university of texas at austin - ut austin essay guide

In this UT Austin Essay Guide, we will cover how to approach the 2020-2021 Apply Texas prompt, as well as the three supplementary essays required to successfully apply for undergraduate admission. For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Ranked highly across the board, the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) is one of the best schools in the state of Texas and highly reputable around the nation for providing both an excellent education and great student life. This university is situated in Austin – the state capital – sometimes referred to as “The Silicon Valley of the South,” due to the growing number of tech companies situated in and around the area. Out of all the schools in the UT system for undergraduate education, the one in Austin is the flagship campus.

While the school guarantees admission to students within the top six percent of their graduating senior class, those who do not fall under this category must use honest and riveting essays in order to stand out amongst the crowd of accomplished applicants. The university has a fairly selective admissions process and only accepts approximately 38% of all applicants. This number lowers drastically for out-of-state applicants, as the University of Texas is a public school that is required to accept mostly in-state applicants.

Due to its status as a state public university, UT Austin requires individuals to apply through the Apply Texas application system. Within this application service are three prompts. By using the following techniques, I was able to gain admission into the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin.

Topic A

Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today? (500-700 words)

UT Austin requires those applying for freshman admission to complete Topic A. This personal statement is arguably one of the most important essays in the UT–Austin application, as it gives you the opportunity to tell the admissions committee about yourself.

I advise getting as personal and in-depth as possible. Try your best to be authentic, open up, and don’t be afraid to get vulnerable (while maintaining a sense of professionalism). The potential topics to choose from are endless, but I recommend writing about a hardship or experience that will help show the most authentic version of yourself.

Keep in mind that writing about an experience that was not necessarily positive does not mean that you should create a negative tone throughout the entirety of your essay. Shed some light on the experience and discuss the good that has come from that situation. Explain what you learned or how it helped you to grow. Find the silver lining in your specific story and emphasize it as you are able to convey your optimism.

Short Answer

UT Austin requires applicants to submit three short answer prompts, as well as one optional short answer. These essays need to be between 250-300 words (usually around one paragraph each).

1. Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?

UT Austin asks this question in order to gain a better understanding of your academic interests. For this short essay, I recommend showcasing your genuine interest in the major, with quality extracurricular activities to further supplement your choice. Try not to mention that you need this major to get a specific job or go to graduate school as it will seem very transactional, and the school will believe that this is not your passion, but rather just a strategic career move to you. If you are unsure about your major in the long run, discuss the value that it could potentially bring you and how that can be applied to your future field of work or interests.

2. Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities.

Be specific in this response. You should mention any leadership roles that you’ve had and explain the capacity and organizations in which you held them. Furthermore, you should mention how these significant roles have impacted you in terms of personal growth and change. Remember that it is always quality over quantity. The admissions committee would like to see meaningful extracurricular activities that you spent a significant amount of time and effort on. These types of ventures are the easiest to write about as your passion will organically blend with your writing.

3. Please share how you believe your experiences, perspectives, and/or talents have shaped your ability to contribute to and enrich the learning environment at UT Austin, both in and out of the classroom.

In this short answer, your job is to communicate what you can bring to the UT Austin campus. Discuss how your specific traits and talents can contribute positively to the community. For example, if a student is very interested in photography, they could talk about how they can bring their talents to the school through tangible means, such as setting up a photography club, or providing help to other aspiring photographers on campus. Be detailed in your approach and provide specific examples of your potential methods of contribution. In order to gain admission, the committee wants to see the unique value you can bring to the Forty Acres.

(Optional) Please share background on events or special circumstances that may have impacted your high school academic performance.

Only answer this question if you have something that you need to explain that is not currently represented in your application, such as health/mental health issues, family disruption, or having to make tough course choices based on something you really love (for example; you’ve been very involved in chorus, finally made honor’s choir, but it only meets during the period when French is so you had to drop a language, etc.). Be honest and explain your circumstances to the best of your ability. Do not consider any of this a fault in your application. On the contrary, it takes strength to own up to anything that might be considered out of the ordinary or a blemish on your application.


This UT Austin essay guide was written by Tanishk Gambhir, Texas A&M International University class of 2020. If you want to get more help writing your application essays from Tanishk or other Admissions Experts, register with today.