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Blog > Essay Examples , UC Essays > 8 Outstanding UC Essay Examples (Graded by Former Admissions Officers)

8 Outstanding UC Essay Examples (Graded by Former Admissions Officers)

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

We talk a lot about essays in the college application process. And for good reason. Essays are one of the most critical parts of your application, and the University of California Personal Insight Questions are no different. Even though they’re quite different from personal statements or supplemental essays , UC essays serve a similar purpose: to help admissions officers get to know you and envision you on their campus.

But the tricky thing about UC essays is that they have a very particular style and form. If you don’t write your UC essays in the right way, you risk tanking your application.

Writing them the right way, however, can land you in the admit pile.

So how do you write your own outstanding UC essays? We recommend you start by reading outstanding examples.

As writing coaches, we know that the best way to become a better writer is to read. More specifically, if there’s a type of writing you want to improve on, then you should read more in that genre.

For you, that means reading UC essays to help prepare you to write your own.

And in this post, you won’t just be reading example UC essays. You’ll also see commentary from former admissions officers that will help guide you through why each essay works.

Let’s get started.

The UC Personal Insight Question Prompts

The University of California system, which consists of nine campuses across the state, requires students to apply directly via their institutional application portal. That means that you won’t be submitting your Common Application to them or writing school-specific supplemental essays. Instead, you’ll choose four of the following eight prompts to respond to.

Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Once you have your prompts chosen, the essays themselves should be no greater than 350 words each.

Together, your essays should be different but cohesive enough to tell a fairly complete story of who you are.

Before we get to the examples, we have a few tips to keep you on track.

How to Write the UC Personal Insight Questions

Okay, so we actually have a whole other comprehensive guide to the UC essays that breaks down the process in extreme detail.

So for now, we’ll just go over the essentials.

What’s helpful about the UC PIQs is that we don’t have to guess what admissions officers are looking for—the UCs tell us directly in the Points of Comprehensive Review . Read through all thirteen points, but pay special attention to #10. That’s where your essays will be doing the heaviest lifting.

With that in mind, there are four rules for writing UC essays that you should stick to like glue:

Answer the prompt.

We’ll say it again for the people in the back: answer the prompt! The UC essay prompts ask very specific questions and contain multiple parts. If you misinterpret the prompt, you may end up writing the completely wrong essay.

You might find that diagramming or annotating the prompts helps you pull out the important pieces. Break down what each of your chosen prompts asks you to do, and list out all the questions in order. That way, you’ll make sure you’re not missing anything.

Skip the fluff.

Your personal statement likely has some creative descriptions or metaphors. You may have even incorporated figurative or poetic language into your supplementals. And that’s great. In fact, that’s encouraged (within reason, of course).

But UC essays are different. They’re all business.

Whereas your personal statement might open with an attention-catching hook that describes a scene in vivid detail, your UC essays should jump straight in. In general, your essay should be organized in a clear way that tells a straightforward story.

Focus on action steps.

As we saw in the Points of Comprehensive Review, admissions officers want to learn about how your concrete experiences have shaped you. That means that your essays should revolve around action steps rather than, say, 350 words of intense personal reflection. What those action steps should look like will depend on the prompts you’ve chosen. But by the end of your essay, your admissions officers should know what you’ve done and why.

Show a strength.

In the UC essays, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the prompt and style of the essay. But don’t lose sight of the purpose of any college essay in the process: to showcase a strength to your admissions officers.

Every UC essay you write should correspond with a specific strength. That might be wisdom, artistry, good judgement, entrepreneurship, leadership—you get the idea.

Let’s say you want one of your essays to demonstrate leadership. The idea isn’t that you come out and say, “This shows that I am a leader.” Instead, by the end of the essay, after reading about everything you’ve done and reflected on, your admissions officers should sit back in their chair and say, “Wow, that student is a leader.” You’ll see what we mean in the examples.

Because of all these golden rules, your UC essays will look quite different than your Common Application essay or supplementals. They’ll probably look quite different from any essay you’ve written.

That’s where examples come in handy. Ready to dive in?

UC Prompt 1: Leadership

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

Prompt 1 Example Essay

When we moved to a new neighborhood, my dad always complained about the house next to us. Full of weeds and random objects, it had clearly been neglected(( Notice how, at least compared with common application personal essays, the tone of this essay is much more staid?)) .

I didn’t pay much attention to his complaints until one day when I saw that our neighbor was an elderly man. He was struggling to bring his trash to the bins outside. Suddenly, it all clicked. If taking out the garbage was a challenge, then surely he wasn’t able to do yard work. That’s why it looked neglected.

My dad always taught me that leadership isn’t about giving orders. It’s about doing what needs to be done(( A direct, succinct definition of leadership.)) . With this advice in mind, I decided that I would help our neighbor.

After my realization, I went and knocked on our neighbor’s door. I introduced myself and learned that his name was Hank. When the time was right, I informed him that I’d be cutting our grass the following weekend and would love to cut his as well. Hank initially refused.

Speaking with Hank, I learned that leadership is also about listening to people’s needs(( Showing a lesson from the experience.)) . In that moment, Hank needed to be reassured that I wanted to help. I told him it would be easy for me to cross over to his yard while I had the equipment out. He finally agreed.

The next Saturday, I got to work. The job would be bigger than I expected. All the objects needed to be picked up before I could mow. I decided to enlist the help of my two younger siblings. At first, they said no. But a good leader knows how to inspire, so I told them about Hank and explained why it was important to help. Together, we cleaned up the yard. Now, each time I mow our lawn, I mow Hank’s afterward.

Through this experience, I learned that leadership is about seeing problems and finding solutions. Most importantly, it’s about attitude and kindness(( The author of this essay does a good job staying focused on a clear definition.)) . The neighborhood is grateful that the eyesore is gone, Hank is grateful for the help, and I am grateful for my new friend.

Word Count: 343

UC Essay Checklist

Does the writer convey a strength?

Yes. The writer shows initiative in seeking out the neighbor and willingness to help in all the hard work they did.

Is every part of the prompt answered?

Yes. Since this prompt has an “or,” we know that the writer doesn’t have to meet every single criterion listed. They respond to the “positively influenced others” part of the prompt, which we can see through their interactions with their neighbor.

Does the writer adhere to UC conventions?

Yes. The essay is straightforward and clearly organized. The writer lists action steps in chronological order.

UC Prompt 2: Creativity

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

Prompt 2 Example Essay

As a cellist, I express my creativity through music(( Directly answering the prompt up front. )) . Whether I’m playing in a symphony, chamber orchestra, quartet, or solo performance, I bring my art to the world with my instrument. My creativity has transformed me from a small child playing out of tune to a solo artist featured in my state’s youth symphony.

I’ve loved music from a young age, and I began playing the cello when I was six years old. What began as a hobby to keep an energetic child engaged has become my life’s purpose.

At first, I only played along with my private lesson teacher, Ms. Smith. I loved dancing my fingers across the fingerboard, plucking the strings, and making screeching noises with my bow. Ms. Smith told my parents that I had promise but needed to develop discipline. Despite my young age, I listened. By the time I reached middle school, I had made principal cellist in my school’s orchestra. Leading a section of fellow cellists brought my creativity to a whole new level. Not only was I expressing myself through my own music, but I also expressed myself through my leadership. With a subtle nod or an expressive sway, I learned to shape the music those behind me played. I felt most comfortable and free when I was playing my cello.

That feeling only grew as I moved into high school. In ninth grade, I landed my first solo. With it came a new creative sensation: stage fright(( This part of the essay distracts a bit from the main theme.)) . Until then, I’d only experienced positive emotions while playing. I needed to make solo performance more positive. With endless practice and exercises like playing for the public on the sidewalk, I learned that solo performance is simply a way to share my love of music with those around me.

Now, as principal cellist of my state’s youth orchestra, I jump at the chance to perform any solo I can get. Getting to this point has taken me countless late nights practicing in my bedroom and weekends spent in rehearsals. But without my cello to express my creative side, I wouldn’t be me.

Word Count: 347

Yes. The writer is an artist—a musician specifically. Their creativity shines through.

Yes. This prompt is pretty straightforward: “Describe how you express your creative side,” which the writer does by describing their love of the cello. Notice how the writer doesn’t just say they’re creative because they play the cello. They describe that creativity in detail.

Mostly. The short paragraph about stage fright takes us on a slight detour from the prompt. To make this essay even better, the writer could have eliminated that anecdote or reframed it to be more about creative expression.

UC Prompt 3: Talent or Skill

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Prompt 3 Example Essay

How many toes does an armadillo have? What were the main causes of the Crimean War? Who discovered atoms? When my friends or family have questions, they come to me for answers. I am an expert researcher. Although my passion for research began as a fun hobby, it has evolved into one of my greatest skills(( The writer opens with an interesting but not too out-there hook and then gets straight to answering the prompt.)) .

My first real mystery came when I was in ninth grade. My mom wanted to track down an old friend from high school but hadn’t had any luck searching on her own. Having grown up with the internet, I was my mom’s best chance. Not sure where to begin, I took to YouTube tutorials. Using the few family details my mom remembered, I tracked down the friend’s brother then found the friend’s married name(( Here’s a great example of what the skill looks like.)) . Alas–we found her on social media. I felt triumphant as I saw the happiness wash over my mom’s face.

Since then, my skill has grown exponentially(( And here the writer gets at the “developed and demonstrated the talent over time” part of the prompt.)) . Combining my natural curiosity with my love of history, I’ve advanced my research skills by volunteering with my local library for the past two years. I have learned about how keywords and search engines work, practiced cataloging and archiving, and waded my way through the intricacies of the library’s database technology. Suddenly, researching wasn’t just about finding people’s Facebook profiles. It was about having any information I wanted to find at my fingertips.

Access to information is more important now than ever. That’s why I decided to put my research knowledge to work. Part of being a good researcher is teaching others how to access information too, so I founded the SOHS Research Club. We begin each meeting by raising the hardest question we can think of, and I use the projector in the library to walk club members through my research process. Members have all gone on to share their knowledge with their friends and family. The SOHS Research Club has spread information literacy to my whole community(( Gesturing to the greater significance of the skill)) .

Looking ahead to all the ways my research skills will improve in college, I know that I’ll be ready to find an answer for anything.

Word Count: 350

Yes. We see that they’re not only skilled at research but also that they want to support their community.

Yes—but. The prompt asks about your greatest talent or skill . It also asks how you have developed and demonstrated that talent over time. The writer does answer these questions, but I’d like to see more about when the SOHS Research Club took place as part of this development.

Yes. The essay is clear, organized, and to-the-point.

UC Prompt 4: Educational Opportunity or Barrier

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

Prompt 4 Example Essay

I jump at any chance to get my hands dirty. I am an aspiring ecologist. I’m lucky enough to live in a college town, so I was elated last semester when a postdoctoral fellow invited me to join her research team(( Okay, looks like this writer is addressing the “how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity” part of the prompt.)) .

Although at first(( Good signposting and transitions. UC essays should be clear and straightforward. This writer easily walks us through the step-by-step of what happened.)) I was intimidated by the prospect of working alongside college students and faculty, I decided to embrace the opportunity to learn what being an ecologist is really like.

The project involved studying Asclepias syriaca populations in my local park. More commonly known as Milkweed, this flower species has a long and important history in North America, particularly for Indigenous people. After learning about its history as a food source, medicine, and critical part of ecological function, I couldn’t wait to be part of the research.

As a research assistant, I helped with data collection. We began by using twine to section off population groups in the park. Then, every week I returned to the populations to collect information about population growth. I counted the number of flowers in the population, and, with a clear ruler, I measured and recorded the height of every individual flower.

The work was tedious. On my hands and knees, I squinted at the millimeter markings, trying to obtain the most accurate measurements possible. Each week, I’d return home with muddy jeans and a smile on my face.

Participating in this research project taught me that being an ecologist is about much more than looking at plants(( Going beyond the research to reflect on lessons learned—nice!)) . It’s also about learning from mentors and engaging with and having respect for the historical context of the plants we study. Being a scientist is also not as glamorous as movies like Jurassic Park lead on. Instead, science requires careful planning, patience, and hard work.

But what I learned the most from this educational opportunity is that science doesn’t exist in some nebulous place. It exists right here in front of me. I look forward to continuing to use science to serve my community.

Word count: 328

Yes. We see their intellectual curiosity and willingness to learn through their research journey.

Yes. We have another “or” prompt! This time they’ve chosen to focus on an “educational opportunity,” which is the research project. They certainly explain how they “took advantage” of it.

Yes. There’s no fluff, just a coherent narrative focused on actions the writer took.

UC Prompt 5: Challenge

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

Prompt 5 Example Essay

While most kids fear monsters, my greatest fear has always been tests. Since elementary school, I’ve dealt with incapacitating test anxiety. I’d sit down for a spelling test and faint from anxiety(( Straight into answering the prompt)) . Math tests in middle school would make me run to the bathroom ill. By the time I reached high school, where the testing stakes became even higher, my test anxiety increased exponentially.

More than normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, it is a diagnosis I wrestle with daily. Test anxiety caused me to miss a number of tests that I had no option to re-take. It’s caused me to receive abysmal scores on standardized and state tests, which has had repercussions in the classes I’m allowed to take(( Strategically, this was a good prompt for this student to answer because it gives them a way to contextualize any poor grades they earned early in high school. It also gets at the “academic achievement” part of the prompt.)) . My test anxiety has been the greatest challenge of my life. In a school system so reliant on testing, it has completely affected my ability to achieve academically.

By the time I took the PSATs, I couldn’t even move my hand to write my name. I knew something had to change. I reached out for help. My mom knew I had been struggling but didn’t understand the extent of my illness. Together, we contacted my school counselor, who told us how to find a therapist.

With my doctors, I worked to mitigate the effects of my test anxiety on a medical and psychological level(( Action steps! This prompt requires you to talk about the specific steps you took to overcome the challenge. The writer does exactly that in this paragraph.)) . I began taking beta-blockers that helped slow my heart rate, thus tricking my body into being less anxious. Alongside that, I spent months working through the reasons my brain interpreted testing as such a threat. I learned to appreciate my intrinsic value instead of relying on external factors like test scores. And rather than viewing tests as chances to fail, I began to understand them as opportunities to showcase my growth.

Now, after two long years of effort, I can take any test with ease. Since learning how to manage my disorder, I’ve successfully taken my driver’s test, SATs and ACTs, and all seven of my AP exams. I’m looking forward to all the tests I’ll take in college(( And we end on a very positive note that shows lots of growth)) .

Yes—which is difficult with this prompt. The writer doesn’t get bogged down in the challenge of having test anxiety. Instead, they use this prompt as an opportunity to show a strength: resilience to overcome such a difficult problem.

Yes. And this prompt has multiple parts, too. It wants you to describe 1) a challenge, 2) the steps you’ve taken to overcome the challenge, and 3) how the challenge affected your academic achievement. This writer does all three.

Yes. The writer doesn’t provide any poetic descriptions or metaphors. They say what they mean.

UC Prompt 6: Academic Interest

6.  Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Prompt 6 Example Essay

Sitting in front of my baby cousin, I held my hands in front of my face. I quickly snapped them down and exclaimed, “Peek-a-boo!” Delighted, he erupted into laughter. From the perspective of my more developed brain, this game is quite boring. It’s overly repetitive, and the outcome—my face reveal—is basic and consistent. But to a brain that hasn’t yet gone through the sensorimotor phase of development, the game is a downright hoot. What I perceive as boring is actually magic to a baby’s mind. Without the concept of object permanence, my cousin thinks that I disappear completely behind my hands. When my face returns, he marvels as I inexplicably materialize in front of him. It’s no wonder he can play peek-a-boo for hours.

Since I took IB Psychology my sophomore year, I have been fascinated with child psychology(( It takes a paragraph before we get to the prompt (a bit too long), but I like the nerdiness the writer shows in the intro)) . No matter when or where we are born, we all undergo similar stages of development that help us understand the world around us. Imagine Albert Einstein chewing on a rock or Genghis Khan taking his first steps. Researching child development unlocks something universal and equalizing about the human experience.

Because of my interest in child psychology, I decided to get more involved with my community. I began by volunteering in a psychology lab at my local university. While there, I get our child participants settled before sessions. Occasionally I get to help with data collection. I also landed a job as a teacher’s aide at a nearby Head Start, where I feed lunches, play, and read. In both of these activities, I’ve learned so much about how to interact with toddlers, to think like they think, and to help them grow into kind and happy children(( This paragraph shows exactly how they’ve furthered their interest.)) .

My school doesn’t offer any additional psychology courses, so I took a community college class this summer. I’m looking forward to taking more advanced psychology classes as a psychology major, and I’m eager to bring the research skills I’ve been developing to one of the UC’s many child development labs. One day, I hope to use all these skills as a child therapist.

Word Count: 348

Yes. The student is very intellectually curious about child development—a perfect strength for this prompt.

Yes. The writer talks about an academic subject, child development, and describes how they advanced that interest through a research lab, classes, and a job at Head Start.

Yes—but. Overall, the essay does a great job adhering to UC essay conventions. But the first paragraph almost doesn’t. As it is, the writer stays focused on telling the story. However, it takes up quite a bit of space in the essay without really conveying much about the writer’s journey. If there were a metaphor or any poetic language in there, it would have been too far. Same goes for the snippet about Einstein and Genghis Khan—it adds personality but is close to overdoing it.

UC Prompt 7: School or Community

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Prompt 7 Example Essay

Nourishing loved ones by cooking for them is one of my biggest passions. But my hobby has become more difficult since moving to a food desert. Food deserts are areas without easy access to grocery stores or healthy foods. These disparities are clear in the school cafeteria, with the majority of students eating processed school lunches or packaged foods brought from home. I decided to do something about it.

The idea came to me one day as I made my way from AP Biology to my cooking elective. We needed a school community garden(( The writer sets up the stakes in the introduction so we truly understand the situation here)) . If we couldn’t access fresh foods in our neighborhood, then we would grow our own. We just needed a space to grow them and money to buy supplies.

I began by finding a spot to plant our garden. My friends and I walked around the entire school and decided that the courtyard would be the perfect place. After explaining my idea to the Assistant Principal, I got permission to proceed.

Next(( This paragraph is full of good action steps)) I raised money for the supplies. With $20 in seed money from my parents, which I promptly paid back, I drew and printed stickers to sell at lunch. The stickers were anthropomorphized vegetables. They cost $0.10 per sticker to make, and I sold them for $1.00 each. Soon enough, I had not only raised enough money to set up the garden, but I had rallied the whole school around my cause. Thirty of my classmates showed up, vegetable stickers on their water bottles, to help me plant the garden.

For the last year, we’ve maintained a spread of seasonal vegetables in the garden. We bring a basket to the cooking elective teacher each week so students can practice cooking with fresh vegetables, and we hold a daily farm stand at lunch(( And we see that they are legitimately improving their community)) . At the stand, students can grab whatever fresh produce they want to add to their lunch.

My school’s garden nourishes my community, and I am nourished every day by the fact that my efforts have made a true difference to those around me.

Word Count: 341

Yes. The writer shows really great initiative and community understanding in their willingness to start a community garden from scratch.

Yes. With only one question, this prompt is pretty straightforward. And the writer’s answer is simple: to make their school community a better place, they made a community garden.

Yes. The writer goes into detail about every step they took to make the community garden come to life. I especially like how the writer goes beyond these details to emphasize how much the community garden impacted the school community.

UC Prompt 8: Additional Information

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Prompt 8 Example Essay

When I posted a TikTok video of myself studying, I didn’t expect anyone but my friends to see it. But within hours, my video had gone viral— tens of thousands of people(( That’s a lot of people. This shows the magnitude and impact of the video.)) saw the carefully-crafted shots I’d taken of my desk setup and homework timelapse. The comment section flooded. People appreciated the work I’d put into curating the perfect desk. They thanked me for inspiring them to get started on their own homework. I was overwhelmed by the response.

At first I felt really shy. What if people from school saw it and made fun of me? I kept questioning myself so much that I completely froze. Finally, one comment caught my attention. It read, “I’ve been having a hard semester and can barely get myself out of bed, let alone to do my homework. But this is so calming! Maybe I’ll try.” That comment made me realize that it didn’t matter what people at my school thought. What mattered was that I loved making that video and it had made an actual difference in the lives of the people who saw it.

And that’s when I decided to make my mark on #StudyTok(( This is a pretty unique topic that wouldn’t have necessarily fit into the other prompt categories, which makes it a good candidate for prompt #8.)) . Since that first video, I’ve posted 318 others and accumulated over 35,000 followers(( More numbers to show impact)) . I’ve had more videos go viral and reach hundreds of thousands of people looking for work inspiration. Even the videos that some would see as “fails” still reach a couple hundred people. That may not be a big deal in the Internet world, but those same people would fill up my high school’s auditorium. My goal for every video is to make my viewers feel relaxed and able to take on whatever work they have to do. It helps me and my viewers complete our work.

These videos have made me more confident and organized, and I can’t wait to continue them in college. When I get an extra assignment or have to stay up late to finish a paper, I become excited instead of frustrated because I know that the little StudyTok community I’ve created will be there right alongside me.(( This conclusion drives home the what “makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the UC” part of the prompt.))

Yes. They show creativity through their video production and leadership through their huge community impact.

Mostly. This prompt is a tricky one to answer because its components aren’t as straightforward as the others. Through such a huge impact, the writer makes it implicitly clear why this story demonstrates that they are a good candidate for admissions to the UC, but the message could be more explicit.

Yes. The writer conveys the sequence of events in a clear and organized way, and they use good metrics to show the impact of their videos.

Key Takeaways

Did you catch our golden rules throughout? Yep. That’s what makes these essays stand out, and that’s what’ll make your essays stand out, too.

And even though these essays come from different students, hopefully you also got a sense of how an admissions officer reads a portfolio of essays for a single student.

Remember: just like your other applications, your overall goal for your UC application is to create a cohesive application narrative that shows your core strengths.

Having read all these essays, you’re now well on your way to writing your own. Try jumping into the Essay Academy or our UC essay writing guide  for help getting started.

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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Single Parenting — Being A Single Parent


Being a Single Parent

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Words: 517 |

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Words: 517 | Page: 1 | 3 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, 1. socioeconomic challenges, 2. emotional struggles, 3. societal stigmas, 4. strengths and resilience, 5. support networks, 6. positive outcomes.

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College Essays


If you're applying to any University of California (UC) campus as an incoming first-year student , then you have a special challenge ahead of you. Applicants need to answer four UC personal insight questions, chosen from a pool of eight unique prompts different from those on the Common App. But not to worry! This article is here to help.

In this article, I'll dissect the eight UC essay prompts in detail. What are they asking you for? What do they want to know about you? What do UC admissions officers really care about? How do you avoid boring or repulsing them with your essay?

I'll break down all of these important questions for each prompt and discuss how to pick the four prompts that are perfect for you. I'll also give you examples of how to make sure your essay fully answers the question. Finally, I'll offer step-by-step instructions on how to come up with the best ideas for your UC personal statements.

What Are the UC Personal Insight Questions?

If you think about it, your college application is mostly made up of numbers: your GPA, your SAT scores, the number of AP classes you took, how many years you spent playing volleyball. But these numbers reveal only so much. The job of admissions officers is to put together a class of interesting, compelling individuals—but a cut-and-dried achievement list makes it very hard to assess whether someone is interesting or compelling. This is where the personal insight questions come in.

The UC application essays are your way to give admissions staff a sense of your personality, your perspective on the world, and some of the experiences that have made you into who you are. The idea is to share the kinds of things that don't end up on your transcript. It's helpful to remember that you are not writing this for you. You're writing for an audience of people who do not know you but are interested to learn about you. The essay is meant to be a revealing look inside your thoughts and feelings.

These short essays—each with a 350-word limit—are different from the essays you write in school, which tend to focus on analyzing someone else's work. Really, the application essays are much closer to a short story. They rely heavily on narratives of events from your life and on your descriptions of people, places, and feelings.

If you'd like more background on college essays, check out our explainer for a very detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application .

Now, let's dive into the eight University of California essay questions. First, I'll compare and contrast these prompts. Then I'll dig deep into each UC personal statement question individually, exploring what it's really trying to find out and how you can give the admissions officers what they're looking for.


Think of each personal insight essay as a brief story that reveals something about your personal values, interests, motivations, and goals.

Comparing the UC Essay Prompts

Before we can pull these prompts apart, let's first compare and contrast them with each other . Clearly, UC wants you to write four different essays, and they're asking you eight different questions. But what are the differences? And are there any similarities?

The 8 UC Essay Prompts

#1: Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.

#2: Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

#3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

#4: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

#5: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

#6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

#7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

#8: Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

How to Tell the UC Essay Prompts Apart

  • Topics 1 and 7 are about your engagement with the people, things, and ideas around you. Consider the impact of the outside world on you and how you handled that impact.
  • Topics 2 and 6 are about your inner self, what defines you, and what makes you the person that you are. Consider your interior makeup—the characteristics of the inner you.
  • Topics 3, 4, 5, and 8 are about your achievements. Consider what you've accomplished in life and what you are proud of doing.

These very broad categories will help when you're brainstorming ideas and life experiences to write about for your essay. Of course, it's true that many of the stories you think of can be shaped to fit each of these prompts. Still, think about what the experience most reveals about you .

If it's an experience that shows how you have handled the people and places around you, it'll work better for questions in the first group. If it's a description of how you express yourself, it's a good match for questions in group two. If it's an experience that tells how you acted or what you did, it's probably a better fit for questions in group three.

For more help, check out our article on coming up with great ideas for your essay topic .


Reflect carefully on the eight UC prompts to decide which four questions you'll respond to.

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How Is This Guide Organized?

We analyze all eight UC prompts in this guide, and for each one, we give the following information:

  • The prompt itself and any accompanying instructions
  • What each part of the prompt is asking for
  • Why UC is using this prompt and what they hope to learn from you
  • All the key points you should cover in your response so you answer the complete prompt and give UC insight into who you are

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 1

The prompt and its instructions.

Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.

Things to consider: A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or taking a lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about your accomplishments and what you learned from the experience. What were your responsibilities?

Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn't necessarily have to be limited to school activities. For example, do you help out or take care of your family?

What's the Question Asking?

The prompt wants you to describe how you handled a specific kind of relationship with a group of people—a time when you took the reigns and the initiative. Your answer to this prompt will consist of two parts.

Part 1: Explain the Dilemma

Before you can tell your story of leading, brokering peace, or having a lasting impact on other people, you have to give your reader a frame of reference and a context for your actions .

First, describe the group of people you interacted with. Who were and what was their relationship to you? How long were you in each others' lives?

Second, explain the issue you eventually solved. What was going on before you stepped in? What was the immediate problem? Were there potential long-term repercussions?


Leadership isn't limited to officer roles in student organizations. Think about experiences in which you've taken charge, resolved conflicts, or taken care of loved ones.

Part 2: Describe Your Solution

This is where your essay will have to explicitly talk about your own actions .

Discuss what thought process led you to your course of action. Was it a last-ditch effort or a long-planned strategy? Did you think about what might happen if you didn't step in? Did you have to choose between several courses of action?

Explain how you took the bull by the horns. Did you step into the lead role willingly, or were you pushed despite some doubts? Did you replace or supersede a more obvious leader?

Describe your solution to the problem or your contribution to resolving the ongoing issue. What did you do? How did you do it? Did your plan succeed immediately or did it take some time?

Consider how this experience has shaped the person you have now become. Do you think back on this time fondly as being the origin of some personal quality or skill? Did it make you more likely to lead in other situations?

What's UC Hoping to Learn about You?

College will be an environment unlike any of the ones you've found yourself in up to now. Sure, you will have a framework for your curriculum, and you will have advisers available to help. But for the most part, you will be on your own to deal with the situations that will inevitably arise when you mix with your diverse peers . UC wants to make sure that

  • you have the maturity to deal with groups of people,
  • you can solve problems with your own ingenuity and resourcefulness, and
  • you don't lose your head and panic at problems.


Demonstrating your problem-solving abilities in your UC college essay will make you a stronger candidate for admission.

How Can You Give Them What They Want?

So how can you make sure those qualities come through in your essay?

Pick Your Group

The prompt very specifically wants you to talk about an interaction with a group of people. Let's say a group has to be at least three people.

Raise the Stakes

Think of the way movies ratchet up the tension of the impending catastrophe before the hero swoops in and saves the day. Keeping an audience on tenterhooks is important—and distinguishes the hero for the job well done. Similarly, when reading your essay, the admissions staff has to fundamentally understand exactly what you and the group you ended up leading were facing. Why was this an important problem to solve?

Balance You versus Them

Personal statements need to showcase you above all things . Because this essay will necessarily have to spend some time on other people, you need to find a good proportion of them-time and me-time. In general, the first (setup) section of the essay should be shorter because it will not be focused on what you were doing. The second section should take the rest of the space. So, in a 350-word essay, maybe 100–125 words go to setup whereas 225–250 words should be devoted to your leadership and solution.

Find Your Arc

Not only do you need to show how your leadership helped you meet the challenge you faced, but you also have to show how the experience changed you . In other words, the outcome was double-sided: you affected the world, and the world affected you right back.


Give your response to question 1 a compelling arc that demonstrates your personal growth.

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 2

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

Things to consider: What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem?

How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career?

This question is trying to probe the way you express yourself. Its broad description of "creativity" gives you the opportunity to make almost anything you create that didn't exist before fit the topic. What this essay question is really asking you to do is to examine the role your brand of creativity plays in your sense of yourself . The essay will have three parts.

Part 1: Define Your Creativity

What exactly do you produce, make, craft, create, or generate? Of course, the most obvious answer would be visual art, performance art, or music. But in reality, there is creativity in all fields. Any time you come up with an idea, thought, concept, or theory that didn't exist before, you are being creative. So your job is to explain what you spend time creating.

Part 2: Connect Your Creative Drive to Your Overall Self

Why do you do what you do? Are you doing it for external reasons—to perform for others, to demonstrate your skill, to fulfill some need in the world? Or is your creativity private and for your own use—to unwind, to distract yourself from other parts of your life, to have personal satisfaction in learning a skill? Are you good at your creative endeavor, or do you struggle with it? If you struggle, why is it important to you to keep pursuing it?

Part 3: Connect Your Creative Drive With Your Future

The most basic way to do this is by envisioning yourself actually pursuing your creative endeavor professionally. But this doesn't have to be the only way you draw this link. What have you learned from what you've made? How has it changed how you interact with other objects or with people? Does it change your appreciation for the work of others or motivate you to improve upon it?


Connecting your current creative pursuits with your chosen major or career will help UC admissions staff understand your motivations and intentions.

Nothing characterizes higher education like the need for creative thinking, unorthodox ideas in response to old topics, and the ability to synthesize something new . That is what you are going to college to learn how to do better. UC's second personal insight essay wants to know whether this mindset of out-of-the-box-ness is something you are already comfortable with. They want to see that

  • you have actually created something in your life or academic career,
  • you consider this an important quality within yourself,
  • you have cultivated your skills, and
  • you can see and have considered the impact of your creativity on yourself or on the world around you.


College admissions counselors, professors, and employers all value the skill of thinking outside the box, so being able to demonstrate that skill is crucial.

How can you really show that you are committed to being a creative person?

Be Specific and Descriptive

It's not enough to vaguely gesture at your creative field. Instead, give a detailed and lively description of a specific thing or idea that you have created . For example, I could describe a Turner painting as "a seascape," or I could call it "an attempt to capture the breathtaking power and violence of an ocean storm as it overwhelms a ship." Which painting would you rather look at?

Give a Sense of History

The question wants a little narrative of your relationship to your creative outlet . How long have you been doing it? Did someone teach you or mentor you? Have you taught it to others? Where and when do you create?

Hit a Snag; Find the Success

Anything worth doing is worth doing despite setbacks, this question argues—and it wants you to narrate one such setback. So first, figure out something that interfered with your creative expression .  Was it a lack of skill, time, or resources? Too much or not enough ambition in a project? Then, make sure this story has a happy ending that shows you off as the solver of your own problems: What did you do to fix the situation? How did you do it?

Show Insight

Your essay should include some thoughtful consideration of how this creative pursuit has shaped you , your thoughts, your opinions, your relationships with others, your understanding of creativity in general, or your dreams about your future. (Notice I said "or," not "and"—350 words is not enough to cover all of those things!)

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Dissecting Personal Insight Question 3

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Things to consider: If there's a talent or skill that you're proud of, this is the time to share it. You don't necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you?

Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule?

Basically, what's being asked for here is a beaming rave. Whatever you write about, picture yourself talking about it with a glowing smile on your face.

Part 1: Narrative

The first part of the question really comes down to this: Tell us a story about what's amazing about you. Have you done an outstanding thing? Do you have a mind-blowing ability? Describe a place, a time, or a situation in which you were a star.

A close reading of this first case of the prompt reveals that you don't need to stress if you don't have an obvious answer. Sure, if you're playing first chair violin in the symphony orchestra, that qualifies as both a "talent" and an "accomplishment." But the word "quality" really gives you the option of writing about any one of your most meaningful traits. And the words "contribution" and "experience" open up the range of possibilities that you could write about even further. A contribution could be anything from physically helping put something together to providing moral or emotional support at a critical moment.

But the key to the first part is the phrase "important to you." Once again, what you write about is not as important as how you write about it. Being able to demonstrate the importance of the event that you're describing reveals much more about you than the specific talent or characteristic ever could.

Part 2: Insight and Personal Development

The second part of the last essay asked you to look to the future. The second part of this essay wants you to look at the present instead. The general task is similar, however. Once again, you're being asked to make connections:  How do you fit this quality you have or this achievement you accomplished into the story of who you are?

A close reading of the second part of this prompt lands on the word "proud." This is a big clue that the revelation this essay is looking for should be a very positive one. In other words, this is probably not the time to write about getting arrested for vandalism. Instead, focus on a skill that you've carefully honed, and clarify how that practice and any achievements connected with your talent have earned you concrete opportunities or, more abstractly, personal growth.


Remember to connect the talent or skill you choose to write about with your sense of personal identity and development.

What's UC Hoping to Learn About You?

Admissions officers have a very straightforward interest in learning about your accomplishments. By the end of high school, many of the experiences that you are most proud of don't tend to be the kind of things that end up on your résumé .

They want to know what makes you proud of yourself. Is it something that relates to performance, to overcoming a difficult obstacle, to keeping a cool head in a crisis, to your ability to help others in need?

At the same time, they are looking for a sense of maturity. In order to be proud of an accomplishment, it's important to be able to understand your own values and ideals. This is your chance to show that you truly understand the qualities and experiences that make you a responsible and grown-up person, someone who will thrive in the independence of college life. In other words, although you might really be proud that you managed to tag 10 highway overpasses with graffiti, that's probably not the achievement to brag about here.


Unless you were hired by the city to paint the overpasses, in which case definitely brag about it.

The trick with this prompt is how to show a lot about yourself without listing accomplishments or devolving into cliche platitudes. Let's take it step by step.

Step #1: Explain Your Field

Make sure that somewhere in your narrative (preferably closer to the beginning), you let the reader know what makes your achievement an achievement . Not all interests are mainstream, so it helps your reader to understand what you're facing if you give a quick sketch of, for example, why it's challenging to build a battle bot that can defeat another fighting robot or how the difficulties of extemporaneous debate compare with debating about a prepared topic.

Keep in mind that for some things, the explanation might be obvious. For example, do you really need to explain why finishing a marathon is a hard task?

Step #2: Zoom in on a Specific Experience

Think about your talent, quality, or accomplishment in terms of experiences that showcase it. Conversely, think about your experiences in terms of the talent, quality, or accomplishment they demonstrate. Because you're once again going to be limited to 350 words, you won't be able to fit all the ways in which you exhibit your exemplary skill into this essay. This means that you'll need to figure out how to best demonstrate your ability through one event in which you displayed it . Or if you're writing about an experience you had or a contribution you made, you'll need to also point out what personality trait or characteristic it reveals.

Step #3: Find a Conflict or a Transition

The first question asked for a description, but this one wants a story—a narrative of how you pursue your special talent or how you accomplished the skill you were so great at. The main thing about stories is that they have to have the following:

  • A beginning: This is the setup, when you weren't yet the star you are now.
  • An obstacle or a transition: Sometimes, a story has a conflict that needs to be resolved: something that stood in your way, a challenge that you had to figure out a way around, a block that you powered through. Other times, a story is about a change or a transformation: you used to believe, think, or be one thing, and now you are different or better.
  • A resolution: When your full power, self-knowledge, ability, or future goal is revealed.


If, for example, you taught yourself to become a gifted coder, how did you first learn this skill? What challenges did you overcome in your learning? What does this ability say about your character, motivations, or goals?

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 4

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

Things to consider: An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. For example, participation in an honors or academic enrichment program, or enrollment in an academy that's geared toward an occupation or a major, or taking advanced courses that interest you—just to name a few.

If you choose to write about educational barriers you've faced, how did you overcome or strive to overcome them? What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today?

Cue the swelling music because this essay is going to be all about your inspirational journey. You will either tell your story of overcoming adversity against all (or some) odds or of pursuing the chance of a lifetime.

If you write about triumphing over adversity, your essay will include the following:

A description of the setback that befell you: The prompt wants to know what you consider a challenge in your school life. And definitely note that this challenge should have in some significant way impacted your academics rather than your life overall.

The challenge can be a wide-reaching problem in your educational environment or something that happened specifically to you. The word "barrier" also shows that the challenge should be something that stood in your way: If only that thing weren't there, then you'd be sure to succeed.

An explanation of your success: Here, you'll talk about what you did when faced with this challenge. Notice that the prompt asks you to describe the "work" you put in to overcome the problem. So this piece of the essay should focus on your actions, thoughts, ideas, and strategies.

Although the essay doesn't specify it, this section should also at some point turn reflexive. How are you defined by this thing that happened? You could discuss the emotional fallout of having dramatically succeeded or how your maturity level, concrete skills, or understanding of the situation has increased now that you have dealt with it personally. Or you could talk about any beliefs or personal philosophy that you have had to reevaluate as a result of either the challenge itself or of the way that you had to go about solving it.

If you write about an educational opportunity, your essay will include the following:

A short, clear description of exactly what you got the chance to do: In your own words, explain what the opportunity was and why it's special.

Also, explain why you specifically got the chance to do it. Was it the culmination of years of study? An academic contest prize? An unexpected encounter that led to you seizing an unlooked-for opportunity?

How you made the best of it: It's one thing to get the opportunity to do something amazing, but it's another to really maximize what you get out of this chance for greatness. This is where you show just how much you understand the value of what you did and how you've changed and grown as a result of it.

Were you very challenged by this opportunity? Did your skills develop? Did you unearth talents you didn't know you had?

How does this impact your future academic ambitions or interests? Will you study this area further? Does this help you find your academic focus?


If writing about an educational obstacle you overcame, make sure to describe not just the challenge itself but also how you overcame it and how breaking down that barrier changed you for the better.

Of course, whatever you write about in this essay is probably already reflected on your résumé or in your transcript in some small way. But UC wants to go deeper, to find out how seriously you take your academic career, and to assess  how thoughtfully you've approached either its ups or its downs.

In college, there will be many amazing opportunities, but they aren't simply there for the taking. Instead, you will be responsible for seizing whatever chances will further your studies, interests, or skills.

Conversely, college will necessarily be more challenging, harder, and potentially much more full of academic obstacles than your academic experiences so far. UC wants to see that you are up to handling whatever setbacks may come your way with aplomb rather than panic.

Define the Problem or Opportunity

Not every challenge is automatically obvious. Sure, everyone can understand the drawbacks of having to miss a significant amount of school because of illness, but what if the obstacle you tackled is something a little more obscure? Likewise, winning the chance to travel to Italy to paint landscapes with a master is clearly rare and amazing, but some opportunities are more specialized and less obviously impressive. Make sure your essay explains everything the reader will need to know to understand what you were facing.

Watch Your Tone

An essay describing problems can easily slip into finger-pointing and self-pity. Make sure to avoid this by speaking positively or at least neutrally about what was wrong and what you faced . This goes double if you decide to explain who or what was at fault for creating this problem.

Likewise, an essay describing amazing opportunities can quickly become an exercise in unpleasant bragging and self-centeredness. Make sure you stay grounded: Rather than dwelling at length on your accomplishments, describe the specifics of what you learned and how.


Elaborating on how you conducted microbiology research during the summer before your senior year would make an appropriate topic for question 4.

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 5

Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

Things to consider: A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to talk about any obstacles you've faced and what you've learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone?

If you're currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, "How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends, or with my family?"

It's time to draw back the curtains and expand our field of vision because this is going to be a two-part story of overcoming adversity against all (or some) odds.

Part 1: Facing a Challenge

The first part of this essay is about problem-solving. The prompt asks you to relate something that could have derailed you if not for your strength and skill. Not only will you describe the challenge itself, but you'll also talk about what you did when faced with it.

Part 2: Looking in the Mirror

The second part of question 5 asks you to consider how this challenge has echoed through your life—and, more specifically, how what happened to you affected your education.

In life, dealing with setbacks, defeats, barriers, and conflicts is not a bug—it's a feature. And colleges want to make sure that you can handle these upsetting events without losing your overall sense of self, without being totally demoralized, and without getting completely overwhelmed. In other words, they are looking for someone who is mature enough to do well on a college campus, where disappointing results and hard challenges will be par for the course.

They are also looking for your creativity and problem-solving skills. Are you good at tackling something that needs to be fixed? Can you keep a cool head in a crisis? Do you look for solutions outside the box? These are all markers of a successful student, so it's not surprising that admissions staff want you to demonstrate these qualities.


The challenge you write about for question 5 need not be an educational barrier, which is better suited for question 4. Think broadly about the obstacles you've overcome and how they've shaped your perspective and self-confidence.

Let's explore the best ways to show off your problem-solving side.

Show Your Work

It's one thing to be able to say what's wrong, but it's another thing entirely to demonstrate how you figured out how to fix it. Even more than knowing that you were able to fix the problem, colleges want to see how you approached the situation . This is why your essay needs to explain your problem-solving methodology. Basically, they need to see you in action. What did you think would work? What did you think would not work? Did you compare this to other problems you have faced and pass? Did you do research? Describe your process.

Make Sure That You Are the Hero

This essay is supposed to demonstrate your resourcefulness and creativity . And make sure that you had to be the person responsible for overcoming the obstacle, not someone else. Your story must clarify that without you and your special brand of XYZ , people would still be lamenting the issue today. Don't worry if the resource you used to bring about a solution was the knowledge and know-how that somebody else brought to the table. Just focus on explaining what made you think of this person as the one to go to, how you convinced them to participate, and how you explained to them how they would be helpful. This will shift the attention of the story back to you and your efforts.

Find the Suspenseful Moment

The most exciting part of this essay should be watching you struggle to find a solution just in the nick of time. Think every movie cliché ever about someone defusing a bomb: Even if you know 100% that the hero is going to save the day, the movie still ratchets up the tension to make it seem like, Well, maybe... You want to do the same thing here. Bring excitement and a feeling of uncertainty to your description of your process to really pull the reader in and make them root for you to succeed.


You're the superhero!

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 6

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Things to consider: Many students have a passion for one specific academic subject area, something that they just can't get enough of. If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, internships, employment, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or clubs — and what you have gained from your involvement.

Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)? Are you inspired to pursue this subject further at UC, and how might you do that?

This question is really asking for a glimpse of your imagined possibilities .

For some students, this will be an extremely straightforward question. For example, say you've always loved science to the point that you've spent every summer taking biology and chemistry classes. Pick a few of the most gripping moments from these experiences and discuss the overall trajectory of your interests, and your essay will be a winner.

But what if you have many academic interests? Or what if you discovered your academic passion only at the very end of high school? Let's break down what the question is really asking into two parts.

Part 1: Picking a Favorite

At first glance, it sounds as if what you should write about is the class in which you have gotten the best grades or the subject that easily fits into what you see as your future college major or maybe even your eventual career goal. There is nothing wrong with this kind of pick—especially if you really are someone who tends to excel in those classes that are right up your interest alley.

But if we look closer, we see that there is nothing in the prompt that specifically demands that you write either about a particular class or an area of study in which you perform well.

Instead, you could take the phrase "academic subject" to mean a wide field of study and explore your fascination with the different types of learning to be found there. For example, if your chosen topic is the field of literature, you could discuss your experiences with different genres or with foreign writers.

You could also write about a course or area of study that has significantly challenged you and in which you have not been as stellar a student as you want. This could be a way to focus on your personal growth as a result of struggling through a difficult class or to represent how you've learned to handle or overcome your limitations.

Part 2: Relevance

The second part of this prompt , like the first, can also be taken in a literal and direct way . There is absolutely nothing wrong with explaining that because you love engineering and want to be an engineer, you have pursued all your school's STEM courses, are also involved in a robotics club, and have taught yourself to code in order to develop apps.

However, you could focus on the more abstract, values-driven goals we just talked about instead. Then, your explanation of how your academics will help you can be rooted not in the content of what you studied but in the life lessons you drew from it.

In other words, for example, your theater class may not have stimulated your ambition to be an actor, but working on plays with your peers may have shown you how highly you value collaboration, or perhaps the experience of designing sets was an exercise in problem-solving and ingenuity. These lessons would be useful in any field you pursue and could easily be said to help you achieve your lifetime goals.


If you are on a direct path to a specific field of study or career pursuit, admissions officers definitely want to know that. Having driven, goal-oriented, and passionate students is a huge plus for a university. So if this is you, be sure that your essay conveys not just your interest but also your deep and abiding love of the subject. Maybe even include any related clubs, activities, and hobbies that you've done during high school.

Of course, college is the place to find yourself and the things that you become passionate about. So if you're not already committed to a specific course of study, don't worry. Instead, you have to realize that in this essay, like in all the other essays, the how matters much more than the what. No matter where your eventual academic, career, or other pursuits may lie, every class that you have taken up to now has taught you something. You learned about things like work ethic, mastering a skill, practice, learning from a teacher, interacting with peers, dealing with setbacks, understanding your own learning style, and perseverance.

In other words, the admissions office wants to make sure that no matter what you study, you will draw meaningful conclusions from your experiences, whether those conclusions are about the content of what you learn or about a deeper understanding of yourself and others. They want to see that you're not simply floating through life on the surface  but that you are absorbing the qualities, skills, and know-how you will need to succeed in the world—no matter what that success looks like.

Focus on a telling detail. Because personal statements are short, you simply won't have time to explain everything you have loved about a particular subject in enough detail to make it count. Instead, pick one event that crystallized your passion for a subject   or one telling moment that revealed what your working style will be , and go deep into a discussion of what it meant to you in the past and how it will affect your future.

Don't overreach. It's fine to say that you have loved your German classes so much that you have begun exploring both modern and classic German-language writers, for example, but it's a little too self-aggrandizing to claim that your four years of German have made you basically bilingual and ready to teach the language to others. Make sure that whatever class achievements you describe don't come off as unnecessary bragging rather than simple pride .

Similarly, don't underreach. Make sure that you have actual accomplishments to describe in whatever subject you pick to write about. If your favorite class turned out to be the one you mostly skipped to hang out in the gym instead, this may not be the place to share that lifetime goal. After all, you always have to remember your audience. In this case, it's college admissions officers who want to find students who are eager to learn and be exposed to new thoughts and ideas.

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 7

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Things to consider: Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place— like your high school, hometown or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community?

Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community?

This topic is trying to get at how you engage with your environment. It's looking for several things:

#1: Your Sense of Place and Connection

Because the term "community" is so broad and ambiguous, this is a good essay for explaining where you feel a sense of belonging and rootedness. What or who constitutes your community? Is your connection to a place, to a group of people, or to an organization? What makes you identify as part of this community—cultural background, a sense of shared purpose, or some other quality?

#2: Your Empathy and Ability to Look at the Big Picture

Before you can solve a problem, you have to realize that the problem exists. Before you can make your community a better place, you have to find the things that can be ameliorated. No matter what your contribution ended up being, you first have to show how you saw where your skills, talent, intelligence, or hard work could do the most good. Did you put yourself in the shoes of the other people in your community? Understand some fundamental inner working of a system you could fix? Knowingly put yourself in the right place at the right time?

#3: Your Problem-Solving Skills

How did you make the difference in your community? If you resolved a tangible issue, how did you come up with your solution? Did you examine several options or act from the gut? If you made your community better in a less direct way, how did you know where to apply yourself and how to have the most impact possible?


Clarify not just what the problem and solution was but also your process of getting involved and contributing specific skills, ideas, or efforts that made a positive difference.

Community is a very important thing to colleges. You'll be involved with and encounter lots of different communities in college, including the broader student body, your extracurriculars, your classes, and the community outside the university. UC wants to make sure that you can engage with the communities around you in a positive, meaningful way .

Make it personal. Before you can explain what you did in your community, you have to define and describe this community itself—and you can only do that by focusing on what it means to you. Don't speak in generalities; instead, show the bonds between you and the group you are a part of through colorful, idiosyncratic language. Sure, they might be "my water polo team," but maybe they are more specifically "the 12 people who have seen me at my most exhausted and my most exhilarated."

Feel all the feelings. This is a chance to move your readers. As you delve deep into what makes your community one of your emotional centers, and then as you describe how you were able to improve it in a meaningful and lasting way, you should keep the roller coaster of feelings front and center. Own how you felt at each step of the process: when you found your community, when you saw that you could make a difference, and when you realized that your actions resulted in a change for the better. Did you feel unprepared for the task you undertook? Nervous to potentially let down those around you? Thrilled to get a chance to display a hidden or underused talent?


To flesh out your essay, depict the emotions you felt while making your community contribution, from frustration or disappointment to joy and fulfillment. 

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 8

Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Things to consider: If there's anything you want us to know about you, but didn't find a question or place in the application to tell us, now's your chance. What have you not shared with us that will highlight a skill, talent, challenge or opportunity that you think will help us know you better?

From your point of view, what do you feel makes you an excellent choice for UC? Don't be afraid to brag a little.

If your particular experience doesn't quite fit under the rubrics of the other essay topics , or if there is something the admissions officers need to understand about your background in order to consider your application in the right context, then this is the essay for you.

Now, I'm going to say something a little counterintuitive here. The prompt for this essay clarifies that even if you don't have a "unique" story to tell, you should still feel free to pick this topic. But, honestly, I think you should  choose this topic only if you have an exceptional experience to share . Remember that E veryday challenges or successes of regular life could easily fit one of the other insight questions instead.

What this means is that evaluating whether your experiences qualify for this essay is a matter of degrees. For example, did you manage to thrive academically despite being raised by a hard-working single parent? That's a hardship that could easily be written about for Questions 1 or 5, depending on how you choose to frame what happened. Did you manage to earn a 3.7 GPA despite living in a succession of foster families only to age out of the system in the middle of your senior year of high school? That's a narrative of overcoming hardship that easily belongs to Question 8.

On the flip side, did you win a state-wide robotics competition? Well done, and feel free to tell your story under Question 4. Were you the youngest person to single-handedly win a season of BattleBots? Then feel free to write about it for Question 8.

This is pretty straightforward. They are trying to identify students that have unique and amazing stories to tell about who they are and where they come from. If you're a student like this, then the admissions people want to know the following:

  • What happened to you?
  • When and where did it happen?
  • How did you participate, or how were you involved in the situation?
  • How did it affect you as a person?
  • How did it affect your schoolwork?
  • How will the experience be reflected in the point of view you bring to campus?

The university wants this information because of the following:

  • It gives context to applications that otherwise might seem mediocre or even subpar.
  • It can help explain places in a transcript where grades significantly drop.
  • It gives them the opportunity to build a lot of diversity into the incoming class.
  • It's a way of finding unique talents and abilities that otherwise wouldn't show up on other application materials.

Let's run through a few tricks for making sure your essay makes the most of your particular distinctiveness.

Double-Check Your Uniqueness

Many experiences in our lives that make us feel elated, accomplished, and extremely competent are also near universal. This essay isn't trying to take the validity of your strong feelings away from you, but it would be best served by stories that are on a different scale . Wondering whether what you went through counts? This might be a good time to run your idea by a parent, school counselor, or trusted teacher. Do they think your experience is widespread? Or do they agree that you truly lived a life less ordinary?

Connect Outward

The vast majority of your answer to the prompt should be telling your story and its impact on you and your life. But the essay should also point toward how your particular experiences set you apart from your peers. One of the reasons that the admissions office wants to find out which of the applicants has been through something unlike most other people is that they are hoping to increase the number of points of view in the student body. Think about—and include in your essay—how you will impact campus life. This can be very literal: If you are a jazz singer who has released several songs on social media, then maybe you will perform on campus. Or it can be much more oblique: If you have a disability, then you will be able to offer a perspective that differs from the able-bodied majority.

Be Direct, Specific, and Honest

Nothing will make your voice sound more appealing than writing without embellishment or verbal flourishes. This is the one case in which  how you're telling the story is just as—if not more—important than what you're telling . So the best strategy is to be as straightforward in your writing as possible. This means using description to situate your reader in a place, time, or experience that they would never get to see firsthand. You can do this by picking a specific moment during your accomplishment to narrate as a small short story and not shying away from explaining your emotions throughout the experience. Your goal is to make the extraordinary into something at least somewhat relatable, and the way you do that is by bringing your writing down to earth.


Your essays should feature relatable thoughts and emotions as well as insights into how you will contribute to the campus community.

Writing Advice for Making Your UC Personal Statements Shine

No matter what personal insight questions you end up choosing to write about, here are two tips for making your writing sparkle:

#1: Be Detailed and Descriptive

Have you ever heard the expression "show; don't tell"? It's usually given as creative writing advice, and it will be your best friend when you're writing college essays. It means that any time you want to describe a person or thing as having a particular quality, it's better to illustrate with an example than to just use vague adjectives . If you stick to giving examples that paint a picture, your focus will also become narrower and more specific. You'll end up concentrating on details and concrete events rather than not-particularly-telling generalizations.

Let's say, for instance, Adnan is writing about the house that he's been helping his dad fix up. Which of these do you think gives the reader a better sense of place?

My family bought an old house that was kind of run-down. My dad likes fixing it up on the weekends, and I like helping him. Now the house is much nicer than when we bought it, and I can see all our hard work when I look at it.

My dad grinned when he saw my shocked face. Our "new" house looked like a completely run-down shed: peeling paint, rust-covered railings, shutters that looked like the crooked teeth of a jack-o-lantern. I was still staring at the spider-web crack in one broken window when my dad handed me a pair of brand-new work gloves and a paint scraper. "Today, let's just do what we can with the front wall," he said. And then I smiled too, knowing that many of my weekends would be spent here with him, working side by side.

Both versions of this story focus on the house being dilapidated and how Adnan enjoyed helping his dad do repairs. But the second does this by:

painting a picture of what the house actually looked like by adding visual details ("peeling paint," "rust-covered railings," and "broken window") and through comparisons ("shutters like a jack-o-lantern" and "spider-web crack");

showing emotions by describing facial expressions ("my dad grinned," "my shocked face," and "I smiled"); and

using specific and descriptive action verbs ("grinned," "shocked," "staring," and "handed").

The essay would probably go on to describe one day of working with his dad or a time when a repair went horribly awry. Adnan would make sure to keep adding sensory details (what things looked, sounded, smelled, tasted, and felt like), using active verbs, and illustrating feelings with dialogue and facial expressions.

If you're having trouble checking whether your description is detailed enough, read your work to someone else . Then, ask that person to describe the scene back to you. Are they able to conjure up a picture from your words? If not, you need to beef up your details.


It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but it'll make a great college essay!

#2: Show Your Feelings

All good personal essays deal with emotions. And what marks great personal essays is the author's willingness to really dig into negative feelings as well as positive ones . As you write your UC application essays, keep asking yourself questions and probing your memory. How did you feel before it happened? How did you expect to feel after, and how did you actually feel after? How did the world that you are describing feel about what happened? How do you know how your world felt?

Then write about your feelings using mostly emotion words ("I was thrilled/disappointed/proud/scared"), some comparisons ("I felt like I'd never run again/like I'd just bitten into a sour apple/like the world's greatest explorer"), and a few bits of direct speech ("'How are we going to get away with this?' my brother asked").

What's Next?

This should give you a great starting point to address the UC essay prompts and consider how you'll write your own effective UC personal statements. The hard part starts here: work hard, brainstorm broadly, and use all my suggestions above to craft a great UC application essay.

Making your way through college applications? We have advice on how to find the right college for you , how to write about your extracurricular activities , and how to ask teachers for recommendations .

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Worried about how to pay for college after you get in? Read our description of how much college really costs , our comparison of subsidized and unsubsidized loans , and our lists of the top scholarships for high school seniors and juniors .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Frequently Asked Questions About the UC Essays

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

What’s Covered:

The brainstorming process, choosing essay topics, writing your response.

How do you recall experiences that are substantive enough to write about? 

The process of recalling experiences is different for each person, and you have to find the method that works best for you. Some people may find it helpful to do free-writing, brainstorming, and outlining exercises. Others may have discussions with a parent, friend, teacher, counselor, or college advisor to reflect on and pressure test possible responses to the different essay questions. 

Where is the line between being a good, unique response and being completely off topic from the original question? 

The line changes depending on the prompt you are responding to. The best thing you can do in cases where you are unsure of whether you have crossed the line is to gut-check your idea with a parent, friend, teacher, counselor, or college advisor. Ultimately, it is up to you to figure out where the line is and to push the boundary just a bit so that your unique personality and profile come to the fore. 

Is writing about my culture a compelling topic, or is it overused? 

Unless you come from a culture that is rare among applicants to the University of California (UC), then chances are high that many other applicants have already written the same or similar essays as you would. This does not mean that it is impossible to write a great essay about a frequently used topic. It just means that the barrier to entry is higher and you may find it more difficult to write an original essay about your culture. 

Is talking about mental health struggles in application essays considered a red flag to admissions officers?

If you write about a mental health challenge, then you need to do so in the context of how you have adapted to, managed, or even overcome such a challenge. By focusing on your perseverance or triumph against mental health challenges, you are shifting the narrative away from something that would raise a red flag and towards the profile of a resilient applicant. 

How do you deliver a clear and compelling message in 350 words?  

You should start by responding to the prompt as you naturally would without paying attention to the word count. Once you have responded to the question in its entirety and written between 400 and 600 words, then you can step away and take a break. When you return to what you have written, you can whittle away at redundant or superfluous words and phrases until you reach a tight 350-word essay. After you have gone through this process on your own, it can be helpful to show your essay to someone whose opinion you trust, like a parent, friend, teacher, counselor, or college advisor.

How might you incorporate elements of humor into your essays? 

Proceed carefully. In the case of humor, it’s important to recognize that everyone has a slightly different definition of humor and sometimes the written page does not lend itself to joke-telling because the reader cannot hear the author’s tone of voice. For instance, sarcasm can sometimes be misconstrued or perceived as overly self-deprecating, which may not be the appropriate tone for an essay. If you are committed to being humorous, “dad joke” type humor will be the least offensive. You can take chances with other types of humor, but doing so can be risky.

For more information on writing the application essays for admission to the University of California, review the article on How to Write the University of California Essays .

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single parent uc essay

How to Write the UC Essays: Analysis, Examples, and Tips

Student in orange blouse brainstorming to write the UC essays.

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 12/21/23

Stuck on your UC personal insight questions? Read on to learn how to write the UC essays!

Whether you’re an amazing essayist or dread writing them, it’s essential you put careful thought into your UC personal insight questions. After all, these essays are your opportunity to express yourself, share your most meaningful experiences and abilities, and impress the admissions committee!

Considering how important this application requirement is, you may be wondering how to write the UC supplemental essays in a compelling and memorable way. Look no further; this guide has you covered! We’ll review how to write the UC application essays , how to pick the right prompts, and provide you with sample answers to inspire you!

UC Personal Insight Questions (PIQ)

Before getting into the specifics of how to answer the UC personal insight questions (PIQ), let’s review the eight prompts you’ll choose from:

“1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. 

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. 

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?”

Students are required to answer four UC personal insight questions. The UC system has no preference over the prompts students choose. Be sure that your essays stay under the University of California PIQ word count of 350 words. 

Students hoping to transfer to a UC school will also have to answer some of the prompts. Here is a guide to help applicants complete their UC transfer personal statements. 

Many of these prompts are similar to the UC Common App questions, so you can even use your answers to the UC prompts to inspire your Common App essays or vice versa! 

Understanding UC Essay Prompts

The first step to writing the UC school essays is picking four prompts to respond to. These eight prompts for UC schools may seem intimidating at first glance, but your careful thought can help you choose those that will elevate your application. Selecting prompts at random isn’t the best strategy here.

If you find you’re struggling to come up with at least a 300-word response to any prompt, it could be a sign to choose another. If you choose the right UC college essay prompts, it should be hard for you to stop writing!

To aid you in the process, we’ll discuss each of the UC essay prompts in detail, providing you with tips on how to answer them.

Students often misunderstand this prompt because they believe leadership is a particular role or position, such as an executive member of a club, job supervisor, or head of a volunteer organization. 

Unless you genuinely fit in one of these categories, you should consider other ways you’ve shown leadership. Define the word in your own terms! If you led people in any way, you could write about the experience and what you accomplished. As you brainstorm ideas, ensure you write about the following:

  • The skills you developed and used as a leader
  • Why you assumed the role 
  • The actions you took as a leader
  • The impact you had through your actions

Ensure you only choose one event to describe. Don’t list all your leadership experiences, as this goes against the premise of this prompt. Part of the difficulty is choosing just one experience to share. However, the committee does this to learn what is most meaningful to you and to see if you can follow guidelines!

For this prompt, students shouldn’t limit themselves by viewing creativity as an artistic skill. You don’t necessarily have to be artistically inclined to be creative; all you have to do is demonstrate your ability to think outside the box or use your skills in an original way. 

Think about your passions, what you do in your free time, and how your creativity has influenced you.

Prompt Three

Students tend to struggle with prompt three. When learning how to write UC essays, some students struggle to choose the perfect experience. For this prompt, students can typically list several talents or skills but struggle to pinpoint just one to expand upon. They wonder which talent is best or most impressive. 

Begin by listing your top talents and skills. Choose talents you have put effort and time into developing. If you’re a natural singer and have done little to develop your falsetto except sing in the shower, choose another skill that required more intense practice to perfect.

Be honest, and don’t be afraid to brag a little! If you’re having trouble choosing a talent, ask your friends and family for assistance. 

Prompt Four

Prompt four may not apply to you, making choosing which questions to respond to easier! This prompt may be worth answering if you participated in a program, course, club, or workshop that helped you prepare for college and supplement your learning. 

Regarding educational barriers, reflect on academic roadblocks. Was there anything that made it difficult for you to attend school, do well in a course, or study effectively? For instance, not liking the teachers that taught the AP classes at your school doesn’t count as an educational barrier, but financial struggles could. 

Prompt Five

Prompt five is somewhat similar to four. This challenge can doesn’t have to be related to your education. But you should still share how it affected your academics and any barriers it created in your education. Don’t repeat the same challenge you described in prompt four.

Your response should give the admissions committee more insight into your background, experiences, life circumstances, and personality. The most important trait to demonstrate with your response is resilience. The committee wants to know you can overcome the challenges life throws at you. 

Everyone has a favorite subject, which is what prompt six focuses on. This response is popular among students because they often know exactly which subject to discuss! There’s usually an academic subject that students excel in and just can’t seem to get enough of, whether it’s science, music, or something else.

You likely have a topic in mind as you read this! Use that topic and demonstrate how you’ve developed your interest through additional courses, programs, extracurriculars, internships, or jobs. Talk about what you learned from participating in these activities and how this subject has influenced your college path.

Prompt Seven

Prompt seven is fairly straightforward, but you do have some leeway. There are several communities you’re a part of, so don’t feel obligated to focus only on your school or local community. Choose one that you’ve made the largest impact on; perhaps it’s a school club, your work community, or your family. 

Define community as you see fit and explain your role in it. Focus on one or two major ways you’ve contributed to this community and its impact. 

Prompt Eight

The final UC personal insight question gives you a chance to share anything about yourself that’s missing from your application or didn’t fit into the other essay prompts.

If, after reading through all the prompts, none of them allow you to share more about a trait, experience, or talent you feel makes you a strong UC candidate, use this response to share it. Don’t be afraid to brag a little here! You have free reign to discuss whatever you want to share with the admissions committee. 

Female student typing essay on laptop

UC Essay Prompts With Examples 

It’s often helpful to look at examples of personal statements to get your ideas flowing. Below are sample UC supplemental essays for each prompt to help inspire your writing. These essays can also be used as examples of UC transfer student essays, as they respond to the same prompts. 

Please note that these essays have been anonymized to protect the privacy of the authors.

Prompt One Example

Here’s one example showcasing a student’s experiences with responsibilities as they answer, “Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.” 

“While I’ve participated in several clubs where I have been given leadership titles, the one I am most proud of, and has allowed me to accomplish the most, is the role I play within my family.

From an early age, it was clear I would have to take on more responsibilities than was expected of me. After my father passed away when I was twelve years old, relatives constantly reminded me I was now the head of the house and responsible for my family. 

While I do not think they expected me to take their words to heart completely, I did. I became a leader within my own family and was more than just a big brother to my younger sibling. I knew that my sibling would look up to me for guidance and that I had to be the best role model for him. 

I took the initiative to work part-time at an Arby’s nearby to help my mother with bills, and took on various other roles to ensure my sibling grew up with the same guidance and support I did. 

I was a caretaker, a teacher, a protector, a counselor, and sometimes even a chauffeur. I got my driver’s license as soon as I turned sixteen so I could take Johnathan to all of his soccer games and play recitals.

I cannot say it was easy; sometimes, it felt impossible to take on so many roles, but I persevered. I remained dedicated to my family, perfected my time management, learned how to multitask, and remained driven because I knew my hard work would result in great rewards - the success of my family. 

Jonathan is now on track to finish at the top of his freshman year. He graduated the eighth grade as valedictorian and hopes to become a pediatric nurse in the future. 

While I cannot say I am grateful for the circumstances that led me to this role, I can say I am proud of the impact I have had on my family because of it.” 

Tips on How to Write This Essay

Here are some effective tips to help you answer this prompt:

  • Choose a relevant example : Choose a leadership experience that is both relevant to the prompt and significant in demonstrating your abilities. 
  • Provide context : Begin by setting the stage. Offer a brief but clear introduction to the situation, including the context, the group involved, and the challenges or goals that the team faced. Help the reader understand the importance of the leadership experience.
  • Highlight positive outcomes : Emphasize the positive outcomes or changes achieved through your leadership. This could include improved team dynamics, successful resolution of disputes, or the accomplishment of group goals. 

Why This Works

This essay works because it’s unique and highly personal. It explains the role this student plays within a community that has the most meaning to them. It offers valuable insight into how this role helped them grow and develop important, transferable traits such as perseverance, selflessness, dedication, time management, and multitasking.

Understanding what UC schools are looking for can also help you craft masterful essays. Learn more about what the UC system seeks in applicants here! 

Prompt Two Example

Prompt two is, “Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.” Use this example for the second UC prompt to guide you:

“My friends have always responded to my love for debate with confused looks and eye rolls. In their minds, debate involves pressure, critical thinking, and conversation about uninteresting topics. But, for me, debate club has always been my greatest talent and favorite way to express my creativity.

I consider it to be a craft to take a seemingly dry topic, such as tariff imposition in developing nations, and become enthusiastic about it. During debate, we are only given half an hour to come up with our primary argument. Within this half hour, I must convince others of my opinion and examine the topic from every angle.

Once both sides have presented, it is my responsibility to then think of compelling counter-arguments on the spot. Debate is where I shine. I recognize that humans only use 10% of their brains, but it truly feels like I use 11% during these debates.

I have to carefully choose the language I use to sway the judges, disprove equally crafted opposing views, and out-think my intelligent and driven peers. Contrary to my friends’ beliefs, there is truly never a dull moment in debate—there is simply no time for one. 

It is a battle of wits in which both teams can only use their words as their weapons. If I do not think my arguments through, it can be like bringing a sword to a gunfight. 

I have participated in debate competitions throughout high school and have even helped my school’s team advance to the top rounds at national debate competitions. Through this experience, I have not only developed excellent critical thinking skills but have become a more confident and articulate speaker.

My love for debate has also influenced me to pursue a career in criminal law, where my creativity and skill can be used to uphold justice and ensure the safety of society—which even my most skeptic friends won’t call boring!” 

Three high school students talking together

Here is how can you answer this prompt:

  • Narrate a story : Frame your response as a narrative to make it engaging and memorable. Take the reader through a journey that illustrates how your creative side has manifested in different situations. Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of your creative expression.
  • Reflect on the impact : Discuss the impact of your creative expression. This could involve positive outcomes, solutions to challenges, or the reception of your artistic work. Reflecting on the consequences of your creativity adds substance to your response.
  • Be concise : Given the word limit, be concise and focused in your response. Avoid unnecessary details and stay on topic. Make every sentence count to effectively communicate the essence of your creative side.

This is a great example of the UC creativity prompt because this student explains their creativity in a way that doesn’t relate to artistic talent. They appropriately describe how they use their creativity to excel in their passion and use examples to make their story more genuine. They also share the success they’ve had because of their creativity, which further proves their skill and ability.

Prompt Three Example

The next prompt is, “What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?” Consider this example for inspiration:

“She lacked luster. She was plain-looking, with dull hair and unsymmetrical features. Her right eye seemed to droop lower than her left, giving her the appearance of a slight lazy eye. There was no sparkle in her eye, no life in her gaze. She barely seemed alive. 

She almost looked like a Tim Burton character gone wrong, although even that description was too considerate and failed to capture her true mediocrity. 

That’s how I would describe the first-ever portrait I made in middle school. While I always enjoyed sketching, it did not come naturally to me. That was until I enrolled in a summer art program offered by the City Art Lab.

During this program, I learned how to modify the pressure on my pencil to produce different textures. I learned how to add highlights and create shadows to give my sketches depth. But most importantly, I learned the importance of practice. 

I practiced my art skills that entire summer, and the transformation was unbelievable. I went from creating wonky, left-behind Tim Burton characters to realistic, detailed portraits that began to resemble black-and-white photos. 

I have taken visual arts classes throughout high school and even won an art competition held among all sophomore students. Through all of my practice, I have learned to take risks, trust my abilities, and be open to new techniques to improve my work. 

I have begun using different mediums, such as charcoal, oil, and even acrylic. While I haven’t perfected my skills in these mediums, I am confident I will be able to with enough practice and commitment. 

Having the right mentors is important too, which is why I plan on continuing to develop my art skills at UC Irvine through their robust visual arts program taught by talented and accomplished faculty.” 

Here are some tips to help you write this essay:

  • Self-reflection : Begin by reflecting on your strengths and skills. Identify the talent you believe is your greatest and think about how you’ve developed and demonstrated that talent over time.
  • Choose a specific talent : Select a talent or skill that is not only significant but also relevant to the program you’re applying to. Whether it's a technical skill, leadership ability, communication proficiency, or something else, be specific in your choice.
  • Share examples : Illustrate your talent with concrete examples from your experiences. Discuss situations where you have demonstrated this skill, showcasing its impact and relevance. 

This response opens with a hook that catches the reader’s attention, influencing them to keep reading. Readers will likely be surprised to learn this student is just describing a sketch and not a real person.

They share their complete experience with art, show vulnerability by stating they struggled with their sketches, and ultimately show their dedication by explaining how they improved. They also end their essay well by explaining how they plan on continuing to develop their skills at UC Irvine. 

Learn more about writing college essays from a Brown graduate here! 

Prompt Four Examples

Prompt four asks you to “Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.” We’ll include two UC essay examples to help guide your writing: 

“It is the perfect course for any students that hope to become doctors—is what my junior year AP Biology teacher Mr. Wilson told me about an eight-week introductory biology course that was being offered to high school students at our local community college.

Mr. Wilson always told us about the best opportunities to pursue if we wanted to join the medical field. It was a dream of his as well, but he always said “life got in the way” and he never took it as seriously as he should have. He warned me not to make the same mistake. If I was serious about becoming a physician, I had to prove it.

So, I enrolled in the course and was ready for a summer full of 8 am laboratories, 20-page readings, and late-night study sessions instead of sleeping in, reading mystery novels on the beach, and staying up late with my friends playing video games. But, I was willing to make that sacrifice to better prepare myself for college.

It was clear from my first class that I was in over my head. I struggled to retain the readings and had a hard time keeping up during lectures. I felt ashamed and downright defeated. I questioned if I deserved to even be a physician and wondered why it seemed to come so easily to my peers. 

But, wondering and wallowing would do me no good. So, I picked myself up and strategized. I spoke to my professor to ask for some tips. He assured me most students struggle to adjust in the beginning, but his biggest tip was to review the readings the night before our lectures, make notes during, and review those notes again after class. 

While his suggestions were time-consuming, they helped me increase my grades and I actually began to enjoy the course! I graduated with an A and learned more than just cell biology and evolutionary ecology. I learned how to manage my time better, stay organized, persevere through challenges, and to ask for help when needed!” 

Use these tips to help you write an impactful essay: 

  • Choose a relevant experience : Select a specific educational opportunity or barrier that is not only significant but also relevant to your personal and academic journey. This could include a challenging course, a unique learning experience, or overcoming obstacles to pursue education.
  • Provide context : Begin by providing context for the educational opportunity or barrier. Explain the circumstances that made it significant or challenging, including any personal or external factors that influenced your experience.
  • Highlight the significance : Clearly explain why the educational opportunity or barrier is significant in your academic journey. Discuss the impact it had on your learning, personal growth, or overall development.

This response works because it demonstrates how the student took advantage of an educational opportunity and their real experience. They show their drive, determination, and perseverance through their story of overcoming difficulties during the program. 

They also mentioned their reason for taking this course was to better prepare themself for college, which also allowed them to develop study habits to aid them. Both these points can convince the UC admissions committee of this student’s academic potential. 

Here’s another example: 

“After the first few tests in my geometry course my freshman year, my teacher, [NAME #1], noticed my passion for and proficiency with math. At the same time, my physics teacher, [NAME #2], noticed how I enjoyed challenging extra credit problems. I would visit him during the advisory period to review the problems so I could understand the concepts. Both of these teachers recognized my curiosity and desire to challenge myself beyond existing coursework. By the end of the first quarter, I had decided I wanted to take calculus as a sophomore, but I needed to complete Algebra 2 and precalculus first.

One day, I noticed [NAME #2] AP Calculus book on his desk and asked him if I could borrow it, even though the topic was well beyond what I had been studying. I worked with [NAME #1] and asked how I could accelerate my math courses so I could take calculus the following year. The largest obstacle standing in my way was time. I still needed to take a year’s worth of Algebra 2 and a year’s worth of precalculus before I could enroll in AP Calculus AB. 

Despite this barrier, I was determined to progress. I would ask [NAME #1] to give me practice material from Algebra 2, which I would study in addition to my freshman workload. [NAME #1] agreed that if I passed both Algebra 2 semester finals, she would give me credit for the class. My studying paid off. I passed and was able to take an accelerated precalculus course over the summer before my sophomore year. 

My initiative and my teachers’ recognition of my skills and abilities allowed me to advance in mathematics faster than what the school would normally allow. As a result, I am now taking Advanced Topics in Calculus as a senior, and I will be able to jumpstart my lower-division coursework as an Applied Mathematics major. I learned that good teachers nurture potential and that if I take initiative, I can accomplish anything. I have confidence that I can handle a heavy workload and look forward to new challenges.” 

This essay demonstrates the student’s ability to take the initiative and take charge of their education despite originally not being on track to take their desired courses. The author’s essay shares their passion for math, their ability to solve problems, and how they worked around an educational barrier to advance their learning. 

Ready to elevate your UC essays? Check out our video on writing perfect college essays here! 

Prompt Five Example

Prompt five asks you to “Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?”

Gain a better understanding of how to write the UC essays from this sample response: 

“I grew up in Mumbai, where the air was always warm and welcoming and carried the scent of flowers and cardamom. Everywhere I went, I heard my beautiful language being spoken by people in my village that knew my name and always greeted me with smiles as warm as the sun that was constantly out. 

Then, I moved to America. My father received a job opportunity that would provide us with more economic stability and a chance for a better life for me and my soon-to-be younger brother who was due to be born in a few months. America was not like Mumbai. 

We traded our small, tight-knit village for the bustling, large city Denver where no one knew my name, and I rarely heard my beautiful language. Instead, I heard a foreign language that always seemed too quick to catch. I struggled to string along even the most simple sentences. I missed the warmth of the sun and the smell of the air. 

When I started school in the sixth grade, I was an easy target for bullies. I had a thick accent and mismatched clothes. I was still learning how Westerners dressed, and I stuck out like a sore thumb—an expression that always confused me as a child.

But, I took ESL classes throughout middle school. I read in my free time and joined ESL summer programs every year. Soon, I was able to string along sentences with ease and Denver started to feel more like home. I started hearing a different beautiful language that I understood more and more every day. 

By high school, English became my favorite subject. I understood even the most complex Shakespeare plays and wrote compelling essays on them. My accent still lingers on certain words, but it only reminds me of the idyllic place that I come from. 

I am no longer ashamed of my roots, in fact, I smile when I hear the remnants of my accent. I also smile when I learn new English words, and am happy to say I am now the master of two beautiful languages.” 

India flag blowing in wind

Here are some helpful tips on how to write this essay:

  • Choose a genuine challenge : Pick a challenge that is genuinely significant in your life and has had a tangible impact on your academic journey. This could be a personal, academic, or professional challenge that has shaped your experiences and perspectives.
  • Detail the steps taken : Outline the specific steps you took to overcome the challenge. Discuss any strategies, actions, or decisions you made to address the obstacles. Highlight your problem-solving skills, resilience, and determination.
  • Reflect on the experience : Reflect on what you learned from overcoming the challenge. Discuss how the experience has shaped your character, influenced your approach to challenges, and contributed to your personal and academic growth.

This response shares a story that is clearly meaningful to the student. It revolves around their upbringing, a major event in their life, and the challenges they faced because of this change. They show persistence and resilience and provide concrete examples of how they overcame the odds and perfected their English.

Prompt Six Examples

Prompt six asks you to “Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.” 

The best way to grasp how to write the UC essays is to learn by example! Here are two UC essay examples to help you get inspired: 


It doesn’t sound like a pleasant word. In fact, most people ask me to repeat myself when I describe myself as one. But, it is the only word that captures how important writing and reading is to me. Every definition of the word states logophiles are lovers of words, which is exactly what I am, no more and no less. 

English was always my favorite subject. My mother constantly reminds me of how I would pretend to write even when I couldn’t. It was only ever just scribbles, but she was convinced those scribbles held meaning to me. 

I would scribble on lined paper for hours until I began learning the alphabet and how to make those scribbles mean something to someone other than myself.

Throughout middle school, I spent all of my free time reading. You would never see me without a book, and I would read an average of three novels each week. 

I loved how words came together to create wonderful stories that I could immerse myself into. I marveled at the amazing gift authors had to be able to give life to words that had such little meaning on their own. I knew, someday, I would also be able to create worlds out of words. 

I took all of the English courses offered at my school and supplemented these classes with writing camps and workshops led by real authors during my summers. By my sophomore year, it was a notebook that I always carried around with me. I found inspiration in everything. 

I looked at the tan line where my biology teacher’s wedding ring must have been and wrote a story about their doomed love. I submitted it for a nation-wide junior writing competition and won second place.” 

This summer, I will be participating in a writing internship offered by a local news station. While I will mainly be writing investigative work, I hope to expand my writing skills and learn new techniques through it.

I plan on developing my skills even further at UC Merced through their Karen Merritt Writing Program.” 

Consider these tips when answering the above prompt:

  • Choose a genuine academic interest : Select an academic subject that genuinely inspires and excites you. Your enthusiasm for the subject should be apparent in your writing, and the chosen topic should align with your academic interests.
  • Connect to future goals : Tie your passion for the academic subject to your future academic and professional goals. Explain how this interest aligns with your aspirations and how it will contribute to your success in the program and beyond.
  • Be concise : While expressing enthusiasm, ensure that your essay remains focused and concise. Avoid unnecessary details and tangents, and prioritize conveying a clear and impactful story about your passion for the academic subject.

This student not only describes why they love English and writing but also provides background information to demonstrate how long they’ve been honing their writing and reading skills. They explain how they’ve already developed their skills and how they plan on further enhancing them at UC Merced. 

Here’s another example answering this prompt: 

“Throughout literature, I see time. Thousands of works hundreds of years old have been lost, and yet some manage to survive longer than the authors who brought them to life. I read a Greek piece of writing and see in the sentiments expressed in the text that besides some trivial differences attributable to history, we’re still essentially the same. We’re all human, navigating the world and finding comfort in words.

Words have given humans the ability to communicate at extraordinary levels, which has only exponentiated in the digital age of technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). In an increasingly impersonal digital world, language makes experiences tangible - real - and enables us to break barriers of individuality and possibly even loneliness. Literature provides a sense of unity and perpetuity, allowing me to understand our history more personally when I read timeless works written by another author’s hand.

It wasn’t until reading and comparing multitudinous genres (ranging from fiction and [LANGUAGE] to Shakespearean sonnets) in sophomore English that I realized, although we come from different times, we still laugh at the same jokes, suffer similar tragedies, and have a collective sense of duty to maintain what was - and still is - deemed beautiful.

Thus, from sophomore year onward, I started pleasure reading, a hobby I’d long neglected. The first year, I managed to read 6 books, all simple digestible fiction works. The year after: 30 books, with a medley of genres from fantasy and classics to non-fiction. The next year: 50 books, with so many genres and topics that I began listening to debates and commentaries about books I’d finished, reading essays written on them and writing my own, and watching my favorite videos of Brandon Sanderson on writing.

Of all my hobbies, I must say reading affords me the most invaluable understanding of literature. Vicariously experiencing other authors’ thoughts and beliefs, I’m immersed in their minds, and whenever I finish their book, I’m back on my own timeline in history, unable to contain the inspiration that often strikes to use my words and languages to weave works of literature.” 

Why This Worked 

This student’s love of literature fuelled their narrative while demonstrating how they pursued their passions outside the classroom. 

The tangible numbers they provide on how many books they’ve read and their descriptions of how they’d engaged with the content shows their commitment to learning and exploring history and writing – their conclusion about unity and perpetuity is especially compelling. 

Prompt Seven Example

Prompt seven asks, “What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?” Here’s a sample answer: 

“We have a fourteen-day adoption policy. Animals that are not adopted within two weeks of entering the shelter are likely to be euthanized. We simply do not have the room or resources to keep them longer. Considering she’s a black cat, it’s highly likely she will not be adopted. 

That’s what I was told when I surrendered an injured black cat to my local animal shelter. I found Midnight cowering under my car during a hail storm. It was clear she once belonged to someone, she had a tattered collar, but she must have been abandoned recently. 

Her nails were beginning to grow out, and her fur was matted and unbrushed. After hearing about her chances of adoption, I researched the phenomena of black pet deaths.

Out of all of the other pets, black dogs and cats were not only the least likely to be adopted but were euthanized at the highest rates. By day thirteen, no one had adopted Midnight, so I did. 

But I knew just saving one cat wasn’t enough. So, I brought up the issue to the other members of our Animal Activist club at school. I was an executive member of the club, and my peers agreed we had to do more for the black pets in our community. So, we set up two bake sales and three fundraisers throughout my junior year of high school.

We raised over $20,000 that we donated to our local animal shelter for what has coined the “Black Pet Initiative”. With this money, all of the black pets at the shelter were groomed, professionally photographed, and given the best chances of being adopted. 

Any leftover funds were used to provide the shelter with more resources to keep their animals for longer before they were euthanized. 

Our initiative has had great success so far. Mandy, the adoption coordinator, told us there was a 50% increase in black pet adoptions so far and that she only expects it to grow as they receive more donations through the social media presence we created for them on TikTok and Instagram.”

Black cat walking in grassy field

Here are tips to help you write this essay:

  • Choose specific examples : Pick specific examples of initiatives or projects that you have been involved in to improve your school or community. Choose instances that showcase your leadership, commitment, and impact.
  • Provide context : Begin by providing context for the school or community environment. Briefly describe the challenges or opportunities that motivated your involvement. Clearly explain why you felt compelled to contribute.
  • Reflect on challenges : If you faced challenges during your efforts, discuss how you overcame them. Reflect on what you learned from the experience and how it contributed to your personal and leadership development.

Above all else, there’s clear passion in this answer. Readers can feel how important the issue is to this student, and the personal anecdote of Midnight adds to this. The student also explains the role they played in their community, how they contributed to it, and the extent of their contributions!

These essay prompts present a fantastic opportunity to strategically position yourself as the ultimate UC applicant. 

Prompt Eight Example

The final UC prompt is, “Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?” 

Here’s an example to help you brainstorm:

“A year ago, I decided to work at my neighbor’s new restaurant that they were struggling to keep afloat. I saw it as an opportunity to help my parents pay bills and save up for a car, which I felt I desperately needed at the time. 

I only planned to work there during the summer, but my neighbors said I was an asset to their team and could continue working reduced hours during the school year if I wanted. The money was good, and I knew I would be helping out neighbors I’ve known my whole life.

So, I continued working throughout my junior year, and still work there now in my senior year. It has been a demanding job, especially as business picked up last year. I made numerous mistakes in the beginning, like punching in take-out orders as dine-in orders, dropping plates, and overbooking our waitlist.

There were days I considered quitting, but I pushed through. Over time, I learned the ins and outs of the diner. I’ve become one of the restaurant's star waitresses and have even won employee of the month five months in a row. 

Working in this industry has made me feel like a bigger part of society. I have the ability to make a person’s day better and always offer kind conversation to people who often need it most. It has made me a better listener, communicator, and harder worker.

It has been a personally fulfilling experience--there’s just something about being part of people’s celebrations and sharing moments with strangers that’s indescribable. These special moments are what inspired me to continue working in this industry, but not as a waitress. 

I hope to become a co-manager at my neighbor’s restaurant to have an even bigger impact on my community. I know getting a degree is the next step in this aspiration.” 

  • Identify unique strengths : Identify unique strengths or qualities about yourself that have not been extensively covered in your application. Consider personal characteristics, experiences, or skills that set you apart and contribute to your candidacy.
  • Focus on diversity : Emphasize aspects of your background, experiences, or perspectives that contribute to the diversity and richness of the university community. Showcase how your unique qualities will enhance the overall student body.
  • Connect to university values : Connect your strengths with the values and mission of the University of California. Demonstrate how your goals and values align with the university's commitment to academic excellence, diversity, and community engagement.

This student shares more about their work experience and what led them to pursue a degree at a UC school. It offers more insight into the type of person they are, what they value, and how important community is to them. 

We hope these UC personal insight questions examples help you understand what UC schools look for. 

UC Essay Examples

Here are some UC essay examples to give you a better idea of what a successful essay looks like.

“Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.”

My grandfather delights in scenic diversions while traveling, and I am his willing companion on road trips. Our journeys have taken us to trails and prime fishing spots as memorable as our final destination. Information processing in my brain resembles these scenic journeys. I have dyslexia, and one of the greatest challenges I have overcome has been to find the beauty and advantage in the way my neural pathways function–never a direct route and usually a lengthy journey. 
Learning to read was an arduous undertaking for me. While my siblings learned to read with ease, I toiled along and avoided tasks that involved reading. After I was diagnosed with dyslexia, I drudged through hours of remediation and studied twice as hard as my neurotypical peers. I had difficulty attributing my success to natural ability because I worked so hard to attain it. It wasn’t until my freshman year that my mindset shifted. A guest speaker visited my school to talk about the gifts of neurodiversity. As I listened, I began to think about my own neural pathways as roadways for information. I realized that my destination is the same as someone with an ordinary brain, but information in my brain takes the scenic route. I then started uncovering the benefits of neurodiversity. Dyslexia has helped me excel in forming creative solutions to problems, and as my classes become more advanced, the processing differences become less apparent. What’s more, I’ve spent my life working hard to spot and rectify errors, reading and re-reading passages, and intensely persevering to meet my own high expectations. This has culminated in a work ethic for which I will always have muscle memory. Above all, I now confidently own my success.
As I reflect on expeditions with my grandfather, it is clear my experience on the road could never be the same as my siblings, who rode with my parents in the “fast car”. I would never trade the memories made for the time spent. As for my neural pathways, I am content knowing that my brain will always take me where the fish are biting.

“What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?”

The test covered L’Hopital’s Rule and Related Rates–a topic I felt I had mastered but would need extra time to complete. But there I was. Waiting patiently with everyone else for [NAME] to hand out the test. As a student with a learning difference, I had a written contract for accommodations: extended time in a distraction free setting, but he didn’t care. It wasn’t the first time this happened, and I knew how this story would unfold. He placed the test on my desk. I frantically solved as many problems as I could. I flew through the first half of the test, but just as I began solving related rates, I heard a disappointing “5 Minutes Left”. I frantically jotted down anything that came to mind on the remaining portion of the test, but it didn’t matter. Time was up.
I sat quietly in class the next day, enraged. Every question I completed was correct, but it didn’t make up for the unattempted problems. “79%” engraved in dark red ink. What’s worse, he wrote, “Why didn’t you try these problems?” across the page of unanswered questions. Nearly every problem I attempted on any quiz or test in his class was mathematically correct, but I ran out of time on almost every assessment. It didn’t matter how good I truly was at Precalculus.
Until then, I had a hard time advocating for myself. That day something ignited in me and I knew I carried the responsibility to advocate for not only myself but for other students with learning differences. I wrote a letter to the school which reviewed the rights of students with learning differences set forth by the ADA. The following semester, my teacher was obligated to allow accommodations in his class, and as a result, those of use with differences were allowed “equal playing time.” The grade I received that semester did not reflect my mastery of Honors Precalculus, but it was a very impactful experience. I now understand the mental burden true discrimination can have on a person, and I carry the motivation to fight it.

“Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.”

It was her fourth honor council. I sat on the committee for her third that granted her one last chance. It was mid-April–just weeks before graduation, and she would walk across the stage with her diploma. The third honor council debated for hours about the best course of action. No student had ever been given 4 chances without separation from the school. One attendee argued for her future in retaining her college admission, while another suggested her negative impacts on the school community. After hours of debate, the honor council was split. It was left up to just a few of her peers to decide her fate. We reviewed her previous violation, and then it appeared: “Any future violations of school rules WILL result in separation from the school”. I believe strongly in seeking first to understand a person’s circumstances before drawing judgment, and I think there is great value in the second chance. Unfortunately, this student was unable to take responsibility after failing on multiple counts, and we eventually decided it would be best for the community if she separated from the school. She was given the opportunity to receive her diploma with successful completion of online classes.
Hard decisions like these have been a driving factor in shaping my character and values caring for the greater good of the community. I faced discrimination as a person with learning differences, which prompted me to solve issues of inequity through leadership positions. I give back to the community by leading school discussions about acts of hate and aggression that happen on and off campus, and I strive to create diversity and inclusion by attracting new people to [CITY]. I attempt to create a well-rounded incoming class of freshmen that will better the FVS community and help to solve issues of discrimination and a lack of diversity on campus. Together, my roles have heavily aligned with my values of creating diversity and solving a wide range of issues on campus.

What Are the UC Schools Looking For In Your Essays? 

When it comes to the essay, UC schools look for specific aspects, these include:

  • Personality : The essay is a great way for UC admission to get to know their applicants. They look for an applicant's voice and want to get to know more about them. 
  • Diversity of experiences :  UC schools value diversity, not only in terms of ethnicity and background but also in experiences, perspectives, and talents. They are interested in students who can bring unique viewpoints and contribute to a diverse and vibrant campus community.
  • Impact and initiative : The essays should highlight instances where you took initiative or made a positive impact in your community, school, or personal life. Admissions officers are interested in applicants who demonstrate leadership, problem-solving skills, and a commitment to making a difference.
  • Interest in the schools : Demonstrate a genuine interest in the UC schools you are applying to. Mention specific programs, faculty, or opportunities that attract you to each campus, showing that you've done your research.

Make sure you keep the above in mind when writing your essays. You never know, it might help you get accepted! 

Tips For Writing the UC Application Essays

Reviewing sample answers and getting inspired by them is an excellent first step when learning how to write the UC personal insight questions. Once you’ve made it past the brainstorming phase, consider these tips for your UC supplemental essays:

Use “I” Statements

Throughout your personal insight questions, you should use “I” statements. Make yourself the protagonist of all your stories, and don’t use third-person narration. This can make your answers confusing, less personal, and academic-sounding. 

Your personal insight questions give the admissions committee a glimpse into who you are outside the classroom. While your stats give them a sense of your academic potential, your essays provide a sense of who you are and what you can contribute to the school community.

Be sincere in your answers. Show your enthusiasm about the topics you’re writing about, and be honest. You don’t need to have jaw-dropping, tragic, or life-changing stories to write compelling UC essays. 

Your feelings towards these experiences, what you learned from them, and the impact they had on others make your responses unique and interesting!

Get Feedback

Your friends, family, and other members of your community who know you best can offer feedback on your essays. If they feel you’re selling yourself short or your answers don’t reflect your personal story, you can revise them to be more accurate.

At the same time, however, you do not want to lose your unique voice by accepting all of the suggestions of your peers and family members. You are still the best narrator of your own story, and it may have been a long while since they applied to college.

If you’re unsure how to write the UC supplemental essays or want expert guidance and feedback, consider scheduling a consultation with an admissions counselor to ensure your narratives stand out! 

Edit, Edit, Edit

Grammar and spelling errors can distract your readers and reduce the efficacy of your words. Ensure you proofread your work several times before you submit it so your answers are clear and powerful!

For any remaining questions about the UC application insight questions, read on!

1. How Do You Write a Good UC Essay?

Writing a good University of California insight questions involves several steps:

  • Choose prompts that truly resonate with you
  • Brainstorm ideas before you write your answers
  • Limit your options to the experiences you feel most connected to so you can portray your best traits
  • Be sincere and honest 
  • Use real-life anecdotes to propel your story
  • Proofread your work several times
  • Ask for input from people close to you, but ensure your voice still shines through

A good UC essay is crafted with care and effort! Ensure you start early, and don’t be afraid to write multiple drafts until you’re happy with your answers.

2. Can UC Essays Be Over 350 Words?

No, your UC essays should be 350 words or fewer.

3. Do UC Essays Have to Be 250 Words?

There’s no minimum word count for the UC essays. However, you should aim for your answers to be at least 250 words so you can adequately answer the prompt. 

4. How Many UC Essays Are There?

You’ll be given the choice between eight essay prompts, of which you must answer four. 

5. What Should I Not Do When Writing UC Essays? 

When writing UC essays, you shouldn’t mention the school’s name if you’re applying to more than one in the system. Additionally, you don’t want to fudge any details, randomly select essays to write, repeat anything from your personal statement, or exceed the word limit. 

6. What Do UC Admissions Look for in Essays? 

UC schools are looking for applicants who demonstrate their personality and strong character through anecdotes and experiences. Ensure your responses show your passions, interests, values, and what makes you unique. 

Final Thoughts

After reviewing how to write the UC essays in depth, you should be able to craft compelling responses. Ensure you choose the right prompts, pick experiences that portray your most favorable traits, and prove you’ll make an excellent addition to the UC community!

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