uva essay examples

UVA Essay Examples – Introduction

In this guide, we’ll learn about the University of Virginia supplemental essays through several UVA essay examples. We’ve included UVA supplemental essays examples, addressing various UVA essay prompts to teach you what a successful essay looks like. After each, we’ll discuss the parts of these UVA essays that worked. Read on to learn more about writing strong University of Virginia essays.

University of Virginia background

The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, today UVA is home to over 27,000 undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students. With UVA ranking among the top U.S. public universities, thousands of UVA applications flood the University of Virginia admissions annually. Of all the UVA application requirements, the University of Virginia supplemental essays are perhaps the most important aside from grades.

What are the UVA Supplemental Essays?

Ultimately, applicants to UVA will write three essays. The first has a 100-word limit, while the other two are 50 words or fewer. Since the UVA application is part of the Common Application, you’ll also need a personal statement.

When you apply to UVA through the Common App, you must choose to apply to one of UVA’s five schools and colleges. The school or college you select on your UVA application is an important decision as it will determine one of three essays that you will write. Below is a list of UVA’s five schools and colleges and their respective essay prompts.

University of Virginia- School-Specific Essays (100 words)

I. College of Arts & Sciences

If you could create a college course that all UVA students would take, what would it be about and why? 

II. School of Engineering

How will you use an engineering degree to change the world for the better? 

III. School of Architecture

Describe a significant experience that deepened your interest in studying at the School of Architecture. 

IV. School of Nursing

Describe a healthcare-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing. 

V. Kinesiology Program

Describe an experience that has deepened your interest in studying kinesiology.

Mind the word limits

This first University of Virginia essay has a word limit of 100 words. For your second and third essays for the University of Virginia, you will choose from a list of eleven UVA essay prompts. Remember, the last two University of Virginia essays have a word limit of only 50-words. Below are the prompts students must choose from.

UVA Essay Prompts- Choose Two 

  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. What is one of your quirks?
  • About what topic could you speak for an hour?
  • Take us to your happy place.
  • You can wake up tomorrow and a skill you already have will become expert-level. What skill is that?
  • What is the last gift you gave someone that wasn’t bought with money?
  • What website is the internet missing?
  • After a challenging experience, how do you recharge?
  • Tell us about a place you’d like to share with everyone, but also keep to yourself.
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • Tell us about a time when, faced with an opinion or perspective that differed from your own, you responded as an empathetic speaker or generous listener.

Essay prompts do change

If you’ve read our University of Virginia supplemental essays guide from last year, you may be scratching your head. Weren’t there only two required University of Virginia essays? Well, the University of Virginia admissions team has changed the UVA application requirements when it comes to essays. This isn’t uncommon—college essay prompts usually change in some way from year to year. But the University of Virginia supplemental essays and UVA essay prompts have seen a pretty big change.

As a result of this change, the UVA supplemental essays examples we’ve included below may not exactly reflect this year’s UVA essay prompts. However, reading our UVA essay examples and other college essay examples can still help you brainstorm for other essays.

UVA Essay Examples – Prompt #1

To kick off our UVA supplemental essays examples, we have three UVA essays addressing a singular prompt. As mentioned above, the UVA essay prompts have changed pretty drastically this year. Therefore, this prompt isn’t part of this year’s UVA application. However, these UVA essays that worked have some strengths you can apply to any college essay.

Even if these UVA essay examples are different from what you’ll write, it’s good to consider how you might approach different essay prompts

Our First Essay Example Prompt

So, for UVA essay prompts like the one below, what should strong UVA essay examples have in common? Obviously, the work you choose should have impacted you deeply. However, it doesn’t have to be a world-famous work: it could be a manga, a theorem, or a video game. Most importantly, the impact this work had on you should reflect something about you, your values, or your worldview.

At the end of the day, successful UVA supplemental essays examples share traits with all effective college essays. They address the prompt, tell a compelling story, and shine a spotlight on you. Strong UVA supplemental essays examples, even short ones, add depth to your personal narrative — so make every word count! With that in mind, let’s look at three UVA essay examples for this prompt.

What work of art, music, science, mathematics, literature, or other media has surprised, unsettled, or inspired you, and in what way?

UVA Essays that Worked #1

Staring blankly at a black square, I pull on my hair in frustration. As my teacher announces that there are three minutes left on the test, my frustrations turn into rage and I burst out in the middle of class: “How do we analyze this? This isn’t art!”

My love-hate relationship with Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square piece started when my middle school art teacher told us to analyze his work on a test.

Although I wasn’t a renowned artist, I thought Kazimir’s Black Square was nowhere near art. How could someone paint a black square, declare it art, and then call it a day? My dislike for Kazimir’s art, however, changed when I learned about the context behind his artwork. I became fascinated by how Kazimir was able to use his artwork to completely revitalize people’s definition of “art”. As I learned about Kazimir’s motives I had an epiphany: the Black Square was more than just… well, a black square. Instead, it was a revolutionary tool used to deconstruct reality and form a new perception of art.

To this day, Kazimir has taught me to not let my preconceptions of reality shape how I process information. I realized the importance of striving to understand cultures, identities, and ideas that are different from mine rather than reject them because of my preconceptions. With this in mind, I learned that any idea or concept is not static and can be expanded and changed; it’s imperative to not reject any ideas that are different from my own to expand my own understanding of a concept.

It’s safe to say that my 12-year-old self was wrong: black squares can be art too.

Why This Essay Worked

Most essay guides, ours included, will hammer home the effectiveness of narrative essays. This doesn’t make a narrative structure essential—as we’ll see, plenty of UVA essays that worked aren’t narratives. However, UVA essay examples that open with some action or scene have the power to instantly grab a reader’s attention. The vivid language this author uses in their opening to frame their topic quickly conveys their frustration.

Regardless of how they hook readers, strong UVA supplemental essays examples for any prompt will look inward. After the opening, the author talks about how their perspective changed. This is what the prompt asks, and strong UVA essay examples like this clearly define that change. Again, impactful language illustrates how the author’s new understanding of Kazimir’s work widened their perspective on art.

The author concludes by connecting their revelations from Kazimir to their worldview as a whole. All of these UVA essay examples show admissions officers who the author is and what they consider important. Effective UVA supplemental essays examples illustrate your values or background and how you’ll enrich the campus community with them. In your University of Virginia essays, be reflective in your writing to allow your principles to shine through.

Another Response to the First Prompt

UVA Essays that Worked #2

I think that this is best answered by sharing the letter I wrote the author after reading A Place for Us:

Ms. Mirza,

Reading has always been my favorite escape, my favorite pastime. Only, your book was never an escape, but a mirror: the first time I saw my life truly reflected in literature, and not because you told an Indian-American story. I felt as though you had written my story, because of the raw and honest meditation on family that your book centers on. 

As is true with many immigrant families, my family resorts to anger often too quickly. We shy away from expressing love. I have cried out that I hated my father on more than one occasion and passionately believed it to be true each time, just like Amar did to Rafiq. As I read Rafiq’s dying words to Amar at the end of the book, expressing his regret, his love for his son–I couldn’t stop crying because suddenly, I saw my family in a completely different light. Not that we will never disagree or fight again, but I began to consider all that goes unsaid between us. A lack of communication caused their family to fall apart, and it made me examine the cracks in mine. 

Behind the anger is almost always love, and while I’ve known this subconsciously, there is something about seeing your struggles outside the context of your own life that forces you to confront the truth about them. I’m endlessly indebted to you, in awe of you, and I needed to say thank you. I cannot begin to express how much this book truly means to me, but I have tried to explain a little portion of my love for it. Thank you, Ms. Mirza, for my new favorite book. I will carry it with me always.


Why This Essay Worked

The second of our UVA essay examples also has a compelling frame: it’s a letter to an author. This opening immediately tells us just how deeply this work moved the applicant. It’s a unique hook among UVA supplemental essays examples. If you have a fresh frame, don’t be shy! This structure works because it allows the author to be emotionally open as well as specific in discussing the work.

By virtue of the subject, this University of Virginia essay is inseparable from the author’s background. Like all good UVA essay examples, this essay reflects on the author’s experiences. Instead of simply praising the book, the author connects it to their place within their family relationships. They describe how it gave them a different perspective on their family and a new awareness going forward.

Ideal UVA supplemental essays examples show readers that the author can reflect on and grow from their experiences. This author checks that box by illustrating the connections among the book, their experiences, and how they’ve reflected on both. Furthermore, they recognize the new ways they view their life and relationships thanks to this book. That’s growth! Take note of these UVA essay examples and include moments of personal growth in your essays whenever possible.

A Final Response to the First Prompt

UVA Essays that Worked #3

I’m a firm believer that J.G Quintel’s Regular Show is the only TV series capable of portraying an apocalyptic, flesh-hungry black hole spiraling out of the skies while an anthropomorphic blue jay, Mordecai, and raccoon, Rigby, play nearly one hundred tied games of rock, paper, scissors. I knew that there was only one way for Mordecai and Rigby to preserve the world as they knew it; the tie had to be broken.

Wait a second—How does declaring the victor of a stupid hand game dictate world order? J.G, how did you forget to add “Ir-” in front of your show’s title?

This was just the pilot episode and I had witnessed a revolution in children’s television programming: an animated one that struck an undeniably perfect balance between science fiction and satire. Regular Show fascinates me in that its supernatural occurrences aren’t unreasonably dramatic and its humor is intentionally well-played and witty. I would argue that episodes of Regular Show embrace the beauty of tragicomedies in roughly the same way that Plautus, the Roman creator of tragicomedies, intended to in his famed work, Amphitryon. Quintel, however, captivates me with a compelling twist. He ditches traditional Greco-Roman tragicomic themes of seduction and envy and models his artform around a more bizarre construct: randomness.

The only constant in Regular Show is the mere existence of the main characters; every other component of the show is wildly variable. The structure of the show is liquid as it is free flowing and takes the shape of its container, or the viewer’s interpretation. Although I’ve come to understand most of the conundrums my prepubescent self was unable to comprehend, it still baffles me as to how Regular Show can weave together the most unrelated and paradoxical concepts into an animated, twelve-minute masterpiece.

Why This Essay Worked

As exemplified see in our UVA essay examples, a distinct writer’s voice can immediately elevate a supplemental essay. The lines following the first paragraph, where the author asks a rhetorical question, inject some humor. After that, the use of strong language like “revolution,” “undeniably perfect,” and “fascinates” convey the writer’s admiration for Regular Show. Don’t be afraid to embrace expressive words like the ones you’ve read in our UVA supplemental essays examples. Still, remember not to go overboard with a thesaurus to the point where you’re using complex words insincerely.

For this author, the impact of their selected work is creative, like the first of our UVA essay examples. They explore what it is about Regular Show that captivates them, even drawing parallels to Greco-Roman tragicomedy. That’s not to say you have to cite Plautus—most UVA essays that worked probably didn’t mention Amphitryon. But by linking those together, we understand that this author enjoys classical plays as well as finding connections across media.

Rather than telling the reader about their love of classics or literature, this author lets their analysis speak for itself. This University of Virginia essay shows us the author is thoughtful toward the media they interact with, from cartoons to classics. Strong UVA essay examples will show — not tell — the reader what’s important to you.

UVA Essay Examples – Flash Seminar Prompt

uva essay examples

Although the three UVA essay examples above responded to an old prompt, we hope they were helpful. Reading various UVA essays that worked can help you write your own, regardless of the prompt. Remember, all good UVA essay examples have something to teach you. The next of our UVA supplemental essays examples is also for an old prompt. 

Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?

In truth, this prompt is somewhat similar to the prompt for College of Arts & Sciences applicants. If you could create a college course that all UVA students would take, what would it be about and why? Even though the focus may be somewhat different, effective UVA supplemental essays examples for both prompts should have the same takeaway: what topic do you consider important, and why?

Strong UVA essay examples for this prompt are specific about the topic. Moreover, we still need to consider the tips from our previous UVA essays that worked. The author is personal, referencing and reflecting on their interests, experiences, or goals. With that in mind, let’s look at the next of our UVA supplemental essays examples.

UVA Essays That Worked – Flash Seminar

Before I could even read, The Lorax was my favorite book. When my dad read the book to me, I instantly fell in love with the cotton-like trees and the small orange creature with a mustache. While I still love the cartoonish illustrations, The Lorax remains my favorite book, to this day, because of another reason: it exemplifies how consumerism driven by Capitalism can harm the environment.

So, should the U.S. abandon Capitalism and force everyone to become hunters and gatherers? That would be quite effective, but we don’t have to. My seminar would address how we could use consumerism to protect the environment. For people who think that an individual’s actions to protect the environment are insignificant, this seminar will prove them wrong. People will learn how the money they spend in companies can shape how companies act. While environmental protection is not a priority for most companies, the power of consumerism that individuals have can force companies to care about our environment. Most importantly, the seminar will be a call to action, encouraging people to take initiative for the sake of humanity’s future. The audience would leave the seminar knowledgeable about the ways in which they can use consumerism to create the change that the world needs.

While the damage done to our environment is immense, it’s not too late to change. One small action at a time, I know that humanity can create substantial environmental reform: one that will even make the Lorax proud.

Why This Essay Worked

Some UVA essay examples reference the author’s childhood, like this one, to demonstrate a longstanding interest. In their opening paragraph, the author shows how their understanding of The Lorax has grown with them. Where they once saw cute illustrations, they now see an insightful commentary on consumerism and the environment. Already, we see the personal growth that characterizes many of our UVA essays that worked. 

Successful UVA supplemental essays examples that address academic topics include the author’s personal thoughts on the topic. After all, the prompt asks why it’s important to you—so what do you think about it? This author briefly outlines their position: consumers can pressure companies to protect the environment. Additionally, they state their goals for the seminar as a call to action for participants as consumers. Effective UVA essay examples for this prompt should also consider the course’s impact on others.

Obviously, there are as many topics as there are UVA essay examples. You don’t have to choose a sweeping topic like environmentally conscious consumerism—maybe you choose accessible design or internet safety. Whatever the topic, UVA essays that worked for this prompt concisely explained why that topic is significant to the author. More importantly, the best UVA essay examples also make a compelling case for why other people should learn about the topic.

UVA Essay Examples – “Quirks” Prompt

For the last of our UVA essay examples, we’re looking at a prompt from the 2022–2023 list. 

We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.

Whereas UVA essay examples in previous years had a 300-word limit, responses to this prompt are limited to 50 words. Keep the limited space in mind when reading the last of our UVA essay examples. Every word counts in college essays, but especially so for short essays. If you’re worried about sticking to the word limit, don’t worry. We’ll talk more about crafting your University of Virginia supplemental essays in the next section.

So, how do you approach UVA essay prompts like this? Well, whatever quirk you choose should be one that is “part of who you are.” What’s a behavior, trait, or habit that anyone who knows you could name? Maybe you sing your way through every day, or perhaps you write exclusively in cursive. Why is it integral to You? Let’s see what the last of our UVA essay examples has to say.

UVA Essays That Worked – Quirks

While the rest of my body lies in the third dimension, my feet seem to remain entrenched in the second. 

Envision prancing through a never-ending bed of thorns; that’s almost how walking with flat feet feels. Essentially robbed of the rewards of exercise, I never became as tall as I once aspired to be. At age seventeen, I stand at a “solid” five foot four: the average height of a middle schooler. With the help of my toes, however, I’ve always been able to propel myself by an extra two inches while creating a temporary arch to relieve my feet of their chronic soreness. In other words, they’re natural stilts. It was the perfect remedy; ever since my years as a toddler, I’ve never fell off from the tips of my toes.

Of course, I have to deal with my fair share of criticism from my others or as I refer to them, my arch-enemies: usually taller people, whose feet were blessed with arches. I hear everything from “You’re not Peter Pan; why are you walking like a fairy?” to “Maybe you should invest in heels instead of tiptoeing.” To their dismay, I pay them no mind; their “advice” only detracts from my walk. Just like the Hulk’s aggressive lunges add to his grotesque demeanor, my light tiptoed gallops never fail to remind my peers of my classiness and jubilance. Not to mention, tiptoeing also upholds my composure even in the most unflattering situations. Although someone might expect stomps and a vulgar confrontation from me, my tiptoes signal a more diplomatic approach to conflicts, maybe even over a cup of chai.

Chances are that my feet will not enter the next dimension any time soon. I’ll still much rather — proudly — teeter 150 pounds over ten feeble appendages.

Why This Essay Worked

Again, many impactful UVA essay examples have a distinctive voice—some wry, others poetic. This author’s quirk is flat feet, a condition they describe tongue-in-cheek as very painful. If your quirk is something that bothers you, consider addressing it with humor if that is how you confront it in your life. Well-executed humor can leave a lasting impression on any reader, especially when applied ironically to an otherwise negative subject.

This writer’s cheeky praise of their toe-walking highlights their ability to make the best of their situation. It demonstrates their confidence and comfort with how they are—or perhaps, how they have to be. From this essay, a reader sees someone who faces adversity with humor while not negating their experience. This author frames flat feet as an irritant while using them to illustrate how they deal with negativity.

Effective UVA essay examples for this prompt contain layers: the quirk also says something about the author. As you think of your quirk, consider which ones can be used to illuminate a deeper truth about you. This could be something about how you learn or how you interact with the world around you. 

How to write the UVA Supplemental Essays

uva essay examples

Now that you’ve read several UVA essay examples, we hope you feel ready to write your own University of Virginia supplemental essays. The first step in writing your University of Virginia essays is choosing from the UVA essay prompts. Luckily, the first prompt is chosen for you based on your school of choice. The second and third ones will come from the list of 11 prompts.

When evaluating the short-answer prompts, you may feel you could write something for all of them—or none of them. Try some different reflection exercises to organize your ideas and get those writing juices flowing. Since our UVA essay examples for these prompts are pretty short, you could try your hand and a handful of the prompts. Then, you can further rewrite and refine the ones that speak to you.

Each of the longer prompts is rather common among supplemental essays, so there’s no shortage of college essay guides out there. In writing your longer essay, you can brainstorm various topics to figure out your focus. Pick what you’re passionate about. Unlike our UVA essay examples, essays that aren’t genuine are really obvious. Go for honesty, and highlight your unique qualities and experiences through your topic.

Don’t forget the editing stage if you really want your essays to shine! Revising your essays—both on your own and with another person—can weed out errors you may have missed on a first pass.

Additional UVA Essays & the UVA Admissions Process

If you’re looking at the best colleges in the U.S. during your college search, you might consider applying to UVA. UVA ranks highly for both undergraduate and graduate programs every year. The UVA acceptance rate is rather low, at just 21%. Given the high UVA ranking and low UVA acceptance rate, we can tell it’s a selective university. As a result, the University of Virginia supplemental essays are critical for a strong UVA application.

With UVA ranking consistently high and the UVA acceptance rate staying low, acceptance to UVA isn’t guaranteed. To be considered, you need to be sure to meet all of the UVA application requirements.

University of Virginia Application Requirements

At the time of publication, the Early Decision and Early Action deadlines have already passed for Fall 2023 applicants. The Regular Decision deadline for Fall 2023 applicants is January 1, 2023.

These days, having a high GPA alone isn’t enough. With University of Virginia admissions being test-optional this year, the rest of the application is weighted more heavily, especially for those who don’t submit test scores. Your essays and letters of recommendation provide an important window into who you are and what kind of UVA student you’ll be.

What about additional essays? UVA offers two merit-based scholarships for high-achieving students. One of these, the Jefferson Scholarship, requires two additional essays. While UVA isn’t among the most expensive universities, it still costs five figures per semester. In addition to financial aid, scholarships can help with the cost of college once you enroll.

More University of Virginia Resources to Support You

uva essay examples

After reading the UVA essay examples above, maybe you feel ready to jump into the UVA application. Or, you might be looking for more UVA supplemental essays examples and UVA essays that worked. Or maybe you’re still unsure about UVA and just want to learn more. CollegeAdvisor.com has countless resources for you to explore, however you’re feeling.

If you want to hear more about UVA from alumni and current students, check out our webinar panel. The participants talk about their experiences at UVA in and out of the classroom. They also discuss the University of Virginia admissions process and their UVA application experience.

For more about crafting a successful application overall, we have a how-to get-into UVA guide. The UVA ranking isn’t dropping any time soon, but the acceptance rate will almost certainly stay selective. If you want to maximize your odds of admission, check out our guide.

Lastly, we have an essay guide for the University of Virginia supplemental essays. Instead of providing UVA essay examples, it digs deep into last year’s prompts. You might even recognize some of the prompts from the UVA supplemental essays examples we just read. Although the UVA essay prompts have changed this year, our guide still provides valuable tips that can help you write any college essay.

UVA Essay Examples – Final Thoughts

The UVA acceptance rate makes it a selective school, so every part of your application counts. Writing strong University of Virginia supplemental essays is essential to crafting a stand-out application.

We hope reading our UVA essay examples and discussing areas of these UVA essays that worked has given you an idea of how to get started. Remember, although the essay prompts have changed, these UVA essay examples are still useful.  Take some time to review our UVA essay examples, make a list of things you want to incorporate into your UVA essays, and get writing!

UVA Essay Examples

This article was written by Chelsea Holley. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.