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How to Write the UNC Essays for 2020-21


    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doesn’t use admissions interviews, so these short answer prompts are critical for you to show this top-ranked public university who you are. In addition, UNC uses these essays to evaluate candidates for merit-based scholarships and special programs such as Excel@Carolina.


    UNC has three prompts of which you respond to two, each in 200-250 words. Let’s look at how to approach these prompts so that UNC not only lets you in, but throws in some scholarships and exclusive opportunities to boot. (Note that the prompts have changed since last year.)


    Option 1: Expand on 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?

    You could probably write twenty essays here exploring twenty different aspects of your identity. How to choose? 

    Start by brainstorming a bunch of different potential topics. Initially, try not to judge your own thoughts; just get a lot of potential ideas down on paper — aspects of your identity + ways in which they've influenced things you've done.

    Once you've got some material to work with, think about which stories highlight how you'll contribute to the UNC campus and in your career. Even though the question is very you-focused, ultimately, UNC is looking for dynamic students who will make a difference at their school and in the world. So make sure that your essay highlights the ways your identity and life experience contribute to your unique and creative thinking, and the exciting and exceptional ways you impact the world around you.


    Option 2: If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be and why?

    You could discuss your house, your hometown, or even your country or the globe. A smart idea here is to go beyond wishes and dreams for improvement, to point to concrete resources and opportunities at UNC that might help position you to solve these issues in the near future. 

    For example, maybe the lack of public transportation and bike lanes in your town exasperates you. Then, talk about your desire to pursue an Urban Studies and Planning minor to learn more about these issues.


    Option 3: Describe someone who you see as a community builder. What actions has that person taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?

    Admissions officers want to see how you incorporate others' influence into your life and worldview, and that you’re open to new ideas. By discussing someone who inspired you to think about the world differently or take some specific action, you can show that you’ll be primed to grow as a person at UNC as you interact with fellow students. Be sure to focus on how this has led you to be a better or more productive person — to show that you'll be contributing to UNC and the world at large. Ultimately, that's what UNC wants to see. And again, if you can naturally mention any aspect of UNC in this essay (a class, program, extracurricular, etc. ...) that's always strong. (That being said, don't force it if it just doesn't work for your essay.)


    Final advice: For these UNC essay supplements, choose the two prompts that let you show how spectacularly you'll contribute to UNC's campus and the world beyond. If you're agonizing, remember that the best prompts for you are those that you're most excited to write. Those essays always make the biggest impression on admissions officers. 


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