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How to Write the UNC-Chapel Hill Essays: The Tarheel Guide (With Examples!)

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Did you know that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first public university in the country in 1789?

Now, ranked #5 in Top Public Schools by U.S. News and World Report, UNC-Chapel Hill has a 26% acceptance rate.

UNC-Chapel Hill Essay Requirements

When you complete the Common Application, you’ll choose one of the essay prompts to complete.

There are still two other supplemental essays to write and submit before your application is considered complete.

  • On their website, the admissions staff wants you to know “your responses will help us get a better understanding of who you are, how you think and what you might contribute to the University community.”

UNC-Chapel Hill uses these essays and supplements to select students for admission but also to select first-year students for merit scholarships and other opportunities at the university in the few hundred words you write. Make them count.

UNC-Chapel Hill gives you four prompts to choose for your supplement essays.

You will choose two to complete and submit with the rest of your application. Each of the supplements must be 200-250 words. Here are your four options.

  • Tell us about a peer who has made a difference in your life.
  • What do you hope will change about the place where you live?
  • What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want us to know?
  • What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience, will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?

UNC Essay 1: Who Made a Difference?

Tell us about a peer who has made a difference in your life.

With this question, it’s possible to get into UNC-Chapel Hill without writing entirely about yourself.

Stephen Farmer, the Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions has said in an admissions blog for the university he “thinks some of the best essays have come from students writing about something or someone other than themselves.”

You’ve probably heard at least one person say they find it hard write or talk about their accomplishments. I

  • f that person was you, this might be a good prompt to choose because you get to write about someone other than yourself for a change.

But who should you write about? UNC-Chapel Hill is clear that they want to hear about a peer of yours, so writing about your favorite actor, historical figure, or sports star isn’t what they want to read.

Dictionary.com defines peer as “a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status.”

Your peer doesn’t have to be exactly your equal, but it should be someone you greatly identify with.

  • Your best friend is a good start. Choosing your best friend isn’t typically something that just happens. There’s a reason that individual is your best Tell UNC-Chapel Hill a short story that exemplifies why this person is your best friend. It’s not necessary to explain the entire backstory. If it’s appropriate, sum up how you met in a sentence or two.
  • A teammate is another good option. It’s possible to be affected deeply by someone that you aren’t close with, so this person doesn’t necessarily need to be a friend. Was there someone who tried out for a team every year but never made it? Did their resilience make you consider continuing to try for something that’s just out of reach?
  • If you’re a strong academic student, there’s probably someone that comes to mind that you were competing in the classroom. Did competing with this classmate make you understand your own determination and drive? Were you able to accomplish something that you didn’t think was possible because there was a competitive component?
  • Did you meet someone at a religious service or while volunteering that made a lasting impression? Give a quick background of the situation, then focus on the statement or story that has stuck with you so long. Don’t forget to mention what personal action you’ve taken or changed since the interaction. If you only met this person once, mention that to further prove the lasting effect of your meeting.

UNC Essay 1 Examples

Use this essay as a guide to writing this question. Never plagiarize. It’s a serious offense to copy someone else’s work.

Example 1:

George. He was different than my other students, who were eager to run into the water. While the other students would embrace my swimming lessons, George glanced at the students in disbelief and stared back at the lake, frozen in fear.

 After the other students departed at the end of every class, George and I stayed behind, targeting weaker skills and getting him used to the tranquil silence of the lake. His mother and I set up lessons on weekends. As the weeks went by, I introduced him to flotation devices to show him how to swim forward. With my guidance and his unwavering perseverance, George slowly began to enjoy the water. After four weeks of mentorship, George jumped feet-first into the lake. I watched him radiate confidence as he came out of the water chanting victory.

While helping George, I realized that he wasn’t the only one opening his eyes to something new. I witnessed the influence a mentor can have on children. As a student, I never understood the beauties and difficulties of teaching new skills to impressionable young minds. When I finally became a camp counselor, I learned the importance of establishing small steps toward achieving a goal. George taught me that students need a tailored set of suggestions and methods to learn seemingly dreadful concepts. I discovered that mentorship is something I love receiving and offering. Ingraining self-assurance in those I teach is both rewarding and constructive.

Example 2:

Every morning as I enter school, I see Abby waiting in the main lobby. She stands there without fail, greeting everyone enthusiastically. As I approach, I see a smile illuminating her face, accompanied by a spirited wave. Stepping closer, she walks over and gives me a hug. 

I met Abby at my school’s first Best Buddies meeting, a club that promotes friendships between students with and without developmental disabilities. Although I was initially paired with Abby as her mentor, to my delight and surprise, she has also encouraged me to grow. Seeking to find the best in everyone, she does not allow societal preconceptions to influence her perspective. Instead, she makes up her own mind about others and is always unapologetically herself.  As a result of our friendship, I am no longer concerned about other people’s judgements. I can courageously stand out, fully embracing my quirks and those of others. Abby has taught me that limitations are only restrictive when we allow them to be. 

From the beginning of our friendship, I could see Abby’s eagerness to be a leader and help her peers. With encouragement, Abby was chosen as a student leader at our school. She was thrilled to be a role model. I knew she would be amazing, because of all she has taught me: how to be fearless, always look on the bright side, be a friend to everyone, and the wonders that can occur when helping others reach their potential. 

UNC Essay 2: Changing Where You Live

What do you hope will change about the place where you live?

A student will select an institution for many reasons.

For those who have lived only in their hometown, they might be looking for new scenery or change of pace while they further their education.

Sounds like you? Consider this prompt then.

You don’t have to dislike your hometown to hope something changes about it.

Writing about your hometown might be too broad for you. The prompt doesn’t specify “the place where you live” as the city or town you live in, so it could be something about your physical home.

  • Is there a building that is unfinished with no sign of being completed? What is the building? Will it add value to the community? Should it be destroyed to make room for something else?
  • Do you like the feeling you have walking down the street? Could you feel safer? Less stressed? Perhaps you don’t feel much of anything because you don’t feel like your town has much to offer.
  • What’s missing where you live that would make it better? Things like public transportation, libraries, good schools, grocery stores, and malls are staples in many places, but not every place has them.
  • If it’s not something that is physically missing, what could make the place you live better? It could be the pace. Is it too fast or too slow? Are there not enough restaurants to fulfill your desire to taste different cultures?

UNC Essay 2 Examples

Example 1:

Stress at school and work can place a burden on mental health. Therefore, I would like to raise mental health awareness in my community because I have experience in promoting the well-being of others.

As a Marianopolis First Aid Team executive, I applied my interest in personal health within my school community. During weekly shifts, I supported the nurse by patrolling the fitness center and common areas for ill students. With other school clubs, I organized informational health fairs from physicians, pharmacists, therapists, and surgeons. I trained noncertified members and supplied heating pads and antiseptic swabs to injured students. My training culminated during competitions, where I treated patients in unconscious victim, heart attack, stroke, and choking simulations.

My goal is to take my first aid experience and apply it to my community. I would encourage people to evaluate their priorities and reset morning and pre-sleep routines to make health a chief concern. Eventually, I would like to meet with community members in need of mental health assistance and help them improve their daily regimens. By doing something healthy every morning, community members would find it harder to make excuses or forget their dedication to well-being. Last, I would organize local health fairs that would publicize small steps each person can take to sustain a healthy lifestyle, such as regular personal check-ins and balancing commitments.

The overall message I would like to convey is that it requires neither significant effort nor money to promote mental health.

Example 2:

Litter everywhere. That’s one of the first things I noticed about Chennai. Sure, I knew India wasn’t the cleanest place after visiting many times before, but the extent to which plastic, wrappers, and any other trash cluttered the streets was shocking. Daily I would see trash tossed to the side of streets or thrown out of car windows. It was only a couple of months after settling into my new home that I decided I needed to do something.

Lesson number one was to start small. Aiming for complete eradication of litter is a glorious goal but not a realistic one. I turned to my apartment complex and school communities to volunteer and clean up litter. It’s not an illustrious task, nor is it fun, but the reward of seeing a section of the Earth we all live on cleared of trash and debris is worth it. After four years, I can say that I made a dent in the problem no matter how small it might be and that fills me with pride. 

Yet I also look around, past the gates of my school and community, and see the litter embedded in the streets and on the banks of lakes, and know that as a country and even as a global community we have a lot of work to do. That’s why I hope when I come back to Chennai, the streets are as clean as Singapore and the trash is where it’s meant to be—trash cans.

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UNC Essay 3: Who Are You Really?

What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want us to know?

This is a pretty broad question, considering the admissions representative has probably never met you in person.

So, what do they know about you? She pretty much knows as much as was included in your application to UNC-Chapel Hill.

For this essay, you can write about what is missing between the lines on your transcript and resume, if you provide one.

They may know that you were a member of the orchestra but don’t see that you won a state competition in your instrument’s category.

  • You might have earned straight As in English class, but that doesn’t say that you’re also a published author if you are one.

There are some elements in your application that you don’t write, so you should investigate a bit before choosing this supplemental essay.

  • You will submit a statement from a school counselor and a letter or recommendation from a teacher.

While you shouldn’t know what they write, it’s important to anticipate their perspective on you.

You want to write about something different than they did so you can show off another reason why you belong at UNC-Chapel Hill.

  • For example, if you think your science teacher will write about how you won the science fair, you won’t want to write about that for this prompt.
  • It’s something the admissions representative already knows about you or will learn, depending on which they read first.

The topic you choose to write for this supplemental essay doesn’t have to be academic- or extracurricular-based.

You can pull from your personal life if you think it’s worth mentioning and not included anywhere else in your application.

  • Did you organize an event for a charity or cause you’re passionate about? What were the results?
  • Is there something unique about your position in your family? Did you start working at a young age to help pay bills? Maybe you’re the only boy/girl in your generation and that shaped your outlook on life.
  • Do you have any hobbies that are notable? Do you have a YouTube channel with a decent viewership? Did you code a gaming app that all your friends love?

You won’t need to tell the entire story of the experience you choose, so make sure it has one focus.

Explicitly mentioning how it’s related to your qualifications for admission is not necessary, but it is something to keep in mind when finalizing your supplemental essay.

How does this information make me look more qualified for admission?

UNC Essay 3 Examples

Example 1:

As an aspiring builder of artificial intelligence systems, one of the questions I have been trying to answer recently is “How can AI systems match human creativity?”

I assembled my first computer from scratch when I was in the eighth grade. Afterward, I taught myself C programming and learned to code basic algorithms like Bubble Sort and palindrome. Combining my interest in programming and music propelled me to learn more about creative AI. Bartok hardly uses any scales in his music compositions and Mozart used a wide variety of scales. Although both styles result in extremely dynamic compositions, I want to create an AI system that can combine random and systematic styles to compose emotional music.

My experience in music and passion for computer science have given me the skills to pursue important scientific questions. Considering the debate about whether AI can ever truly be good or evil, I firmly believe that creating music to stir human emotions would be a big step toward helping people realize the benefits of properly utilized AI. Winning a Grammy for a computer-generated musical score category is a goal I am keenly pursuing.

Example 2:

Writing brings me happiness. 

A prompt, a pencil, and a piece of paper. That’s all it takes. Pure joy. 

When an idea is sparked, expansive thoughts begin to form in my mind, cranking my internal gears into overdrive. Words cohere like a beautiful puzzle falling into place. I crave to see them crystallize, scribbled onto the paper. I grab a pencil, ardently breathing life into the concepts. My thoughts materialize on the white lined sheet that was empty moments ago. 

I write and write to an endless eternity, the flow of words never ceasing. 

Initially, my love for writing flourished as I learned to share my ideas creatively. Composing my thoughts on paper allowed figments of imagination to become reality. Instead of movies enticing me, my pencil bin and notebooks allowed me to create my own masterpieces. 

As I matured, I have come to understand why I find fulfillment in this pastime: words have power, molding people both positively and negatively. Writing allows me to express my rawest of emotions and enable them to connect with others. I can shape how individuals think, feel, and, perhaps, even influence their actions. 

Wherever I go in this world, my words can be a catalyst for change. I want to improve my community by eliciting feelings that go unspoken, uniting diverse individuals into unstoppable forces, and illuminating issues where murmurs alone cannot provide justice. 

Example 3:

 The air was dry and dusty. I watched a fat drop of sweat collect on my cousin’s brow and slowly make its way down her face. The merciless Indian heat was thick, and she was bored. Inspiration struck. “Table for two?” I asked with a sparkle in my eyes. I quickly got to work cutting pieces of thread and adding water to red watercolors to make “spaghetti”. We took turns acting as waiters, chefs, and patrons in our new restaurant. I am never bored, and if you’re around me, you won’t be either.

I have the ability to bring people together in surprising ways. In middle school, I started a craft business to raise money for the temple, selling duct tape wallets and roses, drawings, and friendship bracelets.  I convinced my friends to join my business enterprise, and we found we had a real knack for it. We knew how to market our crafts so that no one could say no. Most recently, last summer at MIT’s Women’s Technology Program, I gathered everyone sitting alone in McCormick Dorm to make short, funny TikTok videos. 

At UNC, I will explore and take advantage of something new every day, whether it be dragging my friends to try a new restaurant on Franklin Street or checking out the Morehead planetarium. I am excited to use my humor and artistic ability to bring people together so there is never a dull moment during the class of 24’s college experience.

UNC Essay 4:How Will You Contribute?

What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience, will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?

The goal of admissions representatives is to admit students who will positively represent the university and contribute to the overall community.

Diversity and inclusion are other goals they keep in mind when shaping the incoming freshman class.

Your life up to this point is what you will contribute to the community at UNC-Chapel Hill.

This supplemental essay can get be very personal, so it’s important to acknowledge that before choosing this prompt.

  • First, you only need to choose one of the four areas mentioned in the prompt regarding what you will contribute to the education of your classmates. In 200-250 words, it would be challenging to discuss all four.

Second, education is the focus of your contribution to this prompt. It can be argued that education doesn’t only happen in the classroom, so don’t let the classroom constrict your imagination when thinking about what your educational contribution can be.

  • Do you or does someone in your family have a disability that needed accommodating? Not everyone has experience being around disabled individuals, so you might bring some education on how to make proper accommodations for these individuals. If someone hasn’t chosen a major that relates to caring for someone with special needs, they may never get this insight except through your experience.
  • Have you lived in another country or multiple states? Moving and living in different environment adds depth to your worldly perspective. You have the ability to compare/contrast societies first-hand when others can only speculate. Some individuals never live outside their hometown.
  • Are you the only person, or one of few that you’ve met, who practices your religion or faith? You’ll provide an opportunity to educate your future classmates on these practices whether they’ve never heard of them before or have little prior knowledge of them.
  • Are you a first-generation college student? What motivates you to apply to college and take it seriously? You probably have a slightly different outlook on the college experience and opportunities than peers who come from a long line of college graduates.

UNC Essay 4 Example

The viola is my strictest disciplinarian yet my kindest teacher. It is this juxtaposition that draws me to this instrument, and I have dedicated myself to mastering it. I wasn’t exactly passionate when I first started, and despite my half-hearted efforts, I was placed in the coveted Chamber Orchestra with mostly upperclassmen. Since I was afraid to make mistakes, I regularly woke up at 5:30 a.m. to practice longer and harder just to keep up. I implemented unconventional drills to sharpen my performance, like using a musical drone to perfect intonation and balancing a marble on my viola to keep it straight. This grit and perseverance helped me earn a spot in the Michigan All-State Orchestra.

When I’m first chair during live orchestra performances, other violists look to me for cues, so I have to know the repertoire like the back of my hand as I lead them. This requires a fundamental understanding of teamwork in an ensemble.

While at UNC, I will start a viola club for those aspiring to learn the art. I want this club to be a vehicle for my peers, to share their passion for music and help break the barriers of culture and race. As each classical piece has a background and history of its own, my peers will earn a deeper appreciation for other cultures as a result. My musical journey has a long way to go, and I hope to persuade as many of my peers to join.

Conclusion: Writing the UNC-Chapel Hill Essays

Don’t forget to proofread your work.

Also, make sure you are the subject of each essay. While you’ll use stories and other people as foils to demonstrate your character and what you have to offer UNC, you need to be the focus of the essay.

Last, brainstorm thoroughly and take the word count seriously. A good topic will help you extrapolate your beliefs and write an effective essay.

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