IMPORTANT: The UT has NEW prompts for 2017-18, so much of the information in this post is now outdated.
Here’s the link to the update-to-date information on UT prompts:New Essay Requirements for UT.
Former Admissions Counselor
at University of Texas-Austin
Shares Insider Advice
Are you planning on applying to any of the 14 University of Texas institutions, including the most popular in Austin, Texas?
(Or Texas A&M, and even some private Texas colleges, such as SMU, TCU, Baylor and Trinity College.)
I’m excited to share some tips from a former college admissions officer at UT-Austin with you. His name is Kevin Martin, founder of TexAdmissions, and he focused these tips on the one of the 3 required essays he believes is by far the most important, based on his experience.
Kevin Martin of TexAdmissions
The University of Texas essay is called Topic C, and the prompts asks:
“Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals.”
Here is what Kevin has to say about writing your college application essay for this prompt for the University of Texas essays:
Top 10 Tips for Writing University of Texas Essays
It’s all about Essay C – For universities like UT-Austin, which requires essay C, this is where you should spend the most effort. Here, they are looking to see if you are a good “fit” for your intended area of study. This means that you should focus on why they should invest in offering you a space in their program.
Only your first choice matters – When applying to UT, you are given options for a first and a second choice major.
This is an illusion; they only consider your first choice. One hundred percent of your essay should reflect on your past experiences and skills that show how you would contribute in the classroom and the overall university community.
Treat your essays like an argument – Provide proof! The biggest problem I saw when I reviewed files for UT were vague or cliché statements.
Instead of, “A strong foundation in math is important for success in engineering,” transform this statement into a “me-focused” sentence: “Because of my internship at Texas Instruments and my strong performance in calculus, I am well suited for studies in electrical engineering.”
Each sentence should tie back to the idea of “fit” – With each sentence in your essay, ask yourself: “Does this sentence contribute to my argument that I deserve a space in their program?
Does this sentence help continue the thought from the ones before and set up my argument in later sentences?
Is this sentence absolutely necessary?
If not, can I take it out and not hurt my argument?”
This is your chance to interview – UT and other Apply Texas universities do not conduct interviews as part of their admissions process. Instead, this is your only opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee.
You want the reviewer to walk away thinking, “This is a pretty neat student. We want them here!”
How many essays should I write? – UT has a somewhat confusing system where they require two essays.
You must submit the Essay Topic C, and then your choice among Essays Topic A on diversity, Essay Topic B on overcoming an obstacle, or a special circumstances essay.
Sometimes students write all four thinking it will help them.
Don’t do this!
Unless you have a very compelling reason, only submit Essay C and your choice of one of the remaining three.
Should my second essay also focus on fit? – If you can relate your second essay to why you are a good fit for your major, then I would go for it.
I worked with a student who selected electrical engineering.
His essay C was a strong piece arguing why he had the skills and experience to contribute, but his essay B told an entertaining and insightful story of how him and his friend accidentally broke some computers they were repairing and managed to fix them just in time.
What if I am undecided? – That’s okay! Most students are undecided, even those who swear they know they are going to medical school before they enroll in freshman biology.
You can still demonstrate curiosity and passion by reflecting on one or two things that capture your interest and creative energies.
How am I evaluated? – In short, you are scored on a scale of 1-6 – whether to recommend you for admission or not.
Most students receive a 3 or a 4 with only the most exceptional students scoring a 6.
The admissions reviewer looks at everything you have submitted (resume, essays, recommendation letters, coursework, etc.). If the reviewer is on the fence about giving you a 4 or a 5, you want your essay to argue decisively that you are a good fit and an interesting person.
Essays, more so than recommendation letters, are often what tips the scale where the admissions reviewer can reward you with a higher score and improve your admissions chances.
Relax! – There comes a point where your essays are “done.”
Over-editing can cause a lot of unneeded stress and be counterproductive for the quality of your essays.
Once you submit your application, it is best just to forget about it until you receive your decision in the spring.
Excessive refreshing of your My Status page never does any good. ; )
Here’s a video that Kevin put together
with more great insider advice and tips
on writing essays for the University of Texas:
Check Out These Related Posts!
The big question you have to answer through your essay is basically this: “Why do you want to transfer?” We cover the transfer admissions essay in great detail in the book (with real, successful examples), but I wanted to follow up on the college essay seminar we’ve just sent out to people on the Five Steps list by giving out a couple of more transfer-specific tips. (Sorry if you’ve missed out on the Five Steps list!). Here, I cover tips that apply to both the Common Application transfer essay and school-specific transfer application essays. When I say, “the transfer admissions essay,” I’m referring to both cases. Some schools don’t even use the Common Application, but these tips are, nevertheless, useful because it’s very likely, if not certain, that those schools will also ask, “Why do you want to transfer?” Calibrate these tips to satisfy the requirements of the particular schools that you’re applying to.
Reflecting on what I wrote in my Stanford transfer application and what I’ve learned from interviewing many other successful transfer students, my biggest tips on writing the transfer application essay are:
(1) Be mature.
(2) Be honest.
(3) Be specific.
(1) Be mature.
When you’re applying as a freshman, it’s expected that you’ll be a bit naive and uncertain about a lot of things. However, as a transfer applicant with some college experience under your belt (you’ll have a whole year of college experience if you’re applying to transfer as a junior), you must be mature and show that you’ve learned from your previous experience. Know what you want out of college and clearly express why the school you’re applying to can give you what you want.
(2) Be honest.
I’ll keep this one short: be honest. That means (a) don’t lie about anything, and (b) if you’re unhappy with your current school for some real reasons, then feel free to let the admissions people know, but don’t be overly negative and/or whiny.
(3) Be specific.
It’s better if what you say in your essay specifically reflects the rest of your application. For example, if you say that you’ve realized that you want to major in journalism, but the closest thing at your current college is English, other parts of your application should clearly show that you’re gung-ho about journalism. In this case, your list of extracurricular activities might show that you were on the staff of the school newspaper.
In explaining why I wanted to go to Stanford in response to one of the school’s supplement short essay prompts, I talked up the economics program at Stanford (AFTER doing my research on the school), and it was clear from the rest of my application that I had a strong interest in economics: I put economics down as my major, my college transcript showed that I had already taken a few economics courses and had done very well in them, AND I had my economics instructors write my recommendation letters. In other words, provide solid evidence to support the reasons behind your desire to transfer.
Overall, stress that your experience at your current college helped you gain a profound understanding of what you want to do (academically/professionally). Show that making the mistake of going to your current school has taught you about the kind of college experience that you really want. Explain that the best way for you to pursue your goals is to transfer to the college of your choice and prove it. And again, (1) be mature, (2) be honest, and (3) be specific.
UPDATE: If you want to see a real-life example of a transfer application essay to UPenn with my analysis, click here.
Thanks for reading! If you have any tips that have worked for you, or if you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below!
(Photo: Martin Kingsley)
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