The Essay Prompt is posted!

Holy bananas! The application essay prompt is posted for you!

As many of you know, the application opens on September 1. We realize that things can get hectic and stressful senior year, so we post the essay questions early to give you the opportunity to work on them before you find yourself busy with school, activities, part-time jobs, and football games.

Some things you should know…

  1. This year, we are asking all students (except those applying to DGS) to select a second choice major.
  • This means that you will be writing an essay that applies to each of the majors you are interested in. If your majors are similar, your essays may be very similar and that’s ok!
  1. The essay is your opportunity to tell us about you. This is not the time to rattle off how much you love Illinois (we assume everyone does) and tell us a lot of facts (that we already know). You are way more interesting than statistics at this point.
  2. The best thing you can do for your essay is to edit it. Read it aloud. Check your grammar and word choice. This is most critical and least completed step. It’s very clear when an essay hasn’t been proofread.

cant do it the night before.jpg

The most common question I get is, “Is the essay really even used?” and the answer is a resounding YES! When reviewing applications, we use a holistic review process. The role of the essay is to demonstrate that you understand how your skills and interests fit into your major of choice and also how that relates to career goals. Additionally, the essay demonstrates that you can follow instructions and write at a collegiate level.

So, start working on it now, get some help with proofing, and tell us who you are! We look forward to reading them!


Please note that comments close after 90 days.

Sophie Yang

August 1, 2015, 7:24 pm

Hi Veronica,

About the second tip, I understand that we shouldn’t just list facts about UIUC, but would it be appropriate to identify specific activities we are interested in, such as research or study abroad? Or should the focus really be on ourselves?

Also, I love the Jennifer Lawrence gif on your bio page.

Thank you,



August 3, 2015, 9:00 am

Hi Sophie,

I’m glad you appreciate my small tribute to Jennifer Lawrence. I think she’s a very funny lady! 🙂

To answer your question, you are welcome to talk about research and study abroad if it plays a significant role in answering the essay question. The main point of the second tip is that we are much more interested in an essay that tells us more about the student than an essay that was written to demonstrate a strong interest in the university. We assume you’re strongly interested since you’re applying. I hope this clarifies things for you. If you have more questions or want additional explanation, please contact our office to speak to one of the admissions counselors: or call us at 217.333.0302.

Good luck!


Peggy Schmidt

August 4, 2015, 10:44 am

Can you send link to the prompt or post it? Thank you.



August 6, 2015, 11:15 am

Hi Peggy,

The first line of the post: “Holy bananas! The application essay prompt is posted for you!” contains a hyperlink to the essay prompt.

If it’s not working for you for some reason, you may also try here:

Let me know if you need anything else! Happy writing. 🙂



August 24, 2015, 8:34 pm

Hi Veronica,

One of my friends (whose in college right now) told me that UIUC had two essay prompts when he was applying.
The link provided only contains one prompt. Is my friend mistaken in saying
that UIUC has two essay prompts? Or has one of the prompts been removed
this year?




August 25, 2015, 1:05 pm

Hi Shiv,

I can understand why that would be confusing. You will be asked to write an essay for each of the majors you apply to. The prompt is the same, but your response should be customized to relate to the major(s) of interest.

In short, there is one prompt but you will potentially be writing two essays if you’re applying with a second choice (which you are strongly encouraged to do).



August 26, 2015, 10:39 pm

Hi Veronica,

Thanks for the quick reply!
Sorry to bug you again, but I have one more question.
I want to apply to the computer engineering major(as my first major) and the computer science major (as my second major). Since these two majors are very similar and are both located in the college of engineering, how would I go about writing two different essays?

Thanks again!



August 31, 2015, 9:35 am

If the two majors you’re applying to are similar, your essays may also be very similar. That’s ok! Tell us about the reasons/experiences that stimulated interest in each of these areas and what you would plan to do with the corresponding degree. While they are similar programs, they are still different and your essays should reflect an understanding of these subtleties. To learn more about the similarities and differences in the programs, I suggest you reach out to the College of Engineering:


Kevin Frank

September 13, 2015, 5:45 pm

So for this essay, I’m having trouble differentiating between something interesting/unique about me and why I am interested in my major. In such a limited amount of words, where should I focus?



September 15, 2015, 11:19 am

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for asking! I think it would be best to explain why you’re interested in your major as that more accurately answers the prompt:

“Explain your interest in the major you selected. Describe an experience related to this area of study, what first introduced you to this field, and/or your future career goals.”

I hope this helps!



October 8, 2015, 11:06 am

Hi Veronica,

Should the essay have a formal tone? I have absolutely no experience writing essays for universities, so I would appreciate if you could guide me through.

Also, is there any link which provides examples of essays that worked?

Just one more thing, how important is this essay? I mean, is it capable of ‘making or breaking’ your decision to accept me?



October 9, 2015, 6:22 pm

Hi Lipika,

Those are all great questions! I don’t have any examples of essays to share but I can tell you that the tone varies. I see some that are formal and others that take on funny or casual tones. It’s totally up to you. It typically works best if you write in a tone that feels most natural to you.

While we do have a holistic review process, the essay does play a role in the decision and there have been circumstances where academically borderline students were denied or offered an alternative option based on essay. So, I encourage you to be concise, address the question in the prompt, and proofread multiple times.

I hope this is helpful! If you have more questions, I encourage you to call our office: 217.333.0302.



October 16, 2015, 12:26 pm

Hi Veronica,

I was just wondering wether it is mandatory that we list a second choice major. I want to major in computer science and my second choice would have been mechanical engineering but since mechanical engineering is not available as a second choice major I don’t really have another discipline in mind that I would want to major in.



October 16, 2015, 5:54 pm

Hi Chris,

That’s a great question. No, it is not mandatory to put a second choice program. However, it is the only way to be considered for all avenues of admission including the Division of General Studies (perhaps you can put that for a second choice).

To learn more about our review process, see my other post:

I hope this is helpful.




October 18, 2015, 10:35 am

Hi, I am applying for Computer Science.

Can I give a personal tone to my essay? What i mean is, not just the technical aspect of my interests, but why that makes makes me interested? My question is should the essay be more about HOW the course is significant to you, or WHAT part of the course is significant to you. Should we go into detail about the course itself? or ourselves?



October 19, 2015, 11:36 am

Hi Shruthunjay,

Thanks for reaching out. We would love a personal (yet appropriate) tone to your essay. We leave the prompt a little open-ended to allow space for creativity. Regardless of approaching the prompt from a “what” or “how” perspective, I think that as long as you establish a clear connection between your personal interests/goals and the opportunities available through the program, you’ll be moving in the right direction.

I hope this helps. If you want more direction, I encourage you to call our office: 217.333.0302.




October 20, 2015, 6:55 pm

If you apply to DGS as your second major, must you write a second essay?
Thank you



October 23, 2015, 9:25 pm


My essay’s word count is 430, it 30 words more than the limit. Will that matters?
will they count anainst me?



October 24, 2015, 12:32 pm

Hi Veronica,

I want to apply to the accountancy major as my first choice and finance major as my second choice, but I cannot get into the business school directly. For choosing the major, should I choose business unassigned for both and then write essays about these two different majors(accountancy and finance)?

Thank you,



October 25, 2015, 7:03 am

Hi! i was wondering, can my essay be 410 words? I didnt want to ruin my essay by trying to reduce the words…



October 26, 2015, 9:24 am

Hello Surya,

DGS as a second choice does not require a second essay (it’s the only exception). Glad to hear you’re applying!




October 26, 2015, 9:25 am

Hi Jacky and Shruthunjay,

We give you a target range of 300-400 words. You need to keep your essays within that range. Good luck editing!




October 26, 2015, 9:27 am

Hi Alice,

Accountancy and Finance are both in the College of Business. As a freshman Business applicant, you apply to the college as a whole (Business-Unassigned) rather to the individual programs. Therefore, you will write one essay for the College of Business and another essay for whatever you choose for your second choice (unless you list DGS as your second choice-no essay required).

I hope this helps!



That guy

October 27, 2015, 1:28 am

Who is the audience of the essay? Will it be somebody in my desired department? I’m afraid of mentioning technical jargon and events that may not be very meaningful to a general reader.



October 27, 2015, 10:30 am

Congratulations on being “That Guy” 😉

Just kidding! That’s actually a really great question to ask! Primarily your audience will be an admissions counselor (potentially yours truly!). If we don’t understand your essay due to technical jargon- we look things up. Part of what I like about being a reviewer is I get to learn so much from our applicants! There is also a chance that your application may go to college review. In that case, it will be someone from your college and/or department reading your essay.

Long story short, a lot of people will read your essay. So, it should be accessible and easy to read but don’t be afraid to use specific vocabulary/jargon. If we don’t know it already, it’s our job to learn. 🙂

Best of luck to you!