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University Of Virginia Essay Examples

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Essay Advice for UVA School of Engineering Applicants

My serious of posts with essay advice for the specific colleges at UVA continues. Last time, I covered the College of Arts and Sciences. Today, I'm addressing the essay for the 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?



Here are three pieces of advice for those who are going to be responding to this prompt.

1. Small is a key word.
Years ago, this question took on a different form and this question asked students to describe a project they'd do with a "limited budget." The enthusiasm in the essays was fantastic, but the projects were a little over the top. Solar panels for everyone! Purify all the water!

It's great to aspire to use engineering to solve big problems, but for this essay, we'd like you to look for an everyday problem that needs a solution that can be found through engineering.

2. Think outside your box.
Many students seem interested in addressing their own time management issues or sleep deprivation in their essays. Reminder apps or alarm clocks that turn on the shower for you have been popular ideas (don't use those...they've been done!). We'd like to see you turn outward with your problem solving. We added the "friend or family member" part to the question this year to help make that happen.

3. Be creative!
I can't tell you how many essays I've read about things that already exist while reviewing engineering applications (iRobot created the Roomba almost 15 years ago, so no more robot vacuums, please).  I've also read about using the funding to pay other people to do something. Show us that you have that innovative streak and have an eye for problem solving in your essay!


One more thing I have to say: don't be intimidated. We aren't expecting anyone to actually know how they would prototype, build, or finance their idea.


Good luck, future engineers! These are my favorite essays to read and I hope the information above makes writing them a little less scary. As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

In honor of Orientation Season, here are some 2015 OLs with CavDog and Jack. :)

I hope the rising seniors out there are having a great summer. I share our essay prompts for the next year each June with the hopes that we'll give you plenty of time to think about which one is right for you. If you are thinking about writing your essays this early, I hope you'll revisit them before you actually submit an application. It's amazing how much can change in a few months.

I have three pieces of advice for you as you think about your essays:

1. Don't overthink the topic. These questions are deliberately broad so that people can take their essays in many directions. 

2. Don't feel limited to the essay formula you may use for academic writing. While the five-paragraph essay (an intro, three supporting sections, and a conclusion) you use in school is technically correct, it might not be the best way to get your style and voice to come across.

3. Don't feel obligated to use all of the advice you get. You'll obviously want to get some people you trust to read your essays and give you feedback, but it's okay to ignore feedback that doesn't fit your style.

I'll elaborate on those points in future posts. Now, let's get to the prompts. This past year's applicants submitted some really wonderful essays, so we didn't feel the need to make major changes to our prompts. Remember that these short essays are in addition to your longer Common App essay.

2017-2018 First-Year Application Essay Questions

1.    We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.  Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words. 

  • 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 design?
  • School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • School of Nursing -
  • Kinesiology Program - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.

2. Answer one of the following questions 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?

I'm happy to answer questions about our prompts in the comments!

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