UVA Admission Essays Are Posted. Learn How to Write Your Best One

July 12, 2018

High school students looking to get a jump on joining the University of Virginia’s Class of 2023 got some big news recently: This year’s essay questions have been unveiled.

Associate Dean of Admission Jeannine Lalonde shared this year’s essay prompts, then took some time to explain why the essay remains an important part of the application process and shared some writing tips for prospective applicants.

“I think that it helps us get insight into the personality, voice and style of the student,” she said. “The rest of the application consists of forms and other people telling us about the student. This is their chance to talk directly to us.”

As for the writing, Lalonde said she typically shares three tips with high school students when it comes to putting together an application essay.

1.  Don’t overthink the topic

“The questions are broad because we want the students to go in whatever direction makes sense for them,” Lalonde said. “The topic is just a vehicle that the student uses. They should pick a topic that lets them be interesting and authentic in their writing.”

2. You don’t have to write like it’s a school essay.

“Don’t feel limited to the formulaic way that most students are taught to write for class,” she said. “This is a different sort of writing. The more standard format used in academic writing is fine for school and it’s great when writing under pressure. But prospective students should feel free to use whatever format makes sense for the message or story that they want to get across.”

3. It’s smart to get advice, but be authentic.

“It’d be foolish to submit an essay without having someone you trust take a look first and give feedback, but essays shouldn’t read like they were done by committee. And if you don’t like the advice someone gives, feel free to ignore it. When you submit it, it should feel good to you, and it should sound like you.”

Here’s a look at the essay prompts for the coming application season. Stay up with news about admission by following Lalonde’s blog, Notes From Peabody, or following her Twitter, where she’s @UVADeanJ.

2018-2019 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 - School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying 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?

UVA students are charged with pushing the boundaries of knowledge to serve others and contribute to the common good. Give us an example of how you’ve used what you’ve learned to make a positive impact in another person’s life.

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Rob Seal

Director of Media Management and Managing Editor, UVA Today Office of University Communications