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Monday, June 09, 2014

2014-2015 First-Year Essay Questions

I've been posting our essay questions every June since 2007. It's always a nice way to mark the end of an application season and the beginning of a new one.

Towards the end of every reading season, we gather to talk about which essay questions elicited great responses, which ones could be tweaked to be better, and which essays we'd like to retire. We often pull students into our discussions to get their perspectives. Some of the specialty schools provide feedback and direction, too.

There are some questions on our application that prompt students to write interesting essays year after year, so we don't feel the need to change them. They've almost become traditions here, though the applicants rarely know this since few have looked at the application before.


You'll write one essay for the general Common Application and then you'll answer our essay prompts on the our "Member Screen" along with other questions that are specific to UVa. The Common App folks posted the main essay questions back in February. Here are ours:


2014-2015 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 - U.Va. engineers are working to solve problems that affect people around the world, from our long-term water purification project in South Africa to continuing to research more efficient applications of solar power. However, most students start small, by using engineering to make a difference in daily life. If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make your everyday life better, what would you do?
  • School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • School of Nursing - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of 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 (we’ll welcome you to Grounds, not campus) 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 U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., 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?
  • While a student at U.Va., Fulbright Scholar Rowan Sprague conducted groundbreaking research aimed at protecting the complex structure of honeybee hives. We know that colonies include bees acting in a diverse range of roles, all equally important to the success of the hive. What role will you play in the U.Va. hive?
  • To tweet or not to tweet?     

A note about word limits:
We aren't counting words on these. The word limits are there tell you what is expected. The forms where you paste in your essay will cut you off at some point, but there is a little bit of leeway. Generally, the main essay is in the vicinity of a page and the UVa questions should be about half of a page. You aren't writing a term paper, but a concise, thoughtful statement that conveys your voice and personality.