Expert guidance for all your college essays

Prompt’s Essay Specialists share tips to help you write better essays in less time

Get fresh essay tips in your inbox

All Posts

Update: New UVA Essay Prompts for 2020-21

Attention! The University of Virginia has new supplemental essay prompts for 2020-21. Some of the changes are significant, while some are just a word or two.

Let's take a look at all the changes to the UVA essays! We'll start with the school-specific essays. You'll only write one of these, depending on which of the UVA colleges you are applying to.


First up, the UVA Arts and Sciences College Essay. 

The old prompt was:

  • What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way? 

The new prompt is:

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

As you can see, it's just a tiny addition that gives you even more options to show off your passion and intellectual curiosity!  Check out our updated guide to this prompt here.


The UVA School of Engineering essay prompt involves a more significant change.

Last year's prompt was:

  • If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?

This year's prompt is:

  • Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering. [ NEW ]

The new version of the UVA Engineering essay encourages you to think big, and show off your knowledge of engineering history and current events. You can check out last year's guide here, and the updated guide here!


The UVA essay prompts for architecture, nursing and kinesiology have been updated as well. We've got helpful tips for all three of these essays in our updated guide!


School of Architecture:

  • Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • Describe significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.  [ NEW ]


  • School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing.
  • Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing. [ NEW ] 

Kinesiology Program:

  • Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
  • Discuss experiences that led you to apply to the kinesiology major. [ WORD CHANGE ] 


Finally, every UVA applicant must respond to the "choose one of five" essay prompt.  Four of your options are still the same for 2020-21. (You can read about them in our updated guide!)

This is the only option that has changed. Last year's prompt:

  • UVA students are charged with living honorably and upholding a Community of Trust. Give us an example of a community that is important to you and how you worked to strengthen that community.

Has been changed to:

  • Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that "...there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints." Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good. 

The new UVA essay prompt also asks you to talk about your contribution, but it has a slightly different focus, asking you to highlight one of your specific actions instead of your extended relationship with a community. Stay tuned for our updated guide!


Click here for our guide to the Common App essay

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

Get Your Essay Reviewed

Related Posts

The Big Reveal from Harvard’s Admissions Lawsuit: Essays Really, Really Matter

Good news for anyone deferred Early Decision/Early Action: It turns out that Harvard gets enough applican...
Brad Dec 21, 2020 4:08:27 PM

How to Write the University of Arizona Honors College Essay and the UA SALT Center Essay

The University of Arizona has supplemental essays for students who are applying to specific programs for ...
Lauren Dec 18, 2020 10:47:45 AM

How to Write the Boston College Engineering Essay: Showcasing Compassion and Intellectual Curiosity

Boston College’s Human-Centered Engineering program launches in Fall 2021. This exciting new program will...
Bex Dec 17, 2020 4:08:44 PM