How to Answer The UT Austin Honors Essays

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UT Austin offers a number of prestigious honors programs, which many students eagerly want to get into. We give an overview of these programs in another article, so in this one, we’ll focus on how you can get into these programs. Because honors programs are so competitive, they require more than the standard application materials.

UT Austin’s honors programs require separate essays, on top of the ones the school asks for from all applicants. In this article, we’ll give you examples of these essays from past Ivy Scholars students, and discuss how you should go about answering these essay questions.

Plan II Honors

The Plan II Honors Program is UT Austin’s honors college. They require a separate personal statement and a short response. Both of these are meant to get to know you better and to see how you would fit into their program.

Personal Statement

The Plan II PERSONAL STATEMENT: What do you see as the largest problem facing society today? What do you see as the negative effects of this problem and how would an interdisciplinary education in Plan II Honors give you tools to begin to solve this challenge to the greater good? (250 words)

Our country takes pride in the unbiased, democratic principles it was founded upon; in order to prosper in this nation, one must only work hard and strive for success. This founding principle has fallen to the wayside in the midst of career politician melodrama and unethical business practices.

Economic power rests in the hands of an elite few. Since the explosion of big business in the early 1900s, the government has passed antitrust laws to limit the power of corporations, but these companies quickly found loopholes that enabled them to amass exorbitant amounts of capital. Just how much action the government can take without obstructing the very freedom it seeks to preserve, however, remains an open question.

The best way to answer this question is through “multispection” (seeing from many angles). While government interference is clearly needed to curb the growing inequality gap, discovering the right approach requires extensive knowledge in a variety of fields. Modern politicians, however, regularly tout a single-minded, overly simplistic approach that favors temporary economic boosts and the associated bump in approval ratings.

The current state of the world is living proof of the need for interdisciplinary action. A just and equal world requires our leaders to engage not only with economics and political science, but with philosophy, history, psychology, government, and untold other subjects. Plan II will enable me to make cross-disciplinary connections that transcend the confines of a single perspective, preparing me to be one of the well-rounded leaders the world so desperately needs.

Personal Statement Analysis

UT Austin as a whole wants smart and capable students who will contribute to the campus community. The honors program wants students who go the extra mile, those who excel academically, and want to use their knowledge and capabilities to contribute to the world as a whole.

This question has three parts. The first is naming the problem and explaining how it negatively impacts the world. Naming the problem is the easy part, but any explanation should be based on sound reasoning and evidence. There are many contenders for the world’s biggest problem; you don’t get points for picking the “right” one, but for clearly and logically explaining your choice.

The final part of the question asks how the Plan II program specifically will give you the tools to confront this problem. Here, you may want to consider what your stated major of interest is, and how someone studying that topic may combat the problem in question. Some major and problem pairs are more difficult to write about than others. Again though, the logic and skill of argumentation you use are the most important part.

The essay above does a good job explaining why the issue they chose is dire, how it is affecting the world, and why plan II specifically will help them combat it. Notice that the essay does not dive deeply into specific classes or programs, but instead focuses on the philosophy of the honors program in their answer.

You should do the same in your response. The specific classes you will take should be discussed in your why major essay. The honors program offers benefits besides advanced courses, and it is these that you should focus on. The philosophy and spirit of the program are good to include but are not necessary for your own essay. You should discuss whichever offering of the program will help you most on your own quest to better the world.

Short Responses

Help us get to know you better. Please write five sentences (numbered 1 – 5) that give us some insight into you, your life, your interests, and your experiences. There are no right answers–feel free to be creative and think outside the box.

I have this recurring dream where I’m with Harry Styles in the woods playing Candy Crush, and after having the dream five times, I took it as a sign and got my nails painted blue and pink to match his.

I’m totally baffled by the fact that Socrates was allowed to preach his teachings for decades without objection only to be put on trial a few years before his natural death.

At home, my dad (who is a professor and teaches in English) pretends he doesn’t speak English, so my brother and I have been forced to be fluent in Hindi.

While I’ve had Tik Tok videos go viral and won Homecoming Queen this year, I secretly love math and compulsively do 1st-grade level multiplication and division worksheets when I’m stressed out.

My favorite show is Glee, not only because the music is poppin’, but because it reminds me of sitting on the couch with my mom eating Cherry Garcia ice cream as a sassy tween.

Short Responses Analysis

This question has much in common with the ones asked by institutions such as Harvard and Yale. This is not an accident, as the honors program wants to attract the same caliber of students as those schools.

The purpose of this question is to get to know you better, and they state right in the prompt that there is no single “right” answer. There are wrong answers, however. The worst way to answer this prompt is by being inauthentic, and writing what you think admissions officers want to hear, rather than being your genuine self. These responses come across as stilted and hollow and will do nothing to aid your chances of admission.

When answering, consider five interesting things about yourself. Facts you might use when forced into an icebreaker activity, or which you could share and laugh about with friends. What makes you you, rather than someone else. Paint a portrait of yourself with words and ideas. The student writing above is multilingual, something of a nerd who doesn’t take herself too seriously, enjoys attempts at humor, and asks interesting questions.

This is a lot to pack into five sentences, but information density is your friend. Don’t abuse semicolons to overly extending the sentences, but make sure each is a complete thought, able to stand on its own.

Canfield Business Honors

The Canfield Business Honors program asks for a single essay on why you need high-quality business education. They want to know why you want to make use of their program, and what benefit will come to you from it.

Discuss a single piece of business news in the last year that has affected your view on the need for a high-quality business education, and tell us why this has affected or reinforced your desire for a business education. You do not need to go into detail about this piece of business news — a quick reference to the event will suffice. It can be something that occurred in your community, in the U.S., or internationally. Spend the majority of your response on how this event affected your views. Please limit your response to no more than 250 words.

As a Professional Engineer, my dad can design, build, and install HVAC systems, but he struggled to navigate the complicated business repercussions of the recent U.S. trade war with China. Traveling to Asia repeatedly over the past six months, my father has focused on helping HVAC component suppliers move factories from China to other countries to reduce costs.

I have watched my dad take calls from China at the dinner table, then head to the airport to catch the midnight flight to Asia. Each trip has only reinforced my realization that business cuts across all professions. A seemingly small policy decision, like imposing a tariff, can have worldwide consequences – creating a chain reaction that affects consumers, suppliers, and the industries that surround them.

The Canfield Business Honors Program will give me the statistical analysis, business communication, and corporate finance skills I will need to be able to understand and navigate these global, nuanced, and multifaceted problems. As an aspiring healthcare professional, I will learn all of the knowledge and skills Canfield offers to fully prepare me to organize and direct healthcare operations at scale. In courses like Professional Development & Career Planning, for example, l will learn how to ethically run a business with leadership and integrity.

Whether as the owner of a private practice or the president of a hospital, the Canfield Business Honors Program at UT Austin will provide me with the skills and knowledge I need to ensure my healthcare team is ready to overcome any obstacle.


This is a complex question and asks for three separate but related things. The first is to briefly go over a piece of business news from this year. The second is to discuss why this particular piece of news made you want to get a business education. Finally, they want to know how their program specifically will help you fulfill that desire.

What admissions officers are looking for is thoughtful analysis. There is no single “correct” piece of business news they want to see you respond to. Whatever news article you are responding to should deliberately position your application, and tie into your personal experience. The best pieces of news are ones that impact you directly in some way, as the author does in the example above.

The final part of the essay is much more focused on the program itself. How have the new revelations you’ve had about the world of business made you want an honors education? Here, you want to directly address what Canfield can offer. This can be through philosophical views, special programs, classes, or professors. The more concrete examples you provide, the more believable and impactful this part will be. Admissions officers like to see enthusiastic students, who care about what they’re going to study, and the school they’re going to study at.

Thoughtful analysis is important. While they don’t expect you to be an expert at business before you enter the program, demonstrating the capability to analyze trends and patterns in business is valuable to them. They want to see what you know already, and how good your analysis is. Further, they want to know what you consider important, both in the business world at large, and when pursuing a business education.

Final Thoughts

UT’s honors programs ask for more than the requirements for general admissions because they want students who are higher-achieving, more ambitious, and willing to go the extra mile. High academic achievement is necessary of course, but it is the essays that truly separate the students who will thrive in an honors program from those who won’t.

If you want help with writing your own honors essays, or want to know how you can best ensure your entry into a UT Honors program, schedule a free consultation with us. We have a depth of experience with both helping students write the perfect essays, and with every stage of applications. We’re always eager to hear from you.

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