As the ApplyTexas application portal went live early Sunday morning, students and counselors in Texas learned that Texas A&M will now require students to respond to the diversity essay prompt that was optional last year and respond to two new short answer prompts.
DIVERSITY ESSAY (250-300 words)
Again, though this was an optional prompt last year, it is now required.
Texas A&M believes that diversity is an important part of academic excellence and that it is essential to living our core values. Describe the benefits of diversity and inclusion for you personally and for the Texas A&M community.
In answering this prompt, consider your own personal diversity and/or your commitment to promoting and living in a diverse and inclusive community. You should also note that diversity is not limited to ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic factors. You are unique and should feel free to use this space to spotlight your own interests, talents, perspective, background, family, and experiences. If you lived overseas or speak more than one language, that's worth highlighting. Maybe you have a unique hobby that isn't yet represented in a club on campus.
Don't forget that you also want to link your diversity of lived experience to Texas A&M and the greater Aggie community. Texas A&M's core values are: excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service. Respect in particular might be a good focal point for your essay -- for respect for others and differences is a key underpinning of inclusion and commitment to diversity.
SHORT ANSWER PROMPTS (200-300 words)
Again, these are new to the 2022 cycle!
1. Describe a life event which you feel has prepared you to be successful in college.
This is asking you to reflect on and relate some specific event that will help you be successful as a college student. This could be something academic - perhaps poor performance on a final exam caused you to reexamine your study skills or time management. Or it could be something you learned about yourself in a sports competition or another extracurricular activity. Maybe your performance dipped below your expectations, and you gradually realized that you needed to refocus your attention or energy to that activity in order to improve your results. Or your summer job may have helped you understand responsibility in a new way. This is a broad prompt and a short answer, so don't over-think it. Relating one experience or event, the lessons you learned, and how those lessons correlate to success is a good strategy.
2. Tell us about a person who has most impacted your life and why.
This one is a little more clear-cut. You can choose a national or international celebrity or public figure, an author or musician, a social media influencer, a family member, teacher, friend - you name it. Again, you only have 200-300 words, so there's no need to try to give the individual's life history. Keep the focus on YOU and explain how and why that person affected your life.
What's the Same
All students applying to UT Austin must write ApplyTexas' Essay A, which asks them to tell their story, including but not limited to challenges or experiences that have shaped them. Applicants to UT must also complete four short answer questions, each of which should be about 200-300 words. Aim for 250, but don't worry if you're a little under or over; our students have had successful admissions results with shorter or longer answers, and it's really more about content than length. Think quality, not quantity!
The first prompt remains the same.
Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?
It's all about specificity here. For better or worse, UT is one of the few schools in the country that admits almost entirely by major, which means that the fit for your intended major is especially important. Even if you're an auto admit because of class rank, you're not guaranteed to get your preferred major or even school within UT, so this prompt is a big deal for all applicants. Use the space to highlight any experiences you've had, classes you've taken, or activities you've pursued that relate to your major, and don't be afraid to explain how seemingly unrelated items from your resume have prepared you for your future or might transfer to your field. A short anecdote about how you developed this interest is also welcome.
Secondly, connect this to UT: you shouldn't think of this prompt just as "why this major" but as "why this major AT THIS SCHOOL." What does UT specifically offer that no other school does? Why is it your top choice? What professors might you do research with, classes might you take, or opportunities would you take advantage of? This is the place to tell your admissions reader!
The COVID-19/additional information prompt from last year remains the same, as well.
*Initially, we thought this prompt was optional this year: all indications are that it is REQUIRED and this post has been updated the reflect that information.
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.
Last year this prompt was optional, but it is required this year. If you have something substantive to say or something you need to explain, like a drop in grades or bad performance in a particular class, this is the place to do it, whether or not it had to do with COVID. Focus on a quick, factual explanation of what happened and what skills you've developed such that it won't happen again, whether that's better study routines or the addition of medical treatment.
If you don't have anything to explain, the best course of action is to think about ways COVID might have impacted your academic performance even if they're not reflected on your transcript, for better or worse. It isn't the place to slide in an extra essay about how COVID taught you to be grateful for what you have, for example, and you won't be doing yourself any favors by giving your reader something they didn't ask for. However, if you took the time to explore an additional academic interest, you could discuss that here. If you didn't bond as much as you wanted with your teachers (meaning that one of your recommendations comes from sophomore or even freshman year as opposed to the more typical and optimal junior year teachers), that's also something you could explain in this space.
For those who truly have nothing of the kind to say, don't forget that not everything that impacts your performance is visible on your transcript! If you work incredibly hard for your grades because of a learning difference, or if you feel that you would have had different academic experiences but for scheduling constraints at your school or with activities, those are also things that could go here!
The second prompt is similar to what was there in past, but newly worded to give more scope to more students, so we love this change!
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?
This prompt used to be purely about leadership, but this rewrite is an amalgamation with the old third prompt (which invited students to comment on how their perspective or experiences might enrich the environment on campus.) It allows students with strong leadership experience to highlight it, but don't feel limited to conventional positions like "President" or "Team Captain." The admissions office is just as interested in hearing about unconventional or unofficial ways you've displayed leadership traits or ways in which your experiences or perspective are different from those of others. Our advice is to think of a trait or two you'd like to highlight, and tell a story or two to do so. Make it clear why you feel the trait you're highlighting is an important one and how it would enrich the school or make an impact...but don't feel it has to fall into the traditional definition of leadership or involvement.
Relatedly, don't forget that they're already seeing your resume (and the UT resume is a whole separate post!) The activity or experience you discuss here may appear there, but bring something new. Avoid repeating your bullet points, and try to highlight something different than you did in your Essay A or in the other short answer prompts.
The new third prompt is an interesting one.
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.
Whew, this a lofty question! It's a combination of a standard "Why this school?" with some other elements. As with the other questions, specificity is key: what, specifically, do you see yourself doing in ten years, and how will UT--better than another school--prepare you to do this? Students who don't know exactly what they want to do may want to take this space to talk a bit about what their definition of a good education is (Well-rounded? Turning you into a writer? A critical thinker? These are all possibilities!) and how UT will provide such an education.
Note the slight social justice orientation of the question, too. Whether or not you're intrinsically interested in service or social change, UT is pointing toward students making an impact beyond themselves, and you would be best served by an answer that takes this into account in some way, whether it's within your future career or your personal life. But don't be worried if your career plans don't have a charitable bent--there are a lot of ways to "change the world," so interpret the question in a way that works for you!