Jun 26, 2016

UVa announces essay prompts for 2016-17

The University of Virginia announced on Thursday that essay prompts for fall 2017 applicants will be looking very very similar to those in previous years, with only a few minor tweaks to keep things interesting.

In addition to the personal statement required of all UVa applicants using either the Coalition Application or the Common Application, students will be asked to write two short responses to prompts provided in the member-specific section of the application.

“Towards the end of every reading season, we gather to talk about which essay questions elicited great responses, which ones could be tweaked to be better, and which essays we’d like to retire,” explained Jeannine Lalonde, “Dean J” of the UVa Admissions Blog.  “We often pull students into our discussions to get their perspectives.”

Last year, Dean J invited readers of her blog to provide feedback on the essay prompts.

“My favorite one was the quirks essay! It allowed me to show another side of me that's not just my gpa, grades, and extracurriculars. That one was the one I had the most fun writing,” said one applicant.

Another agreed, “Definitely keep the quirks prompt…Out of all the college application essays I had to write, I honestly think I had the most fun writing the quirks essay.”

Others debated the “To tweet or not to tweet” prompt.  One thought the question was “very cool because it allowed us to write about social media which has become a generational treasure for us younger folks.” But another complained, “I didn’t really understand what ‘to tweet or not to tweet’ was supposed to mean and therefore avoided it.”

As in past years, UVa is “looking for passionate students” to join a “diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.” Prospective “’Hoos” are asked to answer in approximately 250 words one of a series of questions corresponding to the school/program to which they are applying:
For the second essay, applicants are asked to pick one of four questions to answer in a half page or roughly 250 words:
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions.   Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • 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?
Once again, UVa will be accepting the Coalition Application and the Common Application, both of which have already posted their personal statement prompts. Although the questions are very similar, it’s worth noting that while Common App software restricts word counts to between 250 and 650 words, the Coalition “strongly recommends” that personal statements stay within 500 to 550 words.

And in the college admissions world, it's wise to take these kinds of recommendations very seriously!

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