Suggestions for answering Apply Texas Essay A "describe the environment in which you were raised"

On vacation in Greece with my mom

On vacation in Greece with my mom

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.

UT-Austin requires one long response and three short answers. I recommend that students start with their long essay that requires you to discuss the environment in which you were raised. Writing this essay will help provide a foundation for your short answers.

In the past, UT asked applicants to write about a person who has influenced their lives. They broadened the topic in 2016 allowing students to discuss their home or school life. Every first-time freshman applicant must submit Essay A.

“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.”

Colleges and universities note a trend that primary and secondary school teachers have observed for decades. A student’s home life heavily influences their ability to succeed or fail. UT wants to learn about important people in your life, organizations that impact you, or the atmosphere of your household or high school.

Students commonly write about a person of influence such as a parent, teacher, or coach. They discuss their competitive and stressful high schools, or the opportunities unavailable to them if they live in resource-poor communities.

I hear students say, “I don’t have anything interesting to discuss. My home life is boring, suburban, and predictable.” Remember, you’re not writing your autobiography. You’re submitting at most 650 words making one or two observations. If you’re having trouble, consider asking yourself some of these questions to narrow down the prompt:

  • Were you raised in a household that encouraged reading?

  • What food did your parents put on the table?

  • Do you eat dinner together each night?

  • Do your parents support your interests and curiosities?

  • Do they attend your sports games or choir concerts?

  • Do you play outside?

  • What do your parents do for work, and does this inform your future goals?

  • Do you feel pressure to excel in the classroom?

  • Where does that pressure come from?

  • What are your days like before and after school, on the weekends, and in the summers?

  • Do you have any siblings who have influenced you?

  • What about grandparents?

  • Is there one memory or experience that sticks out among the rest?

  • What does your family do over the holidays?

  • Have you taken a memorable vacation?

  • What are your friends like?

  • Are your parents divorced?

  • How do you think living in Austin or attending UT will differ from your current environment?

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