Upitt Admissions Essay

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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.

Your answers may increase the likelihood that you are considered for scholarships, 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.

In order to submit your responses to the Short Answer Questions, you must first complete the University of Pittsburgh application. You will then receive an e-mail with a link to complete the Short Answer Questions online. If you have already completed the application, you may complete the Short Answer Questions online:

U.S. Freshman Applicants
U.S. Transfer Applicants
International Applicants

This prompt reminds us of the classic job interview question: “What is your biggest weakness?” When answering questions like these, it’s important to demonstrate honesty and self-awareness, but it’s even more important to showcase your strengths through the discussion of your “weaknesses” or anticipated challenges.


A possible route you could take for this essay could be briefly describing something you have struggled with previously (e.g., social anxiety when around a lot of new people) and explain ways in which you’ve overcome this in the past and how it has positively affected you (for example, by putting yourself out there and joining the chess club, which is now one of your favorite hobbies and greatest skills).


This type of response not only shows strength through your willingness to be somewhat vulnerable, but also illustrates your growth, problem-solving skills, and ability to deal with tough situations.


Keep in mind, though, that you should definitely spend more time detailing how you’ve overcome a problem than talking about the problem itself. It won’t give the admissions team much confidence in your ability to deal with the inevitably stressful situations of college if you spend 150 out of 200 words talking about how much of a burden your crippling social anxiety has been for you. Avoid writing a sob story; instead, reflect on your growth and maturity.


Remember: You are trying to demonstrate how you’ve grown from challenges and learned to face your fears, not just describe how your fears have negatively affected you.


Another route you could take is to talk about an anticipated challenge you have not previously faced, but how your strengths and other experiences you’ve had will help you with them. For example, perhaps you come from a small private school with a graduating class of 60 people. Or maybe you live in a rural town in Oklahoma and have never been to a city on the East Coast. Both of these backgrounds would potentially make attending Pitt overwhelming and nerve-wracking for you at first.


For this kind of response, it is still important to focus more on how you will handle the challenge than the actual challenge itself. If, like mentioned in the example above, you are coming from an extremely small high school, you could talk about how your strengths (e.g., outgoing or adventurous personality) or past experiences (for example, doing a summer study-abroad program) will help you deal with the challenge.


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