According to UF admissions, if you’re applying to become a freshman, you must submit a personal essay that allows admissions to get to know who you are. The word count limit is specified in the two application platforms – either the Coalition or Common Application, the latter of which UF is accepting for the first time this year. Here are the essay prompts from which to choose
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
- Has there been a time when you've had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
- What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What's the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Note that the “topic of your choice” prompt appears on both apps. That reinforces the fact that the essay topic you choose doesn’t matter: Content is what matters. You can even indicate that you’re responding to the “topic of your choice” prompt and then write an essay that’s actually inspired by one or more of the other prompts. So, “Topic of your choice” provides you with complete freedom in what you write – as long as it’s about YOU!
In addition to writing your personal essay, you’ll be required to respond to five supplementary prompts, each limited to 950 characters:
- List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility.
- List and describe each job you’ve had, including dates of employment, job titles and hours worked each week.
- Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? Please describe.
- List any programs or activities that helped you prepare for higher education, such as University Outreach, Talent Search, Upward Bound, etc.
- Is there any other information for the Admissions Committee to consider when your application is reviewed?
Given those supplementary prompts, if your personal essay focuses on community service or work, be careful to present your story from two different perspectives.
Further, UF’s supplementary community service and work experience prompts pose a potential problem: Both the Common and Coalition Apps have an “Activities” section (it’s titled “Activities/Experiences” in the Coalition App), so you’ll need to make sure that the information is consistently presented in the Activities section and in your responses to these two supplementary prompts. With far more space for your supplementary responses, you’ll be able to elaborate on your community service and work experience.
Assuming that none of the problems discussed above present themselves, here’s how we suggest responding to UF’s supplementary prompts:
List and describe your community service activities. Please include your role in the activity and level of responsibility.
Copy the information directly from your detailed activity resume, but include your time commitment in terms of hours/week, weeks/year, and years in school. Here’s an example of one activity:
National Honor Society (Grades 11-12, 2 hours/week, 20 weeks/year)
- Secretary (11)
- Treasurer & Event Planner (12)
* Plan & promote fundraising & community service events
* Raise funds to support food banks, delivered free meals to shut-ins & provided fellowship visits to the disabled
* Tutor students in math & science every week
List and describe each job you’ve had, including dates of employment, job titles and hours worked each week.
Similarly, you can copy information about your work or internship experience directly from your activity résumé. If you don’t have such experience, just type “N/A” for “not applicable.”)
Each of your job entries may look something like this:
Dunkin’ Donuts (Jan-Aug 2019; 10 hrs/wk)
- Front Counter Service Worker
* Take & fulfill customers’ orders, assuring each customer a prompt, pleasing experience
* Frequently take responsibility for closing out register & cleaning at end of shift
Do you have any employment or family obligations that limit your participation in extracurricular activities? Please describe.
For most students, “No” (two characters) will take care of this prompt, but other responses might look like these:
I have a job that requires me to work five days/week from just after school until 9:00 pm.
I drive my little sister home after school and then watch her until my mom gets home at 8:00 pm.
Is there any other information for the Admissions Committee to consider when your application is reviewed?
You can use this area or the Common App’s “Additional Information” section to add any other information you believe would be helpful to the admissions committee. Some ideas include:
- Activities from your résumé that could not be adequately described elsewhere on your application
- Additional AP, IB, or AICE exam scores that don’t fit on the Common or Coalition Application.
- Explanation about lower grades – if it’s a legitimate reason, such as a traumatic event in your family.
For students with multiple jobs and/or community service activities, creative abbreviation might well be required to stay within the character limit.
UF warns that no one is a “slam dunk” in admissions. Your presentation on your application is key to your acceptance, and we’re here to assist you with anything that’s application- or essay-related. Contact us today if you need help.