Six Tips for your UT-Austin Career Short Answer Essay

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UT has introduced three new short answer prompts of 250-300 words for first-time freshman. Here are six tips to approach the question, "If you could have any career, what would it be? Why? Describe any activities you are involved in, life experiences you’ve had, or even classes you’ve taken that have helped you identify this professional path."

1. It's okay to be unsure how you want to spend your career.

It can be intimidating for colleges to ask why you are choosing their university or how you want to spend your time after graduation.

It can seem unfair or unrealistic to ask seventeen and eighteen year olds where they see themselves in five or ten years, but what this prompt is really looking for is you have thoughtfully considered at least a few options. 

One great strategy is to discuss one or two things you have eliminated as a possibility. UT wants to see that you've done some research and have some ideas about how to connect your education with your future plans.

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2. This is not a blood contract. Plans change, and that's okay, too.

Some students and parents have asked me, "What happens if I change my major? Will they go back and look at what I wrote?" It is an understandable concern, but the process doesn't work like this.

Universities understand that plans change. The average UT student changes their major twice before graduating. The goal of your college application is getting in. You have four years to figure out how you want to spend them.

3. Feel free to dream!

The prompt specifically states "If you could have any career, what would it be?" This gives you a license to be creative. Do you want to be an astronaut or develop a cancer cure? Go for it! Use your imagination and don't be constrained by traditional career paths.

So many students write about the same ten or fifteen career goals: doctor, lawyer, engineer, computer programmer, etc. There are literally thousands of careers and jobs out there and many that will be new by the time you graduate. What you end up doing may not exist yet.

UT alone has over one hundred majors. Do some research to see what's out there and impress your reviewer with a less common career ambition.

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4. Always be specific about your goals.

Whether you are dreaming or not, you should always be specific. It isn't enough to say, "I want to be a lawyer!" What kind of law? Which area? Do you want to conduct research, litigate in the courtroom, or be part of a larger team?

There are literally hundreds of different roles and options in any career. Medical students spend four years in school and an additional two in residency to determine the type of medicine they wish to practice. Some who study law or medicine end up doing things totally unrelated to their studies.

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If you are having trouble writing this prompt, consider researching what career options are available to Aerospace Engineering majors, for example, and see if any specializations stick out to you. Again, you don't have to have all of the answers, but you should at least demonstrate you have considered one or two.

5. Discuss relevant experiences, activities, or hobbies.

Your career short answer should always tie back into you. What experiences or interests inform your current career ambitions? Is there an activity or project that appealed to you? Are there influences at home or school that instruct your decision?

You can use this short answer as an opportunity to discuss why you are choosing your first-choice major.

6. Identify opportunities and resources at UT that interest you specifically.

For each short answer, you have the opportunity to discuss why you are choosing UT-Austin. For this prompt, consider resources on campus or in Austin that appeal to you.

Are there student organizations or companies that can help you achieve your career goals? Are there opportunities in Austin unavailable elsewhere that makes UT particularly appealing?

You should avoid talking vaguely. "Austin is a great city and technology hub!"

Instead, "Austin appeals to me because many corporations like Facebook and Google have regional offices. I love media and emerging technologies, and I want to volunteer at South by Southwest so I can connect with companies and business leaders."

I hope this helps! Feel free to reach out with any questions: kevin@texadmissions.com 

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