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

Writing the UVA Essays 2019-20

University of Virginia, a highly selective public research university located in Charlottesville, VA, requires two essays in addition to the Common App personal statement. Although each University of Virginia school/program has its own required UVA essay (click here for our guide), every prospective student must also respond to one of the following five prompts.


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.

Can you think of a time when someone sincerely thanked you? That might be a clue this prompt is for you! It doesn’t have to be for something big.  The important thing is to be able to define three things: the community you are a part of,  why that  community is important to you, and why you are important to that community. 

Note: This prompt is the only one that has changed since 2018-19.  Last year's prompt, which covered similar themes, was:  UVA students are charged with pushing the boundaries of knowledge to serve others and contribute to the common good. Give us an example of how you’ve used what you’ve learned to make a positive impact in another person’s life.  To keep track of updates like this, subscribe to our page here.


What's your favorite word and why?

If the mere mention of the word “word” piques your curiosity, this could be an ideal prompt for you! If one favorite word doesn’t immediately spring to mind, try this exercise: brainstorm words for five or ten minutes. Go wild, and don’t worry about what you’re writing. Once you’ve filled several pages, read your words aloud and see if one of them not only sounds great to you but also connects to something you’re passionate about. It’s okay to touch on a passion or interest mentioned elsewhere in your application, but try to highlight it here in a fresh, unique way.


We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.

Have a sneaking suspicion that you’re “quirky”? Try observing your own behavior for an hour—or a day! See what unique characteristics you notice about the way you talk and the things you do. The best quirks to write about might relate to a particular interest, obsession, or strong emotion.


Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?

Do you lie awake at night pondering one fascinating question after another? If so, here’s your prompt! Pick an idea that you can make personal by discussing why it’s so meaningful to you. If you truly love thinking and talking about it, there are sure to be other people who will too!


UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?

Pick this prompt if you have some opinions and ideas you’re passionate about sharing with the world. Your message doesn’t have to be overtly political or activist; perhaps you just want to make people smile or laugh. Just make sure it uniquely reflects who you are! What inspires you to share this particular message? How did you come up with it?

Whichever prompt you choose, use your UVA essay to give admissions readers a fuller picture of who you are and what you’ll contribute to the UVA community. If you’ve described overcoming an intense hardship in your Common App personal statement, maybe go a bit lighter here and discuss a funny quirk you have. If your personal statement explores how learning JavaScript has revolutionized your life, maybe ditch the JavaScript Flash Seminar and talk instead about your love for the word “gastronomy” and how, when not coding, you actually make seven-course French meals yourself.

These UVA essays are a great opportunity to surprise readers and show a side of yourself not covered elsewhere in your application.


Need help with your common app essay? Sign up to get our free guided brainstorming tools!


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

How to Write the Pitt Honors College Application Essays

To win admittance to the University of Pittsburgh Honors College, you'll have to respond to two short ans...
Reina Dec 23, 2019 11:51:56 AM

How to Write the Cornell Engineering Essay 2019-20

If you want to attend Cornell College of Engineering, you’ll have to write a supplemental essay about you...
Nick Dec 19, 2019 4:09:57 PM

Writing the Cornell Supplemental Essays 2019-20: the CAS Essay

If you’re applying to Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences, you’ll need to write one of the ...
Reina Dec 19, 2019 9:44:48 AM