Requirements, Guidelines and Prompts for Freshman Applicants
The essays you submit will make a BIG difference in whether or not you are admitted to Plan II. The essays themselves are worth 40% of your admissions score, and will be factored into the 20% Plan II subjective fit as well. Plan II must often deny admissions to applicants with excellent grades and test scores who submit mediocre essays. A great essay can sweep us off our feet and perhaps make up for somewhat lower scores or relatively lackluster grades. Instructions on how to submit your essays can be found on the Texas Admissions page
What NOT to Do
- Choose a very complicated and involved topic that you think will impress us
- Choose a very safe subject
- Make the essay brief and superficial
- Fill it with clichés
- Make unsubstantiated assertitions
- Throw in broad generalizations
- (Over)use a thesaurus.
Then, even if you pay close attention to the rules of grammar and punctuation and organize your words into five neat paragraphs, you will have created a generic and boring piece of writing. Although such an essay may be error free, it will not enhance your application. There will be nothing that gives the reader a sense of who you are, what you stand for or what you can do. Remember, we will read thousands of essays; you don't want your essays to get lost in the crowd.
To write a good essay for Plan II: Express yourself
- Use your own voice
- Write about something you know or something that is truly important to you (as much as possible within the confines of the prompts)
- Give us a clear impression of who you are, providing your admission evaluators a view of an interesting individual is what gets applicants admitted
- Appeal to the senses when you write: show us what is beautiful, sad, impressive, scary, confusing, frustrating or comforting. Don't just tell us that it was so
- To make your story resonate employ detail, description and precision rather than pretense and melodrama.
- Don't simply tell us what you think or what you feel in abstract terms. Describe it. Make it real.
What do we want?
- Strong command of language
- Good variety in sentence structure
- Clarity of development and thought
- Flow from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph and idea to idea
- Introduce the topic, develop the topic, and move on to a clear conclusion
- Great essays may be quite creative or they may exhibit very straight-forward narrative/expository writing
The University's essay information says, "Although the length of your essay alone technically doesn’t matter, developing your ideas completely does matter. If you can do that in a single page of text, that’s good; but if it takes you three pages or so, that’s alright, too (as long as you’re not just adding words to make your essay longer)." We find that essays shorter than one full page are often skimpy and lacking in exposition by Plan II Honors' standards. It's quite rare to see top-notch essay written with fewer than 250 words. Succinct writing is the most difficult writing to do well. That doesn't mean that longer is better or that we will reward you for "filler." Write to the point! In most cases, the most successful Plan II application essays are in the 650-750 word range.
Take your time, but beware over-editing
Spend plenty of time writing and fine-tuning your essays. Ask for feedback from people you trust before submitting your essays. But be careful. Don't allow helpful editors to edit you out of your own essay. Stay true to your original idea. Stay true to your voice. If your essay sounds as though your father, your AP English teacher or your older sister wrote it, it's not likely to earn you admission to Plan II Honors.
Although you want to write with care, you should not spend weeks or months rewriting essays. There is little to gain after the third draft. Don't delay the submission of your application to write the fourth, or fifteenth, version of your essays. Overwritten and over-edited essays are never the best essays.
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