Analyzing the UVA Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

Padya Paramita

Analyzing the UVA Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

The University of Virginia is known for being home to the Academical Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whether you want to be a future Cavalier due to its historical foundations, or you find yourself wanting to major in Kinesiology or Speech Communication Disorders, it’s time to show the admissions office who you are through the UVA supplemental essays 2021-2022. The essays not only want to get to know your academic interests, but they provide you with space to elaborate on your endeavors outside the classroom. Use these prompts as a chance to highlight your personality and what makes you unique.

School-Based Prompts

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 - Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering.
  • School of Architecture -  Describe significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.
  • School of Nursing -  Describe a healthcare-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. 

The only required prompt you have to answer in the UVA supplemental essays 2021-2022 requires you to reflect based on the college within UVA you have chosen and think about your interests within your field. Though these are framed in a unique way compared to the typical “why major” question, your approach doesn’t have to be all that different from the way you’ve been thinking about other essay prompts that ask you to talk about your major. The start of interest in any subject or field is inspiration. So, think about the ways you might have been inspired by the work that exists around you and in the broader world. If you’re a prospective music major—is there an artist whose work you follow carefully who has influenced you? If you’re a budding engineer, consider any projects that have inspired positive change in your community and how it has contributed to your love for engineering. And so on for architecture, nursing and kinesiology. Admissions officers want to know that your interest in a topic spans beyond just saying “I love X field.” They want to know about the roots of your passion. 

Prompts That Give You Choices

Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words. 

What’s your favorite word and why?

This is a fun question that allows room for a really introspective essay. Don’t overthink which word you choose. What matters most is that your explanation allows the reader to have a chance to get to know who you are, whether that’s inside or outside of the classroom. For example, your favorite word might be “serene,” and this could lead to a wonderful essay about your love for nature, hiking, and perhaps painting landscapes by your favorite lake. Or, your favorite word could be “tomato,” and you could write an essay about the first time you cooked your favorite dish. The word doesn’t have to come out of the SAT catalog. What’s important is that your response helps the admissions officers get to know you and your interests and goals better.

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.

If you have a unique habit or trait that people around you know you for, this prompt can be a good one to try. A “quirk” can be pretty loosely defined. It can refer to your habit of marking a day off your calendar to countdown to your favorite community fair, or it can be a signature phrase that you have. No matter what it is you choose, focus on “why it is a part of who you are.” Colleges want students who will uniquely contribute to their community. What does your quirk say about you? Does it showcase someone who is caring for their peers? Does it highlight a love for a certain hobby? If you’re not sure what a quirk is, don’t answer this prompt, but if there’s something you think is cool and unusual about you, this can definitely be a good way to show it!

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?

If there is a topic that interests you that you feel like people should know about, you could elaborate on it through this particular prompt among the UVA supplemental essays 2021-2022. A lot of students are interested in matters in the news or politics, or even pop culture, that traditional coursework doesn’t cover. Whether you have a strong passion for the Atlantic Ocean, or you’ve spent hours reading about the life of Michael Jordan, or you want to start a debate about DC vs Marvel, consider what idea you want to explore alongside classmates. Again, what you choose shouldn’t matter as much as the why. Admissions officers want to know what you consider important, and how you think a discussion would fuel important conversations.

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?

Similar to the previous question, this prompt among the UVA supplemental essays 2021-2022 allows you the chance to talk about what is important to you that others might not consider as easily. Is there a piece of news that has recently stuck with you? Are you trying to create awareness for a certain cause? And once again, I emphasize that you shouldn’t use all of your words describing the message itself. Remember that the main part of the essay should be the “why.” Of course you should think about what you want others around you to know, but spend a greater amount of time considering the reason behind your choice. Why this particular message over others?

Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that "...there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints." Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good.

Choosing to tackle this final optional prompt within the UVA supplemental essays 2020-2021 is a good way to inform the university about your role as an impactful leader and changemaker. Admissions officers don’t want a detailed description of the logistics of the action. Within the given 250 words you must focus on how you are taking efforts to make a difference in your community—so you should take a more reflective approach. Think about your most significant involvement, but stay wary of commonly cited activities such as service trips. Remember that “action for the greater good” doesn’t have to signify a large-scale activity. You could have helped your entire neighborhood or school, or you might have helped one or two individuals who belong to it, and still made a difference. 

Use a short anecdote to highlight the role you played in the activity. What were some of your tangible achievements? How did you involve the rest of the community? How would the result have been different if you weren’t present? What have you learned in the process? While you definitely don’t want to undermine your role in the activity, remember that you shouldn’t sound arrogant either. Talk about your achievements in a way that still conveys humility and portrays you as both a team player and respected leader. And of course, make sure your account is truthful and not overly exaggerated. 

The UVA supplemental essays 2021-2022 might seem intimidating at first but they really are catered to students’ personalities and ways they spend their time. Take advantage of these prompts to help the university know who you are and how you can contribute to their institution. Good luck! 

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