How to Write Strong Virginia Tech Essays 2020-2021: The Valuable Guide

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Virginia Tech has an acceptance rate of 71%.

It is a four-year university with over 34,000 students. Located in Blacksburg, Virginia, the school offers 110 bachelor programs in addition to graduate and doctoral degree programs. To learn more about what the college has to offer, check out their website here.

Virginia Tech uses the Common App.

The Virginia Tech application requires four supplemental essays of 120 words each, which is not a lot of space to express yourself. Be concise and original, and follow these tips!

What are the Virginia Tech Essay Requirements?

Interestingly, Virginia Tech does not require you to submit the Common App essay with your application. That being said, there is absolutely no harm in submitting your Common App essay with your application. However, this does let you know that the focus will likely be on your supplemental questions specific to Virginia Tech, so make sure you give these extra attention!

Virginia Tech calls its supplemental questions the Ut Prosim questions, which means “That I May Serve.” As you may have guessed, the emphasis is on service and your commitment to it on campus and beyond.

The official directions for the Virginia Tech essays are as follows:

“Each of the Ut Prosim Profile questions are required with a limit of 120 words in length per answer. Once you submit your application, your responses to the questions are final and cannot be updated.”

Here are Virginia Tech’s essay prompts and a few ideas to get you started. 

Virginia Tech Supplemental Essay 1

Virginia Tech’s motto is “Ut Prosim” which means ‘That I May Serve’. We are interested in learning more about your interests and how you have been involved and/or served. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with. Is this a special area of interest for you, and why? How long have you been involved? What role did you play? What contributions have you made to this group? Were you able to influence others and/or influence decisions for the good of the group?*

Read this prompt carefully: it asks you to write about how service is important to your life. It does not ask you to describe that one time you did community service because it was required for a class, and it does not ask for a laundry list of your volunteer hours.

This question asks you to go deep, as evidenced by the plethora of follow up questions. Virginia Tech wants to understand why a particular area of service is important to you, and you must convince them you “practice what you preach” and have delved into this area. 

  • If possible, write about something you’re truly passionate about. It’s better to write on a topic that you believe may not sound as impressive, but to which you are truly devoted, than something fluffy and devoid of true personal meaning. Reflect on why this cause spoke to you and continues to do so. 
  • A good example might be a leadership position in Students Against Destructive Decisions where through organized recurring service opportunities, you built up a network of students and organizations to match opportunities, and took the initiative to start multiple service projects to give back to the community appropriately.
  • If you had a leadership role, focus on the strength of your leadership in guiding decisions. If you didn’t have a leadership role, focus on the areas in which you developed the organization, such as recruiting new volunteers or holding fundraisers. 
  • Consider the internal effect and how this service has changed you or helped you grow. Do not be afraid to cite setbacks that one might call ‘failures,’ as long as you’re able to identify what you learned and how you can serve better in the future.

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Overall, this essay should give you an opportunity to elaborate on a passion project of yours that perhaps appears on your resume, but with limited detail. Avoid listing, repeating what’s already on other parts of your application, or gloating. Remember to write with humility and a lens of personal reflection. 

Virginia Tech Supplemental Essay 2

Describe a situation where you were involved or witness to an act of discrimination. How, or did, you respond? Do you wish you would have responded differently? Did this situation cause any change to happen based on this event and did you have a role in that change? What did you learn from this experience? *

This is a tough question that evokes an immediate emotional response in many applicants. You may have been a victim of discrimination, or you may have been a witness to an act of discrimination. You may have even been a perpetrator. 

There are two basic guidelines for this question.

  • Show personal growth. If possible, demonstrate your evolution or journey over time. For example, if you were raised in a community that discriminated against another group, and unlearned those behaviors over time, you might discuss that journey and any action you have taken to reduce such discrimination in your home community.

  • Be honest. This may be the greater challenge for some applicants. For example, if you were a witness to an act of discrimination in years past, and said or did nothing, you may feel ashamed to say as much. However, a response in which you describe that feeling, what you have learned, and how you have or did or would handle it differently in the future is a more authentic and meaningful response than describing an invented moment of activism in which you are the hero.

Virginia Tech Supplemental Essay 3

Briefly describe a personal goal you have set for yourself. Why this goal, what is your timeline to achieve this goal, what precipitated this goal? Have you turned to anyone for advice or help, what was their role, what did you learn about yourself, are you still working toward this goal?*

There’s a lot to unpack here in just 120 words. Virginia Tech is looking to see if you’re a goal-oriented person and how you handle challenges and setbacks in pursuit of a goal. Let’s start by picking a goal: 

  • Don’t assume the goal needs to be academic. In fact, try to choose something not reflected in your application elsewhere. 
  • The size of the goal is not important. It could be something as simple as saving some money for college. The important element is the journey. 

Once you’ve established what your goal was and is, reflect on the details. 

  • What is it about this goal that’s so meaningful to you? If there was a catalyst or specific moment you knew you needed to set this goal, discuss that. 
  • Reflect on the goal-setting process you went through. If you set milestones or timelines, examine their connection to the long term goal. 

Now comes unpacking what you’ve learned from the process. Try to spend the bulk of your essay in this section. 

  • If you experienced any setbacks or challenges, talk about how you approached and overcame them. 
  • If there was anyone influential in inspiring or supporting you in pursuit of your goal, discuss their role and what you have learned from them personally. What do you hope to replicate or emulate in your future? 
  • Finally, how has this changed you? What will you use from this experience in goal setting that you’ll apply to achievement in your future, perhaps even at Virginia Tech?

Virginia Tech Supplemental Essay 4

Describe an example of a situation where you have significantly influenced others, took on a leadership role, helped resolve a dispute, or contributed to a group’s goals. What was your role, what responsibilities did you take on? Did you encounter any obstacles, and if so how did you respond, were you able to overcome them? What would you do differently?*

Similarly to the service essay, Virginia Tech is looking for a time you’ve successfully worked towards a greater cause. In this case, they want to see a clear demonstration of your leadership ability. 

Once again, try to avoid referring to something you already discussed in your service essay or in another part of your application. Ensure you address each part of the question. 

First, identify the leadership role and situation. 

  • Remember that this does not have to be broad in scope. Depth is better than breadth. If you happen to have been the captain of a sports team or president of a club, fantastic. If not, consider smaller roles you may have had. The skills and qualities are the essences of the essay, not the situation. 
  • Clearly identify and give context to the situation and role, but do not spend more than 1-2 sentences. The bulk of your essay should be spent elsewhere. 

Once you’ve provided a backdrop, focus on a problem or challenge you encountered and how you responded. 

  • If there were ever disputes within your group that you were able to resolve, this is a great chance to show your people skills or strength in moving a group forward towards a greater cause. Clearly identify the action you took to resolve the problem. 
  • If the problem was logistical, focus on concrete steps you took to tackle the issue at hand, and how you harnessed the commitment of others to support you. Focus on what you achieved together as a result of your leadership rather than personal accomplishments alone. 

To round out the essay, identify any areas for improvement, but don’t end the topic on a low. Focus on what you learned and how you would apply this to leadership roles in the future, perhaps at Virginia Tech. 

Conclusion: Writing the Virginia Tech Essays

As mentioned previously, the 120 word limit makes for a very short essay. Here is some general advice for making the most of your word count:

  • Provide context, but remember that your essay is addressing the prompt.
  • Use specific detail instead of vague statements. Those details should tie in your personal stories.
  • Include your personality in your essay; it shouldn’t sound like it could belong to any student interested in attending Virginia Tech.
  • Express enthusiasm at the possibility of getting admitted to Virginia Tech.
  • Read aloud, revise, and share with a friend. Editing is your best friend.

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