Tips for Writing Your Essay
The essay portion of the application is important because it gives us further insight into who you are and who you want to be. Make us remember you!
Take time to think about and brainstorm your message. Create an outline, write a good first draft, and edit multiple times.
We want to know more about you, so be honest and let us into your world. Instead of making broad statements about what you want to do, provide specific examples from high school or extracurricular activities. And don’t be afraid to add your personal style and voice to your writing!
You only have a couple of paragraphs to tell us that you’re not only qualified to attend Illinois, but you're also ready for the challenge and will make the most of your experience. Choose your words wisely.
It's not necessary for you to repeat information that’s already elsewhere in your application. Stay focused on explaining how those credentials and qualifications will lead to a successful future here.
Submitting a sloppy-looking essay with spelling errors and glaring mistakes sends us the message that you’re not serious about Illinois. Proofread your essays and ask your counselor, a friend, or a parent to take a second look.
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.