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University of North Carolina (UNC) 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

UNC 2020-21 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 2 essays of 200-250 words each, 1 additional essay

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community, Activity

In addition to the essay you provided with your Common Application, please choose two of the prompts below and respond to each in 200-250 words. Your essay responses below should be different from your common app essay response.


Carolina aspires to build a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that students can only achieve their best when they learn alongside students from different backgrounds. In reading your responses, we hope to learn what being a member of such a community would mean to you. 

Expand on 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?

UNC wants to accept students who will contribute to the diversity and inclusivity on campus. When considering an aspect of your identity to expand upon, we recommend choosing one that has had the biggest impact on the way you experience and interact with the world. Ideally, the unique aspect you select should come with a couple anecdotes. Maybe you want to write about your gender identity, and give admissions a glimpse into what it’s like to be a young trans person in 2020. Perhaps you embody #BlackGirlMagic and always take the opportunity to celebrate your heritage and community. Regardless of the part of your identity that you choose to address, be specific and use this opportunity to speak to admissions in your own authentic voice.

If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be and why? 

Although you may be tempted to write the first thing that comes to mind (make it beachfront! free pizza Fridays! build a bowling alley!), admissions is looking for a serious response that addresses a current issue. The good news (if you want to see it that way?) is that there’s no shortage of contemporary issues for you to address here, so the key is to pick the problem that is closest to your heart. Maybe you’re incredibly passionate about the environment, and you would love to create a clean energy initiative in your town. Perhaps you want to zoom out and interpret “where you live” as your country as a whole: Do you envision living in a country with no child hunger? Don’t forget to answer the “why” part of the question as well, and bonus points if you can show admissions that you’re already taking steps to make this change happen in your community. Are you organizing peaceful protests in your small Midwestern town to raise awareness about the impending dangers of global warming? Do you use your social media platforms to inform your peers about youth homelessness? Remember that UNC is looking to accept passionate students who are informed and eager to be part of the solution.

Describe someone who you see as a community builder. What actions has that person taken? How has their work made a difference in your life? 

Who do you look up to and why? UNC wants to know about your idol and/or mentor in order to learn more about what’s important to you. So, start by thinking about the term “community builder.” Who comes to mind? Perhaps for you, it’s your aunt, who hosts cookouts every Sunday in the spring and summer to bring your extended family together to bond over grilled veggies and potato salad. What have these cookouts meant to you? Or, maybe you’ve never met the person you’d like to write about. Maybe you follow someone on Instagram who is constantly informing you (and their other followers) about issues impacting your community. Have these posts inspired you to call your state representatives to voice your frustrations and demand change? No matter who you choose, try not to spend too many words on their actions, and instead focus on how their work has made a difference in your life. It is you, after all, that UNC will be considering inviting to campus next fall.

We hope you’ll share with us the activities that you’ve found especially worthwhile. We also hope you won’t feel compelled to tell us everything you’ve ever done or, worse yet, to do things that mean little to you just because you think we want you to do them. We also hope you’ll remember—because we never forget—that low-profile pursuits can be just as meaningful as ones that draw more attention, and that fewer activities can be just as good as more, and sometimes even better. Although starting a new club, for example, can be a great experience and helpful to others, so can caring for siblings, parents, or grandparents, or working outside the home to put food on the table, or being a good and caring friend. We hope you won’t feel as though you have to do the former, especially if your doing so will keep you from doing the latter. For all these reasons, although we’re glad to receive complete résumés, we don’t require or encourage them. Instead, if you choose to submit something that goes beyond what you’re providing through your Common Application, we encourage you to keep it brief; focus less on including everything than on choosing and explaining the things that have meant the most to you; and upload it here.

Didn’t see this prompt on UNC’s application at first glance, did ya?! This long-winded prompt can be found in the “Activities” section of the Common App. As the prompt itself says, take this opportunity to elaborate on an activity, experience, or responsibility that is meaningful to you. You can write about the sense of family you found within your recreational basketball team, the friendship that grew from a tutoring gig, or the gift you were able to give your mom after weeks of flipping burgers at your local fast food joint. Whatever you choose to write about here, remember that admissions is looking for quality over quantity. Use this space to give admissions insight into what is important and poignant to you!

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