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UNC Student Interview with Ritushree Dutta | Part 1: Step-By-Step Breakdown of UNC's College App

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

We interviewed Ritushree Dutta '24, a third-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is double majoring in Neuroscience and Medical Anthropology with a minor in Spanish. Ritu is the Founder and CEO of the Neuroscience Foundation, an international non-profit organization that makes neuroscience-related opportunities available for young students. At UNC, she researches the effects of cancer treatment on cognitive function and is working on developing methods to measure these changes. In her spare time, Ritu plays tennis competitively on the UNC Club Tennis team, likes to record song covers, and enjoys time with her friends and family.


Key points from the interview:

  • "Use your resume to tactfully (and SUCCINCTLY) include other activities that you were not able to list in the extracurriculars section of the CommonApp."

  • "So, what is it that sealed the deal to my admission? Drum roll please...The admissions officers who reviewed my application were fascinated by my life experiences. Pretty cliche, right? Not quite..."

Q: What types of supplemental essays did UNC require? And what was your strategy for answering them?

A: When I applied in the 2019-2020 cycle, UNC required us to submit responses to 2 out of 4 prompts of our choice. I can’t recall the two I did not pick, but the ones I picked were:

  • 1. “What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want for us to know?”

  • 2. “What do you hope will change about the place where you live?”

From what I remember, the prompts that UNC gave us were all quite broad. A single prompt could be interpreted in different ways. And I think that was precisely the intention behind writing the prompts this way. As an applicant to UNC and as a student here, I’ve come to realize that the one thing UNC values the most is authenticity.

UNC wants you to be YOU. Your own creative ideas, experiences, perspectives, and opinions make you who you are and influence the kind of person you will be in society. On campus, most programs, executive boards, committees, offices, and branches were created by students or were born from student ideas. Every student on campus is different in their own way. We may share many similar life experiences, but there is always that one thing that is unique and different about each person I’ve met.

And each of us, sharing many similarities yet being so unique, work together like a set of well coordinated gears. In a way, we run our own university; we build and grow our own community, make our own changes, and work together as one harmonious student body that contributes to ourselves and others. We also do these things selflessly and with a feeling of passion and possessiveness towards our Tar Heel community.

When the Carolina admissions committee reads your supplemental essays, they want to see your unique personality. They want to feel excited to have you on campus and to envision the things you would add or change or create in the Carolina community.

Therefore, through your supplemental essays, make sure to emphasize YOURSELF. Of course, do not write an autobiography. Instead, take a minute to introspect and find what makes your heart beat. What would wake you up at night if the thought occurred to you? Then, think about WHY it would wake you up. Think about how your thoughts contribute to the growth, innovation, or betterment of society. Amalgamate it, and that is how you should approach these essays.

Q: What do you think UNC valued in your application?

A: I’m glad you asked this question, because not only do I have an answer, but I have the correct one.

A year ago, I got a chance to sit down with an admissions committee member and look at the comments and feedback that were written by my application reviewers about my application to UNC. [Side note: this is something I believe most universities offer, so if you commit to one, make sure to take advantage of this.] So, what is it that sealed the deal to my admission? Drum roll please……………

The admissions officers who reviewed my application were fascinated by my life experiences. Pretty cliche, right? Not quite.

Let me expand on that. In particular, they noted my experiences as an immigrant moving to a new country and finding a way to quickly learn, adapt, and grow. They were impressed by how much I had accomplished in a short period of time. When I moved to the USA from India in 2016, I was just about to begin my freshman year in high school. So, not only was that a huge shift in culture, academic systems, and lifestyle, it also quickly created a general knowledge gap for me. I did not know A LOT of things, but I was adaptable, open-minded, agile, inquisitive, and brave to take steps forward.

They made note of my leadership experiences, my academic and athletic success, my commitment to community service, and much more. That, coupled with my immigrant experience, made me an individual with unique perspectives and an outlook on life who would add value to the Tar Heel community.

Q: What were some unique things for UNC’s application that students should be aware about?

A: Many universities ask students to provide an optional resume in addition to your CommonApp activities section.

UNC is one of those universities. I remember submitting pages upon pages upon pages of a resume, collecting EVERY SINGLE ONE of my activities and accomplishments, and I can almost guarantee you that it was NOT my resume that sealed the deal.

Resumes: I firmly advise against doing what I did. Use your resume to tactfully (and SUCCINCTLY) include other activities that you were not able to list in the extracurriculars section of the CommonApp.


UNC does not offer admissions interviews because they receive a huge number of applicants each year, and they just do not have the logistics to organize alumni interviews for every student.

Application Cycles:

UNC lets prospective students apply via two general cycles: early action or general application. Since the early action application is non-binding, I would highly recommend that you submit your application early. Not only will you have a greater chance for acceptance, but you will also hear back about your decision sooner, which will help you make a call on the other applications you will/will not submit.

Standardized Scores/Additional Info:

As for standardized test scores, UNC does superscore your SAT or ACT, so submit your highest scores to them and don’t be afraid to take the tests again if you need to. UNC offers a few merit scholarships that do not require additional essays, but you will have to select the scholarships of your choice while filling out some of the objective portions of the application.

Helpful tip: research the scholarships you selected and determine what they are looking for; then, make sure to weave in those characteristics into the essays you write to make your application a little more relevant to the scholarship program.

Thanks for reading!
  • If you were interested in this article, read more about Internships

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