How to Write the University of Virginia (UVA) Supplement 2018-2019

The University of Virginia, most often referred to as UVA, is very highly ranked, very big school, in (shocker) Virginia. It is widely considered one of the best national universities as well as one of the best-value schools (aka you actually get what you pay for). They also have their own medical system — attention: aspiring doctors — which includes one of the best hospitals in the world.

There are 16,034 undergraduate students. If you want a small school feel, UVA is not for you. If you want a big community with a lot of school pride, it may be the right place. The 2016-2017 acceptance rate was close to 30%, but keep in mind that 69% of their students are from Virginia. Getting in as an “outsider” is no simple feat.

1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer this question, which corresponds to the school/program you selected above, in a half page or roughly 250 words.

UVA is made up of a series of undergraduate colleges. When you designate which college you are applying to, you will be ‘served’ one of the questions below. You will not get the supplement prompt until you have selected a school—so please select a school sooner rather than later.  

College of Arts and Sciences - What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?

Surprised, unsettled, and challenged are very different adjectives. Sure, they often go together, but they have very different connotations. Instead of trying to pick something that relates to all three, pick your favorite of the three and go from there.

Once you’ve picked an adjective for inspiration, you need to pick a word. The number one piece of advice we can give you is not to get uppity. Don’t try to seem fancy, or you’ll come off as self-obsessed. Don’t try to appear ‘advanced,’ or you’ll definitely look like you Googled “impressive artwork.” If you truly like Basquiat and can write something that is personal to you about one of his pieces, that’s amazing, but don’t pick something you’ve only walked past in a museum or nodded along to half-heartedly just because they sound impressive.

This question isn’t about the “what,” it’s about the “why” and the “how.” Why do you feel connected to it? How has it impacted you? Telling the story of how you discovered it, even if it was through something as silly as diving through a Wikipedia black hole, will help the reader connect not just to the piece, but to you as well. Which is, of course, the whole point.  

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences - If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?

This is a very cool question, but don’t let it lead you into trying to solve grand problems. As you answer this question, remember the precise instruction to keep things “small.” Ask yourself, “what is a problem in my life that I could solve?” Then solve it. If you don’t have a problem or an answer, this may not be the right school for you.

School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.

Don’t write about anything famous. Sagrada Familia, the Eiffel Tower, and anything by Gehry are off of the table. Writing about famous things is boring because you’re not showing the reader anything new, and if you had to travel to see them you are also waving privilege in their face. Instead, bring them to where you are. Build a scene, bring them into the moment, and try to convey the weight of inspiration without using cheesy metaphors. In fact, let’s say no metaphors at all.

School of Nursing - School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing.

We’ve found that most people who want to be a nurse have a strong reason for why. So much so that prospective nurses tend to be much better at explaining their “why” than people looking to pursue any other field, including aspiring doctors. Since you likely have such a story, this is the place to tell it. Give it a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it’s ok if it is a little bit cheesy. Maybe you dealt with childhood illness, a family member is reliant on a great nursing team, or you just fell in love with it that time your mom rushed you to the hospital after you busted your lip open after falling off of a swing. Whatever it is, own it.  

Kinesiology Program - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.

Everything we just said about nursing applies here as well. Maybe you’re an athlete or struggle with disability. Again, whatever it is, own it.

2. Required of ALL applicants, regardless of school or program. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words (Please select the prompt you are responding to).

For this one, you only need to pick one of the prompts below. We’ve broken each down to help you decide where to start.  

What's your favorite word and why?

Don’t answer this question. Well, maybe you can answer this question if you speak a foreign language or if there is a word that is really important to your family but not at all expected or cheesy. Maybe. Generally, though, please move on to the next option.

We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.

First off, what is a quirk in language? Speaking Mandarin? That doesn’t seem like quirk to us since a ‘quirk’ is a strange or unique behavioral habit. We digress, but please don’t write about language here because that is encouraging misuse of the word ‘quirk’.

That aside, this is an awesome prompt. How often do you have the chance to be silly in your college applications? This is a place to not take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it!

Try listing 10 of your most quirkiest quirks, then pick from the list.

And while cultural traditions don’t meet the definition of ‘quirk’ either, you could focus on a twist on a tradition that your family has made that makes it uniquely your own. Do you celebrate Christmas with a polar bear swim? Now that’s a quirk.

Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?

If you were wondering, this is the question we would choose, and the question we have our clients choose. It is UVA’s best option. We love this question because it gives you a place to nerd out on what makes you most excited. You can be your geekiest self without having to feel self-conscious. Want to run a seminar on how lawns became status symbols in America? Or on how the number of pools in Florida impact weather system? Be our guest!

Whatever you choose, you should aim to hit three targets: spotlight a niche subject that you are passionate about, convey something new that the reader may not know, and get insanely creative.  

You only have 250 words, but there are a few things you need to include:

●      A seminar name

●      A few suggested readings (preferably short)

●      Three or four guiding questions for the conversation.

Also, Google around to make sure that you’re idea hasn’t already been stolen by a forward-thinking Freshman a few years back.

UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?

So many questions! But this one isn’t great. Skip this option because we don’t recommend running with it. Answers to this prompt can become very cheesy and self-important very quickly. If you do pick it, pose a question, don’t try to provide an answer.

UVA students are charged with pushing the boundaries of knowledge to serve others and contribute to the common good. Give us an example of how you’ve used what you’ve learned to make a positive impact on another person’s life.

Quick question: Why would you answer this? This is not the hill you need to die on. If you are going to pick this prompt, the moment you focus on needs to be so significant that you can’t not write about it. But quirks and class seminars are much better questions.

Whew! Feeling that college supplement fatigue? If you need someone to help you carry the load, get in touch. We’re pros at helping high-achieving high school students manage the insanity of college season.