Academic Quad of Rice University
It’s back to school! But for entering seniors, it’s an even more (exciting?) time as college applications are looming on the horizon. There are two, primary “common applications” which your Texas resident child should be concerned with – ApplyTexas for most Texas colleges and the Common Application for most every other college.
If your child is like most students nationwide, they’ll probably apply to five to eight colleges with a combination of Texas public institutions and non-Texas public and private universities. As such, they’re looking at writing at least 4 to 6 essays of approximately 2-pages in length each.
Some Writing Tips
After test scores and grade transcripts, the essays are easily the third most important part of the college application. Test scores supposedly identify whether or not students have the raw cognitive capability to excel, and school grades are supposed to demonstrate how well or not students took advantage of the classroom opportunities afforded to them.
Assuming that there’s more to a person than just test scores and books, essays are therefore the most human and intangible component; they enable students to use their own voice to fill in the rest of the picture of their candidacy.
At under 600 words each, these essays are more about concise marketing and good first impressions making than anything else:
- Market yourself. Who are you and what makes you unique and a good fit to the college that you’re applying to? You’ll need to make sure this theme comes out in your essays.
- Be specific. These essays are all about you; they need to include specific examples from your life experiences. If you step back and think the essay could apply to anyone, start rewriting.
- Be creative. Admissions officers are going to be reading thousands of essays in a short time span. Just as you would with a first, in-person meeting, you need to make a positive, memorable impression.
In a way, a good college essay is much like a 30-second Super Bowl television ad. You have a very valuable, limited space to pitch your product to an audience who’s jaded by all of the other really great ads.
The ApplyTexas application is accepted by all Texas public universities and many private ones including Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, and Trinity University.
There are as many five essay topics on which students can write; however, which topics and how many will depend on the school/s to which they’re applying.
For example, the University of Texas at Austin requires two essays for most students but only stipulates the topic for one (Topic ) while leaving the second essay topic up to the student’s choice. Texas A&M Requires at least two essays (Topics A and B) but recommends a third for most candidates. Below are the three, primary essay topics available through ApplyTexas.
ApplyTexas Essay Topics
Topic A (Required for A&M)
Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours. Address your initial feelings, and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.
Topic B (Required for A&M)
Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?
Topic C: (Required for UT, Recommended for A&M)
Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals.
The Common Application is accepted by more than 500 colleges nationwide including state institutions like University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Colorado Boulder and prestigious colleges like Rice, Harvard, and Stanford. Most schools accepting the Common Application will require that students submit one essay in response to a topic of their choosing below.
Common Application Essay Topics
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. (New for 2015) Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
College Specific Topics
The ApplyTexas and Common Application are great tools because they decrease the amount of work required to apply to multiple schools. However, they don’t eliminate all of the hassle. In particular most schools accepting the Common Application will require a second essay of the college’s choosing. The topics usually ask students to write about why they’re a good fit for the college.
Sample College-Specific Essay Topics
Rice University – The quality of Rice’s academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What perspective do you feel that you will contribute to life at Rice? (500 word limit)
Stanford University – Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—know you better. (250 word limit).
University of Colorado at Boulder – The University of Colorado Boulder’s Flagship 2030 strategic plan promotes the exceptional teaching, research, scholarship, creative works and service that distinguishes us as a premier university. We strive to foster a diverse and inclusive community that engages each member in opportunities for academic excellence, leadership and a deeper understanding of the world in which we live. Given the statement above, how do you think you could enrich our diverse and inclusive community and what are your hopes for your college experience? (250-650 words)
General Academic can help students with their college essays from start to finish including brainstorming, outlining, and editing. Contact us at GeneralAcademic.com or at 713-838-7774.
Tags:College Admissions, college applications, college essays
It's your ticket - go anywhere and do what you want!
Continuing the theme of how these new prompts over a broad range to showcase impressive qualities about yourself, Essay C offers the greatest chance for a creative approach.
“Topic C: You’ve got a ticket in your hand – Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?”
Essay C’s open-ended nature reminds me more of applying to the University of Chicago or a Small Liberal Arts College than to public universities in Texas. It is evident the Apply Texas essay committee sought a significant departure from previous prompts. I am particularly curious to see how students choose to approach this topic.
The possibilities are endless.
A student could talk about a literal ticket like a plane, amusement park, or a musical. It could be an imaginary ticket like a ticket to fulfilling your dreams, to visit a distant planet, or an invitation to a dinner date with your favorite figure from history. I am inclined to think you don’t even need to talk about a ticket and only address your future academic and professional plans in a more conventional personal statement prompt. I can think of hundreds of ways to approach this, but as always, students are typically more clever than me. I anticipate some truly out there response.
With this opportunity also comes a responsibility to not lose sight of highlighting important qualities that admissions committees are looking for – perseverance, grit, curiosity, and an ability to communicate well. If you choose to put forward an unorthodox response, don’t lose sight that the ultimate goal is to gain admission into your desired program.
Spending a few sentences to address your academic and professional goals will help give reviewers an idea why you have chosen your selected major. Since “fit” is an important part of UT’s review process, your application should focus on why the university should invest in you an available space.
At any rate, use Essay C to write your ticket into your dream school.
Looking to improve your Essay C and put your best foot forward?
Let's get started by completing this questionnaire for a free consultation.