Don't Neglect Your UT Honors Essays
The honors programs at UT-Austin require students to submit essays in addition to the Apply Texas Topic A essay and the four short answers. These essays are just as important as everything else in your UT application, even though most of the prompts limit your response to 250 words. So while these essays may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, they are still quite important for getting ahead of the competition.
Let’s review how to write your best UT honors essays.
#1. Business Honors, Engineering Honors, Liberal Arts Honors, Plan II Honors, and Human Ecology Honors
Help us get to know you better. Please write five sentences (numbered 1 – 5) that give us some insight into you, your life, your interests and your experiences. There are no right answers—feel free to be creative and think outside the box.
When writing your five sentences, you should think of aspects of your personality that the admissions officers would never know--until now! In other words, highlight parts of your life that really have no other place in your application. Definitely try to avoid school-related topics (but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t).
Here is a sample of topics:
Quirky personality trait or hobby (ex: elegant napkin folding)
Philosophical belief (ex: quality is better than quantity)
Influential family member (ex: my aunt has taught me the beauty of garage sales)
Personal view on how to approach life (ex: always laugh)
Here are some recommendations on how to write each sentence:
Write 2-4 clauses PER sentence.
Use a semicolon if you need to get in an extra idea.
Do NOT write a run-on sentence.
“Whenever I am home alone, I like to turn on the surround-sound stereo and sing Elton John piano medleys; this is my comfort zone.”
#2. Computer Science and Business Honors (Texas CSB)
Describe your significant activities, employment and achievements. Be sure to include information that is relevant to the study of computer science. For example you may describe classes and programming activities, other science and math activities, honors and awards, and other activities that demonstrate leadership potential. (250 words RECOMMENDED)
This response is pretty standard, so you may have already written an essay that you can recycle. At any rate, it’s important to recognize that UT doesn’t simply want you to resume dump all your extracurriculars that are related to computer science into this essay. Instead, you need to discuss the ones that “demonstrate leadership potential.” And, yes, you may be thinking: didn’t I just talk about my leadership skills in UT Short Answer #3? You did, and now you get to do it again (but in a more subtle way).
What do students typically write about?
Camps or clubs
Personal businesses or nonprofits
How should you structure your response?
Paragraph #1 (1-2 sentences): Introduction of your significant activities in computer science.
Paragraph #2 (4-5 sentences): Describe significant activity #1 & knowledge/skill gained.
Paragraph #3 (4-5 sentences): Describe significant activity #2 & knowledge/skill gained.
Paragraph #4 (1-2 sentences): Restate what you like about computer science and what you hope to accomplish at college.
#3. Moody College Honors
It’s been said that knowledge is power, but it could also be said that communication is power. Discuss an example from history, current events, a book or film, or from your own life that supports this perspective. Please limit your response to no more than 250 words.
The prompt opens the door for you to write a history essay, but you should refrain from writing your response too much like a research paper. Keep the discussion centered on how you believe communication is power, and if you do use a historical example, frame it in how the example shaped your thinking.
Here are some sample topics:
Personal narrative about how communicating clearly yielded the best outcome since knowing something was based on clear communication (maybe from a club or some extracurricular experience?)
Historical narrative that relates to war, news industry, or some political crisis
Books like 1984 and Animal Farm
This is how you should structure your response:
Paragraph #1 (2-3 sentences): Introduce why you think communication is power and then identify your example.
Paragraph #2 (5-6 sentences): Explain your example - a personal one is recommended.
Paragraph #3 (1-2 sentences): Say how you hope to further advance the power of communication (or something like that).
#4. Natural Sciences Honors, Dean’s Scholars, Health Science Scholars, and Polymathic Scholars
Natural Sciences Honors is interested in students who will both contribute to and benefit from the specific program to which they're applying. Provide at least two reasons why you wish to participate in this honors community. Please limit your response to no more than 250 words.
The UT Short Answer #4 is similar to this prompt, so you need to make sure that you don’t repeat yourself. The good news is that the prompt gives a pretty easy roadmap for how to structure the response. You are told to provide “TWO REASONS why you wish to participate in the community” and the Natural Science honors program wants students who will CONTRIBUTE TO (Reason #1) and BENEFIT FROM (Reason #2) the program.
In other words, this is how you should structure your response:
Paragraph #1 (1-2 sentences): State what you hope to contribute to Natural Science honors community (based on some experience you had) and what you hope to gain from the community (something like camaraderie or complex discussions, etc.)
Paragraph #2 (4-5 sentences): Go into more detail about what kind of background you have that you think fits in well with the Natural Science honors program.
Paragraph #3 (4-5 sentences): Then explain how you see yourself growing by participating in Natural Science honors.
Paragraph #4 (1-2 sentences): Summarize the points you’ve made and reiterate how UT Natural Science honors will advance you on a path you are already on.
#5. Liberal Arts Honors and Plan II Honors
You are hosting a dinner party this weekend and you can invite ANY three people—living, dead, real or fictional. Tell us whom you would invite and why. What would be your first topic of conversation? Please limit your response to no more than 250 words.
There is no wrong answer for this response, but there are definitely ones that are more interesting than others. Originality and creativity are really important here, because you can invite anyone to your dinner party.
So take a step back and really think which three people that would be. Also, think how those three people would interact with each other. Maybe they disagree with each other. Maybe they are best friends. There are a lot of factors to consider.
Here are some sample topics:
Three people: three kings/queens of different eras
Topic: How do you rule the right way? (Thematic)
Three people: three heroes of literature
Topic: How do you overcome challenging obstacles? (Inspiring)
Three people: a personal friend, a historical figure, and a fictional figure
Topic: What is your favorite food? (Quirky, casual)
This is how you should structure your response:
Paragraph #1 (4-5 sentences): State whom you would invite to your dinner party and why you would group those three people together.
Paragraph #2 (4-5 sentences): Say what the first topic of conversation would be and why you would want to discuss that subject.
Paragraph #3 (1-2 sentences): Conclude by saying how you hope to have conversation or experiences at UT similar to the dinner party you’ve imagined.
#6. Turing Scholars
Describe your significant activities, employment and achievements. Be sure to include information that is relevant to the study of computer science. For example, you may describe classes and programming activities, other science and math activities, honors and awards, and other activities that demonstrate leadership potential. (250 words RECOMMENDED)
[This is a repeat of the Computer Science and Business Honors prompt.]
Describe your educational and career goals. Please limit your response to no more than 100 words.
There is no hidden agenda with this prompt. You just need to tell UT about your goals. You should write a single paragraph with ~6 sentences:
Sentence #1: State your educational goal -- i.e., what do you want to learn?
Sentences #2-4: Explain how you got this educational goal.
Sentences #5: State your career goal (should be related to educational goal).
Sentence #6: Say how you hope to accomplish this career goal at UT.
UT honors doesn’t make writing essays easy with these small word limits, but if you follow my outlines, then you should have a much better chance at crafting interesting essays.
Remember: Don’t worry about being incredibly unique; just make sure you write strong essays that focus on YOU.
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