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:
- 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: If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you do?
- Kinesiology Program: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
- School of Nursing: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of Nursing.
- School of Architecture: Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
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!
This article originally appeared in Examiner.com on June 26, 2016.
We are pleased to share the 2017-2018 Common Application essay prompts with you. The changes you see below reflect the feedback of 108 Common App member colleges and more than 5,000 other Common App constituents, as well as consultation with our advisory committees and Board of Directors. Students represented the single largest share of constituent survey respondents (59%), followed by school counselors (23%), and teachers (11%).
Read: You Have a Story to Tell. Colleges Want to Read It.and The Common App Essay Prompts Are Changing.
We were gratified to learn that 91% of members and 90% of constituents agree or strongly agree that the current prompts are effective. In addition, the narrative comments we received helped us see areas for improvement in three of the prompts. Working in close consultation with the counselors and admission officers on our advisory committees, we revised these prompts in a way that we believe will help students see expanded opportunities for expressing themselves. Those revisions appear in italics. You will also notice two new prompts. The first asks students to share examples of their intellectual curiosity. The second is a return to inviting students to submit an essay on a topic of their choice, reframed to help students understand that they are welcome to draw inspiration from multiple sources, not just their own creativity.
The word limit on the essay will remain at 650.
The goal of these revisions is to help all applicants, regardless of background or access to counseling, see themselves and their stories within the prompts. They are designed to invite unencumbered discussions of character and community, identity, and aspiration. To this end, we will be creating new educational resources to help students both understand and approach the opportunities the essay presents for them.
2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]