The essay should not be the most dreaded part of the application process for any university. Maybe these tips will help you find that you can do this writing task with ease.
1. Tell Your Story In Your Own Voice.
Now is the time to market yourself to the best of your ability. Your college essay gives our admissions officers an insight into what makes you unique beyond your high school grades, test scores and extracurriculars. Your essay tells us how you will add something to UF’s freshman class, what you can bring to our community of leaders, learners and thinkers, and what sets you apart. This is the story of YOU!
2. Does the Essay Matter?
UF will receive more than 30,000 applications for the approximate 6,500 seats in the freshman class. There will be many outstanding students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. Your essay helps us learn what makes you unique from other equally talented students.
3. Who Reads ‘Em?
Various officers throughout the UF Division of Enrollment Management are trained to read essays, and each essay will be read at least twice by randomly assigned readers. Keep in mind that these individuals may read more than a thousand essays, so it is important to try to catch the readers’ attention quickly with the most interesting example or point at the beginning of the essay. Here’s an example:
When I was in high school, I played the violin in the high school band. It was my favorite activity, and I never missed a practice or a performance. But one day, to my horror, I left my thousand-dollar violin on the school bus…
(from the book, Heavenly Essays)
4. Make the Story Unique to You
If you believe 10 or 20 or 100 students could write your exact essay, then it’s time to rethink your topic. Work on being distinctive. Here are some overused topics that essay readers have seen many (many) times:
- Winning or losing the big game
- Loss of friendships or relationships
- Critiques of others (classmates, parents)
- Pet deaths
- Summer vacations
Think about what you would say in three to five minutes to a total stranger to impress or inform them about your terrific qualities or unusual experiences.
5. Show and Tell—Be Vivid with Your Words
If you recall show and tell at school, your essay should follow the same principle. Remember when the student went to the front of the class with something of interest inside the plastic sack? You hear the story. You see the object. With essays, you need to draw the reader out beyond the straight text and use words that trigger imagery and the senses.
6. Big Words Are Just Big Words.
Impress us with your content and who you are; not your ability to use a thesaurus. Most of our readers would prefer if you wrote, “I hung out with a group of friends” instead of, “we congregated as a conglomerate of like-minded individuals”.
7. Don’t Repeat.
Don’t repeat what you’ve already supplied in your application—grades, test scores, etc. Your essay serves to fill in the blanks beyond what you have supplied.
8. This is your essay, not your English class.
We will be reading your essay more for your words and information and less for your grammar. We know you’ve learned to limit use of contractions, eliminate sentence fragments and not to split your infinitives. However, no text-lingo, such as “lol” “ttyl” “kk” etc. We won’t judge you heavily on grammar, but we ask that you keep it appropriately professional. Pick up a best-selling book, and you’ll find that many authors no longer write by the rules. It’s your story that counts!
9. Have Someone Else Read It.
It’s always wise to have someone else read your draft before you submit your essay. You’ll be much more relieved knowing you submitted your very best work.
10. Now, go fine tune your drafts, tell us your story and be confident in your submission.
If you follow these tips, they will take you far on the UF application.
University of Florida’s Current Essay Topics
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
- Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
- What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
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