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Texas Essay Structure Worksheet

URGENT! ApplyTexas changed their essay prompts in 2016-17. 

Click HERE for the current essay prompts!


All public universities, and some private and 2-year colleges, in Texas do not use the Common Application. Instead, they have their own consolidated system called ApplyTexas.

If you are applying to any of the schools that use ApplyTexas, you need to figure out what essays they require (if any), and then which specific prompts.

I find it all very confusing. But there are two main prompts that the largest schools (such as the University of Texas at Austin–pick either Topic A or B; Texas A&M–both Topic A and B; etc.) require applicants to address in their essays.

Here’s some advice on how to think about these prompts, called Topic A and Topic B. (Find help for Topic C.) They don’t list a word count, but I believe the common length is around 300-500 each.

Topic A of Apply Texas

“Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours. Address your initial feelings, and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.”

What are they getting at with this prompt? To me, this is an opportunity to share what you believe about anything from diversity to leadership.

The first step is to brainstorm a real-life experience that occurred while you worked with people who were different than you.

The group could be big or small.

They could be a different age (seniors, toddlers); culture (from any that you are not, whether it’s Jewish, Asian, Native American–as long as it’s new to you on some level); religion (again, anything that’s different); overall personal philosophy (conservative, liberal, strict, casual, sloppy, OCD, ambitious, laid back–as long as the other people were distinctly different from you).

Other potential “different” groups that you could consider: education level, age, appearance, health, physical/mental ability, etc.

Now that you have a group in mind that you have been involved with somehow, the trick is to write an essay that shows how you were affected by them in some way–and that what you first felt about them (your opinion) was somehow changed (or not). And then why that mattered.


What you don’t want to do with this essay is write a general explanation of some group you worked with and how they made you feel on a general level and how this changed you in some general way. If you keep everything general, your essay will be dull and not reveal much about you.

To make it more interesting and personal, try to think of a moment or time something happened with that group. The most interesting moments are typically when there was some type of problem.

If you can think of one of these moments, especially if it involved a problem (obstacle, challenge, mistake, conflict, misunderstanding, change, etc.), you can start your essay sharing that specific, real-life incident.

Then go onto explain how you and the group dealt with it, and share how you felt and thought, and then talk about what you learned about yourself and the group in the process.

Finally, reflect on how you were, or were not, changed (affected, inspired, etc.) in some way by this experience.

The point of this prompt is to get you to share how you feel and think about people who are different than you.

How To Structure Your Essay

Here’s a suggested outline:

1. Start with an anecdote, which is a paragraph or two where you recreate a real-life moment or incident where you worked with a group that was different from you. (Read more on how to craft an anecdote in these posts.)

2. Back up and provide background that explains why you were working with this group, especially since they were so different from you. Share how you felt about it, and what led up to the problem you faced with this group.

3. Explain the steps you took with this group to handle the problem.

4. Share what you learned from working on this problem with this group.

*Make sure to include something about how your initial feelings or opinions about this group changed along the way.

5. Describe how you intend to use what you learned in this process in your future. It’s ideal if you can link that somehow to what you plan to study or your life goals.

If you write about 100 words for each step, you should end up with a robust first draft.


Topic B of Apply Texas

“Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?”

This prompt is more direct, and should be easier to write about.

It is more of a straight personal statement type of essay, in that they are looking to understand what you are made of, what core qualities, characteristics or values you have that make you effective in your life.

The key is to think of a time or moment when you dealt with some type of problem (“obstacle or conflict”).

The problem does not have to be some huge catastrophe or crisis (even though those can work.) Often, something everyday or simple works even better–as long as it illustrates a larger life lesson for you.

Then make sure to explain how you solved, handled or dealt with it—and make sure to include the specific “skills and resources” you used in the process.

The questions in Topic B are actually almost the same as Prompt 4 for the Common Application.

Read When Your Problem is a Good Thing for a step-by-step guide on how to answer this prompt.

***If you can tell, there’s a good chance you could recycle your Common App essay for this prompt.

Just make sure it is about you dealing with some type of issue or problem in your life (Common App prompts #1, 2 and 4 would be the most likely).

Topic C

“Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals.”

Here’s my post on How to Answer Topic C for ApplyTexas.

Many college admissions experts believe Topic C is the most important of the three essays!


Check Out These Related Posts!

  • 1

    Have the students come up with a topic sentence. The ‘T’ section promotes the use of the term ‘topic sentence’ which is something which many educators are asking students to identify and apply to their own writing practices. When teaching students, provide students with models where they are able to highlight key words and cohesive devices which are salient features of a topic sentence. Therefore, it is imperative that the argument, task or essay question has been unpacked to an extent that the key words have been highlighted. Students should be able to pick out a topic sentence in a card sort activity and justify their conviction that it is the topic sentence before they go on to create their own topic sentences. Students should also make the connection that it has a strong connection to the ‘S’ section. Those of you who are familiar with the ‘hamburger’ paragraph will recall the bun analogy. To extend students in their writing and allow them to take more independent ownership of their writing, encourage students to produce a list of synonyms for the key words which they can interchange to avoid repetition.

  • 2

    Have the students expand on the topic sentence. The ‘E’ section is for expansion as students are expanding on their assertion in the topic sentence rather than explaining and justifying themselves.

  • 3

    Ask for an example. The ‘X’ section is the example section and it is important that students briefly contextualise an example, building up to it, before inserting the detail. There may be more than one example to include. In a literary essay, this may mean more than one quotation. Students should be aware that choosing the most appropriate example is in itself a skill as a poor example will lead to poor analysis.

  • 4

    Ask for analysis next. The 'A' analysis section gives the student the opportunity to extend and refine knowledge, using higher order skills of inference, comparison and abstraction. Use M.E.S. to break this down for students. First explain what your example means (deductive reasoning), then explain its effect (inference) and its significance (making connections to the reader, to the context, to society, etc.).

  • 5

    Have the students close with a summary. The ‘S’ section has different functions depending on the level of complex reasoning required. It can mean simply summarising your conclusion. For those seeking a deeper understanding, it can also mean significance and students are required to apply their knowledge meaningfully to offer unique insights into their subject matter. Alternatively, those people who use P.E.E.L. will know that the L is the linking sentence, similarly the ‘S’ can stand for setting up for the next paragraph.

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