Application Essays for Florida’s State Universities

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By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: May 10, 2018



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If all of the schools in Florida’s State University System (SUS) accepted the same application with the same essay requirements, life would be so much easier for applicants. But they don’t — so it isn’t.

In fact, SUS schools accept a variety of application types, including their own institutional application, the Common Application, and the Coalition Application. While many schools accept the same application – Common or Coalition – some schools still have differing essay requirements. What we’ll do here is reduce the confusion caused by these variables.  

The Common Application is accepted by these four SUS colleges:

  • Florida Poly 
  • New College
  • UCF
  • UNF

However, essay requirements differ. Florida Poly and UNF require no essay, while New College requires the Common App’s Personal Statement. To complicate matters, UCF requires three essays if the Common App is used (but not the Common App’s Personal Statement), and only two essays if the school’s own application is used.

The Common App’s Personal Statement must be between 250 and 650 words, and should be written around one of the seven prompts, but we’re going to focus on only one of them, #7, because it incorporates all of the others. It reads, “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” We consider it to be the applicant’s equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card or no-need-to-wrack-your-brain option — since you can write about anything meaningful you like, as long as it’s about you.

UCF_logoLet’s turn to UCF: If you use the school’s own application, you’re asked to select two of the following four prompts and write essays of up to 500 words combined (or 7,000 characters —which allows for lots more than 500 words):

  • If there has been some obstacle or "bump in the road," in your academic or personal life, please explain the circumstances.
  • How has your family history, culture or environment influenced who you are?
  • Why did you choose to apply to UCF?
  • What qualities or unique characteristics do you possess that would allow you to contribute to the UCF community?

In addition, you’ll have four text boxes into which you can copy select sections of your résumé:

        Extracurricular activities

        Community service

        Talents and awards

        Programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education (i.e. University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, Junior Achievement, 4-H, etc.)


If you use the Common App to apply to UCF, three essays are requested – but not the Common App’s Personal Statement. Each of the three has a 250-word maximum. Here are the prompts:

  1. Elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.
  2. Why are you interested in UCF?
  1. Discuss your reasons for pursuing the academic program (major) selected above

In addition, you’ll be able to upload your résumé when you use the Common App to apply to UCF.

Note that UCF’s essays are all optional, regardless of which application platform you choose – but students are strongly encouraged to write all of them.

UF GatorThe Coalition Application is required by UF, and is accepted by FSU in lieu of its own application. There are five prompts for the Personal Statement, including a get-out-of-jail-free alternative in prompt #5: “Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.”

The recommended maximum for the Coalition App’s Personal Statement is 550 words, but UF has a strict limit of 2,500 characters, including spaces. The 2,500 character limit is almost certain to allow fewer than 500 words, so that 2,500-character limit has to be kept in mind as one crafts the Personal Statement for UF.

Additionally, UF has the following supplementary questions, each with a 950-character limit, though “Not applicable” might apply for some of them:

  1. Description of your community service activities, including your role and level of responsibility in each
  2. Description of your work experience, including dates of employment, job titles, and time commitment
  3. Employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities
  4. Programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, etc.
  5. Additional information you’d like the Admissions Committee to consider when reviewing your application

FSU logoApplicants who use FSU’s own application must choose one of five prompts — which are exactly the same as the five Coalition Application options — and write a 550-word maximum essay in response to it.

Regardless of which application you use to apply to FSU, you can upload a one- or two-page résumé.

FAMU has a required 500-word-maximum essay in response to this prompt: “What qualities or unique characteristics do you possess that would allow you to contribute to the university community?”

SUS schools that don’t require application essays for non-Honors College admissions are listed below, though the latter two do allow for an optional essay:

  • FAU
  • FGCU
  • FL Poly
  • UNF
  • USF
  • UWF

FIU requires two essays for Honors College applicants, a 500-word essay responding to one of three prompts, and a 300-word personal statement responding to this: “Why I want to join the Honors College.

While FAU doesn’t require an essay from its Honors College applicants, application instructions on its website read, in part: 

“To strengthen your Honors College application for admission and scholarship consideration, we encourage you to submit a résumé and academic research paper.

  • Résumé: Include extracurricular activities, community involvement, work experience, honors and awards. 
  • Academic Research Paper: Recent academic paper that shows research and critical thinking. Paper should be typed, at least 500 words, with teacher comments and a grade if available.”

While this blog couldn’t possibly cover everything related to application essays and SUS schools, we think that it delivers salient information, and we encourage you to contact us by phone (561-241-1610) or email if you'd like our help in crafting winning application essays.

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Topics: College Application Essay Common Application College Application Coalition App UF FSU UCF Personal Statement


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