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How to Write the University of Virginia Supplemental Essays

The University of Virginia’s written supplements consist of two parts. The first part consists of a 100-word short essay in which you respond to a school-specific prompt. The second part is a series of 50-word short-response prompts that are designed to get to know you as a person.

Part One:

We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer this question, which corresponds to the school/program you selected above in around 100 words

College of Arts and Sciences:

If you could create a college course that all UVA students would take, what would it be about and why?

This prompt asks a simple question in a creative way: what are you so passionate about that you’d want other people to learn about it too? To approach this prompt, you want to start by thinking about what you’re both passionate and knowledgeable about — if you’re a music lover, maybe you’d want to have others learn about certain non-mainstream musicians and their impacts on the music industry. Perhaps you’re passionate about finance and want to introduce niche yet important financial concepts to your future classmates. This prompt also affords you the opportunity to highlight your own specific knowledge or area of expertise!

*Do note that this question also tests your level of knowledge about UVA and how thoroughly you’ve researched UVA’s current course offerings — don’t create a class that already exists at UVA!

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences:

How will you use an engineering degree to change the world for the better?

A rather unique essay prompt, this question asks the applicant to share their goals for what they plan to do after graduation and how they plan to contribute to the world using their degree. A strong response to this prompt should be grounded in a personal experience that drew you to the field of engineering. This will allow you to discuss how studying engineering at UVA will help you expand on that meaningful experience to eventually make an impactful contribution to the world. UVA makes it obvious that they’re seeking students who have a vision for how to better the world — be sure to share yours with the admissions committee when writing your response!

School of Architecture:

Describe a significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.

School of Nursing:

Describe a healthcare-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.

Kinesiology Program:

Describe an experience that has deepened your interest in studying kinesiology.

UVA uses the traditional “Why this program” prompts for the Architecture, Nursing, and Kinesiology programs to understand the motivation behind students’ applications. Each of the three prompts asks applicants to share an experience that led them to become interested in attending a professional program. To approach prompts like these, we recommend that you pick a particularly meaningful experience or a series of events that led you to consider or confirmed your desire to pursue the field professionally. For example, if your interest in nursing comes from shadowing a nurse in high school, you should share details about this experience, such as what you learned and what you liked about it. You should also discuss the program you’re applying to and how it will help you achieve your professional goals. This will help you let your passion shine through and demonstrate your understanding of both the field and the program at UVA.

Part Two:

Answer two of the following questions in around 50 words.

The point of these prompts isn’t to give you space to impress the admissions committee—that’s what the rest of your application should have accomplished—but rather to reveal your quirks or interests. This is the time to show off your personality! To this end, you should aim to respond to these prompts with genuine answers. Go with what you think and/or feel should be what you write about, and don’t take these short prompts TOO seriously. You should also pick prompts that help you demonstrate your uniqueness and passions.

What’s your favorite word and why?

For this prompt, simply pick a word (in any language!) that is meaningful to you or otherwise likable for you, briefly discuss the significance of the word and why it is meaningful for you. Choose the word strategically and regard it as an opportunity to shed light on one of your interests, passions, or aspects of your identity you have not yet written about in the rest of your application! This is a great place to show off your personality – be funny if you’re funny, academic if you’re academic, serious if you’re serious, etc., etc..

We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. What is one of your quirks?

If you’re hiding a trick up your sleeve that hasn’t appeared anywhere else on your application or something about you that you really want to share, this is the place to do it! Your answer may reveal your unique skills, values, and even aspects of your personal background—the key is to share something that you believe is uniquely you.

UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?

If there’s one message you could share with UVA, what would it be? This is the perfect prompt for you to choose if you have a single quote or line that summarizes your philosophy or way of life, or if there’s an actionable cause you’re particularly passionate about.

About what topic could you speak for an hour?

This prompt is aimed at discovering something you’re passionate about and/or obsessed with, similar to the longer essay prompt provided for applicants to the College of Arts and Sciences. We recommend introducing your topic with a witty or otherwise interesting hook, and then explaining your topic’s significance to you. Your topic should allow insight into one of your passions, academic or other, that also sheds light on who you are, how you spend your time, or what you value most!

Take us to your happy place.

What brings you joy? While this prompt’s wording suggests that your response has to be a physical location, this is not necessarily the case. It can be a song, memory, food, person, animal, movie… etc. Think about a source of happiness and briefly explain it.

You can wake up tomorrow and a skill you already have will become expert-level. What skill is that?

What skill do you wish you could instantly improve? Pay close attention to the word choice here – given that this is a skill “you already have,” this prompt presents an opportunity to shed light on one of your hobbies — one that may not have yet found its way into your application. Beyond sharing the skill, briefly describe its significance to you. Why would you choose this skill as opposed to one of your other skills? Would it allow you to improve the world? Does it bring you joy?

What is the last gift you gave someone that wasn’t bought with money?

This can be the place to share your “DIY” skills if you’re particularly crafty when it comes to gifts. You may also choose to approach this prompt by talking about a gift that isn’t tangible—support for a loved one, forgiveness, and quality time are all examples of intangible gifts. How you choose to approach this prompt will reveal what you consider valuable.

What website is the internet missing?

This is another iteration of the obsession prompt—what is something, whether it’s information or features, that you really hope would be available on the internet but doesn’t yet exist? Feel free to take a creative approach in answering this prompt!

Tell us about a place you’d like to share with everyone, but also keep to yourself.

How do you handle stress? What is your self-care routine? Developing coping skills is important for college and beyond. Share one way you take care of yourself as you face the challenges of life.

After a challenging experience, how do you recharge?

This is a prompt that requires some deep reflection and brainstorming on your part. A common interpretation for this prompt is sharing something that you want people to be a part of yet also want to keep certain parts of to yourself. As with the prompt about your “happy place,” remember that your response doesn’t have to be limited to a physical place.

Tell us about a time when, faced with an opinion or perspective that differed from your own, you responded as an empathetic speaker or generous listener.

This is an opportunity to share how you’re able to handle opinions that differ from your own in the college community. If you choose to write about a highly controversial topic, be sure to write in such a way that demonstrates your maturity and ability to understand that, not only might other people’s opinions differ from your own, but that you can respect and appreciate the ways in which they might be dissimilar.