Those hoping to enter the Tar Heel Class of 2025 faced tougher competition than at any previous time in UNC Chapel Hill history. To quantify this assertion, there were 53,775 first-year applicants for the Class of 2025 and the overall acceptance rate was just 19.2%–less than half the figure seen two decades ago. North Carolina residents continue to enjoy a sizable advantage. In fact, in-state applicants were accepted at a 42.2% clip while out-of-state applicants experienced just a 10.5% admit rate. The mid-50% SAT range for North Carolinians was 1340-1490 while the range for out-of-staters was a more intimidating 1410-1520. For all applicants, the UNC supplemental essays will be of great importance.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into UNC–Chapel Hill for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

If you want to have your strongest shot at one day donning the Carolina blue and white, you’ll need to find ways to stand out on your application. Through its two short answer prompts and four fill-in-the-blank offerings, the UNC-Chapel Hill supplemental section still affords applicants an opportunity to showcase what makes them uniquely qualified for admission. Below are the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill’s supplemental prompts for the 2022-23 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

UNC supplemental essays: Short answer prompts 2022-23

You’ll choose two of the following prompts to respond to in 200-250 words:

1) Describe an aspect of your identity and how this has shaped your life experiences or impacted your daily interactions with others?

Some students may have a powerful and deeply personal story to tell about their racial/ethnic identity, sexual/gender identity, or religious identity; others may feel that there isn’t anything particularly compelling about their own identity in any one of those categories. Note that UNC Chapel Hill leaves the door open for someone to also talk about their place in an affinity group. Perhaps your involvement in an affinity group centered on Dungeons & Dragons, anime, volleyball, chess, painting, being a fan of a sports team, film, or any other interest one can fathom is a core, essential, can’t-imagine-life-without-it component of your identity. If so, this essay will likely be a perfect fit for you.

One quick note: if your main Common App essay already tackled one these topics or includes some overlapping material, you may want to select a different supplemental prompt.

2) Describe a peer who is making a difference in your school or community. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?

Most college essay prompts demand that you brag about yourself, an exercise that some people enjoy far more than others. One cool element of this prompt is that this essay isn’t so much about you. This is a chance to explain what characteristics you admire in a peer and perhaps, in turn, what attributes you aspire to as a community builder. Just keep in mind that the prompt wants you to talk about a peer in your community, not the actions of a famous adult.

It’s also vital that you address the second question which wants to know how the person’s actions have made a difference in your life. Perhaps this person inspired you to become more understanding and empathetic towards on the following topics/causes:

  • Racial injustice
  • Those with special needs
  • Climate justice
  • Making outsiders in a group feel welcome
  • The economically-disadvantaged
  • Mental health

This is, of course, by no means a comprehensive list of potential topics. Your story should be personal, sincere, and revealing of your core character and developing values system.

3) If you could change one thing to better your community, what would it be? Please explain.

You probably wouldn’t want to choose this prompt if you already selected prompt #1. Both deal with actions taken to improve one’s community, but, in this response, you are the lead character in the story rather than one of your peers.

As you consider your approach to this essay, it’s important to look at “community” as a broadly defined concept. Community can encompass anything from your high school, your neighborhood, a place of worship, your family, or even a club or sports team. Some words of warning with this one: this doesn’t need to be a grandiose vision. For example, you single-handedly solved the climate crisis and eliminated global poverty. Remember, the prompt wants to know how you would “contribute” to the change in your community. This means that you don’t have to be the lone hero in this tale.

4) Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said, “We are nothing without our history.” Her words are memorialized on the Northside Neighborhood Freedom Fighters monument. How does history shape who you are?

There are two primary ways to tackle this essay. Firstly, you can write about the impact of your own personal or family history on your present life. Alternatively, you can write about a historical event or time period and how it connects to your own present-day experience.

If you take path #1, you may be discussing your grandparents, parents, or other relatives. However, make sure that the story still serves the purpose of revealing more about you. For example, if you discuss your parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States, also spend a good portion of the essay discussing how that historical decision eventually impacted your life.

If you take path #2, the key is to balance giving enough of a history lesson so that the reader fully grasps the story you are telling (do not assume the reader knows everything that has ever happened in the history of the world), while still leaving plenty of room to connect the historical anecdote to your current life/circumstances.

UNC-Chapel Hill: Fill-in-the-blank responses 2022-23

You’ll complete all four of the following fill-in-the-blank responses in 25 words each:

1) One family, friend, or school tradition I cherish:

This could be a cultural, religious, or otherwise spiritual tradition, if applicable. It is equally valid to talk about a weekly board game night, annual camping trip, or goofy, original tradition that is unique to your family, friend group, or school community. No wrong answers here!

2) If I had an extra hour in every day, I would spend it:

You’re likely to write a “What excites you?” essay on one of your other applications. Feel free to repurpose this one.

Out of everything on this Earth, what makes you tick? What makes you experience flow and feel present and alive? What passions keep you up at night? If you are answering at least one of these questions, you are on the right track with this essay. Being honest and sincere about your favorite thing to do in life ultimately makes for the best essay.

3) If I could travel anywhere, near or far, past, present or future, I would go:

Ideally, there will be some depth to this answer. This doesn’t mean you need to pick an obscure destination in order to stand out. Rather, your reasons for wanting to visit should capture something about you. You also have the option to pick a historical time period or event. It could refer to a famous event that is included in your average history textbook. However, it could also mean something more personal to your family, like when your great-grandmother immigrated to California in 1917.

4) The last time I stepped outside my comfort zone, I:

In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Your response to this essay can illustrate that you are truth-seeker, a mature thinker, and not someone comfortable with stubbornly resting on a deeply-ingrained ideological worldview. The issue could be one with global consequences or a personal/family issue between you and another individual. What matters is that you communicate your open-mindedness and capacity for growth.

5) People who meet me are most likely to notice, and least likely to notice:

This a cool addition to the UNC-Chapel Hill supplemental essay collection. Think of this as an opportunity for self-reflection. What do you think others in your life see when they interact with you? What do you wish they saw more of? The latter question may be a helpful way to rephrase the “least likely to notice” portion of the prompt.

How important are the UNC supplemental Essays?

There are eight factors that UNC Chapel Hill considers as “very important” and the essays are among them. In addition to the essays, UNC-Chapel Hill gives the greatest consideration to the rigor of an applicant’s secondary school record, standardized test scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, and state residency.

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