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University of Vermont 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

University of Vermont 2019-20 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 1 essay of 500 words

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

If you would like an opportunity to further present yourself to the Admissions Committee, you may submit a response to ONE of the following prompts.

The instructions may start with the word “If,” but in our opinion there are no ifs, ands, or buts about this supplement: you have to write it. UVM has come up with five very different prompts to help you show admissions a little bit more about who you are and what matters to you. So pick whichever question suits you and take this unique opportunity to speak to admissions in your own voice!


1) Imagine it is the morning of August 28, 1963 and Twitter has already been developed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has contracted the flu. Rather than giving his historic “I Have a Dream” speech from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, he instead sends out a Tweet that highlights the central point of his speech. What does he Tweet (in true Twitter fashion, no longer than 280 characters) and why? 

For the history buffs, activists, and English majors among us, this imaginative prompt creates space for an equally creative response. This prompt is such an oddball that you should follow your gut reaction: Does it inspire you? Can you already see those 280 characters (or fewer)? Have you been wondering what the Civil Rights Era would have been like with modern technology? If you don’t feel an immediate spark of inspiration, don’t force it. But if you do feel drawn to this prompt, consider a few points: while this prompt is imaginative, it is still based on historical figures and events that you have likely studied. Be sure your readers know that you know the facts. Then consider how you might interpret or boil down this iconic speech to a single Tweet. What do you believe is the most important point? What could you do to ensure it would have the same impact? You will need to explain your reasoning, so be sure you think it through in historical context.


2) A time traveler gives you a remote with two buttons: pause and rewind. Which would you prefer to use on your own life and why? 

Before you dive into your dream science fiction narrative, consider what these two buttons really mean. A pause button would give you the ability to freeze a moment in time, take it in, or maybe intervene. A rewind button would allow you to revisit fond or puzzling memories, or perhaps travel even further back in your family’s history. So ask yourself: what aspects of your life do you love so much that you wish you could savor them forever? What moments or people do you already miss? Is there any aspect of your life you’d like to understand better? Perhaps you’d like to hit the pause button on your little sister at the top of a swing: she’s growing up so fast and you’re starting to understand how your parents feel about watching you go off to college. Maybe you’d like to rewind to the moment before you moved houses for the fifth time: this was your favorite house, and you’d like to see it again. Small, personal moments can contain enough meaning to fill 500 words, so start with your own life before looking outward. Maybe you’d want to rewind to a critical moment in human history and prevent a catastrophe, but what does that have to do with your own life? If you can make the case, be our guest. But remember the goal is to share something new about yourself and the person you are. 


3) Congratulations! You have been elected to give a TED Talk. You will give an 18-minute presentation on the topic of your choice to a room full of people who are eager to hear your insights. This talk will also be recorded and made available online, with the opportunity to go viral and affect millions. What is the title of your talk? What is the message you are trying to get across? What would you say in the final minute of the presentation that would leave a lasting impression? Explain. 

There’s a lot of ground to cover in this essay! As with the first prompt about MLK’s “I have a dream” tweet, don’t try to force anything. Do you watch TED Talks? Do you consider yourself to be an expert in anything? Do you wish more people would ask you your opinion about something? If you have a unique take on an important issue, this could be your chance to share your passion with admissions. To start, do some brainstorming around the three key details this prompt asks for: the title, the central message, and the content of your final minute. (By the way, we’ve been known to say a thing or two about closing lines.) In a way, this is a teaser for your talk: it’s all admissions will get, so be sure these elements are strong and cleverly connected. Perhaps your family members have radically different political beliefs, but can all come together around discussions of auto mechanics. Your talk could center on the mechanics of conflict resolution, with a punny title and a closing line that uses a car engine as a metaphor for family. (To be honest, we don’t know much about cars, so you tell us if this concept makes any sense!) Once you’ve sorted out these key details, you’ll need to explain why your chosen topic matters so much to you, so open up about the personal story behind it. Successful TED talks, much like successful college essays, connect deeply personal experiences to universal human themes.


4) At the University of Vermont, we have a set of core values called Our Common Ground, which define how we work, live, study, do research, and participate as members of the community. Each core value statement falls under one of the following words: Respect, Integrity, Innovation, Openness, Justice, and Responsibility. Choose one word from Our Common Ground and explain why it is important to you, how it has impacted you, and how you have incorporated it into your life. 

Hot tip: before you start scribbling an essay on the importance of respect and what it means to you, take a closer look at what each core value means to UVM. There’s a whole UVM webpage about Our Common Ground. (You’re welcome.) Use each description as a mini prompt for brainstorming. What experiences have you had that connect with each core value? Maybe the word “innovation” wasn’t on your radar until you thought about it as a way to lead change, and learn from your mistakes. This description might remind you of your past two years as captain of your soccer team. Perhaps you tried a new training regimen or approach to fundraising that didn’t quite pan out the first time? Why was it worth trying? What did you learn and how did you improve on your idea? As you consider each theme, focus on finding a unique story to tell that will show admissions something new.


5) Why UVM?

When all else fails, there’s always the classic why essay. And we say this with praise! The why essay is not a fallback option, but it is a great choice for applicants who don’t feel inspired by the other prompts, or who just feel more inclined to plead their case in a more straightforward way. The secret to a successful why essay is research, so take some time to explore the school website or even visit campus and get to know all that UVM and Burlington have to offer. Jot down everything that excites you! When you have a solid list in hand, consider how it connects to your own interests and goals. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to find a way to lower your carbon footprint, and you see a lot of potential in studying Environmental Sciences at UVM and shopping at the Burlington Farmers Market. Just remember that the goal is to share something new about yourself, not to rattle off a list of facts about the school! Talk about your interests, goals, and dreams so admissions can understand what a UVM education will mean to you.

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