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How to Write the UNC Chapel Hill Supplemental Essays

“We aspire to build a diverse and inclusive community at Carolina and believe that students can only achieve their best when they learn alongside students from different backgrounds. In reading your responses, we hope to learn what being a part of the Carolina community would mean to you.”


Short Answer Prompts

choose 2 of the 4, 200-250 words each

Describe an aspect of your identity and how this has shaped your life experiences or impacted your daily interactions with others?

All four of these short answers are based on ‘community,’ so it is safe to say that this is an important UNC value. This prompt has two parts; first, it is asking you to share a unique part of yourself, something that sets you apart from others and that you are proud of. UNC wants students to be “authentically, wholly, and enthusiastically you”—so be authentic and be descriptive! Give specific examples of your experiences, extracurriculars, and volunteer involvements to demonstrate this aspect of your identity.

The second part asks how this piece of you has shaped your experiences or interactions with others. Most importantly, you should translate how this piece of your identity will influence your time at UNC, and how it will impact your interactions with UNC students and faculty. Based on the passage above, UNC wants to know how you will fit in with their community and make a positive impact. Find specific examples of academic programs, student clubs, and aspects of the community that align with your identity.

It’s important to focus on one aspect of your identity—do not try to tie in 2-3 different ones. You only have 250 words, and UNC is not looking for a ‘well-rounded’ student— they want to know what makes you unique, so use these 250 words to write about the one aspect that sets you apart.

Describe a peer who is making a difference in your school or community. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?

UNC emphasizes community engagement and the individual’s responsibility to serve the community. By asking this question, admissions officers are seeking to understand the values and qualities that you deem important in others and determine whether or not they align with UNC community and values. As always, it is important to give specific examples and details in describing your chosen peer and their significant actions or behavior(s). Further, you should not only describe how their work has impacted your life, but how you will take what you’ve learned from them and apply it to your time at UNC. How will this influence how you engage with the UNC community?

If you could change one thing to better your community, what would it be? Please explain.

Again, here, you can see the emphasis placed on being of service to the community. UNC values students who have the ‘courage to guide change’ and ‘seek honest answers to big questions.’ They’re not just looking for community servers, but problem solvers and solution-finders. Therefore, it’s important not only to identify what you would change in your community, but how you would do it. Quickly explain the issue you want to address and solve, and then use specific examples to explain how you would go about it. You should also then tie in how being a student at UNC will help you solve this problem—identify a specific program, research institute, or other opportunities. Be specific when writing about the aspects of the school or program that will help you better your community.

Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said, “We are nothing without our history.” How does history shape who you are?

UNC is very proud to be the ‘first public university in the nation’ and has many long-standing traditions. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate that you also value where you come from and how that has influenced your life. Focus on one specific instance—it could be a historic event, but it could also be a more personal, familial event. Then, reflect on how this event changed or shaped you—provide specific examples to demonstrate this change in character, behavior, mindset, etc. The main point is to show your personality and growth. Additionally, you should connect this past event with how you will approach your time spent at UNC. Because of this influential experience, how will you engage with the UNC community? What will you study? What clubs or parts of the campus will you get involved in? UNC is aware that history influences the present and future, and honors the past with its long-standing traditions. Demonstrate your understanding and unique experience with the past, and how you will honor it moving forward at UNC.

Fill-in-the-blank responses

complete all, 25 words each

You have very little space to answer these, so be specific and focused in your responses!

1. One family, friend, or school tradition I cherish:

UNC cares deeply about its long-standing traditions. Choose a tradition that is important to you and why—show the personal connection and significance for you. It should be unique to you and rooted in meaning.

2. If I had an extra hour in every day, I would spend it:

UNC cares deeply about its long-standing traditions. Choose a tradition that is important to you and why—show the personal connection and significance for you. It should be unique to you and rooted in meaning.

3. If I could travel anywhere, near or far, past, present or future, I would go:

UNC values its diverse community of students who come from many different backgrounds. Think outside the box here! Demonstrate your curiosity about the world and describe how this trip will enrich your perspective!

4. The last time I stepped outside my comfort zone, I:

This is a great time to showcase your curiosity and courage—characteristics that UNC values. Describe a time you were curious about something and had to take a leap of faith, or explore an unknown topic or place. When have you stood up for something, even though you were unsure or afraid of the outcome?

5. People who meet me are most likely to notice, and least likely to notice:

How will the UNC community see and receive you? Choose one distinct characteristic for each, and a short reason as to why. UNC seeks qualities including intellect, talent, curiosity, and creativity; leadership, kindness, and courage; honesty, perseverance, perspective, and diversity. Tailor your response to include two of these qualities while staying true to your genuine self.