Ten Tips to Write your UT Short Answer Essays

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UT-Austin has recently updated their requirements for first-time freshman Fall 2018 applicants. They have clarified their early deadline, with an official November 1 priority deadline for both regular and honors admission. Early applicants will hear whether they are admitted or deferred by February 1. All decisions will be released on March 1.

In addition to Apply Texas Essay A, UT applicants need to submit three 250-300 word responses on the following topics.

Short Answer 1: Career plans “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.”

Short Answer 2: Academics “Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provide an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not?

Short Answer 3: Leadership “How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?”

I really like these topics because it simplifies the admissions process and tells applicants exactly what UT wants to know.

Consider these ten tips as you craft your short answer responses.

1.  Use the first prompt to answer “Why UT?” and how your desired area of study can help you achieve your long-term professional goals.

UT looks for students who demonstrate fit for their first choice major. You can show that your interests, experiences, or curiosities inform your major decision by framing it through your long-term goals and professional ambitions.

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2.  You don’t need to lay out your life’s plan.

It’s okay not to know where you’re going – most students (and even adults) don’t – but you should have an idea of a thing or two you may want to try out.

You should be as specific as impossible. For example, if you mention that you want to be an executive for a software company, you should answer a professional role that interests you, a particular issue in software or the corporate world, and where you could envision yourself in the distant future.

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3. Tie your career goals into what you want to do and reflect on a few experiences that inform your college plans.

It is important to highlight experiences unique to you that inform your decision. Your short answer should be as concrete as possible. Avoid vagueness.

4. Consider using the second prompt to discuss a special circumstance.

Did you have one difficult class or a below average semester? Let reviewers know what was going on.

UT has removed their Essay S special circumstances prompt. Use the academics short answer to discuss something going on that influences your performance. 

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5. Was there a particular teacher or class that helped shape your ambitions?

Highlight this experience especially if that teacher is submitting a recommendation letter.

Your academics short answer doesn't need to be about overcoming adversity or explaining why your grades are less than ideal. Use this as an opportunity to talk about your favorite teacher or subject.

6. Did you move schools or change cities?

Help reviewers understand the context of your transcript by discussing that transition.

Reviewers only know as much as you tell them. Although they have access to your transcripts to see you attended multiple schools, consider using this short answer to talk about the circumstances surrounding your move and how it affected your performance in the classroom.

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7. If you are an outstanding student, there is no need to be shy. Don’t fret over an A-minus. It is okay to say “my strong transcript reflects my hard work and curiosity.”

Frame your essay positively. I've seen some people online assume this essay is only for students with below average grades. It isn't. I have seen a number of thoughtful responses where students tie their academic interests into their first choice major or use this as an opportunity to discuss their strengths and weaknesses despite overall strong grades.

8. Take a broad definition of leadership.

Not every student has a traditional leadership role in an extracurricular activity or student organization. Do you help your family make dinner? Take care of a little brother or sister? Talk about it!

Leadership means what you make it. You can be a great brother, helpful to your grandparents, or doing chores without asking. Leadership can mean quiet listeners who solve problems.

9. Illustrate to reviewers how one or two experiences in high school demonstrate that you will bring a diverse perspective to campus.

Demonstrating fit for your first choice major also means that you need to highlight a few specific reasons why you will bring an interesting perspective to UT. Like leadership, diversity means what you make it. It is up to you to frame your application on what makes you interesting.

10. Do you have one activity that you are deeply committed?

Use this short answer prompt to complement your expanded resume and discuss your roles and responsibilities and how they have grown over time. It could be similar to the “talk about one extracurricular activity” prompt. The more context you can bring to your one or two most important activities and interests, the more impressed your reviewer will be.

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