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How to Respond to the UNC Supplemental Essay Prompts
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the country’s oldest public university. Apart from its star-studded basketball program, UNC Chapel Hill is known for offering top-notch academics. If you want to become part of the next class of Tarheels, focus on crushing your UNC supplemental essays. Your responses should convey your distinct voice and why you are a great fit for the school. Keep reading to learn more about how to best respond to the prompts!
The UNC supplemental essay prompts
The first portion of the UNC supplemental essays consists of two 200-250 word essays chosen out of four options. The next portion is four required fill-in-the-blanks, 25 words max each. Let’s break down each prompt so you can craft responses sure to impress.
“Describe a peer you see as a community builder. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?”
Start by thinking about a peer whose impact on others you admire, and why. What makes them special? How do they bridge divides and forge connections? Explaining the character traits you appreciate about them reflects your own values to admissions.
An example could be talking about your classmate whose outspokenness has catalyzed change in your high school. You could describe her frustration with theater not counting as a required sports credit. Detail the actions she took, such as starting a petition, writing a letter to the principal, etc. Discuss how she built community by uplifting the voices of fellow fine arts students by igniting a school-wide conversation on celebrating extracurricular passions other than football. Thanks to this peer, now you advocate for what you believe in and understand how to be assertive, yet respectful.
Make sure that you showcase your chosen peers’ effect on those around you as well as your personal takeaways. Bonus points if you can project how you will apply this inspiration while studying at UNC-CH.
Questions to consider:
- Which of your peers do you see as true leaders? What makes their leadership so effective?
- Do you know anyone you consider to be “a friend to all”?
- What different communities do you belong to? How are those communities fortified by the activism of its members?
“Describe 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?”
Addressing any of the identifiers listed is terrific, but don’t feel constrained to just those. There are all kinds of pieces that comprise who you are. Think of something that has been fundamental in developing your character and influencing your worldview.
Perhaps you are an identical twin. What has it been like growing up as a pair? You could discuss how constant comparison has bred a competitive, driven spirit in you. You could also celebrate your sharing and empathy skills. After always being a “package deal” when you were younger, honing your own individuality is especially important to you now. What have you discovered that makes you feel most uniquely yourself? Close by looking forward to your respective futures at separate colleges. How will you apply what you’ve learned by being a twin to the relationships you form with your peers?
Your response to this prompt will be greatly enriched by a strong, concise anecdote that brings an experience related to your chosen identifier to life. For example, opening by describing the scent of Indian food cooking in your grandmother’s kitchen or a defining moment coming to terms with your sexual orientation.
Questions to consider:
- Do you identify with a group that is marginalized or misunderstood? What struggles have you encountered as a result?
- How has the town or city you’ve grown up in influenced your perspective?
- Have your religious or cultural values had a big impact on who you are today
Also see: How to write an essay about yourself
“If you could change one thing to better your community, what would it be? Why is it important and how would you contribute to this change?”
This question can feel overwhelming because of the sheer number of things you could choose. Additionally, “community” can be anywhere from your neighborhood to the whole globe. Due to the short word limit, try to pick a personally relevant issue that you can realistically help; creating world peace might be too big of a feat to tackle. This should also help you avoid writing a generic answer!
An example could be addressing the limited resources available for those without housing in your community. Include a statistic about the prevalence of homelessness in your city to underscore why this is important. Although not a very extraordinary topic selection, you can make it personal through storytelling. You may have witnessed policemen treating the housing insecure terribly in your city. This experience inspired you to create a short film highlighting stories of these community members to humanize their image and generate empathy. By including actions you’ve already taken, it shows that this topic is truly important to you.
Your next steps would be having discussions about what relief is available with local officials and brainstorming how to expand current organizations’ efforts. This example also showcases how you are applying your academic interests to help others; referencing your film project could be a good tie-in if you’ve indicated that you want to study at UNC-CH’s journalism school.
Remember this structure: specify the problem you want to address, connect it to a personal story, and lay out your plans to take the matter into your own hands.
Questions to consider:
- Have you ever had a particularly eye-opening volunteer experience?
- What problems do you wish you could change in your school system back home?
- Have you ever benefited from others’ advocacy on an issue? How could you give back to that cause now?
Also see: Scholarships360 guide to college majors
“Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said, “We are nothing without our history.” Her words are memorialized on the Northside Neighborhood Freedom Fighters monument. How does history shape who you are?”
There are many interpretations of history for this question. The referenced quote showcases history’s importance in reminding communities of the battles minorities have fought for equal rights. You could similarly discuss how history helps contextualize modern-day societal dynamics and issues. Another route is shedding light on a historical event that has meaning to you because of your interests; for instance, citing a major medical discovery as inspiration for your hopes as a future scientist. You could also draw on a piece of personal history to your family. Whatever you choose, make sure you can make a genuine connection for why you find this historical example special.
In the family history vein, you could write about visiting the 9/11 Memorial as an elementary schooler. Seeing the name of your uncle who perished during the tragedy as a firefighter really touched you. Learning more about him taught you the importance of courage and selflessness. It has reminded you how unpredictable and precious life can be. Now, you honor your uncle by vowing to never be a bystander when others need aid and frequently reminding your loved ones how much they mean to you. Talk about how you will keep this memory top-of-mind while a student at UNC-CH, as well.
Questions to consider:
- Did you develop a particular interest or curiosity thanks to a historical figure or event?
- How has your relatives’ history inspired you?
- What do you consider the defining historical events of your generation?
The fill-in-the-blank section should not be a source of stress. You have a lot of creative freedom with these. Be true to who you are and how you interpret each. Your responses should be no longer than 25 words.
1. One family tradition I cherish:
This fill-in-the-blank is pretty straightforward. Perhaps your family hosts an annual gingerbread house bake-off during the holidays. Or maybe it’s cuddling up with your spoiled golden retriever each night. Pick a moment that brings you joy–there are no wrong answers!
2. This I believe
You could take this prompt seriously, referencing a mantra you hold true, like happiness is something you can choose each day. Or that you believe a woman will become president in your lifetime. You could even be goofy with it and nod to your in-state roots, proclaiming that Eastern NC barbecue is far superior to Western NC barbecue. Whatever it is, make sure your answer reveals something new about your personality.
3. The quality I most admire in myself
Review which attributes and interests you have shown admissions so far. What else are you proud of that you have yet to divulge? You could say you most admire your ability to forgive and never hold grudges. Or, your most admirable quality could be your ability to sniff out the closest bookshop wherever you are in the world. You have enough space to inject your individuality here–take advantage of it!
4. The protagonist I most identify with:
This question is fun! “Protagonist” often means character in a story, but you can also translate that into real-life characters. You might see yourself as Olivia Rodrigo due to her spunky 90s teenage style and emotional lyrics. Or, you might identify with Professor Keating from Dead Poets Society because of your zest for learning and carpe diem attitude. Be sure to share why you identify with who you choose. This is a great opportunity to give the UNC admissions team a glimpse of who you are!
Final pointers for acing the UNC supplemental essays
To know which essays to choose, consider brainstorming bullet points for each question. Go with the two prompts that allow for the most compelling personal anecdotes and also reveal key pieces of your identity not shared elsewhere in your application. With these tips, you should have a great start on nailing your UNC-CH supplemental essays!
Once you have completed your UNC supplemental essays and revised them to tell your stories succinctly, read up on how to choose a college. Supplemental essays are just one component of the college application process. Scholarships360 has plenty of resources to help with other aspects, such as our articles on everything you need to know about work study and navigating different types of student loans.
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