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How to Respond to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Essay Prompts

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is mainly located in Champaign, Illinois. Technically, UIUC is located in the “twin cities” of Champaign and Urbana, so you may not always be in Champaign if you decide to attend! Founded in 1867, UIUC is the flagship institution of the University of Illinois system. The UIUC supplemental essays are split up based on whether you are applying to a specific major or their undeclared program. Therefore, it is important to have an idea of what you want to study before you begin filling out the UIUC application. 

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

Before answering the UIUC supplemental essay questions

The UIUC supplemental essay questions are divided based on whether applicants are applying to a specific major, undeclared program or have a second-choice major. 

Therefore, it is important to do your research on UIUC and the academic programs available. Figure out what drives you and what you picture yourself doing in the future. If your future is not clear, do not worry! You still have plenty of time to explore and figure out what you are interested in by becoming an undeclared major. 

You will have to answer two-three short-answer questions depending on whether you’re applying to a major or undeclared program and if you have selected a second choice major.

Each short answer response should not exceed 150 words. This is not a lot of space for creative freedom, so be sure to be clear and concise. Do not drag on! Make sure you simply just answer the question and put your personality on the page. 

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If you’re applying to a major

If you are applying to a major, there are two UIUC supplemental essays you will need to complete (150 words each).

First essay

“In the past 3 to 4 years, what experience(s) have you had (inside or outside of the classroom) related to your selected first-choice major or academic interest?”

To begin answering this prompt, you should first describe what exactly your first-choice major is. You can give some background into how you discovered your passion for this subject. For example, maybe you want to study biology because you were obsessed with a particular lab you completed in high school. 

After giving a brief description of your major, talk about some meaningful experiences you have had that have added to your desire to study this topic. For example, you can choose to write about a particular “aha” experience in your biology class or a mandatory book for English class that changed your perspective on life. You can also choose to write about an outside the classroom experience such as a club or volunteer work you have done. You can even talk about a figure in your life that has inspired you. The limits are endless! 

Ensure that whatever experiences you choose to write about that they connect back to your first-choice major. 

Second essay

“How does your selected first-choice major relate to your future career goals?” 

The second supplemental essay question for applicants who have selected a first-choice major is pretty straightforward. What do you envision yourself doing after college? What is the career you are working towards with this major? 

This question will allow admissions officers to see that you are working towards something bigger than yourself. They want to see that you have a plan ready for your future. 

So, describe exactly what you intend to do with your degree from UIUC. Be sure to mention why this particular path is the right one for you. 

Also see: An insider’s view of what goes on inside a college admissions office

If you’re applying to UIUC’s undeclared program

If you’re applying to the undeclared program, there are two UIUC supplemental essays you will have to write (150 words each). 

First essay

“What are your academic interests and strengths? You may also include any majors you are considering.” 

Having your future aspirations figured out is not something that is required to attend university. Therefore, do not stress if you are not exactly sure what you want to major in at UIUC. 

Luckily, their undeclared program is a popular option for incoming freshmen. In this program, you are able to explore different majors while still remaining on track for graduation. 

Therefore, this prompt wants to get you thinking about where your academic strengths and interests lie. Are you a book lover and cannot wait to go to English class every day? Do you love learning new languages? Is calculus your jam? Wherever your strengths and interests lie, be sure to write about all of them. Include some background information on why you love these particular subjects. Maybe your mom read to you every night when you were younger, and your love of reading continues to this day. Or, maybe you always were the banker while playing Monopoly so math is now your favorite subject 

Just remember not to exceed 150 words in your response! 

Second essay

“What are your future academic or career goals?” 

As mentioned above, you do not need to have your life figured out! Therefore, your answer to this question does not need to be extremely specific. Rather, it can be quite broad. 

For example, if you do not know what you want to do, but you enjoy reading and working as a camp counselor for first graders over the summer, you can talk about your love for this and how it may open a door to teaching in your future career. You can even be more broad and say that you picture yourself helping others in your future career because that is what makes you feel good. 

UIUC does not want you to have your future figured out and does not expect you to! They just want to see that their undeclared applicants are thinking about their futures and potential career paths. 

If you’ve selected a second-choice major (including undeclared) 

If you’re applying to a second-choice major you will need to answer one supplemental essay question (150 words). 

“Please explain your interest in your second-choice major or your overall academic or career goals.” 

A second-choice major is essentially a “backup” major. It means if you are not admitted to your first-choice major, you will then be considered for your second-choice major. 

Essentially, like the other UIUC supplemental essays, this question wants to get to the bottom of the “why?” Why do you want to study this as your second choice? Why is this option not your first choice? 

Be sure to include how studying this major will still help you reach your career goals despite not being your first choice major. Why does this secondary area of study appeal to you? 

Next steps after applying to UIUC 

Once you have completed your UIUC supplemental essays – congratulations! Be sure to read over your responses or ask a trusted friend to read them over for you. Remember, you want to submit a flawless essay, not one filled with silly mistakes that make you seem careless.

Make sure you do not repeat any information throughout your responses, despite the questions being similar. Be sure to reveal new information throughout your application so admissions officers get a well-rounded idea of “you.” 

Now that you have beautiful and flawless UIUC supplemental essay answers written, it is officially time to submit your application! 

Once your application is submitted, be sure to check your UIUC portal and email for updates on your application status.

In addition, show demonstrated interest in UIUC by following them on social media or scheduling an in-person tour. This will give you an opportunity to get to know UIUC a little better, and give UIUC the chance to get to know you as well. 

Best of luck in the rest of your college admissions journey! 

Additional resources

If UIUC is the first school you have applied to or the last or somewhere in the middle, we know you need some help along the way! Luckily, we have an abundance of resources at your fingertips. 

Not sure if UIUC should be the only school you apply to? Check out our guide on how many schools to apply to. Make sure to read up after about how to find safety, reach, and match schools

If financing and affordability is a main concern when it comes to a higher education, do not worry! We have you covered with our free scholarship search tool

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