally meaningful. What used only to be memories shared in photo albums has transformed into a living history as I listened to my mother and uncle reminisce. As a child, I used to my own create stories to try and better know the people in the pictures. Now, my trips to India allow me to learn more about the grandparents I never met.

My mom opens up and shares stories she otherwise doesn’t discuss in America. She tells my sister and me about the unusual childhood she had as the daughter of a railway engineer. She traveled all around India by train, living in various train station houses until her father’s work eventually allowed them to settle down during her teenage years in a city in southern India.

While her father was hard at work in the train station, and her mother diligently cleaned and prepared meals for the family, she snuck off to a makeshift playground composed of abandoned, industrial-sized metal tubes. She invented games to pass the time until she had to return home for her nightly family dinner. I fit these story fragments to piece together the puzzle of my mother’s childhood. I discover more about two strangers who have had a profound, if indirect, impact on my life.

Although her transient childhood throughout all parts of India seems to contrast significantly with my upbringing in suburban America, the values of my grandparents resonate strongly in our household today. Losing my grandparents makes me even more grateful for having two healthy, caring parents.

My grandparent’s memory lives through my mother and the lessons and traditions that she passes down to my sister and I. That’s why my sister and I wear our best, newest clothes while observing religious holidays, and why my parents taught me to say a prayer every night before I went to bed to as an antidote to nightmares.

Even though I don’t know my grandparents, I can imagine parts of them inside of my mother. I see the deeper meaning in her almost daily long-distance calls and our frequent trips to our homeland. More than simply staying in touch, they help her heal and help me connect with our family’s history."


Most of the essays we have looked at so far involve a family's recent history or the present environment in which they are raised. This essay is really neat because it goes deep into their family's past and spends a lot of time discussing their mom's childhood and background.

Revisiting family history is an effective way to discuss the life decisions and circumstances that lead you to the present. The applicant takes an additional step by describing how they connect with their roots, heritage, and living relatives. It's implied through their mother's story that her personality and values shapes the student's.

Many students have families in different countries. It's perfectly appropriate to discuss your mixed heritage or growing up in two different environments. If your native language, for example, isn't English and that's how you communicate with your parents and extended family, consider sharing this with reviewers.

Any essay that can demonstrate how you will bring diverse perspectives to campus and classroom discussions will be effective.

I hope these essays and commentary are helpful! I'd love to work together. Complete my questionnaire for a free consultation.

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