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How to Write the Virginia Tech Essays

School Supplements
Lauren Kay
Lauren Kay

     The four required Virginia Tech essays are short – each prompt has a word limit of only 120 words. The essay questions will challenge you to fit a lot of information into a small space. This guide will help you stay organized and write great Virginia Tech essays.

    Let’s take a look at the essay prompts!

    Prompt #1

    Virginia Tech’s motto is “Ut Prosim” which means ‘That I May Serve’. We are interested in learning more about your interests and how you have been involved and/or served. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with. Is this a special area of interest for you, and why? How long have you been involved? What role did you play? What contributions have you made to this group? Were you able to influence others and/or influence decisions for the good of the group? (120 words)

    This prompt asks a lot of questions! As you prepare to write each of your Virginia Tech essays, make a brief outline of your key points. This will help you make sure that you fulfill the entire prompt.

    A tip on topic choice: Since the prompt includes the motto “That I May Serve,” it’s a good idea to focus on a service-oriented group or an experience where your main goal was to help others.


    Let’s look at an example student’s outline.

    • Group: GEMS mentorship club (Girls Excelling in Math and Science)
    • Your role: Volunteer
    • Duration of involvement: 2 years
    • Connection to your interests: I love math. I like being a role model for younger girls and showing them that math is interesting.
    • Your contributions and influence: I helped plan and run events; I came up with the idea of leading a 3D printing project.


    Prompt #2

    Describe a situation where you were involved or witness to an act of discrimination. How, or did, you respond? Do you wish you would have responded differently? Did this situation cause any change to happen based on this event and did you have a role in that change? What did you learn from this experience? (120 words)

    Once again, you’re facing a prompt with a lot of questions. As you develop your topic, try to pick an act of discrimination that you can clearly explain in about 2-3 sentences. If it takes a long time to set the scene, then you won’t have enough space to fulfill the rest of the prompt.


    Prompt #3

    Describe an example of a situation where you have significantly influenced others, took on a leadership role, helped resolve a dispute, or contributed to a group’s goals. What was your role, what responsibilities did you take on? Did you encounter any obstacles, and if so how did you respond, were you able to overcome them? What would you do differently? (120 words)

    The keys to this prompt are leadership and obstacles. Try to pick an experience where:

    • You took on a leadership role, officially or unofficially
    • You faced a challenge. This could be a time when you overcame a challenge, or a time when you failed but learned something from it.


    To help you get started, here are a few example topics.

    • Role: Student
    • Obstacle: Our school administration planned to cut the funding for art classes
    • My response: I organized a group of students to speak with administrators
    • Role: Robotics team Vice President
    • Obstacle: Our team needed more funding to repair our robot
    • My response: I led the planning for a fundraising movie night


    Prompt #4

    Briefly describe a personal goal you have set for yourself. Why this goal, what is your timeline to achieve this goal, what precipitated this goal? Have you turned to anyone for advice or help, what was their role, what did you learn about yourself, are you still working toward this goal? (120 words)

    In this essay, talk about one way that you challenge yourself or try to improve yourself outside of the classroom. Pick something you care about on a personal level. This could be something big or small - anything from fifteen minutes of daily guitar practice to starting a business.

    Let’s look at a few example students’ topics:


    Student 1: I set a goal to read 50 books outside of class this year, and it made me more open-minded.

    Why this works: They explored an interest outside of class, and it changed their values.


    Student 2: My goal was to earn a principal role in a school musical. I only made the chorus, but I learned to be more confident.

    Why this works: They didn’t achieve their goal, but they learned something valuable.


    Student 3: Last summer, I designed and sold T-shirts to raise $1,000 for diabetes research. I got advice from local nonprofits.

    Why this works: They’re specific about their goal and the resources they used to achieve it.

    NOTE: Virginia Tech takes both the Common App and the Coalition App. If you pick Coalition, there's no required main essay.  The four Prosim questions are all you need! But if you opt for the Common App, you'll have to write a Personal Statement and an Activities List.

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