UT-Austin Announces Three New Short Answer Prompts

Ancient Settlement, Gozo Island, Malta

Ancient Settlement, Gozo Island, Malta

UT-Austin is changing all of their topics beginning with Spring/Fall 2020 applicants. I discuss in previous posts the new Essay A “tell us your story” and examples of ways to approach telling your story.

In this post, I introduce the three new required short answer topics and the other optional one. In subsequent posts and videos on my Youtube Channel, which I encourage you to subscribe, I will provide tips and advice for approaching your writing. I will also post advice on integrating your Essay A with the short answers.

In 250-300 words each, you must answer the following questions:

Required UT-Austin Short Answer 1: Major Choice

Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?

Required UT-Austin Short Answer 2: Leadership

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.

Required UT-Austin Short Answer 3: Diversity

Please share how you believe your experiences, perspectives, and/or talents have shaped your ability to contribute to and enrich the learning environment at UT Austin, both in and out of the classroom.

Optional UT-Austin Short Answer: Special Circumstances

Please share background on events or special circumstances that may have impacted your high school academic performance.

Initial Thoughts and Commentary

My initial impression regarding these new prompts is favorable.

Before, I encouraged students to tailor all of their short answers to demonstrate their fit for first choice major and demonstrate how they will bring leadership and diverse perspectives to campus. Especially for applicants who didn’t have a lot to share regarding their academic progress, the previous topics were rather unwieldy.

Now, students can answer directly what UT is looking for regarding why they’re choosing their major, how they will bring leadership to campus, and the opportunity to discuss an identity or interest relevant to their future UT studies. All students should have more than enough content and ideas to supply thoughtful answers to these prompts.

UT used to ask students about their future career goals. I suspect many of those submissions added little to no value regarding a student’s overall portfolio. What I suspect is UT wanted to have an idea why a given applicant thinks they want to study a particular subject. It will relieve some anxiety now that students can discuss their shorter term academic goals rather than forecasting five or ten years into the future regarding their professional ambitions.

Make no mistake about Short Answer 3: UT is looking for diverse applicants. I appreciate that the new short answer I am labeling “diversity” presents a wider range of possibilities than the botched “fourth” short answer UT released and subsequently retracted August 2018 that seemed to discourage applicants rather than empower them to discuss their interests and identities. Please visit this post for tips and advice for incorporating diversity in your essays.

Short Answer 2 regarding Leadership may look familiar. It is essentially the same as before, “How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?”

Functionally, the old leadership and new prompt is identical. Admissions has simply adjusted the wording to expand and clarify their definition of leadership. My advice in this post and subsequent examples will remain the same.

Likewise with the optional special circumstances essay, much of what I discuss pertaining to the previous “academics short answer” applies now to students who wish to discuss any extenuating circumstances that adversely affects their academic record.

Note: No bonus points are assigned for submitting an optional essay. Only submit optional universities if it is in no way possible to discuss special circumstances elsewhere. None of your essays should repeat what has been written elsewhere.

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