The Ivy Coach Daily

September 14, 2023

2023-2024 University of Virginia Supplemental Essay Prompts

A library with Jeffersonian columns is featured at the University of Virginia.
UVA has released its supplemental essays for the Class of 2028 — and one is outrageously inappropriate.

The University of Virginia has released its supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. In addition to The Common Application’s Personal Statement, applicants to UVA’s Class of 2028 must answer one essay question. Additionally, an optional essay question is hidden at the bottom of the “General” section that we at Ivy Coach encourage students to write — even though it is the most inappropriate question posed by any of our nation’s elite universities this admissions cycle. So, what are this year’s essay prompts for Virginia’s flagship university?

2023-2024 UVA Essay Topics and Questions

Required Essay

Students should answer the following prompt in around 250 words:

What about your individual background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you or those around you at UVA? Feel free to write about any past experience or part of your background that has shaped your perspective and will be a source of strength, including but not limited to those related to your community, upbringing, educational environment, race, gender, or other aspects of your background that are important to you.

In the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling outlawing Affirmative Action, America’s colleges are maneuvering around not being able to lawfully consider an applicant’s race in the college admissions process by capitalizing on a loophole penned in the majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts.

As Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”

This essay is an opportunity for applicants to discuss how their race has impacted their lives. Or they could write about their faith, their community, their sexuality, or their gender identity — the possibilities are endless. 

Optional Essay

Students should answer the following prompt in up to 100 words:

If you have a personal or historic connection with UVA, and if you’d like to share how your experience of this connection has prepared you to contribute to the university, please share your thoughts here. Such relationships might include, but are not limited to, being a child of someone who graduated from or works for UVA, a descendant of ancestors who labored at UVA, or a participant in UVA programs.

We at Ivy Coach deem this optional essay question the most outrageously inappropriate prompt posed by any highly selective university during the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. Why’s that?

In our experience, most UVA applicants will not choose to write a response to this optional essay prompt because they’ll think they need to be legacies, students who attended fancy shmancy UVA summer programs, or the descendants of enslaved people. Yes, the question is as jarring as it seems and, for the first two groups of people (legacies and summer camp attendees), it caters to the privileged.

It’s why we encourage all applicants to answer this optional essay question by writing a Why UVA essay — one filled with specific reasons why they wish to attend Virginia’s flagship. Their response should include enduring aspects of the university — programs, institutes, activities, culture, traditions, etc. — rather than names of professors and classes, which can easily be found and replaced like a game of Mad Libs from one college to the next.

So, yes, we are saying even if an applicant has no familial connection to UVA or didn’t attend a UVA summer enrichment program, they should write this essay to make their case for admission. Essays give students an opportunity to tell their stories. Legacies and summer program attendees should not be afforded more space than everyone else. Shame on UVA!

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with UVA Essays

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to UVA by submitting essays that compel admissions officers to wish to offer you admission, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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