What to expect on your application
Applicants will be required to complete these items on their Common Application:
- Common Application Essay. Applicants must choose to respond to one of these five prompts as part of their application:
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
- UIC Member Profile Essay. UIC applicants will be asked to respond to a short essay regarding their program of choice or the career fields in which applicants are interested. Applicants to the Honors College or GPPA programs will also be prompted to respond to an essay for each of those programs.
- Common Application School Report. The Common Application School Report must be assigned as part of the Common Application submission process and should be turned in along with the high school transcripts. Counselors may opt out of the recommendation section on the School Report without having an impact on the application review.
- Letters of recommendation (required for Honors and GPPA applicants only). Applications to the Honors College and GPPA require two letters of recommendation. The School Report may satisfy one of those letter requirements provided it includes a full letter. Recommenders must be assigned specifically to each school, so be sure to assign your recommenders to UIC to ensure the letters are delivered.
With a 100 words maximum, concision is going to be your friend. There’s not enough space for a full-blown introduction, so it’s best to just dive right in. You will likely want to structure this as two miniature paragraphs — one about your high school endeavors, the other about your plans for UIUC.
Regarding the specific word count breakdown, you will likely want to spend more time discussing your high school experience. This is perfectly fine, especially if you have a lot to touch on.
When you talk about making a difference in high school, don’t exclusively discuss organizations or officer positions, but instead focus on specific actions you engaged in. It’s okay to lead into it with something like “As class president, I…” but your specific duties are the primary focus of this section.
Here are some good examples:
- “I fundraised over $3,000 to end world hunger.”
- “I mentored special needs students after school.”
- “I organized a group to protest a school policy that would’ve cut arts funding.”
- “I tutored middle schoolers in math and science.”
- “I started an initiative dedicated to giving people anonymous compliments.”
You might need to offer a short explanation (no more than a sentence) for more obscure undertakings, but most of your actions should speak for themselves.
As for the section on contributing to life at UIUC, you might spend more time discussing this if you weren’t as heavily involved in community service during high school. If you plan on pursuing something similar at UIUC, now is a great opportunity to express that. For instance, if you started an initiative giving people anonymous compliments, you could briefly discuss your goal of alleviating stress on campus by simply spreading joy to your peers. Ideally, your past experiences relate to you future goals, which lends itself to a nice transition between the two sections.
This part of the response is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of UIUC-specific programs. Do some research on their website about the different types of initiatives and service groups on campus.
Some Final Words
It’s already been mentioned, but it’s important enough to mention again: These are the only essays UIUC will see. That means you have a huge responsibility to be personable and unique while also demonstrating competent writing style and academic focus.
While we at CollegeVine sometimes encourage riskier supplemental essays, you should avoid that for UIUC. This is because you aren’t coupling these with your Common App essay, which tends to be more grounded and central to your identity.
Most importantly, make sure your essays are truly a reflection of you. Don’t try to use overly elevated language if that isn’t how you normally write. If you’re unsure whether your voice is coming across, ask a family member or friend to read over your essays; they often have invaluable advice.
Want help on your University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign essays? Learn about our College Apps Program and Essay Editing Program.
If you want us to quickly edit your college essay, submit it to our Rapid Review Program, and we’ll get it back to you quickly with comments from our expert team.