Writing a Standout Response to Texas A&M’s Engineering Application Prompt

The Texas A&M University College of Engineering is the biggest college at the university and one of the largest engineering schools in the country, with more than 20,000 students across 14 departments. According to the American Society for Engineering Education, it ranks second in undergraduate enrollment and eighth in graduate enrollment.

As part of the application to A&M’s College of Engineering, students are asked to write a short answer to the following prompt.

Texas A&M Engineering Short-answer prompt

Describe your academic and career goals in the broad field of engineering (including computer science, industrial distribution, and engineering technology). What and/or who has influenced you either inside or outside the classroom that contributed to these goals?

How to approach this question

In responding to the prompt, the students’ goal should be to communicate to the admissions committee what makes their proposed field of study engaging and exciting to them. The committee doesn’t expect students to be an expert in the field, or to have their career mapped out in advance. What it does want is to understand why students want to pursue studies in the field—and to see that they’ve thought carefully about academic and career goals and are prepared to devote four or more years to studying engineering.

  1. To stand out, students’ responses should demonstrate the following:
    They’ve already begun exploring their proposed field of study, either through independent study or through organized opportunities like classes, summer programs, and internships.

  2. They have a sense of purpose about becoming an engineer and can articulate how their interest in engineering has grown over time and the program they’re applying to will help them meet long-term career goals.

  3. They’ve thought about what makes Texas A&M the right place to pursue their proposed field of study.

Remember: Students should show how and why they, specifically, are eager to take advantage of the opportunities that A&M offers, not about what some generic student might get from A&M.

Questions for reflection and freewriting

It’s not enough to answer this prompt with a list of classes, extracurriculars, and awards pulled straight from a resume. Instead, students should identify two or three experiences that have been especially meaningful for them, and reflect on how those experiences helped inspire and shape their interest in engineering. 

How did these experiences shape your interest in the field of study you want to pursue? Did they expose you to issues or problems that you hadn’t been aware of, or help you gain new perspective on your life, culture, or community? Did they help you learn new skills or approaches to solving problems?

How did you grow through these experiences? Did they help you understand something important, or spark you to take action of some kind? Clarify or deepen existing interests? Open doors to careers or fields of study you hadn’t previously considered?

Personalizing your answer

Students who haven’t participated in summer programs or taken directly relevant courses might need to get a little more creative here. Remember: learning experiences take place in all areas of life, not just in formal classroom settings. If students have taken the initiative to explore a topic independently, it can demonstrate that they’re self-motivated and intellectually curiousjust the type of applicants that Texas A&M is looking to admit. Here are some ways that students may have independently explored their interests:

  • Reading books or other publications

  • Watching lectures on YouTube

  • Listening to podcasts

  • Having conversations about what they’re learning with friends, family, or classmates

  • Finding ways to incorporate their interests into school assignments 

  • Applying classroom knowledge or practical skills from one area of life to solve problems or tackle challenges in other areas

  • Talking with teachers or reaching out to professionals in their field of interest

  • Gathering information from real-world experiences, even if they don’t seem directly connected to students’ field of interest

Bottom line: For a student’s application to stand out from others in the stack that the admission committee will be reviewing, his or her answer to this prompt can’t just regurgitate information from a resume or personal essay. Instead, students should focus on and offer new insight into their connection with and passion for engineering.