unc supplemental essays

UNC Supplemental Essays 2022-23

UNC Supplemental Essays: Quick Facts

  • UNC Chapel Hill acceptance rate: 19%—U.S. News ranks the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill as a most selective school.
  • UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays requirements:
    • 2 short answer (~200-250 word) essays 
    • 5 fill-in-the-blank (~25 word) essays
  • UNC application note: Students applying to UNC Chapel Hill can do so via the Common Application. In addition to the UNC Chapel Hill essays, students will also be required to complete on Common App essay. 
  • #1 UNC Chapel Hill Essay Tip: We recommend answering all of the UNC Chapel Hill essays carefully and authentically. This will help maximize your admissions odds.

How many essays does the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill require?

The UNC supplemental essays come in two categories. First, there are the short answer UNC application essays (200-250 words each). Second, there are fill-in-the-blank UNC essays (25 words each).

All students must choose two of the four UNC essays available in the short answer category. Then, every applicant must respond to all five fill-in-the-blank responses. This means that each student will write a total of seven UNC essays and short supplements.

Students will also need to write one personal statement from the Common App essay prompts. 

What are the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supplemental essays?

UNC requires all applicants to complete several UNC supplemental essays in addition to the personal statement found on the Common App. You can find the full prompts for the UNC application essays on the UNC website and in the Common App. We’ll also break down each of the UNC supplemental essays in this guide. 

The two short answer prompts and five fill-in-the-blank responses that each applicant must submit form part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s holistic evaluation process. According to UNC, the university’s goal is to build a diverse and inclusive community. They hope to learn from each candidate what membership in a community means to them.

Highlighting community

In reading the UNC supplemental essays below, you’ll notice that all four of the short answer prompts ask about aspects of community. As we break down how to address each prompt, we’ll show you how to think through your definitions of community. The best answers to these UNC essays will show that the student has a thorough understanding of what community means to them. They will also address how community impacts them. Successful UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays will also discuss how students’ actions in a community affect others.

If writing seven UNC Chapel Hill essays sounds like a lot to think about, don’t be discouraged! Instead, view the UNC supplemental essays as your chance to introduce yourself to the UNC admissions team. With seven UNC supplemental essays to write, you have even more opportunities to showcase what makes you unique. Use each response to show UNC admissions why UNC-Chapel Hill should admit you.

UNC Supplemental Essays: Short Essays

As a part of the UNC admissions requirements, all applicants to UNC will choose two of four short answer UNC Chapel Hill essays. While each of these UNC essays has a maximum of just 250 words, these are the longest UNC supplemental essays you’ll write!

UNC Chapel Hill Supplemental Essays- Short Answer Prompts

1. Describe an aspect of your identity (for example, your religion, culture, race, sexual or gender identity, affinity group, etc.). How has this aspect of your identity shaped your life experiences thus far?

2. Describe a peer you see as a community builder. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life? 

3. If you could change one thing to better your community, what would it be? Why is it important and how would you contribute to this change?

4. Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said, “We are nothing without our history.” Her words are memorialized on the Northside Neighborhood Freedom Fighters monument. How does history shape who you are?

As you may have noticed, each of the prompts focus on identity and community. When considering how to write UNC Chapel Hill essays, you’ll need to think about your communities and how they’ve shaped you. Long before the UNC application deadline, start your brainstorming for these essays. That way, you can make sure that you choose the most meaningful topics possible. 

Now, let’s further break down each of these prompts so that you know just how to tackle them. 

UNC Supplemental Essays # 1

Describe an aspect of your identity and how this has shaped your life experiences or impacted your daily interactions with others?

The first of the short answer UNC supplemental essays revolves entirely around you and your own identity. The category of “identity” is quite broad. So, successful UNC essays will look quite different for each applicant. 

When approaching this essay, you could focus on a number of aspects that may shape your identity: religion, culture, race, sexual or gender identity, or affinity group. While other things may be important to your identity—such as a love of reading or a deep-seeded interest in classical music—these interests might not belong in this UNC supplement essay unless they connect back to your core identities. Successful UNC Chapel Hill essays will need to show just how this aspect of your identity has impacted your life.

Getting started

As you begin the first of the UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays, think about how your identities inform the ways you relate to the world. After all, while everyone occupies a variety of identities, these identities will impact every person in different ways. Maybe you’ve faced difficulties as a disabled student working in a field not designed for you; maybe you’ve encountered challenges as a BIPOC student working to cross systemic barriers and access educational opportunities. Whatever you discuss, make sure it feels unique to you and your experience.

And of course, make sure to avoid any bigotry or offensive language. The only exception is if you are describing an incident where you’ve experienced bigotry. Then, you could use this incident as a starting point to draw your reader in. However, it shouldn’t be the focus of your response.

Complete answers

Be sure to answer this prompt in its entirety. The aspect of your identity that you mention doesn’t matter as much as its impact on your life. So, when choosing which aspect of your identity to focus on, make sure that you can expand on its influence on your life experiences and daily life. 

If you have a couple of options, try brainstorming each aspect’s impact. Then, choose the one that feels the most important to you. If you’re passionate about your topic, your essay will have a better chance of impressing UNC admissions. Remember that successful UNC essays will do more than just check another box off on your UNC admissions requirements. It will further show the admissions committee who you are.

UNC Chapel Hill Essay Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you discuss a part of your identity that significantly impacts your daily life?
  2. Does your essay highlight this identity in a unique way?
  3. Is your essay free of any bigotry or offensive language?

UNC Supplemental Essays #2

Describe a peer who is making a difference in your school or community. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?

The second of the UNC supplemental essays essentially asks you to define your values through a peer you admire. Keep in mind that the UNC admissions team explicitly asks you to describe a peer—namely, someone your own age who you work alongside. This essay is not your chance to talk about world leaders who inspire you; instead, it asks you to talk about how real change can start in your own communities. Successful UNC supplemental essays, therefore, should center around a classmate, coworker, or friend whose actions have changed how you see the world.

It might be tempting to spend most of your 250 words discussing the peer you choose. However, remember that this is your UNC application. Above all, your reader should come away from this essay with greater insight into who you are. So, whichever peer you describe, be sure to tie your response back to your identity and your own engagement with your community. In other words, devote a portion of your response to what you’ve done as a result of your peer’s influence.

Define “community builder”

When completing UNC supplemental essays, students should first consider how they define a “community builder.” What communities do you occupy, and how do your peers enhance these communities? You can also discuss a peer who may belong to a different community whose actions have inspired you to take action in your own circles. 

Additionally, keep in mind that this essay asks you to describe particular “actions” your peer has taken to build community. This means you should be as specific as possible when describing your peer’s behavior and any traits you hope to emulate.

To structure this UNC supplement essay, begin by describing your chosen peer and the specific actions that make them a “community builder.” You might also use an anecdote to illustrate their commitment to their community. However, as soon as you’ve introduced your peer, you should shift toward your own perception of community. How has the peer you describe changed your worldview? How have they contributed to your own understanding of community? 

Focus on impact

It’s important to note that this essay is less about the peer and the action they’re taking, and more about its impact on you and the community. Be sure that the meat of your essays focuses on that. Has this person motivated you to take your own actions on a topic of importance to you? Or have they influenced your course of study? Or maybe their work directly impacts you and your community? Whatever it is, just make sure that after describing your peer and their work, you focus on its impact on you. 

Remember that you only have 250 words to completely answer these UNC supplemental essays. Make sure to respond thoughtfully and completely in order to impress UNC admissions. 

Reflection Questions for UNC Supplemental Essays:

  1. Do you describe a peer (classmate, coworker, friend, etc.) rather than a public figure or adult in your life who inspires you?
  2. Does your essay include details of why this peer is an impactful community builder?
  3. Do you use your discussion of your peer to address your own values concerning community?

UNC Supplemental Essays #3

If you could change one thing to better your community, what would it be? Please explain.

Like some of the other UNC supplemental essays, this prompt emphasizes the value of community. In evaluating your response to this UNC supplement essay, the UNC admissions team wants to see if you can think critically about community. Successful UNC essays will also demonstrate the applicant’s problem-solving skills. In other words, it’s not enough to identify the problem—you also need to show that you can take steps towards solving it.

Essentially, this UNC supplement essay prompt asks you to describe one thing you would change to make your community a better place. As you consider your response, you should first define the community you wish to improve. Is it your neighborhood? Your school? Your church? Successful UNC supplemental essays could describe many kinds of communities, so while you shouldn’t limit yourself, it’s still important to be specific about the community that you’d like to change.

Once you’ve defined your community, it’s time to think about how you would make this community a better place. Notice that this UNC supplement essay asks for one action. Make a list of all of the things that you’d like to change in the community that you chose. The changes can be both big and small, but they should be specific. For example, instead of just saying you would like to “solve homelessness,” you could say that you’d like to increase access to affordable housing in your community.

Be specific

Citing a specific objective will help you answer the second portion of the prompt, which asks how you would contribute to the change. Take a look at your list of possible answers to this UNC supplement essay—what are you most passionate about? What do you feel you could make the most contributions toward changing with your skills and talents? Ask yourself these questions to find the one thing you’d like to change.

Now that you’ve identified the one thing you’d like to change, consider why it’s important to change this. Avoid vague language like “homelessness is bad.” Instead, think about concrete effects that the issue has on your community, the individuals it impacts, and its larger effects on society, the nation, and the world. Your UNC supplemental essays should show the UNC admissions team your critical thinking skills.

You’ll need to address how you would contribute to this change. There are a couple of ways you can tackle this: practically or hypothetically. Let’s revisit the homelessness example. A practical contribution towards increasing access to affordable housing could look like a student volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and helping to build affordable homes in their community. Hypothetical responses can be much larger—you may talk about how you’d like to help to create an organization that builds and manages hotels and halfway homes for the homeless. Whether you dream big or keep it practical in this UNC supplement essay, remember to discuss why your “one change” is important and exactly how you’d contribute to making it happen.

UNC Chapel Hill Essay Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you identify a community that matters to you?
  2. Does your essay specify one tangible way that you could make a difference in this community?
  3. Do you explain why this change would be important?

UNC Supplemental Essays #4

Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said, “We are nothing without our history.” Her words are memorialized on the Northside Neighborhood Freedom Fighters monument. How does history shape who you are?

Like the other UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays, this essay prompt revolves around identity and community—even if it doesn’t seem that way at first glance. By framing this question about history through a lens of civil rights activism, this prompt asks you to understand your identity and background through a historical lens. In doing so, it asks you to reflect on your own position within structures of hierarchy and oppression.

The last of the UNC Chapel Hill essays can be a great space to discuss your relationship with your racial, ethnic, or cultural background. It’s important, however, to handle these topics delicately. If you’re not from a background with a history of marginalization, you shouldn’t view this UNC supplement essay as your chance to show the admissions team how accepting you are by describing the conditions that your BIPOC peers might face. Tell your own story—don’t try to tell someone else’s.

Showcase your worldview

To that end, like the other UNC essays, this response should show the admissions team who you are and how you see the world. Don’t describe an interesting family anecdote without telling your reader how your familial background impacts your lived experience. If your topic doesn’t relate to your own identity and character, it probably doesn’t belong in your UNC essays. 

Remember that UNC prepares its students to be creators, explorers, innovators, and leaders. This essay could be a good opportunity to show just how you would fit into the UNC community by sharing a key part of your background or ancestry. 

There are a number of ways to answer this prompt. Don’t feel limited to using large historical movements only. In fact, those may seem inauthentic and cliche. For example, instead of writing about the Women’s Rights Movement and its impact on your life today, you may write about having come from a household of all women. It’s likely that those independent, strong women had a greater, direct influence on your life. When considering how to respond to this prompt, remember that history can refer to personal and familial history. 

Reflection Questions for UNC Essays:

  1. Does your essay reveal something relevant to your overall character?
  2. Do you focus the essay on yourself rather than around external anecdotes?
  3. Do you tell your own story?

Choosing your UNC essay prompts

unc supplemental essays

As you consider your UNC essays, think about what stories make you who you are. Essentially, all of the UNC supplemental essays ask you to discuss your identity, background, and community. However, each prompt approaches these topics differently. If one of the UNC-Chapel Hill supplemental essays particularly speaks to you, follow your instinct! However, if you’re struggling to choose two UNC supplemental essays to respond to (or can’t narrow down your options), it might be time for a structured free-write.

Here’s how it works: choose a prompt and set a ten-minute timer. Write about that prompt for the full ten minutes without editing, revising, or reading over your work. Once you finish your first prompt, move to the next. Do this for each of the UNC supplemental essays. If you find yourself with a lot to say about a given topic—or you just enjoy writing about it—you’ve found one of your UNC supplemental essays.

The power of free-writing

If you still feel stuck after your free-write, don’t worry! Look over your free writes for each of the UNC supplemental essays and think about how an admissions officer might view them. Which of these stories tell the reader the most about you? What narratives are the most engaging? Which responses showcase your unique traits? The most authentic stories will make the strongest UNC supplemental essays.

Once you’ve chosen your topics for your UNC supplemental essays, it’s time to start drafting. Reference the previous sections, as we broke down each of the short answer UNC essays. Remember, while we discussed all four of the UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essay prompts, you will only choose two of these UNC supplemental essays to complete.

If you’re still struggling with choosing topics for the UNC supplemental essays, look over (or write) your college application letters. You may recall important moments within those letters that could trigger some ideas for the UNC Chapel Hill essays. 

How do I answer the supplemental essays at UNC-Chapel Hill?

Your UNC supplemental essays should complement the rest of your UNC application to help the admissions team understand who you are and why you belong at UNC.

Wondering what it looks like to build a personal narrative in your application? Check out our expert’s dive into the personal narrative.

Remember to use dynamic, descriptive language in each of your UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays. Your reader should be able to sense your passion and enthusiasm in your UNC supplemental essays. As a rule, authentic, genuine responses make for the strongest UNC Chapel Hill essays. The UNC admissions team read thousands of applications—it’s easy to spot shallow responses meant only to impress admissions officers.

Unsure of where to start when it comes to the UNC Chapel Hill essays? Figuring out how to get into UNC Chapel Hill will require a strong overall UNC application. Start by reading this how to get into UNC Chapel Hill guide. After you understand the process as a whole, then reference this guide as it will give you the tools to craft strong responses to the UNC supplemental essays.

UNC Supplemental Essays: Fill-in-the-Blank

unc supplemental essays

So, you’ve begun your short answer UNC supplemental essays. Congratulations! Now, before you start daydreaming about the possibility of living and studying in one of the best college towns in the U.S., let’s turn to the fill-in-the-blank UNC essays.

These UNC essays aren’t essays at all—they’re simply short-form questions that aim to help the admissions team learn more about you. Your short answer UNC supplemental essays were the hard part. 

When answering these UNC Chapel Hill essays, you don’t have to stress about choosing a major or writing the “why school essay.” Now, it’s just time to have fun.

UNC Supplemental Essays: Fill-in-the-blank

1. One family, friend, or school tradition I cherish: ________________________________________________

2. If I had an extra hour in every day, I would spend it: ________________________________________________

3. If I could travel anywhere, near or far, past, present or future, I would go: ____________________________________

4. The last time I stepped outside my comfort zone, I: ________________________________________________

5. People who meet me are most likely to notice, and least likely to notice: ________________________________________

Above all, these short UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays should add context to your candidate profile and help the admissions team get to know you. Each of your fill-in-the-blank UNC Chapel Hill essays should supplement the rest of your UNC application, working alongside your longer UNC supplemental essays to paint a complete picture of your identity.

Be concise

With only 25 words for each prompt, you don’t have much space. Plan to answer each of these short UNC application essays in just 1-2 sentences. Don’t waste space repeating the prompt. For instance, don’t start your response to Prompt 4 with “The last time I stepped outside my comfort zone, I…” Instead, cut to the chase. For Prompt 4, you might write, “I made a soup bowl that leaks in a pottery class but found a fun new hobby.”

Since these are fill-in-the-blank questions, the admissions team doesn’t expect you to fully explain your responses in each of these UNC-Chapel Hill essays. You should include one sentence or clause of explanation in each response, but not more. For example, a response to Prompt 3 might read, “The early 90s–I’ve always wondered what a world with dial-up internet and without smartphones was like.” This response gives admissions officers a bit more context than just writing “the early 90s.”

Save the anecdotes

You also don’t need to include additional anecdotes in these UNC essays. Hopefully, your other UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays have already shown the admissions team who you are. Now, you can focus on telling them any additional information. For instance, a 250-word response to one of the UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays above might begin with a personal story, but there’s no need (or space) for that in these fill-in-the-blank UNC questions. Instead, just give your reader the information. A quick response—such as “My family always makes pierogis on Christmas Eve to celebrate our Polish heritage”—will do just fine.

Finally, don’t let the absolute language in these prompts scare you. However, don’t be intimidated. At the end of the day, these UNC Chapel Hill essays simply ask you for 25 word answers that share a little bit more of who you are.

Add some (tasteful) humor

Additionally, if the rest of your UNC-Chapel Hill supplemental essays have demonstrated your depth, you can use these short UNC supplemental essays to add a bit of humor to your application. One response to Prompt 2 might be “I would study Portugese,” but another valid response might be, “I’d sleep. I’m a nine-hour a night person.” Think about your application in context—if you’ve already shown that you have a vast inner life, you can afford to be cheeky. If you do go this route, however, limit your jokes to just one of the fill-in-the-blank UNC essays. And, as always in your UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays and these short questions, avoid offensive language.

At the end of the day, don’t overthink these short answer UNC supplemental essays. You should spend most of your time on your UNC application essays rather than deciding which year of the future you’d like to visit. Go with your gut! If your responses to these fill-in-the-blank UNC essays help your reader learn more about you, you’re on the right track.

Are the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supplemental essays important?

unc supplemental essays

Yes! As #29 on U.S. News’ Best Colleges list and with a competitive acceptance rate, UNC Chapel Hill places plenty of emphasis on the UNC supplemental essays. It is in fact one of the most important UNC admissions requirements, especially since UNC has extended their test-optional policy for this admissions cycle. However, don’t let the UNC Chapel Hill essays intimidate you. Think of the UNC Chapel Hill essays as your chance to address the admissions team on your own terms. Use this opportunity to show them what you’ll bring to UNC!

Remember, a well-crafted set of UNC Chapel Hill essays can make a huge difference in admissions. There are many UNC admissions requirements, but the UNC supplemental essays are the best way to show your personality and impress admissions. Take your UNC essays seriously—you’ll be glad you did. You may even find inspiration in reading college essay examples. Remember not to mimic other essays, but use them in order to understand how to write your own successful UNC supplemental essays. 

More details about UNC Chapel Hill

UNC Chapel Hill is not only a high ranking national university, but is also ranked #1 in value amongst public universities. To many applicants trying to figure out how to pay for college, quality yet affordable universities are at the top of their lists. Check out UNC’s scholarships and financial aid opportunities.

To learn more about how the UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays fit into the UNC application, visit their admissions page for a list of the UNC admissions requirements. When considering how to get into UNC Chapel Hill applicants will need a strong overall UNC application, including the UNC supplemental essays. 

Be sure to check the UNC application deadline and UNC admission requirements in addition to your UNC supplemental essays. The UNC essays are important, but at a selective school like UNC Chapel Hill, every part of the application matters. 

UNC Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

Before diving into the UNC supplemental essays, first do your research on UNC Chapel Hill. It may be exciting to think about getting your college acceptance letter and figuring out the college enrollment process, but first make sure to be passionate about the schools you apply to. When considering how to write UNC Chapel Hill essays, understanding the university’s mission and values is key. From there, you can build strong essays that focus on who you are and why you want to attend UNC Chapel Hill. 

While completing two 250-word UNC Chapel Hill essays and five short-answer questions might seem like a lot, don’t let the sheer volume of UNC application essays discourage you from applying. Your UNC supplemental essays are your time to show off what makes you unique.

Don’t forget to revise

Finally, don’t forget to revise your UNC application essays multiple times. In fact, you’ll want to start your writing process for these UNC application essays early, a least a few months before the UNC application deadline. Once you’ve completed a draft, you might also ask a trusted adult to proofread your UNC Chapel Hill essays for spelling, grammar, and clarity. However, it’s best to stay away from heavy edits that erase your voice from the UNC supplemental essays. Remember, the admissions officers want to know more about you, not the person who helped you edit your UNC Chapel Hill supplemental essays. Good luck!

This 2021-2022 essay guide on UNCChapel Hill was written by Abbie Sage, Harvard ‘21. Want help crafting your UNC supplemental essays 2021? Click here to create your free account, or call (844) 343-6272 to schedule your free advising consultation with an Admissions Specialist.