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How to Write the University of North Carolina Essays

Updated for 2023-2024

In two 250-word essays, UNC asks students to first reflect on how their unique characteristics have had a positive impact on their communities, then to share about how they will explore their academic interests on UNC's campus. Check out this guide for all you need to know about how to craft unique and insightful responses!

Question 1

Discuss one of your personal qualities and share a story, anecdote, or memory of how it helped you make a positive impact on a community. This could be your current community or another community you have engaged. (250 words)



This prompt has two parts; first, it asks you to share a unique quality about yourself—something that is an integral part of who you are. UNC wants students to be “authentically, wholly, and enthusiastically you”—so carefully consider what quality would be indicative of your core values and perspective while remaining authentic to who you are.

The second part asks how this piece of you has influenced positive change in your community—however big or small. As you choose a story to illustrate the personal attribute you wish to discuss, consider the inferences the committee can make on the basis of your story about the positive impact you will have on the UNC community. Most importantly, be specific. Find clear and distinct examples of academic programs, student clubs, and aspects of the community that have been shaped by your character and contribution.

As you tackle this prompt, it is important to focus on one aspect of your identity—do not try to tie in 2-3 different qualities. You only have 250 words, and UNC is not looking for a ‘well-rounded’ student—they want to know what sets you apart from the crowd, so use these 250 words to demonstrate a particular quality and anecdote that would send a clear message about your personality and values.



“I don’t know if I agree with that interpretation.”

Those nine words introduced the majority of my contributions to discussions in AP American Literature. When the semester began, I worried that those words would cue a collective eye roll from my peers—that fellow students would see me only as a critic or contrarian. However, I couldn’t resist the near-scientific impulse to pull things apart, investigate ideas from different angles, and understand others’ approaches. I have always been the “loud-mouth” in my family, and while I know it is a gift, my outspoken nature often used to feel like a curse.

Despite my initial fears, as the semester progressed, my small class grew to become close friends. I soon found myself on the receiving end of those nine words, as classmates became emboldened to test their own ideas and question those of others.

The class quickly became one of my favorites of my high school career thus far; I learned to disagree well, to examine my own preconceptions and assumptions, and open my eyes to the unique approaches of those around me. My classmates helped me see that my willingness to question ideas—and openness to having my own ideas and opinions tested—helped to foster the atmosphere of curiosity and trust that we all came to appreciate.

Each of my peers plays a distinct and equally valuable role in the classroom charade: my friend Max is often the bold student who kicks off the conversation, while Drew is the pensive student who asks just the right question to take the conversation to a new level. More often than not, I play devil’s advocate.

Knowing how my bold and inquisitive personality fits in a collegial classroom environment and embracing my desire to explore ideas more fully has changed the course of my academic career. I look forward to bringing valuable contributions to the classroom environment at UNC and growing as a person and scholar through the unique contributions of my future classmates as well.

Question 2

Discuss an academic topic that you’re excited to explore and learn more about in college. Why does this topic interest you? Topics could be a specific course of study, research interests, or any other area related to your academic experience in college. (250 words)



Whether seeing Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speeches or following social media accounts that demand accountability from celebrities who pollute the air through excessive reliance on private jets (yes, even Taylor Swift), climate advocates have drawn me to study climate activism.

Few people in the public sphere are discussing the issue of climate injustice, which addresses the ways in which climate change disproportionately impacts minority groups and those in more challenging socioeconomic circumstances.

I was first exposed to the issue in an elective course at my high school on social justice and climate science. Through enlightening discussions with my teacher and peers, I came to understand the extensive, negative effects of climate change on already disadvantaged and marginalized communities.

In studying this issue, I have developed the deeply held conviction that knowledge without action is futile. I know that the Environmental Justice Minor at UNC will equip me to mobilize my knowledge for the good of others, and I am eager to enrich my knowledge in courses such as “Water, Conflict, and Connection in the Middle East.” As I embark on all of the new challenges and discoveries that life at UNC will bring, I hope to connect with a community who shares this passion to fight climate injustice, get involved with organizations that are making an impact.