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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Plan II Essay Information:

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.  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.

What NOT to Do

If you want to write a poor essay, you can do so very easily:  Choose a very complicated and involved topic that you think will impress us.  Or, worse, choose a very safe subject.  Make the essay brief and superficial.  Fill it with clichés, make unsubstantiated assertitions and throw in broad generalizations.  Remember to (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 somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,600 essays; you don't want your essays to get lost in the crowd.

Express Yourself

To write a good essay for Plan II, use your own voice and, as much as possible within the confines of the prompts, write about something you know or something that is truly important to you.  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?

We expect a degree of sophistication, a strong command of language and a good variety in sentence structure.  We look for clarity of development and thought, and flow from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph and idea to idea.  The essay should 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.

Essay Length

The University's BeALonghorn 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 all right, too (as long as you’re not just adding words to make your essay longer)."   At Plan II Honors 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 500-600 word range. 

Please do not submit your essays on paper rather than electronically to subvert the space limit of the on-line system.  A five page essay will not help your chances of admission unless it's the very best essay any of us has seen in at least ten years.  (It won't be.)

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.

Important Tips

  • These essays should be submitted electronically through the ApplyTexas.org "submit essays" option or, after submitting the ApplyTexas.org application through BeALonghorn. at: UT Essay Submission Information:  Return to ApplyTexas, log in to the site, and click the “My Essays” tab at the top of the page; follow the instructions on the site for submitting your essays. It usually takes two or three days for essays submitted online to appear in MyStatus.  This option is available even after the online application is submitted up until the deadline.
  • If your essay won't fit in that system, it's too long. Don't worry about what the system does to your format. We PREFER essays submitted on-line.
  • Essays do not have to be submitted before an applicant accesses the Honors Application.  However, an applicant must complete and submit the essays before submitting the Freshman Scholarship application. 
  • Once the essays have been submitted on ApplyTexas, the applicant cannot change or update the essays.
  • The applicant does NOT have to have submitted the supporting application documents (transcripts, test scores, application fee) to access the on-line honors application. But, it's smart to request the transcript, plan the test dates or request score reporting early. DON'T procrastinate.
  • From the UT BeALonghorn Website: If you’re writing your essays to fulfill your UT Austin, admission requirements only, you should try to keep them no longer than one page single-spaced. If you plan to use your essays to fulfill admission and scholarship or honors requirements, follow the length guidelines specified by the individual program.
  • You MAY need to write additional essays if you are applying for certain scholarships or additional degrees, majors, or honors programs. See the BeALonghorn Essays and Honors Applications webpage. Essay C plus Essay A OR Essay B will fulfill the essay requirements for the University of Texas application, the Plan II Honors application and the Freshman Scholarship Application (FSA). The School of Architecture and the College of Fine Arts (CFA) have different essay requirements. If an applicant is applying to Architecture or CFA, the applicant will need to submit Essay D, in addition to Essay C.
Questions concerning Plan II admission?  Please email Plan II Admissions Director, Kerry Pasquale.
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