Requirements, Guidelines and Prompts for Freshman Applicants
The essays you submit will make a BIG difference in whether or not you are admitted to Plan II. The writing samples are worth 40% of your admissions score, and will be factored into the 20% Plan II subjective fit as well. Plan II must often deny admissions to applicants with excellent grades and test scores who submit mediocre essays. A great essay can sweep us off our feet and perhaps make up for somewhat lower scores or relatively lackluster grades. These are the writing samples you will submit for the ApplyTexas portion of the application. Instructions on how to submit your essays can be found on the Texas Admissions page
What NOT to Do
- Choose a very complicated and involved topic that you think will impress us
- Choose a very safe subject
- Make the essay brief and superficial
- Fill it with clichés
- Make unsubstantiated assertitions
- Throw in broad generalizations
- (Over)use a thesaurus.
To write a good essay for Plan II: Express yourself
- Use your own voice
- Write about something you know or something that is truly important to you (as much as possible within the confines of the prompts)
- Give us a clear impression of who you are, providing your admission evaluators a view of an interesting individual is what gets applicants admitted
- Appeal to the senses when you write: show us what is beautiful, sad, impressive, scary, confusing, frustrating or comforting. Don't just tell us that it was so
- To make your story resonate employ detail, description and precision rather than pretense and melodrama.
- Don't simply tell us what you think or what you feel in abstract terms. Describe it. Make it real.
What do we want?
- Strong command of language
- Good variety in sentence structure
- Clarity of development and thought
- Flow from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph and idea to idea
- Introduce the topic, develop the topic, and move on to a clear conclusion
- Great essays may be quite creative or they may exhibit very straight-forward narrative/expository writing
The University's essay information says, "Although the length of your essay alone technically doesn’t matter, developing your ideas completely does matter. If you can do that in a single page of text, that’s good; but if it takes you three pages or so, that’s alright, too (as long as you’re not just adding words to make your essay longer)." We find that essays shorter than one full page are often skimpy and lacking in exposition by Plan II Honors' standards. It's quite rare to see top-notch essay written with fewer than 250 words. Succinct writing is the most difficult writing to do well. That doesn't mean that longer is better or that we will reward you for "filler." Write to the point!
Take your time, but beware over-editing
Spend plenty of time writing and fine-tuning your essays. Ask for feedback from people you trust before submitting your essays. But be careful. Don't allow helpful editors to edit you out of your own essay. Stay true to your original idea. Stay true to your voice. If your essay sounds as though your father, your AP English teacher or your older sister wrote it, it's not likely to earn you admission to Plan II Honors.
Although you want to write with care, you should not spend weeks or months rewriting essays. There is little to gain after the third draft. Don't delay the submission of your application to write the fourth, or fifteenth, version of your essays. Overwritten and over-edited essays are never the best essays.
Questions concerning Plan II admission? Please email Plan II Admissions Director, Kerry Pasquale
URGENT! ApplyTexas changed their essay prompts in 2016-17.
Click HERE for the current essay prompts!
(THIS POST IS OUTDATED!)
All public universities, and some private and 2-year colleges, in Texas do not use the Common Application. Instead, they have their own consolidated system called ApplyTexas.
If you are applying to any of the schools that use ApplyTexas, you need to figure out what essays they require (if any), and then which specific prompts.
I find it all very confusing. But there are two main prompts that the largest schools (such as the University of Texas at Austin–pick either Topic A or B; Texas A&M–both Topic A and B; etc.) require applicants to address in their essays.
Here’s some advice on how to think about these prompts, called Topic A and Topic B. (Find help for Topic C.) They don’t list a word count, but I believe the common length is around 300-500 each.
Topic A of Apply Texas
“Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours. Address your initial feelings, and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.”
What are they getting at with this prompt? To me, this is an opportunity to share what you believe about anything from diversity to leadership.
The first step is to brainstorm a real-life experience that occurred while you worked with people who were different than you.
The group could be big or small.
They could be a different age (seniors, toddlers); culture (from any that you are not, whether it’s Jewish, Asian, Native American–as long as it’s new to you on some level); religion (again, anything that’s different); overall personal philosophy (conservative, liberal, strict, casual, sloppy, OCD, ambitious, laid back–as long as the other people were distinctly different from you).
Other potential “different” groups that you could consider: education level, age, appearance, health, physical/mental ability, etc.
Now that you have a group in mind that you have been involved with somehow, the trick is to write an essay that shows how you were affected by them in some way–and that what you first felt about them (your opinion) was somehow changed (or not). And then why that mattered.
What you don’t want to do with this essay is write a general explanation of some group you worked with and how they made you feel on a general level and how this changed you in some general way. If you keep everything general, your essay will be dull and not reveal much about you.
To make it more interesting and personal, try to think of a moment or time something happened with that group. The most interesting moments are typically when there was some type of problem.
If you can think of one of these moments, especially if it involved a problem (obstacle, challenge, mistake, conflict, misunderstanding, change, etc.), you can start your essay sharing that specific, real-life incident.
Then go onto explain how you and the group dealt with it, and share how you felt and thought, and then talk about what you learned about yourself and the group in the process.
Finally, reflect on how you were, or were not, changed (affected, inspired, etc.) in some way by this experience.
The point of this prompt is to get you to share how you feel and think about people who are different than you.
How To Structure Your Essay
Here’s a suggested outline:
1. Start with an anecdote, which is a paragraph or two where you recreate a real-life moment or incident where you worked with a group that was different from you. (Read more on how to craft an anecdote in these posts.)
2. Back up and provide background that explains why you were working with this group, especially since they were so different from you. Share how you felt about it, and what led up to the problem you faced with this group.
3. Explain the steps you took with this group to handle the problem.
4. Share what you learned from working on this problem with this group.
*Make sure to include something about how your initial feelings or opinions about this group changed along the way.
5. Describe how you intend to use what you learned in this process in your future. It’s ideal if you can link that somehow to what you plan to study or your life goals.
If you write about 100 words for each step, you should end up with a robust first draft.
Topic B of Apply Texas
“Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?”
This prompt is more direct, and should be easier to write about.
It is more of a straight personal statement type of essay, in that they are looking to understand what you are made of, what core qualities, characteristics or values you have that make you effective in your life.
The key is to think of a time or moment when you dealt with some type of problem (“obstacle or conflict”).
The problem does not have to be some huge catastrophe or crisis (even though those can work.) Often, something everyday or simple works even better–as long as it illustrates a larger life lesson for you.
Then make sure to explain how you solved, handled or dealt with it—and make sure to include the specific “skills and resources” you used in the process.
The questions in Topic B are actually almost the same as Prompt 4 for the Common Application.
Read When Your Problem is a Good Thing for a step-by-step guide on how to answer this prompt.
***If you can tell, there’s a good chance you could recycle your Common App essay for this prompt.
Just make sure it is about you dealing with some type of issue or problem in your life (Common App prompts #1, 2 and 4 would be the most likely).
“Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals.”
Here’s my post on How to Answer Topic C for ApplyTexas.
Many college admissions experts believe Topic C is the most important of the three essays!