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How to Write the University of Texas Essays: The ApplyTexas Guide

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The University of Texas is a public research university located in Austin with an acceptance rate of 40%.

One of the largest schools in the nation, UT is divided into 18 schools and colleges. It offers over 900 clubs and organizations, hundreds of study abroad programs, nationally ranked sports teams, and more.

If that sounds like your kind of school, you’ll first have to make it past the admissions process. And while your GPA, SAT scores, and other accomplishments are important, your essays offer a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

In this article, we’ll help you capitalize on that opportunity by providing tips, ideas, and inspiration for writing the University of Texas essays.

Let’s get started!

What Are the University of Texas Essays?

The University of Texas uses the ApplyTexas application, a common application accepted by Texas public universities and some private Texas universities.

Along with this application, you must submit at least one essay and three short answer questions.

All applicants must write an essay addressing this prompt:

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.

If you apply to Nursing as your first-choice major, you’ll write a second essay on the following topic:

Considering nursing as your first-choice major, discuss how your current and future academic activities, extracurricular pursuits and life experiences will help you achieve your goals.

Next, you’ll respond to at least three short-answer questions. These answers are limited to no more than 40 lines, or about 250-300 words.

Short Answer 1: If you could have any career, what would it be? Why? Describe any activities you are involved in, life experiences you’ve had, or even classes you’ve taken that have helped you identify this professional path.

Short Answer 2: Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provide an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not?

Short Answer 3: How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?

If you’re applying to the Fine Arts’ Department of Art and Art History, you must also respond to the following question in 450-500 words:

Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

And if you’re applying to Social Work, you have 450-500 words to write on this topic:

Discuss the reasons you chose social work as your first-choice major and how a social work degree from UT Austin will prepare you for the future.

General Tips for the University of Texas Essays

When you look over most of your ApplyTexas application, you’ll see a lot of numbers. Numbers like SAT scores, GPA, your class rank, the years you’ve been involved in various activities, and so on.

Perhaps these numbers capture your achievements over the four years of high school, but do they form an accurate picture of you?

Probably not. And that’s where the essays come in.

These essays will help admissions officers at UT get to know who you are beyond the numbers and statistics. They’ll get to know your personality, values, and goals. They’ll learn about where you come from and what has shaped or influenced you.

Keeping this purpose in mind, make sure that you’re honest in your essays and write in your own voice. The essays should “sound” like you and should address ideas and experiences that you find meaningful. Use specific details to make your essays interesting and memorable.

Try to be reflective and insightful, indicating that you’re a mature student who will thrive in a college environment.

And be sure to carefully edit and revise your essays, preferably getting feedback from a few trusted teachers, family members, or peers. You want to make a good impression. Spelling and grammar errors aren’t the way to accomplish that!

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take an in-depth look at each of UT’s essays and short answer questions.

Required University of Texas Essay

We recommend that you keep your primary ApplyTexas essay to 550-650 words.

Every student who applies to UT must write on the following essay topic:

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.

This essay has two parts: UT wants to know about the environment you were raised in, and they also want to know how this environment has shaped you into the individual you are.

First, don’t get caught up in what your “family, home, neighborhood or community” is. Choose a group and focus on what you’ve done within the group and how it has changed you. You have a lot of flexibility to work with here.

Start by brainstorming what aspect of your environment you’d like to address.

  • You can focus on your family (parents, siblings, extended family, or even people you consider family), home (house, hometown, home country), neighborhood (subdivision, street, neighbors, a favorite location), or community (school, church, club, team).
  • Be sure you talk about something or someone that has been a significant part of your life for a long period of time.

Since you have quite a few options, think about meaningful events or experiences you associate with aspects of your environment.

If you can come up with a specific anecdote or story to show how your environment has shaped you, your essay will be stronger.

  • How has a particularly close relationship with a family member influenced you?
  • How has a neighborhood location, like a certain park or even a tree, been significant in your life?
  • What lessons have you learned from experiences within your community?
  • You may choose to show how overcoming a difficult aspect of your environment has shaped you and helped you grow as an individual.
  • Or you can demonstrate how your family, community, or home has contributed to developing positive aspects of your personality.

Use vivid, specific details to describe an experience related to your interactions with an aspect of your environment (a family member, a team or community, a sentimental neighborhood location, etc).

Then, reflect on how this experience shaped you.

  • How did you mature or grow as a result?
  • What life lessons did you learn?
  • What elements of your personality were shaped by this experience?

If you’re stuck, close family members or friends may be able to help you brainstorm for this essay.

You may also be able to find inspiration by reading through old diaries, digging around in your attic or basement, or taking a drive through your neighborhood or town.

For good measure, here’s a good example outline of a successful ApplyTexas essay:

  1. You love your high school and have found a family within it. Not only do you have a tight circle of friends in high school, but you’ve also participated in dance shows, recitals, and potlucks.
  2. All of this participation has helped you gain an appreciation for diversity and new cultures.
  3. On top of appreciating diversity, you’ve also served as a student captain, where you lead freshmen through the halls and mentor nervous students through their exams.
  4. This captaincy and mentorship has helped you become a sort of de-facto leader in the high school, despite your not having been elected to a formal position.
  5. You’ve learned how to empathize with others’ and learn more about their stories. Each new student has a story to tell.

Nursing Essay

Nursing majors must also respond to the following prompt:

Considering nursing as your first-choice major, discuss how your current and future academic activities, extracurricular pursuits and life experiences will help you achieve your goals.

Think about experiences or achievements you’ve already had that have prepared you to be a good nurse.

  • Do you have clinical experience?
  • Research experience?
  • Volunteer work you’ve done?
  • If not, any experience working with people and/or demonstrating compassion could suffice.

You’re also asked about your future academic activities, extracurricular pursuits, and life experiences.

This is a great place to demonstrate why you’re interested in UT’s Nursing program in particular.

  • Research opportunities, professors, or classes you’d like to be part of, and mention how these specific programs or experiences can help you reach your goals.
  • Be sure that your tone is enthusiastic and excited.

You should also take the time to clearly express your goals in nursing.

  • Is there a specific population you’d like to work with or something in particular that you’d like to achieve? Why?

In short, you can outline your previous experiences or achievements related to nursing, what you’ll do at UT related to nursing, and how both these past and future experiences will help you reach your goals as a nurse. Don’t forget to explain what your goals are!

Required Short Answers for UT

Remember, every UT applicant will answer at least three short-answer questions. These responses are limited to 250-300 words.

Short Answer 1: If you could have any career, what would it be? Why? Describe any activities you are involved in, life experiences you’ve had, or even classes you’ve taken that have helped you identify this professional path.

Don’t panic if you’re not completely sure what you want to do after college yet.

  • Is there a field you’re interested in exploring?
  • A career path you think you want to pursue?
  • Just choose something that interests you, and explain why you can see yourself working in this field.

Even if you have several possible careers in mind, remember that you only have 300 words. So it’s best if you choose just one to focus on for the purpose of this essay. Get right to the point.

Next, UT wants you to explain how your experiences or interests have influenced your plans.

  • Can you think of one particular moment or event that helped you decide on a career or academic path?
  • If so, this is a perfect place to narrate that anecdote for admissions officers.
  • Alternatively, perhaps there are several reasons you’ve become fascinated with a certain career. You can mention them here, but be sure to include specific details!

If you’ve spent time outside of school volunteering, researching, or exploring your selected career, be sure to mention this. Your essay should convey passion, excitement, and genuine interest in the career you’ve chosen to discuss.

Short Answer 2: Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provides an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not?

UT offers the following guidance for this question: “You can discuss your academic work, class rank, GPA, individual course grades, test scores, and/or the classes that you took or the classes that were available to you. You can also describe how special circumstances and/or your school, community, and family environments impacted your high school performance.”

  • You can take this opportunity to highlight some of your achievements, explaining that the information in your application does accurately represent you as a student.
  • You may wish to focus on your proudest accomplishments, reflecting on what these accomplishments say about your motivation, focus, love of learning, or other scholarly qualities.

If you don’t think your achievements accurately represent you as a student, this is also the time to discuss any circumstances that adversely impacted your high school performance.

  • Perhaps you moved around so much that you struggled to keep your grades up.
  • Or, perhaps you experienced hardships that negatively affected your performance.
  • Maybe you had to work to support your family, and your schoolwork suffered.

Be sure that if you take this approach, you’re talking about extreme circumstances that most students haven’t experienced. Don’t make poor excuses for your performance in school.

And while it’s completely acceptable to discuss negative experiences here, try to approach them as positively as possible. You don’t want to come across like you’re complaining or making excuses.

  • Simply state the facts. Explain to admissions officers what happened and how this affected your “academic work, class rank, GPA, individual course grades, test scores, and/or the classes that you took or the classes that were available to you.”
  • Then, reflect on what you’ve learned from the experience or how you addressed it. Ultimately, your story should be one of personal growth and maturity.

Short Answer 3: How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?

You can demonstrate leadership in many different areas of life: at school, within an organization or team, at work, in your community, or within your family.

UT explains, “Please share a brief description of the type of leadership qualities you possess, from school and non-school related experiences, including demonstrations of leadership in your job, your community, or within your family responsibilities, and then share how you hope to demonstrate leadership as a member of our campus community.”

As usual, including a specific anecdote is the best way to respond to this essay.

  • If you want to write about a leadership role, like president of the National Honor Society or captain of the soccer team, try to come up with a brief story that illustrates your overall contribution to the organization.
  • After narrating your anecdote, explain what this illustrates about your leadership style and abilities.
  • Try to focus on one or two specific leadership qualities, like patience or integrity. Then, explain how you plan to be a leader at UT, preferably using these same qualities.

The university wants to know that you’ll be involved on campus and make significant contributions.

  • Research different organizations you’d like to be a part of, volunteer opportunities you’d like to contribute to, etc.

Essentially, you should tell a compelling anecdote that illustrates the leadership skills you demonstrated in high school.

Briefly reflect on what this anecdote reveals about your skills as a leader, then describe a few ways you’d like to continue applying these skills as a student at UT.

Additional Short Answers

If you’re applying to the Fine Arts’ Department of Art and Art History, you’re not done yet! You have 450-500 words to answer this question:

Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

For the first part of this prompt, you should showcase your passion for architecture, art history, visual art, or another intended area of study.

  • What’s a powerful experience you’ve had viewing or creating art?
  • How did this experience shape you as an individual and/or an artist?

We’re talking about art here, so be descriptive!

Then explain what steps you’ve taken to pursue your artistic interests.

  • Have you taken studio classes, completed an internship, or independently worked on relevant projects?
  • What do you plan to do at UT to continue exploring this interest?

Social Work students must respond to the following:

Discuss the reasons you chose social work as your first-choice major and how a social work degree from UT Austin will prepare you for the future.

This question is simple: Why are you interested in social work, and why UT?

  • Have you had experiences working with others to help them overcome challenges, like being a tutor or volunteering at a soup kitchen?
  • Can you demonstrate that you’re an empathetic, compassionate, and resilient individual?
  • Try using an anecdote to describe why you’re so interested in social work—and why you would make a great social worker.

For the second half of the question, you may need to do some research on UT’s social work program.

  • Look into classes, professors, opportunities, and other resources.
  • What most excites you about this program?
  • What opportunities will you take advantage of?
  • How will these experiences prepare you for a career as a social worker?

Conclusion: How to Write the University of Texas Essays

As you write your UT essays, remember that the goal is to give admissions officers a glimpse into your background, personality, and goals.

Be enthusiastic, open, and honest. Instead of trying to impress, simply try to convey who you are. Genuine answers will be more interesting and memorable than forced answers.

Start working well in advance, giving yourself plenty of time to proofread and edit, and be sure to use the tips and inspiration we’ve provided here.

Strong essays will definitely increase your chances of joining the Longhorns in the fall. Good luck!

And if you’re interested in gaining an edge in college admissions, check out our college essay boot camp.