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University Of Pittsburgh Application Essay Prompt

University of Pittsburgh 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: Up to 3 essays of 200-300 words each

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Oddball, Community

We’ve always believed the word “optional” to be a trap: why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to stand out from the pack? Well, on the University of Pittsburgh supplement, it’s doubly treacherous. The instructions start off by saying the essays are “optional,” but DON’T STOP THERE. These babies are “strongly encouraged” (read: not optional) for U.S. applicants and downright required for international hopefuls. In short: write them. That said, Pittsburgh seems a little wishy washy in its commitment to these prompts, so take this as a prime opportunity to recycle some of your best essays from other supplements (or the Common App!) if the shoe fits. Just remember to change the school name and any other institution-specific details! If you’re feeling super pressed for time, we give you permission to zero in on a single prompt and write just one essay as long as you promise to make it #flawless.

In lieu of an essay or personal statement, we ask interested applicants to answer a series of short answer questions. Answering the following questions is optional, but strongly encouraged for U.S. applicants and required for international applicants. The most effective responses typically range from 200-300 words per question.

You may choose to answer any or all of the following questions below:
Describe a challenge that you think you will face in college and how you anticipate handling the challenge.

This is perhaps the most unique prompt of the three, and the one you’ll most likely need to write from scratch. Admissions wants to know that you not only have foresight, but the ability to be proactive. In a (hyphenated) word, they’re looking for self-awareness. Do you know yourself well enough to anticipate the challenges of independent life and challenging academic coursework? History is the greatest teacher, so before flinging yourself into the dark void of your future, consider taking a walk down memory lane. What sorts of experiences have challenged you in the past? When have you struggled with a transition? What are the defining interpersonal conflicts of your childhood and how did you resolve them? How might these past challenges shed light on a personal weakness or challenge you might struggle with in college? You may even want to start with an anecdote to ground your essay in reality and provide some evidence to support your hypothetical speculation. Wherever your narrative starts, make sure that it ends with a solution. Show admissions that you’re ready to grow!

How have you made an impact at your high school? Choose one example and tell us about it.

Although the scale of this prompt may seem relatively limited (your high school), the scope is quite broad! Your impact may have affected a single individual, the whole school, students, teachers, staff, even the building itself. As with any other Community essay, you get to define your community. Although you may be tempted to tout your greatest achievement, keep in mind that admissions wants to learn something new. Some of the most unique stories come from the smallest interactions and contributions. Did you take it upon yourself to start watering your teacher’s plants one day? How did this affect the classroom vibe? Your relationship to your teacher? Or your class’ relationship to the earth? Keep in mind that Community prompts are incredibly common across supplements. You may already be sitting on a stellar essay that fits the bill!

Pitt receives nearly 30,000 applications each year. What makes you unique?

Why you? What do you have that 29,999 other people don’t? Although it doesn’t say it in so many words, this prompt reminds us of the Common App’s first prompt, which asks students to discuss a “background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it.” They’re both broad, catch-all prompts that give you the opportunity to describe what sets you apart, but you might look to the Common App’s list for inspiration. Does your uncanny talent for doing impressions amuse your friends and fuel your obsession with languages and accents? Or has your background as an army brat formed your worldview? The sky is the limit! But this question is also so broad that you could probably slot in any number of other essays you’ve already perfected for other schools about your special skills, life philosophy, or personal strengths. Heck, you might even be able to recycle a slimmed down version of your Common App personal statement depending on how you choose to apply to Pittsburgh (through the Coalition or Pittsburgh’s own freshman application).

We received nearly 28,000 applications for approximately 4,000 places in the fall 2017 freshmen class.

We operate on a rolling admission policy for these places in our class. This means there is no specific deadline to apply for admission, but it is to your advantage to plan ahead and apply early. This is because some of our graduate school guaranteed admission programs either have deadlines or fill up quickly.

With this in mind, here are a few things you can do to stay competitive as you prepare to apply to the University of Pittsburgh:

Preparing to Apply

  • Honors, AP, International Baccalaureate (IB), and College in High School classes. It’s good to take a number of such classes, but don’t take so many you can’t do reasonably well in them.
  • Advanced level classes. The Committee is looking for a well-rounded curriculum from all applicants. Whenever possible, go beyond the minimum requirements. Four years of French and/or math, for example, looks better on a transcript than three.
  • Taking the SAT or ACT more than once. We recommend that you test once in the junior year and once early in the senior year. We will superscore your SAT Critical Reading or Evidence Based Reading and Writing subscore and your math subscore. We will use the highest of the SAT superscore or the ACT composite score in reviewing your application for admission. You are not required to submit SAT Essay or ACT Writing test scores.
  • Retaking a class with a lower-than ‘C’ grade. If you earn less than a ‘C’ grade in a key class, think about retaking the class in the summer.
  • A rigorous senior year curriculum. We recommend a solid curriculum even in your senior year. It is to your benefit in the admissions review. Also, you’ll make an easier transition to college-level work during your freshman year.

Application Requirements

Your application is considered complete for review and will be sent to the admissions committee when we have received:

  • Completed online application for admission.
  • $45 application fee.
  • High school academic information using the Self-Reported Academic Record (SRAR) or submitting an official high school transcript. We encourage you to complete the SRAR rather than sending a transcript to improve application processing time. Please note that we will compare your SRAR to your official high school transcript if you enroll at Pitt. Accuracy in completing the SRAR is very important. Discrepancies and misrepresentations could result in the Admissions Committee revoking your admissions decision.
  • Official SAT or ACT test results (SAT Essay and ACT Writing Test scores not required). Please arrange for all of your test results to be forwarded directly to Pitt from the testing agency.

Short Answer Questions

In lieu of an essay or personal statement, we ask interested applicants to answer a series of short answer questions. Answering the following questions is optional, but strongly encouraged. If you would like to be considered for University academic scholarships, you must submit a response to at least one of the Short Answer Questions. Your answers may increase the likelihood that you are considered for guaranteed admission to graduate or professional school or given special consideration due to extenuating circumstances. The Admissions Committee reviews responses for quality rather than length. However, the most effective responses typically range from 200-300 words per question. Responses that are longer or shorter are acceptable. You may choose to answer any or all of the following questions:

  • Describe a challenge that you think you will face in college and how you anticipate handling the challenge.
  • How have you made an impact at your high school? Choose one example and tell us about it.
  • Pitt receives nearly 30,000 applications each year. What makes you unique?

In order to submit your responses to the Short Answer Questions, you must first complete University of Pittsburgh application. If you have already completed the application, you may complete the Short Answer Questions online.

Submitting a completed application for admission will have you automatically reviewed for University Honors College eligibility, Graduate/Professional School Guaranteed Admissions Programs, and merit-based scholarships.

Letters of Recommendation

While we appreciate your teachers, counselors, and other mentors taking the time to write recommendation letters on your behalf, we find letters are beneficial in very limited circumstances (for example: providing context for variance in your overall academic performance). We recommend that you submit responses to the Short Answer Questions and use that space to explain or clarify what most recommenders would cover in a letter.

Questions about your application materials? Contact the appropriate admissions processor.

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