common app

A little while ago, I spent two years living in North Carolina, just a few miles away from UNC Chapel Hill. Like you may have been, I was instantly smitten with the stately brick buildings, the charming tradition of the Old Well, and the outstanding food surrounding the campus. What took me by surprise, however, was just how truly dynamic and impressive the academic and community experience was in real life. Carolina is a special place, in part because it is the oldest public university in the US, but also because it is one of the best examples of the ingenuity of public higher education.

As such, Chapel Hill commands an impressive number of applicants for their programs, both from in-state and out-of-state applicants, resulting in an incredibly diverse community of scholars. The way that UNC goes about selecting this community goes beyond the numbers (GPAs and test scores), and focuses on what makes each applicant unique. This is why Carolina asks students to answer two additional college essay prompts on top of the personal statement.

Applicants are asked to address two of the following essay prompts in written statements of 200-250 words each:

  • Tell us about a peer who has made a difference in your life.
  • What do you hope will change about the place where you live?
  • What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want us to know?
  • What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience, will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?

Two-hundred and fifty words is not a lot of space, so the key to delivering a strong response is brevity. Carolina really is trying to get to know you a bit better through these responses, so make sure that you are direct and focused when answering. Additionally, think of these as an additional personal statement in that you should be reflective in nature, use the first person, and write in a way that mimics your voice. Since this is an opportunity to share more about yourself on top of what you have already written in your personal statement, make sure that the topics you choose discuss two new facets of your personality and life experiences. Each piece of writing is like a snapshot into your life, so make sure each “photo” is of something different.

You will notice that most of these prompts ask about you: your thoughts, your experiences, and your beliefs. In addressing these topics, however, don’t forget to include specific details about UNC Chapel Hill. These should be woven throughout your response. While it’s important for your application reviewer to learn more about you through these essay responses, it is equally important for you to explain to them why you are excited about attending Chapel Hill. Are there certain courses, labs, or research opportunities in which you would be excited to participate? Are there campus traditions, clubs, or extracurricular experiences that speak to you? Remember to go beyond the surface level details of Carolina that anyone can find by doing a quick internet search, and instead focus on aspects of the campus that are unique to UNC Chapel Hill. Most of all, have fun with these responses—let your personality show so that the admission reviewer can imagine what type of community member you might be on campus, if admitted.

Good luck! And if you do become a member of the Tar Heel nation, grab a biscuit from Southern Biscuit Kitchen in my honor.


Written by Christine Kenyon
Christine Kenyon is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Prior to joining College Coach, Christine was a senior admissions officer at Babson College and a scholarship reviewer and interviewer at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University. Visit our website to learn more about Christine Kenyon.