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University of Pittsburgh 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide 

Regular Decision: 

University of Pittsburgh 2020-21 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: Up to 3 essays of 200-300 words each

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Oddball, Community, Activity

In lieu of an essay or personal statement, we ask interested applicants to respond to short answer questions. The Admissions Committee reviews responses for quality rather than length. However, the most effective responses typically range from 200-300 words per question. Responses that are longer or shorter are acceptable. The first question is required for PittHonors consideration.

1. If you could change anything in the world, what would it be? Explain why and how you would change it?

The Admissions Committee wants to accept ambitious students who want to change the world for the better. So, if you could change anything in the world, what would it be? Take some time to brainstorm and write down anything that comes to mind. Maybe, if you had the power, you would make sure that no one in your city went to bed hungry. Why is this particular issue important to you? What steps would you take to enact this change? If after reading this prompt you immediately thought of something on the sillier side (flying cars! superpowers! robot dogs!), don’t be afraid to explore how you might talk about that topic, too. So long as you are giving admissions better insight into who you are and what makes you tick, you’re on the right track. Let your imagination run wild and show the University of Pittsburgh admissions committee that you aren’t afraid to dream big.


The following questions are optional, but strongly encouraged. Your answers may increase the likelihood that you are considered for scholarships, guaranteed admission to graduate or professional school, or given special consideration due to extenuating circumstances. Please respond to two of the following short answer prompts:

1. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are integral to the Pitt community. Please identify and describe one element of your personal identity, and explain how that element would positively impact and/or progress Pitt’s community.

This prompt is a spin on the classic Community essay: what do you bring with you to contribute? Consider the facets of your personal identity and ask yourself: If I had a podcast, what would it be about? Or what could I teach my new friends about over breakfast in the dining hall? More than likely, you’ll come up with an aspect of your identity that you want to share with the world. Try to think of how you can enrich the lives of your peers. Do you teach a craft? Do you strongly believe in paying it forward? What would your friends say is your “superpower”? These are all ways to break into a discussion of what you bring to the table as part of a group, and how you would promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on Pitt’s campus next fall.

2. Resumes and lists of activities provide the Admissions Committee with an overview of your accomplishments. Please use this opportunity to provide more information by identifying one of your accomplishments and explaining how it has prepared you for a transition into collegiate life.

This is a fancy version of the classic Activity essay. While most schools want to learn more about a particularly meaningful extracurricular activity or job, the University of Pittsburgh wants to know about one of your accomplishments, specifically. Start by brainstorming. What have your received accolades for? Maybe you were promoted at your after-school job, or honored with an award at school. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box either. Were you able to teach your little brother how to swim? Did you successfully crowdsource enough money for your best friend’s top surgery? Once you’ve picked the accomplishment you’d like to highlight, be sure to answer the second part of the question: How has this accomplishment prepared you for a transition into collegiate life? Maybe because of your accomplishment, you feel more confident speaking publicly, managing others, or even meeting new people. Focus on your growth and you’ll be sure to impress admissions.

3. If you could create a new product, process, business, or organization, what would this entity look like? (We especially encourage applicants interested in the College of Business Administration or the Swanson School of Engineering to respond to this question.)

Do not be overwhelmed by this prompt! You don’t have to have a detailed business plan to impress admissions here. Pitt just wants to know how you think. What kinds of problems would you like to fix? What kinds of things do you like to make, and what motivates you to make them? This prompt is as much about ingenuity and problem-solving as it is about creativity. Are you fascinated by Tiger Toilets? Do you dream of building or creating something that helps communities in need? Odds are, if you choose to respond to this prompt, you already have something in mind. So, map it out for admissions and give them some insight into your hopes and plans.

4. With thousands of colleges and universities in the United States alone, discuss why the University of Pittsburgh is a good fit for you.

Why the University of Pittsburgh? Admissions wants to know why you are taking the time to apply (and answer all of their questions!). So, be honest. Maybe you grew up in a small town with a tiny high school, and you’ve been dreaming of attending a huge university. Maybe Pitt offers a major or academic program that most other schools in the region don’t have. Perhaps you were able to tour campus last year and felt an instant connection with the campus. Whatever your angle, make sure to tell admissions something new! And of course, be sure to go beyond the basic facts and figures listed on the school website.

Please note: the information below relates to last year's essay prompts. We are going to update this guide with the prompts for 2021-22 as soon as they become available. Check back soon!
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