How to Write the University of Florida Essays: The Easy-Breezy Guide

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Does your college fantasy include reading outside in the sunshine underneath a palm tree? What about sipping 100% all-natural orange juice on your way to math class? Okay, I might be pushing the Florida stereotype a little hard here.

In all seriousness, if you are craving some sunshine and an incredible academic environment, the University of Florida might be the place for you.

The University of Florida has an acceptance rate of 38%.

While not located directly adjacent to the ocean, Gainesville is a close enough drive to the beach that you can flip through a good chunk of your psych flashcards on the way there (in the passenger seat, of course).

According to their website, the University of Florida is ranked as one of the top ten public colleges in the United States. Their student body is made up of students from the United States and all over the world.

What are the University of Florida essay requirements?

Prospective students must apply for admission via the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success application. Personal essays are limited to 2,500 characters, and there are five options to choose from.  To learn more about writing the Coalition essays, check out our guide here.

In addition to the personal essay, the University of Florida requires that you answer five short-answer questions.

These responses can be no longer than 950 characters. With this limitation, it’s especially important for you to carefully craft your responses and make every word count.

List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility.

List and describe each job you’ve had, including dates of employment, job titles and hours worked each week.

Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? Please describe.

List any programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, etc.

Is there any other information for the Admissions Committee to consider when your application is reviewed?

These questions are fairly straightforward but also incredibly important, as they allow the admissions committee to gain a deeper understanding of your day-to-day life and journey to college.

While few of these questions may not apply to you, you should still read each of the following paragraphs carefully in order to get the most out of your answers.

Community Service

List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility.

The first short-answer question asks you to list your community service activities, including your roles and level of responsibility. Let’s first clarify what constitutes as community service.

  • Of course, volunteering for an organization such as the American Red Cross or the Boys and Girls Club certainly is community service.
  • However, community service is also any time you willfully volunteer your time or resources in order to do good for the public.
  • If you have used your skill sets to help an organization in your community, be it a business or community outreach nonprofit, it is community service.
  • You might have built an app for a local environmental protection group.
  • You might have used your skills in photography to help document some events for a brochure for a nonprofit organization. These types of activities are community service.

For example:

  • Have you ever helped to organize a Thanksgiving canned food drive at your school?
  • Have you collected clothing donations at your church or other religious institution?
  • Do you volunteer to help your dad out at work, where he cares for elderly patients?
  • Have you volunteered to tutor the neighbor’s children in Mandarin?

All of the above examples would be appropriate to list.

There is one caveat:

  • Perhaps you volunteered at Goodwill in order to meet the requirements of a court order to have a crime expunged from your record.
  • While that’s a good outcome for you, it is not an appropriate example for this short-answer question.

Next, you should list your role and level of responsibility.

This provides more context about how you interact during your volunteer work.

  • This doesn’t mean that your role as an entry level volunteer is “useless.”

Admissions officers know that volunteers at all levels are important to the success and mission of any organization or cause.

When listing your role, try to be specific. Instead of listing “volunteer,” try a title similar to one of the following:

  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Front Desk Volunteer
  • Research Assistant
  • Community Relations Volunteer
  • Bookshop Assistant
  • Food Donation Manager
  • Social Media Manager
  • Graphics Consultant

These examples are much more specific than “volunteer” and can give the committee a hint to the type of work you were doing in your position.

The term “level” refers to whether you had any standing in the hierarchy of the organization.

  • For example, “manager” and “assistant” are terms that indicate level.

In this prompt, the University of Florida specifically uses the term “list” and “describe” in the directions.

This is important because it means you should do both (albeit briefly). For example, your response might start with:

  • Social Media Coordinator, Asheville Arts Foundation: shared articles about new exhibits, posted Facebook event pages, and created graphics to promote those events.

The above example is brief, descriptive, and follows the directions. It may be true that you have more community service activities to list than the character count allows.

As such, you should only write about the experiences that you have participated in the longest, are most invested in, and demonstrate your uniqueness.

Work Experience

List and describe each job you’ve had, including dates of employment, job titles and hours worked each week.

The work experience section has very similar requirements to the community service short response. You might be thinking, “Hey! This sounds just like a resume.” It is similar to writing a resume, except you don’t have to mess with pesky formatting.

Beyond listing and describing your work experience, you should also mention how many hours you work a week, how long you have been with a company, and your job title.

Check out this example:

  • January 2018-Present, Chic-Fil-A, Team Member: Work 15 hours a week running the cash register, refilling customer drinks, and assisting drive-thru.

If you only have one job to list, you have room to be a bit more descriptive. If you have had multiple jobs, you will need to be consistently brief.

When listing your jobs, consider whether it is appropriate to list every job.

  • Perhaps you worked for three days at Urban Outfitters and then quit because you found out you couldn’t take off during Spring Break.
  • This is not an appropriate job to list because, to the admissions committee, it would appear that you are not committed.

To streamline your response, list your work experience starting with the most recent. If you still work in a position, you can note “present” for the end date.

If you simply haven’t had any work experiences, enter “Not Applicable.”

By taking the time to write “Not Applicable,” the committee understands that you are not refusing to answer the question but that it does not apply to you.


Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? Please describe.

In the third question, you should list any work or home obligations that have interfered with your ability to participate in extracurricular activities. If you have a list of activities that is a mile long, type in “Not Applicable” and move on to the next question.

However, not everyone is able to participate in extracurricular activities. The following list includes obligations that may have interfered with your participation:

  • Helping parents to run a family restaurant
  • Working full-time to be able to afford bills
  • Having a young baby to care for at home
  • Caring for younger siblings
  • No or limited access to transportation
  • No or limited access to funds to pay for the extras associated with extracurricular activities, such as cleats for soccer or canvas for the art club
  • Caring for disabled or elderly parents/family members

Don’t be hesitant to list this information.

There is no shame in needing to put family obligations above extracurricular activities. However, admissions can’t read your mind, and it is important that you describe these obligations so that they can have a broader context when considering your application.

For this section, you are asked to describe the obligation. Be cautious here.

The admissions committee doesn’t need to know the entire backstory that led up to an obligation. Instead, briefly discuss the obligation(s), how you are involved, and why this prevents you from participating in extracurricular activities.

Preparing for Higher Education

List any programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, etc.

There are a variety of organizations that help students to attain their dreams of higher education.

  • If you participated in groups such as Advance via Individual Determination (AVID), Upward Bound, Talent Search, University Outreach, or any others, you should list them.

Sometimes, universities reserve spots or give preference to students who have participated in these programs. Colleges also like to see that you have been planning ahead for college.

Although it’s not stated explicitly, if you have enough room, briefly describe in what way you worked with the organization. This information will be helpful to admissions, especially if you participated in a program for multiple years.

Check out this example:

  • From 6th-12th grade, I participated in the AVID program during the school day. While I had to give up an extracurricular class, it was worth it because by participating in the program, I learned…

It’s important to be honest on your application. If you’ve heard that a program exists in your school but you didn’t participate, you should not list it.

If the question does not apply to you, write “Not Applicable.”

Other Considerations for the Committee  

Is there any other information for the Admissions Committee to consider when your application is reviewed?

In the final section, you are provided the opportunity to add additional comments that you believe admissions should consider with your application. This is a chance to provide background information on anything that might look “off” on your application.

  • For example, perhaps you attended four different high schools because your parents serve in the military.
  • If that information did not appear anywhere else in your application, it would be appropriate to list that here.
  • If you sustained a serious injury while playing sports and missed 40 consecutive school days, list that information in this section.
  • You should explain to admissions that you were participating in physical therapy and on bed rest during this time.

If there is space, it wouldn’t hurt to mention that you Skyped into class and submitted work digitally in order to stay up-to-date with your schoolwork.

Another appropriate example would be if you had to take a class online because it was not offered at your school.

  • Some schools do not have enough students demonstrate interest in AP courses, such as Computer Science A or the Physics C courses.
  • If you took the initiative to be the only person in the school taking such a course through an online program, that deserves to be highlighted to the admissions committee.

As with all other responses above, simply list “Not Applicable” if you have nothing to write in a section.

Conclusion: Writing the University of Florida Essays

While responding to the above questions, remember that you are limited in your character count.

Since these are short-answer questions, the admissions committee does not want to know why you volunteer with Meals on Wheels or what you get out of the experience. Instead, focus briefly on what you do for the organization.

Overall, you should only elaborate when absolutely necessary. It’s important to show the committee that you can explicitly follow directions. While there is so much more you might have to say, save it for the personal essay! Remember, you can read more about how to write that essay here.

As with any writing, be sure to proofread and have another person review your work. You want to put your best foot forward on every application.

Short-answer responses are just as important to review as your personal essay.