Jun 12, 2020

UVa announces essay prompts for 2020-21

The University of Virginia announced this week that essay prompts for fall 2020 applicants will be slightly different from those used in previous years and will feature a few minor tweaks to keep things interesting.
The basic instructions to applicants will remain the same. In addition to a required personal statement, UVa applicants are asked to write two short responses to prompts specified in the application. And as in past years, UVa is “looking for passionate students” to join a “diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.”
For the first essay, applicants should respond in a half page or approximately 250 words to one of a series of questions corresponding to the school/program to which they are applying (changes from last year are noted):
  • College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering.
  • Kinesiology Program: Discuss experiences that led you to apply to the kinesiology major.
  • School of Nursing: School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.
  • School of Architecture: Describe [a] significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.
While the engineers moved away from their decade-old request for applicants to come up with a “small engineering project,” the College of Arts and Sciences remained loyal to the tried-and-true prompt seeking a challenging or surprising work of art, music, science, mathematics or literature.
For the second essay, applicants are being asked to pick one of five questions to answer also in 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?
  • Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that “…there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.” Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good.
For 2020-21 applicants, UVa replaced a prompt requesting “an example of a community that is important to you and how you worked to strengthen that community” with one on action taken “for the greater good”—perhaps a more focused reflection on the challenges of our times.
In the past, associate dean of admission Jeannine Lalonde, “Dean J” to the readers of the UVa Admissions Blog, gently suggested, “A good essay conveys the voice and personality of the writer. A good essay shares something that hasn't come through in the other parts of the application. A good essay has made it to its final form after a round or two of editing.”
And students applying to the University of Virginia will be using the Common Application, which goes live on August 1, 2020. 
In the meantime, the early release of essay prompts will give prospective ‘Hoos months to consider their topics carefully and write compelling essays in time to meet either the nonbinding early action or new early decision deadline—both now set for November 1.

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