Answer the question.
This may seem like an obvious one, but we sometimes receive responses to questions we have not asked. This should be a new essay you have written about your self specifically in response to our prompt.
Do not reuse common application or scholarship essays you have already written - it should be evident that you wrote a new essay in response to the question we have asked.
Use the space you are given.
We ask for a maximum of 750 words, but have not specified a minimum. While we see great essays at a variety of lengths, students who reach less than two thirds of the maximum words typically have not engaged with the essay prompt in a way that helps us get to know them (or that answers the question).
Remember that we want to get to know you.
Most of our applicants will have good grades and scores, so we rely on your essay to get a sense of who you are. This is how you stand out. In reviewing your essay before submission, ask yourself 'could this essay be written only by myself or could it have been written by anyone?' We are not looking for anything in particular when we read your application except getting to know you as a person. Be genuine. The essay should reflect what you want to write, not what you think we want to hear.
No really, what makes this essay unique is you.
Self-reflection is a large component of the Honors Program. We will be looking for some reflection in your essay. This has the dual benefit of making the essay truly, uniquely yours. Another cannot author your self-reflection.
Stay away from absolutes.
Avoid words like "always", "never", and "no one/everyone." They can kill an otherwise sound argument and potentially divert the reader’s focus from the topic at hand to finding the exceptions, often weakening important and well-informed points.
Do not conclude by pandering.
Your conclusion does not need an explicit statement along the lines of "And this is why I'm looking forward to all the opportunities in the honors program" or "And that's why I'm excited to be a Hawkeye". It's great that you're excited to join our community, but we take your engagement with the application, as it's written (i.e. follow the instructions), as your statement of interest.
Enjoy it! (No, really!)
Believe it or not, we do not ask for an essay just to make you write. We hope the essay can be an outlet for you to explore your own mind. Don't worry about proving anything to us, other than the fact that you are human - There is no right answer! Dig deep and have fun.
Revise! When you think you are done, revise once more!