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Last updated June 9, 2023

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How to Write the UVA Supplemental Essays

Key Takeaway

Your University of Virginia supplemental essays will tell admissions officers why you’re a good fit for the school you’re applying to. They’re also an opportunity for you to show some personality and add narrative diversity to your application.

You’ll be writing three short essays for your University of Virginia application, but don’t worry—they only add up to about 200 words total.

Your first essay will depend on the school you’re applying to. Here’s the prompt:

Prompt #1: We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer this question, which corresponds to the school/program you selected above in around 100 words.

Let’s take a look at the options. No matter which school you’re applying to, consider the hint from the prompt: UVA is looking for passionate students. In your why major essay, your academic potential and fit for the program should shine through.

  • College of Arts and Sciences: If you could create a college course that all UVA students would take, what would it be about and why?

    You’ve got lots of options with this somewhat quirky prompt. No matter what direction you take, your answer will tell your admissions officers something about your values. After all, if you think a topic is important enough for all community members to know about, then that topic probably says something important about you.

    Maybe you want everyone to take a class about climate change and politics because you’re a passionate environmentalist. Or maybe you want everyone to learn about your Gramscian theory about social media because you think we should be more informed consumers of content. Whatever it is, make your why clear as day, and don’t be afraid to show your intellectual or nerdy side.

  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: How will you use an engineering degree to change the world for the better?

    We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: top engineering programs aren’t just recruiting the next generation of bench engineers. They want to see engineers who can collaborate to solve important problems.

    This prompt is your opportunity to show that you have more than the technical skills to be an engineer—you also have the creativity to think about how to apply those skills to help the world around you.

    As you’re brainstorming ways to change the world, think about problems that also say something about who you are and what you value. Is there a problem in your community that you want to solve? A particular issue that you’re passionate about? Start there.

  • School of Architecture: Describe a significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.

    Okay, so this prompt is specifically asking you to write about a significant experience that led to your interest in architecture. More specifically, it’s also a why major essay that asks what led you to want to study at the UVA School of Architecture in particular.

    What you write about should be a concrete experience or moment that influenced you. Were you awestruck by an amazing building? Were you upset about an instance of inaccessible or hostile architecture? Did something in the UVA School of Architecture catch your eye? Whatever it is, don’t forget to discuss why the moment led to your interest in architecture at UVA.

  • School of Nursing: Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing.

    This prompt is similar to the previous one, but it’s more ambiguous about the “why us” part of the prompt. Feel free to discuss an experience or interaction that got you interested in nursing in general if you can connect to the School of Nursing along the way, even better.
  • Kinesiology Program: Describe an experience that has deepened your interest in studying kinesiology.

    And finally, we have the last of the school/program prompts. This essay question is most like the School of Nursing question. Remember: the prompt isn’t asking you why you like kinesiology or why you’re interested in studying it. It’s asking for a particular experience that shaped your interests. Be specific and use a detailed example.

Prompts #2 and #3: Answer one of the following questions in around 50 words.

Your second and third prompts look exactly the same. For both, you’ll have the choice of eleven questions, and your answers will be around 50 words each.

Short answer questions can be some of the trickiest to answer because you have a lot to say and not very many words. They’re even trickier when the questions themselves are unusual or quirky.

Before you choose your questions, think about your application as a whole. What kind of cohesive narrative does it portray? These short answers are your opportunity to add something that’s missing, emphasize important parts of yourself, or to spice things up a bit. If your application is very serious across the board, consider adding some humor or levity. If your narrative leans more lighthearted, think about a more sincere tone.

But overall, these questions are intended to help your admissions officer get to know you better. Write your answers to accomplish just that.

  • What's your favorite word and why?

  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. What is one of your quirks?

  • 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?

  • About what topic could you speak for an hour?

  • Take us to your happy place.

  • You can wake up tomorrow and a skill you already have will become expert-level. What skill is that?

  • What is the last gift you gave someone that wasn't bought with money?

  • What website is the internet missing?

  • After a challenging experience, how do you recharge?

  • Tell us about a place you'd like to share with everyone, but also keep to yourself.

  • Tell us about a time when, faced with an opinion or perspective that differed from your own, you responded as an empathetic speaker or a generous listener.

Ready to get started on your UVA supplemental essays? Be sure to check out our ultimate guide to supplemental essays for more supplemental insights.

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