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Friday, July 15, 2016

Essay Advice for UVA College of Arts and Sciences Applicants

It feels like there is so much college application essay advice out there and there isn't a real need for me to add more, but the questions we're hearing from callers and visitors have me thinking I'm wrong. So I thought I'd add some more thoughts to the essay conversation (you can see past posts by hitting the "essays" tag at the end of this post). I'm going to break the advice up, so come back next week for posts for the specialty schools. First up, the College of Arts and Sciences.

 What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
This prompt is a bit of a tradition here and students in the College can often remember the work they used when they wrote their response. Most of us in admission can cite the most interesting responses we've read and rattle off the ones that fell flat. Here are some ideas to consider if you'll be writing the College essay this year.

1. The phrase "work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature" in the prompt is deliberately broad. Go in whatever direction feels right for you!

2. Make sure your choice isn't forced, since authenticity comes through pretty clearly in writing. Some students seem to look to the reading list for their English class for inspiration, which means we read a lot of essays that sound like assignments. Be careful about that!

3.We want to learn about growth. Some students spend a lot of time summarizing plot or describing their work and the "in what way" part of the essay winds up being one sentence. The part that is about you is the most important part. If you feel you need to include a description, make it one or two lines. Remember that admission offices have Google, too, so if we feel we need to hear the song or see the work of art, we'll look it up. The majority of the essay should be about your response and reaction to the work. How did it affect or change you?

Are you applying to the College? What questions do you have about the College essay prompt?

Jack's favorite work of art is Jack Blackburn's portrait!