Uc essay topics (order an essay inexpensively)

Posted by

University of California – Admissions

Accessibility

How to apply

Personal insight questions

The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations.

Think of it as your interview with the admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.

While this section of the application is just one part we consider when making our admission decision, it helps provide context for the rest of your application.

Uc essay topics

Personal Insight Questions

Personal Insight Questions

The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations.

Think of it as your interview with the Admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.

Learn more about Personal Insight questions in the video below:

  • Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
  • Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you, but you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.
  • You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions.
  • There is one required question you must answer.
  • You must also answer 3 out of 7 additional questions.

As a vital part of your application, the personal insight questions—short-answer questions you will choose from—are reviewed by both the Admissions and Scholarship offices.

At Berkeley we use personal insight questions to:

  • Discover and evaluate distinctions among applicants whose academic records are often very similar
  • Gain insight into your level of academic, personal and extracurricular achievement
  • Provide us with information that may not be evident in other parts of the application

What we look for:

  • Initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service to others, special potential and substantial experience with other cultures
  • All achievement in light of the opportunities available to you
  • Any unusual circumstances or hardships you have faced and the ways in which you have overcome or responded to them. Having a hardship is no guarantee of admission. If you choose to write about difficulties you have experienced, you should describe:
    • How you confronted and overcame your challenges, rather than describing a hardship just for the sake of including it in your application
    • What you learned from or achieved in spite of these circumstances

Academic achievement

For freshman applicants:

  • Academic accomplishments, beyond those shown in your transcript

For transfer students:

  • Include interest in your intended major, explain the way in which your academic interests developed, and describe any related work or volunteer experience.
  • Explain your reason for transferring if you are applying from a four-year institution or a community college outside of California. For example, you may substantiate your choice of a particular major or your interest in studying with certain faculty on our campus.

How to answer your personal insight questions

  • Thoughtfully describe not only what you’ve done, but also the choices you have made and what you have gained as a result.
  • Allow sufficient time for preparation, revisions, and careful composition. Your answers are not evaluated on correct grammar, spelling, or sentence structure, but these qualities will enhance overall presentation and readability.

If you are applying.

  • to a professional college (such as the College of Engineering or Chemistry), it is important that you discuss:
    • Your intended field of study
    • Your interest in your specific major
    • Any school or work-related experience
  • for a scholarship, we recommend that you elaborate on the academic and extracurricular information in the application that demonstrates your motivation, achievement, leadership, and commitmen (link is external) t.
  • to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)—the support program for students from low-income families in which neither parent is a college graduate:
    • Discuss how the program might benefit you
    • Tell us about your determination to succeed even though you may have lacked academic or financial support

Keep in mind

You can use the Additional Comments box to convey any information that will help us understand the context of your achievement; to list any additional honors awards, activities, leadership elements, volunteer activities, etc.; to share information regarding a nontraditional school environment or unusual circumstances that has not been included in any other area of the application. And, finally, after we read your personal insight questions, we will ask the question, “What do we know about this individual?” If we have learned very little about you, your answers were not successful.

University of California – Admissions

Accessibility

How to apply

Freshman: Personal insight questions

What do you want UC to know about you? Here’s your chance to tell us in your own words.

Directions

  • You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions.
  • Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
  • Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you: But you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.

Keep in mind

  • All questions are equal: All are given equal consideration in the application review process, which means there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.
  • There is no right or wrong way to answer these questions: It’s about getting to know your personality, background, interests and achievements in your own unique voice.  

Questions & guidance

Remember, the personal questions are just that — personal. Which means you should use our guidance for each question just as a suggestion in case you need help. The important thing is expressing who you are, what matters to you and what you want to share with UC. 

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.  

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?

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

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?

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?

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?”

Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or future 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?

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

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?

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

Need more help?

  • Download the worksheet for freshman applicants [PDF]
  • See our writing tips & techniques

Ready to get started?

It’s a good idea to work on the questions before you enter them into the application. Here’s a word doc with all the questions to help you.

What Are You Good At?

(Yes, UC Essay Prompt 3 Can Be About Almost Anything!)

I believe all students who need to answer four of the new University of California “Personal Insight Questions” should seriously consider the third one, otherwise known as UC Essay Prompt 3.

If you’re a student who has focused on one special talent or skill in your life, and are recognized in that field as “among the best,” this is your chance to share that in detail.

However, you don’t need to be a star at your talent or skill to write an effective essay about it.

And your talent or skill doesn’t even need to be impressive. (more…)

Click logo to visit Home Page!

Need More Help?

As a professional writing coach, I help students, parents, counselors, teachers and others from around the world on these dreaded essays!

Learn about my in-person and online tutoring, editing, workshops, books, and online courses, . READ MORE. .

Online Course

Learn to Write Your Essay in One Hour!

My on-demand, fast-and-easy online e-course: How to Write a College App Essay (Click lightbulb for details.)

Perfect for The Common App, UCs, grad school, transfer and scholarship essays!

Buy Course for $99 and Start Now!

Find Helpful Posts!

Bestselling Writing Guide!

Click book image to learn about all four of my popular writing guides!

First New University of California Essay Prompts

for their College Application in 10 Years!

The University of California just listed brand new college application essay prompts—for the first time in a decade!

The two essays had to be a total of no more than 1,000 words.

The UC is now calling its new essay prompts, “Personal insight questions,” and students must choose four out of eight to answer.

And they are each supposed to be under 350 words. (So, total under 1,400 words.)

UC College Application Essay Instant Boot Camp

UPDATE: as of March 23, 2016 The University of California announced NEW essay prompts for 2016-17. Read about how to answer them HERE.

This post is now outdated. The information is no longer relevant!!

If you are working on your two college application essays for the University of California freshman application, I’ve put together a short list of my most helpful posts.

Prompt 1: Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Sample College App Essays for “Describe the World You Come From”

UPDATE: as of March 23, 2016 The University of California announced NEW essay prompts for 2016-17. Read about how to answer them HERE.

This post is now outdated. The information is no longer relevant!!

Looking for your World to answer the University of California Prompt 1?

A high school English teacher contacted me this week asking if I had any sample essays for the University of California college application Prompt 1.

She was using my guides and Essay Hell blog posts to help teach her students how to write their college application essays. (more…)

A Peek into the Many Worlds of Prompt 1 of the UC Essays

UPDATE: The University of California announced NEW essay prompts for 2016-17. Read about how to answer them HERE .

The following content in this post is no longer relevant and is outdated!

About three years ago, I wrote a post to try to help students applying to the University of California find topics to answer Prompt 1 for their college application essay: Describe the World You Come From . Since I shared my advice in my Describe the World You Come From post , I have received more than a 100 comments from students. Most have specific questions, mainly trying to see if their idea of a “world” would make a great essay.

Since then, I tried to answer most of their questions. This year, I am so swamped with tutoring students, however, that I’m not able to answer all the questions right now. But I have noticed that many cover the same ground—even though the topics range from someone’s world of books, to playing tennis, to making cookies, to an ill family member, etc. So I pulled some of the questions that I thought are more common, along with my answers, in hopes they might answer questions still lingering out there. See below. (more…)

Click logo to visit Home Page!

Need More Help?

As a professional writing coach, I help students, parents, counselors, teachers and others from around the world on these dreaded essays!

Learn about my in-person and online tutoring, editing, workshops, books, and online courses, . READ MORE. .

Online Course

Learn to Write Your Essay in One Hour!

My on-demand, fast-and-easy online e-course: How to Write a College App Essay (Click lightbulb for details.)

Perfect for The Common App, UCs, grad school, transfer and scholarship essays!

Buy Course for $99 and Start Now!

Find Helpful Posts!

Bestselling Writing Guide!

Click book image to learn about all four of my popular writing guides!

UC Essay Example: Personal Insight Question #4

If you’re overwhelmed about how to go about tackling these UC essay prompts , don’t worry — you’re not alone. For some pretty solid direction, take a look at my 2017 How to Write the UC Essays Guide for the UC essays. There, you’ll find step-by-step ways to tackle each prompt of the UC essays, along with additional UC essay examples.

UC Essay Example – Educational Opportunity Essay

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. (350)

Two years ago, I approached Dr. _____ for a potential research opportunity. Initially, I was a little hesitant of approaching such a renowned economics professor, but I mustered up some courage and sent him a resume. Surprisingly, he accepted me as a co-author for one of his papers, giving me the responsibility of proving theorems, finding related literature, and even writing entire sections.

The keystone of my behavioral economics research paper is the tendency to prefer instant gratification over superior, but delayed rewards—this is referred to as “hyperbolic discounting,” which often manifests as procrastination. In our paper, we argue that humans cope with uncertainty through hyperbolic discounting. As I analyzed economic models, I began to appreciate our psychological explanation of irrationality. I realized that we were asking and answering important questions about human nature.

As I explored this realization, it occurred to me that I was surrounded by the works of philosophers like Hegel and Husserl—I found myself fascinated by the idea of rational choice philosophy, which states that humans consistently make decisions that maximize their happiness. Hegel had disproved this philosophy long ago, but its imperatives still survive as the core tenets of modern economics.

I recognized that our research is part of a movement that rejects these rationality assumptions, instead aiming to create realistic models based on human behavior. I began to ask questions: What actually happens when society is composed of perfectly rational agents? Would rational people procrastinate? I started to see underpinnings of utilitarianism, a normative ethical philosophy I had encountered during debate, closely interlaced with modern economics.

By grappling with our problem and by drawing connections to other fields, I grew both intellectually and as a person. My research experience has greatly expanded my intellectual horizons—going above and beyond my professor’s expectations and engaging with the problem on my own has helped me understand our paper more clearly. In the same way, this opportunity has taught me to seek connections in the intersections of fields, because innovation thrives when we allow for interdisciplinary thinking—I hope to bring this same mindset to college.

Source: One of my students that got into Berkeley for EECS.

Analysis of UC Essay Example Strengths:

1. Short, broken up paragraphs

This is a really great (and easy) hack for the UC essays — keep your paragraphs relatively short so that your essay isn’t a huge wall of text. This is super helpful because short, broken up paragraphs are more inviting to a reader; it’s actually extremely overwhelming when I see huge walls of texts for these UC and college application essays. As an essay reader, it just feels more daunting and not as fun to read. A lot of students end up creating essays that are literally 1 paragraph or 2 paragraphs long, so if you can implement this small tip, it will make a world of a difference!

You’ll notice that all the UC essay examples I’ve posted are extremely well written AND have short paragraphs like the one I’ve described — it works!

2. Showcases important extracurricular activity in-depth

Here’s another tip: don’t try to cover a gazillion topics in one, 350 word essay. This is an issue I see fairly often, and it really takes away from the overall story and essay when you’re trying to fit everything you’ve ever done in your life in mere 350 words. This UC essay example does a fantastic job showcasing one particular extracurricular activity and delves deep into it and how the research contributed to his intellectual growth.

A good rule of thumb is this: Don’t tackle more than two topics/two extracurriculars in one 350 word essay. 95% of me wants to actually say this, though: Literally just tackle one topic per 350 word essay, unless it’s a special circumstance.

UC ​Berkeley Admissions Essays

These college essays are from students who got accepted at University of California – ​Berkeley. Use them to get inspiration for your own essays and knock the socks off those admissions officers!

1. Describe the world you come from

Most children acquire the same eye color or a similar shaped nose from their parents, but I’ve inherited much more: a passion for learning and an insatiable curiosity which has served me well throughout my academic career. My father, an electrical engineer, taught me to explore the world with inquis.

2. Untitled (Prompt #1)

Dreams are shaped by ideals and families shape the beliefs we grasp so strongly. Someday I want to save and change lives through a medical career. Because my family has taught me that change can be positive and radical in altering lives, I hope to hold that ability someday. I seek the power to impro.

3. Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience

I am an Internet entrepreneur. Since age 12, I have coded and designed websites — for my school, the local community, and as a personal hobby and pastime. In fact, I started my own Internet business in 2004 and was hired as a webmaster by Intel Corporation this past summer. I also volunteer my free.

4. Untitled (Prompt #2)

Mirrors exist to show our outer appearance but nothing beyond that. Only our actions, words, and ideas could possibly represent the personal qualities that matter. The true worth of a person is revealed in those glimpses of light in the midst of adversity and darkness. Those traits that are highly a.

5. UC Essays – Describe your world & personal talent

I'm a fifth generation Californian who's picked up a few of the habits of the region, among them surfing and computer programming. What does this mean? Having a foot in both worlds gives me a sense of balance and perspective. Beyond that, surfing has influenced my software coding and future .

6. A Break Well Spent

"Thank God for Starbucks," I mutter under my breath when I spot the all too familiar siren inspired logo as we walk into the hotel lobby. With my mocha in hand, I set about exploring the Marriott Copley Square, home of United Synagogue Youth's International Convention 2012. Slowly but .

7. intended major

I am an artist; a strange blossom of creativity sticking out awkwardly from a long lineage of electrical and later electronic engineers, like a lonely flower on a big, rigid cactus plant. Behind me, I have eight consistent years of rigorous education in the practice of Fine .

Essays That Worked

Read the top 7 college essays that worked at UC ​Berkeley and more. Learn more.

University of California – ​Berkeley Facts

The University of California, Berkeley (also referred to as UC Berkeley, Berkeley, California, or simply Cal) is a public research university located in Berkeley, California, United States. The university occupies 1,232 acres (499 ha) on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay with the central cam.

UC ​Berkeley Stats

  • 16% acceptance rate
  • 37,581 enrolled students
  • $13,432 tuition & fees
  • #20 in US News & World Report

Located in Berkeley, CA

  • 462,967 views

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

AP Courses

Admissions

Site Links

What is Study Notes?

That’s easy — it’s the best way to study for AP classes and AP exams! StudyNotes offers fast, free study tools for AP students. Our AP study guides, practice tests, and notes are the best on the web because they’re contributed by students and teachers like yourself. Always 100% free.

UC’s Change Application Essay Prompts

• I’m glad they got rid of the poorly worded prompts they had been using.

• Students will now feel compelled to write 1400 words compared to the 1000 words maximum of the old prompts

• Student should not try to figure out which are the four “best” prompts.

• In an era when colleges are looking to make it easier to apply to college, the UC’s just made it harder. It’s not because of the word count, it is because instead of having to brainstorm two essays, students will now have to brainstorm four essays. Picking a theme and figuring out what to say is the hard part, not the actual writing.

• This will lead to some wild admission decisions, making it even harder for students to figure out if they have a shot at a particular UC.

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. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.

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

8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the

on Mar 27, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Great update! As a writing coach who has been working with UC applicants on their essays for the last 8 years, it’s exciting to see fresh prompts.

However, I agree with you: Even though these are shorter essays, it will be more difficult because students need to come up with 4 topics instead of two.

With good writing, shorter is usually harder.

If it helps, here’s what I sent out to my followers on my popular blog, Essay Hell:Web Link

Hope this helps!

on Mar 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm

In these times of extreme competition for admission to the UC’s (and many other colleges), whatever essays are submitted by an applicant really should be written in a controlled environment.

on Mar 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm

So let me get this straight. This year’s juniors have 9 months to write 4 essays from a choice of 8 already given topic, with the UCs being kind enough to give hints on each topic and worksheets with suggestions. So with 9 months notice kids are kids incapable of writing 4 short essays? Do they need the help of someone like Janine Robinson, advertising her business here, a business that preys on the fear of parents and their children?

on Mar 28, 2016 at 8:43 pm

@everyone is a critic

on May 12, 2016 at 12:00 pm

As a writer who helps college-bould students with their essays, I can see pluses and minuses to the new UC prompts.

on May 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Please fix the headline to this: UC’s ChangED Application Essay Prompts. This is an educational blog and should be avoiding obvious grammatical errors.

on Jun 20, 2016 at 10:19 pm

The UC System has been overwhelmed for some time now. 200,000 applications and now 4 essays, that is 800,000 for a few readers. It’s just too much. The competition is fierce out there, my son and daughter even used an online admission essay coaching service that caters only to UC applicants and they really helped them a lot. I paid both bills and they seemed to be a very helpful company.

on Jul 21, 2016 at 6:14 am

I agree! The prompts posted are asking an opinion, not asking kids to do some serious writing that uses more sophisticated skills like critical thinking.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 1,435 views

By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,080 views

By Douglas Moran | 20 comments | 910 views

By Aldis Petriceks | 6 comments | 854 views

By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 610 views

The 32nd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 6. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

2017 UC Personal Insight Questions: 15 Tips and Examples

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #1:

Make one anecdote the star of your UC essay

These UC essays are tricky now, because you only have 350 words to convey your message per essay. That means this: Don’t do too much in one short essay. In other words, don’t try to write about 3 different topics in one essay so that you can “fit” all you want to say. It’s always better to go for DEPTH per essay rather than BREADTH.

Let me repeat that again: Depth > Breadth.

Breadth is something you can easily tackle in your overall application because you literally have 4 UC essays to showcase breadth of experience. Depth is the piece that everyone lacks, so if you can hit this out of the ballpark, you’re golden.

In order to delve deeply into a subject, you only have space for one anecdote — one experience — as the main star of your UC Personal Insight essay. Here are basic steps:

  1. Showcase your anecdote by first setting up the scene of the story.
  2. Showcase the conflict or obstacle that you encountered.
  3. Showcase your role in solving the conflict.
  4. Analyze how you grew and what you learned from this experience.

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #2:

Showcase your growth through the story

You absolutely must write about how you grew and what you learned from an experience/anecdote. This is honestly perhaps one of the more important UC Personal Insight tips I have for you. Why? Well, the answer is twofold.

Firstly, admissions officers *love* to read about how you’ve grown from an event. An applicant’s ability to have a growth mindset — that is, a student who can recognize learnings from an event and grow intellectually and personally — is an extremely important trait to bring to college. Thus, admissions officers are on the lookout (especially via the UC personal insight essays) to pinpoint applicants that can bring this mindset to the UCs.

Secondly, writing about growth from an event is usually very difficult. So, not many students actually do this. Most UC essays I read fall short in this analysis department, so if you can go the extra mile and knock this out of the ballpark, you’re golden!

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #3:

Showcase intellectual curiosity

Many of the UC personal insight essay examples I’ve shown you do a fantastic job showcasing intellectual curiosity. I advise this because admissions officers always look for students who demonstrate intellectual curiosity (basically, it means love of learning) in the UC application and UC Personal Insight essays.

Now, it doesn’t work if you simply use the phrase, “intellectual curiosity” in your essay and call it a day. You have to show that you love to learn about XYZ. Here’s another UC Personal Insight Essay Example that is dripping with intellectual curiosity. Clearly, the student loves to learn about a topic specific to him.

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #4:

Show aspects of who you are not immediately apparent in your UC application

You don’t have a lot of space in the UC application to write about all your accomplishments, interests, and dreams for the past 4 years. The UC Personal Insight Questions is your only opportunity to literally “speak” to the admissions committee about attributes about you that isn’t immediately clear in your overall application.

So, use at least one of your UC Personal Insight Essays to showcase a personal aspect of who you are — something that isn’t highlighted in your activities list, if possible. In other words, tell them a personal story or a personal interest. Do you have a unique hobby? A story about moving and changing schools? Anything interesting will work! Also, here’s a hint: A fantastic UC Personal Insight Question to use for this type of essay is prompt #8.

Take a look at this UC Personal Insight Essay Example . This student does a fantastic job showcasing a lightbulb moment she had while doing yoga! If she didn’t write about this event, the admissions officer for UC Berkeley or UCLA would never have known this unique aspect of who she is!

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #5:

Your UC essay should NOT be a wall of text

Take a look at the image above. What do you think looks more pleasing and interesting to read, especially to a tired admissions officer?

Need I say more? Wall of text = not fun to read.

So, here’s a tip: break up your UC essay into several different paragraphs. Use dialogue if your anecdote warrants it, and allow that dialogue to take up one line of space.

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #6:

Use colons, dashes, sentence variations in your UC essay

This is a pretty great hack to elevate your UC essay (as long as you’re grammatically correct): Vary your sentence structure every so often by using dashes, semicolons, colons, dialogue, and rhetorical questions, just to name a few. Obviously, don’t overdo these to the point that it gets distracting, but doing so gives an illusion that you’re a better writer than you actually are ��

This is a quick and dirty essay tip to employ that many of my students do. If you take a look at this UC Personal Insight leadership essay example , this student makes use dashes effectively.

If you’re unsure about the grammatical rules of these devices, take a look at a resource like this one .

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #7:

Your UC essay should not contain redundant sentences and words

This is a huuuuuuge UC essay tip. 100% of my students have had issues with sentence and word redundancies at some point, so I’m willing to bet you’ll encounter this as well. Aggressively cutting words is absolutely critical to reach the word count of 350 words. Keep in mind: you’re limited on word count, so each sentence and word must add value to your story…if it doesn’t add anything, then get rid of it!

Here’s an easy way to check for redundancies: Avoid using the same word in the same sentence. Actually, avoid using the same word more than twice in the same paragraph!

I’ll give you an example from a rough draft of a previous student of mine…this is what the student wrote and I’ve emphasized the redundant words:

I know I need to come up with something to help Jason remember, and with something he understands. Suddenly, I have it… Jason’s eyes light up with understanding, and I can’t help but smile with pride with how my on-the-spot creativity helped Jason learn something he before struggled to grasp.”

Yes, even the word, “I” can be taken out. I’d correct this excerpt like this:

“I need to come up with something to help Jason remember and understand. Suddenly, I have it…his eyes light up with understanding, and I can’t help but smile with pride by how my on-the-spot creativity helped Jason learn a concept he before struggled to grasp.”

To be honest, I’d edit this short excerpt even more because it can be written in a much better way. But, for now, at least the redundancy is slightly better and we’ve deleted 4 words ��

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #8:

Don’t undermine yourself or sound negative in your UC essays

This seems pretty obvious, but always have a positive spin on anything you write. Honestly, this is sort of a personality issue more than anything, but sounding even remotely negative is rarely a good thing in these UC Personal Insight Questions.

Here’s an example from a rough draft of a student of mine that we had to correct:

“For an advocacy group that existed to protect homeowners, it definitely could’ve done with a better piece of real estate. When Laura first showed me the cubicle I’d be working out of, I thought it was a practical joke. That said, I had no reason to grumble…”

You know what I mean by slightly negative? It’s not overt, per se, but this sort of writing style reflects you in a negative light, so don’t do it!

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #9:

Avoid vague language

This is a big one. Many students write in such vague ways that it can be ridiculously frustrating for a reader. One trigger word that shows this vagueness in language is the word, “different.” Here, I’ll literally give you an example from a very rough draft of a previous student’s.

“I felt intrigued that I was unaware of these different aspects of music and that I was unaware of how I can intertwine different topics to improve piano playing to the point that theory was just as important as the physical part of piano.”

Ugh. When I read something like this, it’s like, “What DIFFERENT aspects of music are you talking about?!” In the context of this essay topic, this was an important learning for the student, but she didn’t explicitly tell us. If I were to rewrite this, I’d write something like this (of course, I’m just making things up):

“I was intrigued that there were many aspects of classical music that I was unaware of; elements like notations and dynamic markings are crucial to mastering the piano and playing with purpose. The theory of why certain notes are flat or sharp–the underpinnings of musical theory– communicate the intended message of the composers, and may be even more important than simply “just playing” the piano.”

See? So much less vagueness. Try it.

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #10:

Work on transitions between paragraphs and sentences

Lack of transitions and choppy sentence structures are relatively common in college application essays. Once you’re on your second or third draft, do this:

  1. Scrutinize each and every single sentence. Does the first sentence flow into the next sentence seamlessly, or does it feel choppy and/or disconnected?
  2. Now, step back and look at the transitions between paragraphs. Does the NEXT paragraph pick up where the last paragraph ended? Make sure that the flow — the transitions — are there.

Check this link out if you need inspiration for transition words/phrases .

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #11:

Err on the side of informal voice for your UC essays (and Common App essays, for that matter)

Formal writing (the kind that you might be used to in analyzing Jane Eyre for English class) is great for school. But, the UC personal insight essays are NOT school essays. They are basically stories about YOU. And, you have these tired admissions officers with droopy eyelids reading your UC essays, so you definitely don’t want to make their jobs more difficult and boring.

That’s why informal voice is important — don’t be informal to the point of sounding sloppy, but contractions are ok to use. Don’t overdose on flowery language, either. Be straightforward enough in your writing and don’t be convoluted in your words because it sounds more “intelligent” or more aligned with an English paper. If I had to characterize the kind of clothes that your UC personal insight question should be wearing (if it were a male), I’d say this: Either khaki or dark blue, designer jeans with a nice button up shirt :).

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #12:

Explicitly answer the UC essay prompt in question

I know — this seems pretty obvious, but some students don’t even do this, so it’s worth mentioning.

Here’s a quick and easy tip: Reuse the words in the prompt so that it’s extra clear you’re answering the prompt. In other words, if the prompt is this:

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 words like “creative” and “original” in your essays (especially towards the end) to drill it into the reader’s heads that you’re 100% fully and explicitly answering the prompt.

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #13:

Think twice before answer UC essay prompt #5

This is prompt 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?

This can be a tricky essay prompt to write, especially because it asks you how an obstacle has affected your academics. Now, if you do have a life event or something that has hindered or influenced your academics in any way, you have two options: You can write about it here OR you can write about it in the additional comments section of the UC application.

There are actually two additional comments sections — one has a cap of 550 words and the other has a cap of 550 characters. Obviously, that’s more than enough space to write about the personal hardships if you feel like it needs to be mentioned. That way, you have 4 full UC essays focused on things other than your hardship and gives you more opportunity to show who you are to the admissions officers!

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #14:

Vary the introductions per UC essay

Here’s another super useful UC essay tip: Vary the intros per essay. Think about it this way: You’ll be writing 4 different essays, and at least two of them should begin in a different way to capture the attention of the droopy-eyed, tired admissions reader.

For instance, if two of your essays begin with imagery as an intro, then start another essay with dialogue, for instance.

UC Personal Insight Essay Tip #15:

Ensure that each UC essay story is distinct and not redundant

Here’s the final UC essay tip — showcase different data points about yourself per essay. In other words, your 4 essays should combine to give a holistic view of who you are as an applicant; don’t squander an opportunity to showcase yourself by being redundant in your data points.

Ask yourself this: what four distinct data points do I want to show the admissions officers about who I am?

Leave a Reply