In the 1980s and ‘90s, the University of Miami was a football powerhouse; albeit one with its fair share of controversy. In 2022, the school has more to brag about on the academic front than on the gridiron. Now attracting close to 50,000 applications and sporting an acceptance rate of just 28% (and dropping), UMiami has become a highly-selective university that is no longer anything close to a sure thing, even for students with excellent grades and test scores.

 (Want to learn more about How to Get Into the University of Miami? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into the University of Miami: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

Although it only has one general essay prompt, the University of Miami’s supplemental section still affords applicants an opportunity to illustrate what makes them uniquely qualified for admission. Below is UMiami’s supplemental prompt for the 2021-22 admissions cycle along with our advice on how to pen a winning composition.

2021-2022 UMiami Essay Question

Prompt 1 (250 Words): The University of Miami’s official mascot is the ibis. Folklore maintains that the native marsh bird is the last to take shelter before a hurricane hits and the first to emerge once the storm passes, making it an apt symbol of courage and resilience. 

Considering your ability to control your own motivation and behavior, how have past experiences helped build your courage and resilience to persist in the face of academic and life challenges so that, once these storms pass, you can emerge in continued pursuit of your goals?

Some supplemental essays that you encounter in the college essay writing process can easily be recycled and repurposed for other schools. Unfortunately, when UMiami decided to introduce an obscure marsh bird named the ibis and a weather-related piece of folklore, they made that the mission of essay efficiency a touch more difficult. Fortunately, prospective Hurricanes can essentially breeze past the random fowl reference and can instead focus on the theme of persisting through challenges to meet one’s goals.

Of course, some teens have lived more challenging lives than others—some applicants come from affluence, others from low-income households. Some have two supportive parents; some have more difficult family relationships. Some have dealt with mental/physical or learning/attentional challenges while others have enjoyed smooth sailing in all of those areas. The important thing to keep in mind is that the challenge/story itself is less important than what it reveals about your character and personality.

Even if you end up writing about a common topic like getting cut from a sports team or struggling in a particular advanced course—that’s perfectly fine! Any story told in an emotionally compelling, honest, and connective manner can resonate with an admissions reader. The bottom line here is that there are no trite topics, only trite answers.

Big-picture thoughts on an “overcoming challenges” essay

Given the fairly tight 250-word limit, your essay needs to be extremely tight and polished. In all likelihood, getting this one precisely right will involve a round or two of revision, ideally with some insight/feedback from a trusted adult or peer in the process. Some tips to keep in mind include:

  • Make sure you share what you were feeling and experiencing; this piece should demonstrate openness and vulnerability.
  • To continue the last thought, you don’t need to be a superhero in the story, just an ordinary human trying their best to learn how to navigate a challenging world.
  • Don’t feel boxed in to one particular structure for this essay, but the most common (which there is nothing wrong with), is 1) introducing the problem 2) explaining your internal and external decision-making in response to the problem 3) Revealing the resolution to the problem and what you learned along the way.
  • Again, don’t be afraid that your “problem” might sound “trite” in comparison to those of others. This essay is about you and your job is to make sure that your response to the problem shows your maturity and resilience in an authentic way—that matters far more than the original challenge itself.

How important is the essay at the University of Miami?

The essays (both the Common App essay and the supplemental one) are deemed as “very important” to the UMiami evaluation process. The other factors that are also considered as “very important” are: rigor of coursework, class rank, GPA, recommendations, and extracurricular activities. Clearly, the University of Miami places enormous values on the quality of your supplemental essay.

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If you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your NYU supplement, we encourage you to get a quote today.