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How to Write the University of Virginia Essays 2023-2024

University of Virginia has two supplemental essay prompts, one of which is optional. Although we normally encourage applicants to respond to any and all optional supplemental prompts, this one can be categorized as an “additional information” essay, which is truly optional–in fact, you should really only respond to this question if it truly applies to you.

Whether you are writing two essays or just one, we’re here to break down UVA’s prompts, so that you can feel confident your responses will showcase your best qualities, and maximize your chances of acceptance.

Read these University of Virginia essay examples to inspire your writing.

University of Virginia Supplemental Essay Prompts

Prompt 1: If you have a personal or historic connection with UVA, and if you’d like to share how your experience of this connection has prepared you to contribute to the University, please share your thoughts here. Such relationships might include, but are not limited to, being a child of someone who graduated from or works for UVA, a descendant of ancestors who labored at UVA, or a participant in UVA programs. (100 words, optional)

Prompt 2: What about your individual background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you or those around you at UVA? Feel free to write about any past experience or part of your background that has shaped your perspective and will be a source of strength, including but not limited to those related to your community, upbringing, educational environment, race, gender, or other aspects of your background that are important to you. (250 words)

If you have a personal or historic connection with UVA, and if you’d like to share how your experience of this connection has prepared you to contribute to the University, please share your thoughts here. Such relationships might include, but are not limited to, being a child of someone who graduated from or works for UVA, a descendant of ancestors who labored at UVA, or a participant in UVA programs. (100 words, optional)

As noted above, this is not a typical supplement, but is more along the lines of the prompt in the “Additional Information” section of the Common App that allows you to share how COVID-19 and/or natural disasters have impacted your academic performance. If you don’t have a preexisting connection to UVA, don’t force one by talking about how your childhood best friend’s cousin went there. Most students accepted to UVA don’t have any prior association to the school, so not answering this question isn’t going to negatively impact your odds of acceptance.

If this prompt does apply to you, however, we encourage you to respond to it, even though it is still optional for you, as you’re being given an opportunity to help UVA admissions officers better understand your perspective on their school. You don’t have much space, though, so you want to make sure you already have a clear sense of what you want to say, as otherwise your words will be gone before you know it.

While UVA may have been a huge part of your life growing up if, say, both your parents are alums and took you to football tailgates every fall Saturday since the time you could walk, that probably isn’t the case for most applicants. That’s completely fine–you don’t need to diminish your connection to the school just because your house isn’t painted blue and orange.

Rather, take a step back from the actual essay and the word count, and ask yourself honestly how your connection to UVA has shaped you. Remember, this is still a supplemental essay, so you want UVA admissions officers to learn something about you. You don’t want to say just “my dad went to UVA and his friends from college are all really great,” because that won’t teach admissions officers anything about your personality.

Rather, talk about how one of your dad’s friends played basketball at UVA, and how he was an invaluable resource for you as you weighed the pros and cons of pursuing varsity sports in college yourself. You could wrap things up by describing how, if you attend UVA, you will do your best to be similarly generous and compassionate with anyone who is even tangentially connected to the school.

There is no right or wrong answer here. Just make sure you’re avoiding clichés that could be written about any college, like how you’re glad your family is part of a worldwide alumni network, this essay won’t add anything to your application. It may be truly optional, but if it applies to you, you still want to take full advantage of this opportunity to share your personality with admissions officers. So, be honest, and explain your thoughts in enough detail that your readers learn something substantive about you.

What about your individual background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you or those around you at UVA? Feel free to write about any past experience or part of your background that has shaped your perspective and will be a source of strength, including but not limited to those related to your community, upbringing, educational environment, race, gender, or other aspects of your background that are important to you. (250 words)

Brainstorming Your Topic

This is a good example of the popular “Diversity” essay, which you may have already come across in another school’s supplemental essay package. This kind of essay requires you to do two things: highlight some particular aspect of your identity, and then explain why it’s fundamental to understanding who you are as a whole.

Before we go further, it’s important to note that this kind of essay may carry more significance for certain applicants in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning affirmative action . Colleges are now banned from directly factoring an applicant’s race into their admissions decision, but they are allowed to consider race in the context of your overall background and experiences. What that means is that, if your race is an important part of your identity, you should think about focusing this essay on it, as otherwise UVA admissions officers will be legally unable to consider your race as part of their holistic review process.

If your racial identity doesn’t feel like quite the right topic for this essay, there are also plenty of other options out there. You could write about your gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other qualities people often associate with the word “diversity,” but you can also broaden your net, and write about, to use UVA’s words “any past experience or part of your background that has shaped your perspective.”

Our past experiences and backgrounds are not just the demographic boxes we check, but also our interests, hobbies, and favorite memories. So, if you want to write about your family’s yearly camping trips during the summer, or your experience planting your own herb garden, that is completely fine, so long as those topics have been influential in making you who you are.

Finally, note that UVA wants you to write about something that “will serve as a source of strength.” That means you should focus on some aspect of your identity that makes you feel empowered. Our identities are complicated, so that doesn’t mean you need to have strictly positive experiences with this part of yourself. 

You do want your overall framing to be positive, however, as if you only talk about how frustrating it was when your herbs kept dying, UVA admissions officers may not understand how you’re going to draw strength from this experience in college. Instead, touch on your frustration briefly, and then dive into how rewarding it was for you to see them thrive after you built a short protective wall to shield them from the worst of the wind.

Tips for Writing Your Essay

In your actual response, it’s crucial that you don’t just describe what this especially important aspect of your identity is, but also explain why this quality is so fundamental to your personality as a whole. In other words, what have you learned about yourself as a result of your experiences connected to this part of your identity?

Like in any college essay, the most engaging, informative way of answering that question is by showing, not telling. What that means is rather than just saying “Being raised trilingual taught me the importance of being truly open to other ways of thinking,” describe a moment when this realization shaped your actions.

For example, maybe you once had to act as an impromptu translator at the supermarket, as a Japanese couple was having issues with their card but couldn’t communicate with the cashier. As you bounced back and forth between languages, you realized that certain things are impossible to say in exactly the same way, due to the drastic differences between Japanese and English. That in turn made you realize that language isn’t just words that passively come out of our mouths, but something that shapes how we engage with the word around us.

With the original, tell-y line, UVA admissions officers don’t get any detail about what being open to other ways of thinking means in the context of your particular life, so you aren’t doing anything to set yourself apart from other applicants who may also have this value. In the more detailed, show-y example on the other hand, readers get to see how your broader takeaway has manifested in your daily life, which helps them better understand how this aspect of your identity will help you fit into their broader campus community.

Mistakes to Avoid

The most common mistake students make with this kind of essay is focusing too much on the particular feature of their identity they’ve chosen, and not fulfilling the second goal of this kind of essay by connecting it to their broader personality. 

In the context of the above example, that might look like diving into great detail about when you learned your three languages and how long it took you to consider yourself fluent, but not incorporating any information about how this ability has shaped their worldview. Remember, UVA admissions officers want to learn as much about you as possible, so don’t just give them one piece of the puzzle. Also give them enough information that they can see how this single piece fits into the broader framework of your life.

Where to Get Your University of Virginia Essay Edited 

Do you want feedback on your UVA essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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University of Virginia (UVA) 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision Deadline: Jan 5

You Have: 

University of Virginia (UVA) 2023-2024 First-Year Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 1 essay of 250 words, 1 optional essay of 100 words, 1 essay of 250 words for applicants to the School of Nursing only

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why , Community

In around 250 words, please answer the following question:

What about your individual background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you or those around you at uva  feel free to write about any past experience or part of your background that has shaped your perspective and will be a source of strength, including but not limited to those related to your community, upbringing, educational environment, race, gender, or other aspects of your background that are important to you..

Odds are that this isn’t the first “diversity” essay prompt you’ve come across this year—even if the prompt doesn’t explicitly use that word. If it is, however, please read on. UVA wants to accept students from a range of backgrounds who will contribute to an inclusive community. The prompt uses the phrase “source of strength” twice; this tells us that they want to hear about not only what makes you you , but also how these characteristics will support you and those around you. What you focus on here can be reflective of larger cultural constructs or specific to you and only you. Is there anything you can teach your classmates about your hometown, traditions, culture, orientation, identity, race, or ethnicity that they might not already know? Maybe you began practicing meditation and discovered Buddhism during your sophomore year and you hope to spread some wisdom and mindfulness on campus next fall. Perhaps you were raised on a farm and have a very special relationship to all living things (plants, animals, people, etc.) around you. How will you incorporate this element of your identity into your college experience? Show admissions that you’re eager to make your mark in their community.

Students applying to the School of Nursing are required to answer this question in around 250 words.

School of nursing – describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing..

This prompt asks applicants to detail a specific experience to prove their interest in their chosen field of study, nursing. It is a bit closer to a traditional why essay in that students should make sure not just to discuss the experience that led them to pursue nursing, but also to connect that experience to their larger goals for the future. Perhaps you were diagnosed with diabetes as a child and the nursing care you received inspired you to go into the field yourself. Maybe your grandfather was a nurse and you were awed by his skills when your grandmother fell off a ladder. If there are elements of the UVA program that support your particular interest or connect to the experience you choose to highlight, definitely build those bridges to show admissions you are familiar with the programs UVA has to offer, and have already considered how your experiences will help you achieve future academic success.

Optional: If you have a personal or historic connection with UVA, and if you’d like to share how your experience of this connection has prepared you to contribute to the University, please share your thoughts here.  Such relationships might include, but are not limited to, being a child of someone who graduated from or works for UVA, a descendant of ancestors who labored at UVA, or a participant in UVA programs. (100 words)

Now that UVA is no longer explicitly considering legacy in their admissions process, admissions has added this question to identify not only those whose parents went to UVA, but also those whose ancestors labored at UVA. This reflects the university’s ongoing reckoning with its own founding, which included the use of enslaved labor. Here, anyone with personal or historic ties to the university, including students who attended summer programs there, can describe their unique connection. If you don’t have a connection, that’s okay! Most people won’t. If you do, however, read on.

This question doesn’t just ask you to state your tie, it asks you to explore how that connection has primed you to contribute to the community. Maybe your mom was an RA and has shared all the steam tunnel routes with you, so you can initiate your roommates into this UVA tradition. Perhaps one of your ancestors built the iconic Rotunda, and you look forward to educating your classmates about their legacy. Maybe you attended a summer program and fell in love with the Jeffersonian architecture, inspiring your passion for historic preservation. Remember, your job here is to explore how your personal connection to UVA will make you a contributor to campus life. 

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University of Virginia (UVA) Supplemental Essays 2023-24 Prompts & Advice

August 16, 2023

uva supplemental essays university of virginia

The University of Virginia is one of the handful of flagship public institutions in the United States that attract massive numbers of high-achieving applicants from around the country/globe each and every year. In the most recent admissions cycle, over 56,000 students applied (up 10% from the previous year) and only 16% were accepted. While becoming a Cavalier is challenging for a Virginia resident, out-of-staters and international applicants face an even tougher admissions gauntlet. You’ll likely need a straight A average (or very close) to get serious consideration at the 2023 version of UVA and an SAT in the 96th percentile (or better) doesn’t hurt either. And that brings us to today’s main topic- the UVA supplemental essays.

 (Want to learn more about How to Get Into the University of Virginia? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into the University of Virginia: Admissions Data and Strategies  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

With only one supplemental essay for the majority of applicants (you’ll only need to write more than one if applying to the School of Nursing or the Dance program), UVA’s supplemental section affords applicants the chance to illustrate what makes them uniquely qualified for admission. Below are the University of Virginia’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with our advice for composing winning essays.

2023-2024 UVA Supplemental Essay (All Applicants)

What about your individual background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you or those around you at UVA? Feel free to write about any past experience or part of your background that has shaped your perspective and will be a source of strength, including but not limited to those related to your community, upbringing, educational environment, race, gender, or other aspects of your background that are important to you. (300 words)

This prompt asks you to not only share a particular life experience, element of your background, or perspective but also describe why that experience, element, or perspective will help you serve as a source of strength to either yourself or those around you. Essentially, it’s asking you to take your essay’s reflection one step further—you’ll need to communicate why the experience or element you’ve chosen is important to you as well as why/how you believe it will allow you to thrive at UVA or positively impact the UVA community.

UVA Supplemental Essays (Continued)

First, choose a key aspect of your experiences, background, or identity that reveals something deep and meaningful. (Although you could choose more than one, we’d advise against it, given that you only have 300 words in which to respond.) As you brainstorm, consider the following avenues:

  • Your role in your family.
  • A challenge you’ve faced.
  • A formative experience or realization.
  • Important aspects of your upbringing.
  • Cultural, religious, community influence.
  • Racial background.
  • Sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Second, you’ll need to explain how you’ll use what you’ve learned to persist through future personal challenges or strengthen others at UVA. Will your life experiences allow you to uplift those around you? Will your unique perspective enable you to connect more deeply with others? Lastly, will your background make it possible for you to advocate more effectively for specific populations? Alternatively, has your experience or background provided you with a perspective that will benefit and support you as you move on to college? If you connect with at least one of these questions, you’re headed in the right direction for this essay.

UVA Program-Specific Essays

School of nursing.

Describe a healthcare-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing. (300 words)

“A nurse is not what you do, it is who you are.”

This quote from an anonymous source captures the idea that becoming a nurse is more of a calling than a profession you just stumble into. Nurses are willing to work long shifts in the service of others, be on the frontlines of a pandemic, and deal with life’s toughest challenges (e.g., suffering and death) on a regular basis. Many applicants share stories of caring for sick relatives or going through a tough medical episode themselves as inspiration for wanting to study nursing. This essay is a chance to show the admissions committee that you are a passionate and mature nursing candidate and that nursing is genuinely “who you are.”

Dance Program

Submit a short essay discussing your interest in dance as a practice and/or a form of scholarship. What roles have dance and movement played in your life thus far? What insights and connections have you made in your day-to-day and academic life through the practice and study of movement? What do you hope to explore further by participating in dance program courses upon entry to UVA? (275 words)

Essentially, UVA wants to understand how your participation in dance has impacted your life. How has it benefited, strengthened, and/or challenged you as a person? Moreover, they’d like to understand the connections you’ve made between dance and other academic subjects, if any—what interdisciplinary connections have you observed? How has your academic life been made richer by dance? Finally, in addition to how dance has already impacted you, UVA is looking for a brief discussion of what the future holds in regard to dance, and how you plan to pursue that future at UVA.

How important are the UVA supplemental essays?

The essays (both the Common App essay and the supplemental response(s)) are “important” to the UVA admissions committee. This places them in the same tier of importance as extracurricular activities and talent/ability. Standardized test scores are rated a notch below as “considered.” Read more about the importance of the UVA supplemental essays in the fabulous  Notes from Peabody blog .

At UVA, the rigor of your coursework, class rank, GPA, recommendations, character/personal qualities, and state residency status are the most important factors in the admissions process. However, application components like the supplemental essay can serve as a critical tie-breaker between similarly-credentialed applicants.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance with the UVA Supplemental Essays?

Are you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your UVA supplemental essays? We encourage you to get a quote  today.

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  1. How to Write the University of Virginia Essays 2023-2024

    Learn how to write the two optional supplemental essay prompts for UVA, one of which is about your personal or historic connection to the school and the other about your background, perspective, or experience. Find out what UVA admissions officers are looking for and how to brainstorm your topic.

  2. 2023-24 University of Virginia Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

    Learn how to answer the supplemental essay question "What about your background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you or those around you at UVA?" for the University of Virginia (UVA) 2023-24 application. Find out the requirements, tips, and examples for this prompt and the optional essay for the School of Nursing.

  3. UVA Supplemental Essays 2023-24

    University of Virginia (UVA) Supplemental Essays 2023-24 Prompts & Advice. August 16, 2023. The University of Virginia is one of the handful of flagship public institutions in the United States that attract massive numbers of high-achieving applicants from around the country/globe each and every year. In the most recent admissions cycle, over ...