Students study for finals in Beckman Institute.

Apply Like a Pro to UIUC: Examples of Major-Specific College Application Questions

If you’ve made it here, chances are you’ve reached one of the more daunting parts of college applications: the written questions.

There are two ways you can apply to UIUC: the Common App and UIUC’s own application, myIllini. In this blog, we’ll instead focus on something they both have in common: the major-specific questions.

As part of your application, you’ll have to respond to two to three major-specific prompts about why you picked your intended major(s), each with a word limit of 150. Sound difficult? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Disclaimer: Does something seem funny about the “majors” we’ve chosen to write about? Listening to Music is a great hobby, and while you may learn about DNA Analysis in some of your classes, the majors we’ve written about are imaginary! We did this so we could show you how to best structure your responses and have a little bit of fun. Okay, okay, fun might be somewhat of a subjective term in this case. Hey, at least we’re trying.

Prompt 1: Explain, in detail, an experience you’ve had in the past 3 to 4 years related to your first-choice major. This can be an experience from an extracurricular activity, in a class you’ve taken, or through something else.

Student playing the guitar

Example 1: Music Listening Major

I played the triangle for four years in my high school band, and through that was exposed to genres of music I would’ve otherwise never heard. Playing the triangle was fulfilling, but I wanted to create a space specifically for listening to music. During my sophomore year, I formed a club for music listeners called “Hear There Everywhere” and have served as the president ever since. As president, I organized meetings, held outreach events to engage new members, and implemented a Playlist Friday program, where teachers play personalized playlists created by the club on Friday afternoons. I’ve always had a passion for listening to music and “Hear There Everywhere” has given me a platform to share the benefits with others. From my experiences in high school, I know the Music Listening major at UIUC is the perfect fit for me.

Example 2: DNA Analysis Major

My high school biology teacher taught me the importance of curiosity, creativity, and integrity in scientific endeavors. She inspired me to continue taking science classes throughout high school to learn as much as I could. By the start of senior year, I knew I wanted to work in a science field, but it was a trip to a forensics lab last summer that helped me decide I want to specialize in DNA Analysis. On the trip, the first place we visited was the DNA lab, where I was able to speak to the lab technician about different techniques for analyzing DNA samples. He showed me the equipment and explained how proper analysis is vital in crime investigations. After witnessing biology used in this manner, I am certain I want to pursue a career in forensics, starting with studying DNA Analysis at UIUC.

Prompt 2: Describe your personal and/or career goals after graduating from UIUC and how your selected first-choice major will help you achieve them.

Example 1: Music Listening Major

Listening to music has been a passion of mine since I was very young, and I want to share that passion with others. Through the Music Listening major, I hope to build a foundation of knowledge that will support me as I pursue a career as a professional music listener. As a professional listener, I want to become a strong voice within the field that not only pushes the boundaries of what types of music are listened to, but also advocates for the inclusion of listening as an important part of the music industry. Listening is a severely underrepresented piece of the music community, and my main career goal is to bring more recognition to music listeners everywhere. Not many Music Listening programs exist, so by taking part in this major I hope to establish my voice in the movement of change sweeping the music industry.

biology student in lab running an experiment

Example 2: DNA Analysis Major

DNA Analysis is one of the most important branches of forensics science. By choosing this major, I will learn hands-on skills that will help me find a job in a DNA lab. My ultimate career goal is to use the power of biology to help other people, and I want to do that by engaging in research and analysis to improve DNA handling in crime investigations. With this major, not only will I learn the physical techniques being used, I will also gain knowledge of the ethics behind DNA analysis and storage. Learning about the moral debate occurring in the field from professors engaging in everyday research will make me a well-rounded scientist. I want to make forensics a more equitable field, and I believe the combination of hard science and ethics taught through the DNA Analysis major will help me accomplish this goal.

See, that wasn’t so bad! We hope these major-specific college application questions seem a little bit clearer now, and you have a better idea of what to write when you sit down to craft your own responses.

Overall, the key to effective major-specific college application questions is to be clear, be concise, and to always be yourself. Happy writing!

UIUC Admissions

UIUC Admissions

We're here for you as you prepare for college. Whether you're looking for guidance on the college search process or have questions about Illinois, we hope our blogs will help!


  • Haha I can’t say I wouldn’t have at least considered ‘Music Listening’ as my major if it wasn’t an imaginary one.

    Thanks for the tips and examples. It helped write the first few words of my essay…which is always the most difficult part.

  • Us too! You’re very welcome, and we’re glad our examples helped. Hope you have a great year, Ashvin!

  • I think you have a typo lol
    “My ultimate career goal is to us the power of biology to help other people,”
    I’m pretty sure “us” should be “use”

    I still think this was very helpful though. 🙂

  • Oops! Great catch, Violet, and thanks for letting us know so we could fix it. We’re glad the information was helpful to you, typo notwithstanding!

  • Extremely helpful blog, especially provoking more thought into the ‘why’ and ‘so what’ aspects of choosing a particular area of study….thanks for posting these examples.

  • We’re glad that you found the info helpful, Syed, and we’re excited that you’re interested in UIUC! If you have any questions throughout the application process, don’t hesitate to contact us.

  • Those examples quite help me a lot. These days, I have been unable to get a handle on the essays of majors when applying for the ea of uiuc. After reading these examples, I feel I have found the inspiration. Thank you very much!

  • This was helpful! But for me personally, there wasn’t a singular event that led me to choose my major but rather multiple experiences over a long period of time. Is it acceptable to write about multiple experiences instead of just one?

  • Really appreciate the samples as they provide us with some foundation and expectation as to what information we should include within the short word limit!

  • That music listening major is reaaaaaaly inspiring, and DNA analysis one is helpful too, lol. Thanks a lot, I was surprised when I saw this, you college instruct us to answer!

  • Hi Allison! No, we don’t want a list of things that led to your interest in the major. Even if you’ve had multiple experiences over a long period of time, we’re looking for a more in-depth, detailed description of one of those experiences that helped draw you to that area of study. We hope this helps! Any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our office.

  • HI! Your examples are cool!
    I just wonder whether two questions shall better be related or not?

  • Thanks for the examples! I have a question: are you looking for experiences that explain why we decided to choose the area of study and major we chose, or is it more towards an experience that demonstrates the steps we’ve taken in our area of study? Both?

  • Hi Jeremy, and thanks for reaching out! Your major-specific responses help us understand why you’ve chosen that specific major and also allow us to ensure that the major will be a good foundation to achieving your goals after graduation. We hope this helps! If you have additional questions as you work, don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

  • Thanks, Haoyu! Your major-specific responses help us understand why you’ve chosen that specific major and also allow us to ensure that the major will be a good foundation to achieving your goals after graduation. We hope this helps! If you have more questions as you work, don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

  • Great examples!! I finally have an idea of what information to add in such a limited space 🙂

    Thank you for the tips and examples.

  • Hello, thanks for your nice and clear answers. I am using Common App (not myIllini) and I have 2 questions(I am EA applicant). The prompts #1 and #2 above are not in the Commpn App, and I see there are 2 other questions as shown below instead.

    So my questions are: (1) to where and by when do we have to submit the essays for the 2 prompts above? (2) The following 2 questions look like optional but I want to write an essay for #1. I do not think I am relevant to #2 though (I have a good GPA and no drop record) so I am wondering if it is ok to enter briefly like: Not Available (for the #2 below)

    2 UIUC Questions on Common App:

    #1. Academic Challenges
    Explain any challenges (outside of COVID-related) you have faced throughout your academic career, including the dates or timeline below.

    #2. If you have a low grade or a drop in grades that you have not already explained, do so below.

  • Thanks for reaching out, Tom! The academic challenges questions are optional. Once you click “Continue” on that page of the application, you’ll move to the academics section, where you’ll select your intended major and possible second choice. After that section, the two major-specific writing prompts will display for you to write your response. We hope this helps! If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

  • Thank you so much for writing this blog. I was stuck on where to begin but these example essays made it very clear how to craft my essays and show my goals.

    Hope I can be there at UIUC next year:)

    Thank you!

  • Thank you so much for this information! I feel a lot more prepared for writing my supplemental after this!

  • Thanks for the essay examples, it was extremely helpful. Looking forward to finishing my application 🙂

  • Hello!

    I noticed that both of the academic challenge and grade drop explanation questions are optional. I don’t have a lot to fill out because I already used the Common App additional info sections for that.

    If I leave these blank or shallow for UIUC, will it impact my application and admissions consideration at all? Or, is it truly just an area to express extra info if necessary?

  • Hi Ethan, yes, in not fully answering the major-specific questions, it could negatively impact your consideration. You’re welcome to use the same or similar information that you included in your Common App essay or additional information sections. We hope this helps. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

  • Thanks for the example!

    I think you have a couple of typos in your examples.

    “share the benefits with other”
    I think it should be “others” instead.

    “my main career goal is to bring more recognition to musics listeners”
    I think it should be “music” instead.

  • Thank you so much for the great examples! It really helps provide me with a solid start and understanding of how to approach essays! Much less daunting than expected!

  • I wanted to say that this blog and the comments are both very helpful. I was going to contact the admissions office regarding these questions (like how specific the responses they need to be, how many things we could talk about, etc.), but this blog cleared most of my doubts. Thank you for posting these examples!!

  • This was a very great helpful blog. I am a senior in high school and just submitting my apps and this gave me an idea of how to do the essays for UIUC Thanks so much.

  • Thank you! I have an idea of what it should sound like now. What would you suggest if I’ve already covered the information a question asks for in the personal statement?

  • Is the second prompt more of a “Why UIUC” prompt? As in, do we write details about why we want to attend UIUC or details about why we want to do CS?

  • Thanks so much for the examples, super helpful with starting off the supplemental essays!

  • These are some great examples and they helped me a lot with writing my own which was pretty intimidating at first! Y’all were also funny with the music listening major— I wish!!

  • HI Arnav! For the second prompt, it’s more about you and less bout UIUC; we’re more interested in what you want to do with a degree in CS. We hope this helps!

  • Hi Shrujana, we’re glad the examples helped! If you’ve already covered the information a question asks for within your personal statement, some options could be to provide a different experience in your major-specific answer, elaborate more fully in the personal statement, or choose a different question for your personal statement. Whatever makes the most sense to you and will give our admissions counselors the most helpful information!

  • Hi UIUC Admissions, I am planning on listing “undeclared” on my major because I am interested in a few different areas such as Business and Psychology. Can you provide an example for someone who is not sure what they want to major in?

  • Thanks for the suggestion, Melissa. Although we won’t be able to do this in time for this year, we’ll see what’s possible for future years!

  • Hey UIUC, I am so thankful for this content put out! This got me through my drafting sessions and now I am ready to submit my application. Looking forward to become a fighting Illini next year :))