Seven Examples UT-Austin Academics Short Answer

 Recognized during the 2011 Commencement Ceremony by President Powers

Recognized during the 2011 Commencement Ceremony by President Powers

It wasn't an initial goal to graduate at the top of UT. I was surprised to receive a phone call from the Office of The President a few weeks before commencement saying they wanted to feature me and two other graduates in his speech.

I was a good but not a great high school student and really flourished at UT. I wouldn't have gotten into honors today and would have been a solidly average applicant in today's highly competitive admissions landscape.

Reviewers are looking for students that show potential to succeed at a high level. UT wants you to discuss and provide context to your academic achievements and performance in 250-300 words.

"Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provide an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not?"

I provide a number of tips and suggestions in a previous post. I find it's most helpful to see real examples of how students approach this.

I've chosen these because they present seven different approaches: independent study, related academic experiences not on the transcript, an influential teacher/class, pursuing the most rigorous curriculum, tutoring students, an upward grade trend, and taking dual credit.

Academics: Independent Study and Research

During my first two years of high school, I worked hard in classes that interested me less to free up my time for those that captured my imagination. I especially enjoy social science courses, and my 9th grade World Area Studies teacher Mr. Bray is one of my favorite people. He challenged me to reframe my definition of learning as a lifelong pursuit on my terms rather than completing assignments for high grades. In 11th grade, I made an effort to connect with my teachers before and after school or during down time in class. I realize that they have many more years of experience, and our conversations help shape my interests and ambitions. I am proud to call a few of them friends, and I stay in touch with my teachers from Anderson even though I live in Singapore. 
My transcript does reflect my hard work and accomplishments, but one course, “independent study” requires explanation. School faculty chose me to serve as a Catalyst Fellow this year. The Catalyst course allows students to pursue independent projects. The emphasis is less on outcomes or grades and more on an exploration of a topic of personal interest. Conducting research helps prepare me for collegiate work. Collaborating with our teachers is an approach I hope to take to college by visiting professors during their office hours. Being a leader in this program allows me to mentor other students and serve as an ambassador for our school. I accepted the fellowship so I can influence curriculum and school policy hopefully leaving the program stronger than when I started. It offers a unique window into solving problems, resolving conflict, and taking on responsibility for project-based learning in all of our school’s courses. 

Commentary

I have a feeling some high achieving students answer this prompt in one or two sentences, "My academic record reflects my achievements. I'm at the top of my class and scored nearly perfect on the SAT."

Sometimes, applicants have the misconception that this short answer is only for students who have special circumstances or have less-than-ideal grades they need to explain. 

Since this applicant was almost perfect academically - and their reviewer will know this from their transcript, rank, and test score - they get right to discussing more important things that provide additional context to their studies.

They balance evenly their own independent studies that relate to their future major (Business) with an independent research class that they helped build. They also provide nice details of how they envision themselves as a student in UT classrooms.

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Academic: Outside of Class Related Experiences

My grades, test scores, and GPA accurately measure my academic performance, but they don’t capture my motivation to learn, my creativity, or perseverance. I love figuring out how things work, breaking them, putting them back to together, and starting all over. Booker T. Washington provides a tremendous number of opportunities, but not conventional ones like Computer Science, AP Biology, or AP World History. 

I’ve supplemented my education by participating in online programs and communities like LinusTechTips.com and Lynda.com. These sites give me the chance to explore programming in Excel, Windows Server, SharePoint, PowerShell, and so much more. Ted Talks, Google Talks, and other Conference videos introduce me to new concepts and help me discover innovative technologies and ideas. 

Every summer, I’ve participated in STEM enrichment programs at universities like SMU, TCU, Texas A&M and NASA. We learn about robotics, programming in Java, iPhone application development, game design, and more. 

Additionally, I established a computer support company called [my company]. For the past six years, I have provided technical support for our local community. I diagnose and fix issues with computers, WiFi, printers, and damaged hardware. I also offer tutoring services to help people learn and understand how to best use their equipment. From damaged hardware diagnosis to operating system tune-up, I enjoy easing the stress of my friends, classmates, and educators. 

My proudest accomplishment, not reflected in my transcript, is interning at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. I survived a rigorous interview, multiple background checks, and a great deal of government paperwork. I was placed in a “Shared Support Services Role” on the highly restrictive sixth floor, working with IT professionals to support bank regulators. It sounds silly, but those bankers and bureaucrats bring SharePoint to life. Its versatility amazes me, accomplishing tasks from File Management to Group Collaboration to Inventory Management.

Commentary

Similar to the first response, this applicant also ranked at the top of their class. They took a different approach by demonstrating how they are well-rounded academically and make an effort to pursue interests that both relate to their future studies and others that may not.

It's effective that they take the Academic's short answer prompt as an opportunity to discuss starting their own business and articulating how their internship helps shape their future goals. It complemented other parts of their explanation well by contextualizing the resume and adding to the other essays.

They also identify concrete skills that indicate they have a high probability of excelling in a collegiate environment.

Academics Short Answer: AP Chemistry Teacher

I believe my academic record accurately represents my performance as a student. My issues at home undoubtedly bring me extra stress but overcoming these obstacles improve my self-confidence. I am resilient, and I have succeeded at a high level, maximizing the resources in my environment.
My parents initially enrolled me in regular classes rather than honors or AP. They didn’t believe I could succeed at that high of a level. Sophomore year, I took matters into my own hands. I talked with my counselor, and she switched all of my classes to the advanced track. It isn’t that I continue producing good grades that matter. I advocate for myself, and I continue to take and succeed in my school’s most rigorous courses. 
By far my most challenging course was Mr. Starodub’s AP Chemistry. His class is infamously difficult. I didn’t struggle with the curriculum but rather, Mr. Starodub’s temperament.  We have polar opposite personalities, different preferred styles of teaching, incompatible senses of humor, and worst of all; he loves AC/DC.  Despite our differences, I stayed positive and focused on my projects and lab work. 
I felt I couldn’t do this alone, so I looked for another student to tutor me, but I didn’t have enough money. I asked my previous Chemistry Honors teacher whose class I loved. He gladly agreed to help, and whenever Mr. Starodub was being difficult, I visited his class, and he patiently answered my questions. He was a huge help, and my test scores immediately improved.  I remained hopeful that Mr. Starodub and I would get along by the end of the year, but that never happened. I accept that not everyone wants to be my friend. To this day, I still scoff whenever I hear AC/DC.

Commentary

I like this prompt because it frames their academic record as overcoming the doubts of their parents and doing well in a frustrating and challenging course. Their response demonstrates initiative by advocating on behalf of themselves to be placed in more challenging courses.

Instead of resigning from AP Chemistry, they took it as an opportunity to grow. This essay provides excellent context to a grade that may be overlooked on the transcript. It's a good example of how you can display humor.

Another variation of this essay is to articulate how challenging classes or those that don't interest you are a necessary part of college life. You won't love ever college class that you take.

Pick up your copy of the definitive UT-Austin admissions guide Your Ticket to the Forty Acres.

Academics Short Answer: Independent Business Studies

My academic record accurately represents me. I pursue my school’s most rigorous curriculum, and I have taken almost all of our AP classes. For courses where Advanced Placement isn’t available, I have taken the honors sections. I have also gone above and beyond expectations by independently studying courses not available at my school such as entrepreneurship, personal finance, and macroeconomics. 
Although I do not have perfect test scores nor am I the valedictorian of my class, I believe my academic history reflects my best qualities – diligence, drive, and integrity. I have challenged myself by balancing an intense class and extracurricular schedule while also finding ways to study topics of interest independently. 
The courses that I found most interesting at my school were Economics and US Government taught in sequential semesters by the same teacher. I found the lessons particularly intriguing because it combined my two favorite subjects. I have a better understanding of the relationship between politics and economic and public policy. I am thankful I discovered these interests during these courses sophomore year. 
I think UT is a good fit for me because although McCombs curriculum is quite structured, I can take classes in other great departments and programs at UT. My interest in history and government has made me consider pursuing a minor in history or international relations. Moreover, although I have not yet learned to code, I would be interested in taking classes in UT’s renowned Computer Science program and perhaps attempting to complete a certificate program. UT’s overall academic strength serves as a great opportunity and is part of the reason I am so interested in the school.

Commentary

This applicant answers the prompt directly demonstrating how they would be a good fit for McCombs. They also identify interests outside of business that interest them and how a UT education can help them explore different disciplines.

They make a clear relationship how their classwork and independent study inform their future goals. Like the other examples, this applicant used the Academics short answer to be the glue that binds their other application materials together.

Academics Short Answer: Tutoring Students

Math and science are subjects that make sense to me. I find it difficult to juggle the dates and consequences of historical events, and the finer points of English grammar escape me. My brain, however, seems effortlessly to grasp why fifteen divided by three is five and why glycolysis is necessary to complete cellular respiration. 
A few months ago, I began working at Explore Horizons, a tutoring center for elementary and middle school students. Many of the children struggle in math and science. Suddenly, it isn’t just about earning high grades, but I need to simplify complex subjects for young learners. In my mind, I can visualize the relationships between numbers, but it isn’t easy to communicate these concepts to students where mathematical knowledge doesn’t come naturally. 
I must dive deeper into my mathematical knowledge to not only teach struggling students but also to consider different perspectives and ways to solve the same problem. Negative numbers and division problems become infinitely more complicated because instead of merely finding the solution, I also need to answer “why.” I find that, by approaching problems from different angles, I have a more thorough understanding of the theoretical and abstract underpinnings of math and science. 
If I can explain a concept to a five-year-old, then that indicates I have a firm grasp of the material. The students learn, and I become a more thoughtful and mature student.  When tackling new problems or confronting foreign topics, I try to try to set aside my own confidence in math with the humility of the students that I teach. I am excited to pursue courses in Genetics, Applied Statistics, and Physiology and Functional Anatomy while at UT.

Commentary

This essay is effective because they use it as an opportunity to elaborate and expand upon their resume. Reviewers will already see that they're at the top of their class taking rigorous courses. They use the Academics short answer as an opportunity to discuss an extracurricular that's meaningful to them.

It also illustrates how they may be a UT student in a group project or working as a tutor for others. They also briefly explore their strengths and weaknesses and how their own academic shortcomings influence their communication and teaching styles with others.

At the end, they do an adequate job discussing specific UT Natural Sciences courses that interest them and will help them further explore their curiosities.

Academics Short Answer: APUSH and Upward SAT/ACT Trend

My academic record paints an accurate picture of my performance in the classroom, but there is more to knowledge than acquiring grades. Although I digest new concepts quickly, hard work and determination better reflect my strong grades and test scores rather than innate intelligence.
At school, I especially excel in classes that interest me. In AP US History, I pursue studies outside of the curriculum because I am more concerned about learning than I am earning high grades. APUSH requires learning a substantial amount of knowledge in a short period of time. I worked on a poster board for two weeks straight where I created hundreds of brackets while coloring in every inch of the board. My elaborate set of notes wasn’t required for a grade, but I committed myself fully because it allowed me to more deeply explore our country’s history. I eventually earned a 5 on the exam.
Focusing in classes I am not interested in doesn’t come as easily. Regardless, I always force myself to study hard and do well. In AP Physics, probably the hardest class at my school, I had trouble understanding the complex formulas and nuanced, abstract concepts. Despite struggling through some of the material, I forced myself to do all the homework and memorize all the formulas resulting in a grade I am proud of.
For the standardized exams, I scored well initially, but I knew I could do better. After dozens of hours and after 4 attempts taking the ACT, I brought my score up from a 29 to a 31 and finally to a 33. 

Commentary

This is a very balanced and straight forward essay. They answer directly that although their transcript reflects their academic performance, there is additional context.

They spend equal time discussing their favorite and least favorite class and round things out well an upward ACT trend.

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Academics Short Answer: Dual Credit 

I believe my academic history partially reflects my classroom performance. Although I have performed well objectively and compared with my classmates, I always think how things may have been different. During my freshman year, my father lost his job and we feared that we needed to return to Canada. The uncertainty of his visa status caused me anxiety and affected my studies. 
I also feel that I don’t respond well to high school classes. It seems that the curriculum teaches to tests or teachers spend too much time on information that I grasp easily and too little on more interesting topics. In my dual credit courses with ACC, I have scored high A’s. I respond better to college professors who are less concerned with meeting state performance measures.
There are less unnecessary assignments, and I find my college classmates are more motivated and work harder. My strong standardized test scores also suggest that I am more than prepared for college level work. I think I will thrive in an environment where I have more control over what classes I can take, especially those that interest me like math and physics. 
I am most proud of my accomplishments outside of the classroom. I have received many awards and placed well in science-oriented competitions. These activities showcase my technical skills, which is my strength. It helps me to work towards goals, and sometimes it is difficult for me to see the purpose for certain parts of courses. I don’t feel like I am wasting my time when I am programming or building a robot. My transcript shows that I work hard, but it is important to understand the larger context of my strengths and weaknesses. 
 

Commentary

If most of the previous examples are of students who's transcript reflects their academic performance, this response is an excellent example of one that "partially reflects my classroom performance."

They complement their Essay A with additional context to things going on at home that affected their grades. They don't dwell on these issues, however, and spend a lot of their time framing this adversity in constructive ways.

They cite specific reasons why they feel they will excel in UT Engineering courses and provide some nice additional information to their expanded resume. An Aerospace Engineering applicant, they make sound arguments why they deserve a space in their first choice major.

I hope these examples help! Let's work together. E-mail me directly at kevin@texadmissions.com

Kevin MartinEssays