New UT Leadership Short Answer Advice

Volcano sandboarding, Nicaragua

Volcano sandboarding, Nicaragua

UT-Austin has modified slightly their new leadership prompt. All first-time freshman applicants must submit in 250-300 words:

Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities.

The previous prompt required students to discuss how they view themselves as leaders on UT’s campus. It also implicitly benefited students with conventional resume activities or more outspoken forms of leadership.

I welcome this new prompt because it makes explicit that quiet leadership or being a good friend and sister are perfectly appropriate ways to be leaders that also bring value to UT’s campus.

Consider these tips when crafting your Leadership Short Answer.

Discuss no more than three activities or experiences

With around one page worth of words, it’s difficult to discuss and expand upon adequately more than three activities. Some students choose to focus on one activity or experience and develop it fully perhaps through an anecdote. Others have two or three meaningful experiences to share that aren’t easily mentioned in their Essay A or other short answers.

Whether you choose one or more examples, you should be as specific as possible how they demonstrate leadership and value to your family, school, community, or student organizations. Outline your roles and responsibilities and how you have maybe increased your commitments overtime. Be careful not to spread your ideas too thinly and including too much information.

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.

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

College essays are a series of arguments. All good arguments need thoughtful evidence. Don't write your short answers without supporting your points.

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. There can even be great essays about being a nanny or pet caretaker.

Tie your leadership activity into your first-choice major

The Leadership short answer is a great opportunity to connect your Major short answer by tying your present commitments to future interests. 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.

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.

Discuss why UT is the best fit for you

Even though UT doesn’t request you to discuss how you see yourself as a leader on campus anymore, one way to demonstrate your fit for UT is to identify specific UT service organizations, fraternities and sororities, or cultural organizations and why they interest 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.

Interested in working together to maximize your UT admissions chances? Complete this questionnaire for a free consultation.

Elaborate on your Expanded Resume

Students and families frequently ask me, “Will X or Y activity help me in the college admissions process?” Their question is valid yet misses the point somewhat.

Merely having an activity on your resume doesn’t automatically make you a more competitive applicant. Your activities are only as important as you can articulate them. Reviewers only know as much as you share.

It may be the case that one of your less obvious resume activities is the one most meaningful to you. You can’t assume that your reviewer will understand the depth of your commitment as a sectional leader in band or captain of the debate team.

Use your Leadership short answer to argue persuasively why they should give extra consideration to certain parts of your resume. Discussing a specific activity or two in your short answer signals to your reviewer that they should expect to see more on your resume. Connecting your short answer to your resume makes your case more compelling.

Kevin MartinEssays