UT Austin Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips
The University of Texas at Austin is ranked as one of the top public universities in the United States, in the same league as the most popular University of California campuses, UVA, UNC–Chapel Hill, and Georgia Tech. UT Austin’s ultra-elite business, engineering, and computer science programs attract brilliant teen minds from all over the world. It’s no wonder that more than 66,000 students applied for a chance to join the Longhorn Class of 2025 and the annual acceptance rate now sits in the low-30s.
Thanks to a state policy that guarantees admission to Texas high schoolers who finish in the top 6% of their class, close to 90% of UT Austin’s 40,000+ undergraduate students placed in the top decile of their high school cohort. The mean SAT for entering freshman is approximately 1330.
(Want to learn more about How to Get Into UT Austin? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into UT Austin: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)
Through its one longer essay and four short answer offerings, the UT Austin supplemental section still affords applicants an opportunity to showcase what makes them uniquely qualified for admission. Below are the University of Texas at Austin’s supplemental prompts for the 2021-22 admissions cycle along with advice on how to address each one.
UT Austin: Essay Prompt 2021-22
1) Essay (500-700 words): Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?
It’s hard to conjure up a more open-ended prompt than this invitation to “tell your story”. Feel free to take this in whatever direction produces the most compelling and personal essay you can compose. What do you want the admissions office to know about you that they couldn’t possibly glean from anywhere else in your application? Don’t be afraid to share your struggles just as freely as your triumphs. An emotionally honest essay that showcases your unique personality is the desired product here.
One additional tip from an essay writing efficiency standpoint…If you are applying to a number of schools through the Common and/or Coalition App, it is advisable to write one single 650-word(ish) essay that will also address this UT essay prompt (or vice versa).
UT Austin: Short Answer Prompts 2021-22
Short Answer #1 (250-300 words): Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?
Share an authentic story here of why you are interested in your selected discipline. What books have you read on the subject? What documentaries have you watched? What podcasts have you listened to? What subtopics most intrigue you? Did a teacher excite you about a topic or was it parent or outside mentor? Do you know where you want to take this knowledge post-bachelor’s degree? Do you aim to one day go on to pursue a graduate/professional degree or is there an occupation you are shooting for right out of undergrad? Include as much detail as possible.
You can structure the narrative of this essay as a soup to nuts chronicling of your entire journey toward your discipline of interest or you could share one or two vignettes that illustrate your burgeoning passion for engineering, history, French, computer science, business, psychology, etc.
Short Answer #2 (250-300 words): Describe how your experiences, perspectives, talents, and/or your involvement in leadership activities (at your school, job, community, or within your family) will help you to make an impact both in and out of the classroom while enrolled at UT.
Take the admissions office at their word here—the committee wants to hear any example of leadership, not just from those who were on student council or founded a club. If you have been a leader in your own family, among your group of friends, or in a cyber community, you can share that experience. Focus on whatever leadership example you are actually most proud of.
If you decide to focus less on leadership and more on experience, perspectives, or talents, those are completely legitimate and 100% equal avenues to take. Describe how one or two talents or previous experiences will manifest themselves in the classroom and in the larger UT Austin community. For example, you placed in a regional or state debate competition in high school and plan on getting involved with UT Austin’s top-notch speech and debate teams.
Short Answer #3 (250-300 words): The core purpose of The University of Texas at Austin is, “To Transform Lives for the Benefit of Society.” Please share how you believe your experience at UT-Austin will prepare you to “Change the World” after you graduate.
This somewhat grandiose question does not require an equally grandiose answer. You can talk about the impact you’d like to have on your local community or within your academic/career niche. Don’t feel pressure to single-handedly solve the world’s most pressing problems–just illustrate how you’ll be part of the solution.
The best answers we see to this question usually involve linking a past contribution to a well-researched future contribution at UT Austin. For example, you participated in THON in high school and helped raise a good deal of money for pediatric cancer patients. Once at UT Austin, you plan to bring those same organizing and fundraising skills to Texas THON.
Short Answer #4 (250-300 words): Please share background on events or special circumstances that you feel may have impacted your high school academic performance, including the possible effects of COVID-19.
This section functions similarly to the Additional Information section of the Common App. Feel free to use this space if you encountered any hardships that impacted your academic performance. This could be anything from dealing with a divorce to challenges faced from a learning disability. The impact of the pandemic is a topic that everyone can address to varying degrees.
Don’t feel pressure to use all 300 available words if your challenges have been minimal. If, despite the pandemic, you earned all A’s, aced the SATs, and were able to participate in most of your extracurricular activities, then you likely won’t have more than a line or two to write for this response.
How important are the essays at UT Austin?
UT Austin’s admission staff “uses an individualized, holistic review process to consider each completed freshman application. Applications from students who qualify for automatic admission are reviewed to determine admission to specific colleges, schools and majors. Applications from students who are not eligible for automatic admission are reviewed to determine admissibility and to make decisions about admission to specific colleges, schools and majors.”
The following items are considered during holistic review:
- Class rank
- Strength of academic background
- Test scores
- Record of achievements, honors, and awards
- Special accomplishments, work, and service both in and out of school
- Special circumstances that put the applicant’s academic achievements into context, including his or her socioeconomic status, experience in a single parent home, family responsibilities, experience overcoming adversity, cultural background, race and ethnicity, the language spoken in the applicant’s home, and other information in the applicant’s file
- Recommendations (although not required)
- Competitiveness of the major to which the student applies
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Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).