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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Essay Advice for UVA School of Engineering Applicants

My serious of posts with essay advice for the specific colleges at UVA continues. Last time, I covered the College of Arts and Sciences. Today, I'm addressing the essay for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you do?


Here are three pieces of advice for those who are going to be responding to this prompt.

1. Small is a key word.
Years ago, this question took on a different form and this question asked students to describe a project they'd do with a "limited budget." The enthusiasm in the essays was fantastic, but the projects were a little over the top. Solar panels for everyone! Purify all the water!

It's great to aspire to use engineering to solve big problems, but for this essay, we'd like you to look for an everyday problem that needs a solution that can be found through engineering.

2. Think outside your box.
Many students seem interested in addressing their own time management issues or sleep deprivation in their essays. Reminder apps or alarm clocks that turn on the shower for you have been popular ideas (don't use those...they've been done!). We'd like to see you turn outward with your problem solving. We added the "friend or family member" part to the question this year to help make that happen.

3. Be creative!
I can't tell you how many essays I've read about things that already exist while reviewing engineering applications (iRobot created the Roomba almost 15 years ago, so no more robot vacuums, please).  I've also read about using the funding to pay other people to do something. Show us that you have that innovative streak and have an eye for problem solving in your essay!


One more thing I have to say: don't be intimidated. We aren't expecting anyone to actually know how they would prototype, build, or finance their idea.


Good luck, future engineers! These are my favorite essays to read and I hope the information above makes writing them a little less scary. As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

In honor of Orientation Season, here are some 2015 OLs with CavDog and Jack. :)