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Last updated April 7, 2023

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Blog > Common App , Essay Advice > How to Write an Insightful College Essay About Tutoring

How to Write an Insightful College Essay About Tutoring

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

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

If you’ve had a job tutoring others, you know that tutoring can be an impactful act of teaching and learning. It can also at times be gratifying, hilarious, or downright difficult.

As a college essay topic, tutoring experience can be an effective way to highlight your academic expertise and communication skills. Essays about tutoring can also be some of the most endearing when they discuss the tutor-tutee dynamic. In short, a college essay about tutoring can be a great topic to round out your application narrative .

But often students rely too heavily on overdone themes.

In this post, I lay out the three most common issues with college essays about tutoring and discuss what you can do instead.

When writing about tutoring others, a “love of helping and teaching” is not enough.

One of the most common tropes in personal statements about tutoring is a “love of helping others” or a “love of teaching.” Even if you’ve genuinely developed a love of helping or teaching, these themes alone are simply too common and generic to produce an insightful college essay.

Instead, try focusing on the critical pedagogical and communication skills you have developed while tutoring. Analyze the lessons you’ve learned to understand how they connect to your own experience as a student. Ask yourself how your work as a tutor has shaped your goals for the future.

Let’s say that your favorite student struggled with math, so you found a brilliant way to engage her in a new concept that resulted in her acing her next exam. You could write about how great it felt to help her or how much you loved teaching her.

But that topic doesn’t give the admissions committee very much to go on. A better approach would be to discuss what your strategy was, why you used it, and how it exhibits something wonderful about you.

By concentrating on what specifically has made you feel like a good teacher or helper, you can write an essay that showcases your love of helping and teaching while also demonstrating to your admissions officers your ability to think deeply and act with forethought and kindness.

Center yourself rather than your tutee when discussing your tutoring experience.

It’s only natural that you may want to write about a specific person you tutored when talking about your tutoring experience. The tutee is, after all, an integral half of the tutoring session. Forming good working relationships is part of being a good tutor, and the best tutor-tutee relationships have lasting impacts on both people.

But the heart of your college essay should not be about not the amazing or frustrating or brilliant student you tutored. It should be about you. Accomplish this by instead drawing attention to how your tutee affected you.

Perhaps the student you’ve connected with the most is one who was so shy he’d barely look at you in your first appointment. Although you may be so proud of the progress he made, your essay should not be about him. He’ll have his own turn to apply to college.

Discuss what you’ve learned from him, how you’ve been inspired by him, or how he reminds you about something about yourself. Maybe he taught you patience or bravery. Or maybe it was your work with him that led you to want to be a teacher or counselor.

Whatever your story is, it should be about you.

Talk about how your tutoring work makes you a good member of an academic community.

One of the reasons the “love of helping” essays don’t come across well to admissions officers, aside from being overdone, is that they can also read as arrogant. Your academic merits may have earned you your tutoring job, but the rest of your application will also show that you can excel in the classroom.

Instead, use your essay to convey to the admissions committee what a good academic community member you are. Highlight a time when you collaborated on a problem, when you were surprised at something you learned from your tutee, or when you had to work harder to be a better tutor.

Most schools would probably prefer to invite a curious and collaborative student to join their community over an arrogant and competitive one, so check your essay for tone.

You should come across as authoritative in your tutoring field but genuine in your recognition of the progress you have made and the lessons you still have left to learn.

Remember the importance of peer learning as you write and revise your own college essay about tutoring.

Finally, you were effective as a tutor not only because of your skills but also because there is inherent value in peer learning. Don’t forget to benefit from peer learning yourself by seeking out others who can read your college essay.

Having someone ask clarifying questions, evaluate the effectiveness of your approach, and identify your central message will only improve your essay.

Tutoring is hard work that takes great effort, skill, and persistence. What will make your college essay about tutoring insightful rather than generic is your ability to show your admissions officers why tutoring mattered to you and why your tutoring experience makes you a good fit for their school. The best essays will also tactfully reveal who you are as a person through your interactions with your tutee.

Ready to take your college essay to the next level? Check out our How to Write a College Essay guide.

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UC Essay Examples – Personal Insight Questions 1-8

December 29, 2023

UC essay samples

When applying to any of the University of California schools , you’ll face a series of supplemental essays in which you are asked to quickly and, with sufficient detail, provide personal insight into who you are as a person. These essays can be confusing to students, who might be used to writing the Common App essay , which asks for a well-written story in 650 words. The UC essays (see UC essay examples below), by contrast, ask you to provide as much concrete detail as possible while showcasing your positive traits. This means your writing will need to be as efficient as possible. To be clear, that means cutting down on flowery descriptions and pulling out the clear details about your achievements while leaving enough space for mature reflection and forward thinking. 

(For help with writing efficiency, check out our tips in our Why This College Essay blog post . For tips on how to get started, check out our Overcoming Challenges Essay blog post .)

In the following examples, we’ll show you some example responses to the first four UC prompts while talking you through what works and what doesn’t. 

UC Essay Prompt #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.

UC Example Essay: 

It was the third night in a row that we couldn’t get it together. My school’s mock trial team was finally going to the state championship after years of working together, but we couldn’t agree on how to build our prosecution. The “case” was that several people had died during a rock concert when the crowd became violent. We needed to decide if we should “sue” the event space or the artist, and the group was split around two natural leaders. 

Mark, our lead attorney for the last two years, wanted to build a logical argument that the event space intentionally oversold the show, creating danger. Emma, our star witness, said that we needed to build the case around sympathy for the families and sue the artist, who had inspired the violence.

UC Essay Examples (Continued)

I had watched Mark and Emma disagree over the last two years. They were two very different people who loved arguing, and the rest of us often had to wait through it. I typically hang back and observe, but we were down to the wire, and I realized someone needed to speak up. I came up with an idea and pulled aside some of my friends to explain my thoughts. They agreed, and encouraged me to step up. 

I surprised myself when, in a moment of silence, I opened my mouth. I calmly explained that we didn’t have to abandon either strategy and that we could, in fact, combine them to greater effect. Because I had taken time to convince the rest of the team before speaking, they rallied around me, and Mark and Emma had no choice but to agree. I realized at that moment that groups need people who are willing to listen, strategize, and then put a plan into motion, and that I have a strength for this style of leadership. Since then, I’ve started speaking up more, specifically in my robotics club, where I recently led us to second place at the 24-Hour Code-athon. I look forward to bringing those skills to my classes and volunteer work at UC. 

The first thing we should note about UC’s essays is that they are asking about important parts of your life, but they want brief responses. Because UC is sorting through so many applications, we want to be sure that you are providing as much concrete detail as possible and showcasing as many positive traits about yourself as possible in these quick responses.

What I’ve written here attempts to combine a single story with positive traits that a more introverted student might possess. So, it’s a story about the development of someone’s leadership style in a single moment in time. But, there’s another way to write this essay. 

Another Option for UC1: 

A more extroverted student who has been prone to leadership activities all throughout their high school experience could write an incredibly successful essay that simply focused, paragraph by paragraph on quick snippets that showcased their leadership throughout time. For example: 

  • Paragraph 1: I learned I was a natural leader the first time I successfully rallied my rhythm gymnastics team after our star tumbler got injured during a competition.
  • Paragraph 2: I then became our team captain, working to institute a new bonding retreat at the start of each year to bring the team together.
  • Paragraph 3: I took that same sense of leadership to my volunteer work at the local food bank, where I have worked with my colleagues to create a conversation hour. Every Wednesday, we invite volunteers and clients to a collective meal where we share stories, tough spots, and triumphs.
  • Paragraph 4: While I won’t be dancing competitively in college, I plan to continue my volunteer work with the Meals on Wheels chapter at UC, bringing food and friendly conversation to people in the community, rooted in my practice and experience with community building and bonding in high school. 

No matter what your experience is, you really want to focus on direct, deliverable moments in time that showcase what you’ve done. If you have a ton of leadership experience, try to showcase as much as you can while meeting the word count. If you have less experience but a really compelling story, focus on quickly laying out the basics of the story and then building power in the essay by reflecting on your leadership style.

In the end, make sure you comment on how you will bring your leadership style to campus, being as specific as possible. 

If I edited the above essay even more, I would further condense the story and elaborate more on how I’ve applied what I’ve learned. I mention the robotics club and winning second place at the 24-Hour Code-athon, but I could have saved some space above and expanded on it to show that I have the capacity to build my skill set over time. I could have also talked about the deliverables from the mock trial experience. Did we win our case? How does the story end? If I gave this essay another pass, I would focus a bit less on the story and balance things out more with what happened as a result of my leadership revelation.  

UC Essay Prompt #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.

When I was just two-years-old, my mom enrolled me in ballet classes—and I hated them. Because I was young and she wanted me to do it, I danced for another nine years, until I finally gave up ballet for the soccer field. What I hadn’t realized was that everything I learned in ballet would quickly translate to make me a star player on the field. I knew how to turn on a dime, I could jump over a slide tackle faster than anyone else, and I never took it that seriously when we lost (the show must go on, after all). This led me to being named captain of my varsity team, where my team has nicknamed me The Swann—a combination of the football player who used ballet to train, Lynn Swann, and the famous ballet, Swan Lake. 

UC Personal Insight Questions Examples (Continued)

I realized quickly that my creativity could have this extracurricular quality no matter where I went. In my high school’s annual Physics-in-the-Raw Competition, I used famous chase scenes from my favorite black and white movies (I’m a big fan of Vertigo and Chinatown ) and pulled all the data I could from the movies themselves to crunch the numbers and show whether or not the actual chase would have played out like that in real life. I even filmed shot-for-shot remakes on my phone using Matchbox cars—in black and white, of course. My AP Physics teacher never stopped laughing, even as they noted that my calculations were correct. I was the first 11th grader to win the competition in the school’s history, and I have my creativity to thank for it. 

I’ve expressed interest in both English and Physics as a double major, but I’m excited to talk to my future advisers about what might be possible for me in Interdisciplinary Studies. When I let myself think creatively, I wonder about the possibility of bringing ballet back into my life—and what it might look like to combine my love of physics with the beauty of dance and literature, all on the UC campus.  

Here’s a cheeky example from a dream student whose only obstacle in life is that they didn’t really like ballet. I wrote this essay as a way to show you how you can quickly combine story with concrete elements. Look at how we jump into the essay. The first sentence I actually typed was “Creativity is one of my favorite things about me,” and then deleted it after I wrote the rest of the paragraph. I realized quickly that it was a placeholder for what I was attempting to show throughout the rest of the essay. If you find yourself writing bland or empty sentences like that in your UC essays, you should delete them, too. 

Then, look at what happens along the way. I try to list vivid-yet-concrete examples of my creativity ( I knew how to turn on a dime, I could jump over a slide tackle faster than anyone else, and I never took it that seriously when we lost ), and then I take what I learned about myself (that I have an “extracurricular sense” of creativity) and show the achievement that best showcases that sensibility on display: I was the first 11th grader to win the school physics competition because I’m so creative. I don’t need to over-explain the connection: it’s there for my readers and they can easily see how the experience in the first paragraph leads to the second experience. 

Finally, I take the chance to project myself onto the UC Campus by talking earnestly about an interest I have in the Interdisciplinary B.A. This moment is effective because I’m not promising anything or using overextended language to build a fake version of myself on campus, but because it makes sense that this type of student would be interested in this type of major. I demonstrate that I’ve done some research and that I’m thinking critically about how I would fit in on campus. 

If I edited this essay into another version, and I had another set of accomplishments to showcase, I would skip talking about the Interdisciplinary major and talk instead about that third accomplishment.  

UC Essay Prompt #3: 

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

I stepped onto the pad and looked over at my coach. She gave me the sign: breathe in, breathe out, pull. One kick to the right to loosen my tight hip, and I lowered my hands to the bar. In the 2022 USA Powerlifting High School Nationals, I set a personal deadlift record of 242.5 pounds, putting me in fifth place. When the rankings shook out, my coach screamed and hugged me: she knew what it had taken me to get here. 

Something about powerlifting always compelled me. I was tiny at the start of my journey in ninth grade, but I decided to just keep with it. My coach laid out a progressive plan for me, and I followed it to a T. I was making steady progress all through fall of sophomore year, and I even won a regional title.  I broke my right leg in a skiing accident that winter and was devastated. But I remembered all the progress I had made and didn’t want to stop. I watched practice with my cast on, doing seated, upper-body lifts when my coach said it was safe. 

In the meantime, I focused on my academics. I turned around my AP Chemistry grade by showing up to afterschool tutoring and finally making flashcards the way my teacher had recommended, dedicating an extra 30 minutes to chem every day.  I realized I could apply my same sense of persistence and tenacity to the classroom, too, and it paid off: I got a 5 on the AP Chemistry exam. 

My coach wasn’t surprised when she saw me back at the barbell a week after my cast was off. Over the next year, I dedicated myself to rebuilding the muscle I had lost by following an increased- calorie diet and working accessory lifts to challenge myself. I realized I could see precisely what my ability to perform sustained, focused effort got me: a comeback fifth place ranking at a national competition in the sport that I love. I can’t wait to apply my focus to my major at UC. 

Many students think about “skill” or “talent” as a discrete thing. For example, this student could have simply written about being really good at powerlifting. However, if we take one step back, we can see that the student’s true talent (and the more interesting thing to say) is that they are really good at persistence, tenacity, and sustained, focused attention on a goal. This is a tremendous thing to talk about when it comes to applying to college, because going to university is a project in your sustained focus over the course of four years. 

That meant that it was important to also bring in an academic component to the essay to showcase how this student was skilled in persistence in another realm. In this context, obviously, the academic realm is incredibly important. Drawing the parallel with the AP Chem course shows the reader that the student also understands how their skillset works in an abstract way. 

I’ll repeat the same editing principle here that I’ve said above: if the student had other stellar examples of exhibiting persistence and focus, I would cut down on the storytelling elements, and I would include those pieces, instead. If you’re working on an essay for which you have a lot of solid examples, you can think of your response to the prompt like a vividly conceptualized list. You can showcase your personality through your language choices, and you can tell the story of your achievements, but again, worry less about setting the scene and more about highlighting your successes. 

UC Essay Prompt #4: 

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

As a gifted student, I was shocked when my favorite teacher asked me if I had ever considered getting examined for ADHD. My grades had been slipping that semester, but it was just because I wasn’t working hard enough to stay organized, right? My teacher indicated that he knew I was working really hard already, and that maybe, I would benefit from a little help. 

When my diagnosis came back as primarily inattentive ADHD, I felt both surprise and grief. My psychologist talked to me about how my hyperfocus had been likely sparked when I was a little kid in elementary school, but that, as time went on, it was easier and easier for me to become bored in school. Even if the classes were more challenging, the repetition of the structure wasn’t. I had enough coping mechanisms to do “well enough,” but if I wasn’t being challenged, my inattention could be taking over and making me lose out on reaching my goals. 

Working closely with my parents, my psychologist, and my teachers, I was able to build a plan for myself to get back on track. I chose for myself that I wanted to start treatment without medication, so I did counseling to put my time in high school in perspective, and I started practicing mindfulness meditation, which has been a revelation. When I focus on the fact that every day is a new opportunity to learn something new, I can really savor those opportunities. The semester that I received my diagnosis, I stabilized my grades and my 4.0 GPA before anything started to slip, thanks to my careful teacher. 

When I come to UC, I know I may be faced with challenges to my inattentive ADHD as time goes on, however, I now know what warning signs and how to rely on my support networks. I look forward to volunteering as a peer mentor to share my tips, tricks, and to help other students identify when they need help, as well. 

Writing about mental health and learning disabilities can be tricky. In every case, you need to be sure that you’re demonstrating a clear arc of overcoming something. There is no shame in actively dealing with a mental health problem or diagnosis, but when it comes to writing your college admissions essays, you want to be sure that you have a demonstrable positive outcome that you can discuss if you choose to go down this path. 

So, I wanted to show an example of someone who had that clarity of overcoming their diagnosis with a demonstrable stabilization of their GPA. Pay attention to the way in which the essay departs from the identification of the problem, the diagnosis, and then focuses mainly on the solutions that the student finds. Leaving the essay in a place of generosity where the student wants to extend what they’ve learned to others around them solidifies their success and showcases that they truly have overcome this educational barrier. 

Of course, there are other significant educational barriers that someone could talk about. They could include structural barriers within a school system or unfortunate events, like surviving a wildfire or a flood, that can demonstrate a student’s perseverance. To write this essay in the opposite direction, about a significant educational opportunity, might entail writing about an invitation to speak at an important event, an opportunity to travel to a foreign country, or the chance to participate in an extracurricular activity that led to a particular success. Were you asked to help start your school’s award-winning field hockey team? That would be an excellent thing to write about. 

To view all of the full list of prompts and other helpful tips, check out our other UC Essay blog post, here . And when you need help crafting and editing your UC essays, reach out to College Transitions for a free consultation and to get started. 

Now let’s dive into the next series of supplemental prompts, UC Personal Insight Questions 5 through 8. 

UC Essay 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?

When I was five years old, my mother decided to separate from my father because of his addiction. I have learned to understand the details based on what my mother does not say. My mother tried to help him overcome his illness. She had hoped that doctors, rehab, and twelve-step programs would have stopped him from becoming violent. She was wrong. I grew up without him. 

Last year, out of the blue, my father started showing up outside of my high school, telling me he wanted to see my mom again. It became severe enough that the police issued a restraining order. I haven’t seen him since. 

But I suffered. The idea that he could appear outside of my school at any moment made me paranoid. I was scared for my mother, and I wanted to believe that the restraining order would be sufficient, but then I stopped trusting myself. What if something happened and no one believed me? I had never experienced anxiety before, but all of the sudden, I was having tunnel vision and couldn’t be alone. 

My physics teacher, Mr. Bevelacqua, noticed first. He saw that my grade had slid from an A to a C- in five weeks, and he rightly assumed that, if it was happening in his class, it was happening in others. I loved his class and sense of humor, so I felt comfortable enough confiding in my teacher about my fears. He helped me talk with the school psychologist, who suggested a course in mindfulness and a series of conversations with the police. I created healthy boundaries for myself and developed a mindfulness routine with my mother that has benefited both of us.

Now, my grades are back up, and I’m helping Mr. Bevelacqua tutor other students for the AP Physics exam. I’ve even started attending Alateen meetings, where I’ve made close friends who have experienced similar things. Sharing our experiences has almost helped them dissolve. I’ve learned that, even though I’ve thought I should be ashamed of my father, I can talk openly about my experiences—and maybe even help myself and others.  

This essay is a completely fictional one in which I’m imagining a rather difficult experience that triggers a mental health episode in a student. You’ll see that I spend the first three, quick paragraphs detailing the challenge and the final paragraph outlining the steps the student has taken to overcome the problem. The student shows self-awareness by confiding in a favorite teacher about what’s happening, then the student doesn’t hesitate to take the teacher’s advice, then the advice pays off and we see the positive effects of the student’s willingness to address their fears and work with the people they trust around them.  

I want to point out that both sections are fairly concrete. I take some creative liberties in the first paragraph in order to artfully describe a situation of domestic violence, but for the most part, I’m stating directly what happened. This doesn’t mean excluding difficult details, like the anxiety attacks and fear, but it does mean that I’ve avoided overly flowery language. 

Writing about heavy things doesn’t mean that your prose has to be particularly heavy. In fact, writing about particularly difficult things in plain, straightforward ways —without the use of too many colorful adjectives—can help communicate the painfulness even more. You don’t want to smother your reader in emotion; you want to lead them to their own emotional reaction through the things that happened. Restraint in prose can help to achieve this goal. Let the painful things be painful. They will do the work for you. 

That is all to say: when you’re tackling this essay, you don’t want to bleed on the page. Oftentimes, students who have suffered traumatic, difficult things believe that they need to convey the full weight of their distress to admissions officers. To be clear, your trauma and your suffering matters, but admissions officers are reading the full breadth of painful experiences from across the spectrum of human existence. Adversity and suffering visit us all, and the unfortunate pain of these events is highly relative.

Admissions officers are interested in seeing what you do with your pain. You want to focus on the tangible, provable things that you have done to overcome your challenges. Those things could be big or small. It would have been enough for this student, for example, to have simply found a productive mindfulness meditation routine that they practiced with their mother, and then described their newfound perspectives that came from that practice. You don’t have to do twenty things to prove that you’re emotionally mature enough to attend college; but you do want to prove that you’re doing well despite adversity. 

UC Essay Prompt #6: 

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

Standing in front of the seven-foot-tall, room-length canvas for the first time, I was overwhelmed. Then, slowly, I realized what Warhol was doing. Here was Elvis, the iconic American figure of rock ‘n’ roll, stamped out eleven times, his pistol pointed at us, his larger-than-life body repeating like a film strip left on the cutting room floor and then splayed out before us, so that we could see each instance of his fame, however fleeting, now indelible. 

Going to the Andy Warhol Museum in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania opened my eyes to the world of Art History, and as soon as I realized I could study it, I ran full speed ahead. To compete in National History Day, I underwent a six-month research process in the Warhol Museum archives, reading Warhol’s journals, correspondences, and making analytical reviews of drafts of his earlier, un-exhibited works. I made a thirty-minute documentary about Warhol’s work, including interviews I conducted with experts, museum curators, and with the only living family member who knew Warhol when he was still alive. With my documentary, I progressed to the national competition and placed as an honorable mention in the individual documentary category. 

Growing out of that experience, I worked with my AP History teacher to establish a connection with Duquesne University Art History Professor Laney McGunnigan, with whom I completed a semester-long independent study project on the development of pop art in the twentieth century. This fall, I will be assisting Professor McGunnigan in cataloging the body of Diego Rivera’s work held at Fallingwater, in order to assist with a larger place-based analysis on the intersection of diverse artistic movements hidden across the greater Pittsburgh area. 

I am thrilled by the possibility of studying under UCLA Department Chair Saloni Mathur. The Fallingwater project has opened my eyes to the influence of colonialism and post-colonialism in Art History, and I am deeply interested in the possibility of an interdisciplinary approach that involves anthropological practices like those I engaged during my Warhol documentary production process. 

For this essay, you want to choose that interest toward which you’ve put the most effort during your time in high school. It’s kind of like a “Why This College?” essay, but it’s about a subject, instead. In this fictional example essay, I’m drawing on a personal experience with creating a Warhol documentary in high school (true story!) and how an incredibly diligent and well-resourced student might have expanded that experience into further study (that part is fiction). No matter the level of involvement, you want to pull out all of the details about what you’ve done as a high school student as you’ve pursued a particular interest. 

You can see that I’m naming names throughout the essay, and also that I’m talking about how I’ve used my academic network to further my interest. For example, I say that I worked with my AP History teacher to make a valuable connection with a professor—don’t leave those things out. Seemingly small conversations and connections that lead to bigger things are worth including in this essay because they demonstrate your pursuit. Show the reader the steps you took along the way to get to where you are; every step counts—and you can always pare down the word count later.  

The opening lines are deceptively normal. Yes, they paint a quick scene for the reader. However, they’re also showing how I got interested in art history to begin with. The reader can see the first moment of inspiration outside of the classroom, and how I pull that inspiration into my academic life. 

Finally, I closed the essay by doing some quick research into the Art History department at UCLA. I might not know a ton about anthropology as a high school student, but I do know that I did interviews for my documentary. A good essay coach (like someone from College Transitions) could help you make the elegant connection between the work you’ve already done and the academic interests of the faculty in the department where you’d like to study. 

UC Essay Prompt #7: 

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

I can’t begin to tell you how the opioid epidemic has ravaged my community. In the last three years, three graduating seniors and eight recent graduates have died from heroin-related overdoses. The most recent death was my best friend Evan’s older brother; he had been a star soccer player and he went on to study communications at Regional State University. When Evan called to tell me what happened, I did the math silently as I listened to my friend cry: his brother overdosed at the age of 23. 

In the weeks following the funeral, I felt a heaviness I had never felt before. I’m pretty introverted; to say that I’ve never had anyone offer me drugs is an understatement. It’s the same with Evan. Even though his brother had gotten into drugs, we never saw them, which made the whole thing all the more painful, scary, and confusing. We felt hopeless. I watched Evan start to plummet. 

It was then that I heard a news story about a Harm Reduction group out of Chicago. It was the first time I’d ever heard of harm reduction, but Evan and I took the idea and ran. In just four months, we contacted the National Harm Reduction Coalition and set up a voluntary Narcan Network through our school. We built a program where kids and their parents can get trained on how to use free Narcan kits that we receive through donations we organized with NHRC.

We got trained, and we have trained more than two hundred people in our monthly sessions. The community support has been overwhelming. Parents who have had kids die or go to rehab have become integral parts of our project, and we’ve helped them start a monthly support group. If someone takes a kit, they don’t have to report using it to us, but through voluntary reporting, we know that our kits have been used at least twenty times so far. Twenty lives, twenty families, twenty more reasons to keep doing what we do. We like to think that Evan’s brother would be proud. 

In this essay, you can see that I dedicate a fair amount of time to the problem. The first two paragraphs set up what happened to the student and their best friend’s family. If I were editing this essay—and the student had a substantial amount more to say about the Narcan group—I might shorten those two paragraphs and leave space at the end for more reflection and balance, especially if the student had more achievement-oriented information to include. 

Writing about the positive things you brought to the situation is the crucial part here. The admissions officers want to know about the context for the solution, yes, but the more important thing here is your character that has allowed you to improve your community. You need to provide significant, concrete details that demonstrate your contribution to your school or community. In this case, the student is able to provide a time frame, the name of outside organizations with which they organized, the number of people trained, and an approximate number of lives saved . This is a Herculean effort that I invented for the sake of this prompt, however, I’m using it to show you the kinds of information you should provide. 

Maybe you didn’t create a live-saving program at your school, but perhaps you organized a fundraiser that brought in hundreds of dollars for cancer research or even your marching band’s annual competition trip. Tell us that. And tell us how you did it. Maybe you organized the calendars of thirty different students to do tabling during different periods of the school day. Maybe you held a week’s worth of car washes in the parking lot of your local library, and you had to coordinate the efforts between the library staff and fifteen volunteers. Or perhaps you were in charge of keeping the cash box, opening a bank account, and ensuring the safe transfer of funds to the organization.

Those are the kinds of concrete details this essay wants to see. Be sure to gas yourself up and don’t be afraid to sound like you’re “bragging:” UC wants to see your personal achievements.  

Essay Prompt #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? 

Well, why don’t you take a crack at it? 

For this essay, I’ll reiterate those best practices for all of your UC Personal Insight Essays . You want to quickly describe, in concrete language, a situation that distinguishes you from others. Then, you want to use numbers, names, responses, and your personal process to show very clearly how you overcame a situation, created something beneficial, committed yourself to a positive outcome, helped your family, helped your friends, helped your community, and on and on. Don’t take this opportunity to flex your creative writing muscles. Do stick to demonstrative outcomes. Don’t worry about winning the Pulitzer Prize for literature.

Again, UC essays are different from the storytelling you’re expected to do in the Common App essay . Do concern yourself with communicating the clear, discrete benefits of your work on a project, course, or group of people. Don’t worry about “bragging.” Your 350 words will go by fast! Gas yourself up while you can. 

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Brittany Borghi

After earning a BA in Journalism and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa, Brittany spent five years as a full-time lecturer in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa. Additionally, she’s held previous roles as a researcher, full-time daily journalist, and book editor. Brittany’s work has been featured in The Iowa Review, The Hopkins Review, and the Pittsburgh City Paper, among others, and she was also a 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee.

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College Application Essays and Admissions Consulting

2023 Ultimate Guide: 20 UC Essay Examples

by Winning Ivy Prep Team | Mar 8, 2023 | UC Admissions , UC Personal Insight Essay Examples

20 UC Essay Examples

Additional UC essay resources:

  • Official UC Personal Insight Question prompts are here.
  • Read our UC Essay / UC Personal Insight Essay Tips

Table of Contents

UC Personal Insight #1 Examples

uc essay about tutoring

If you want to get into the University of California, Berkeley in 2022, you need to write strong Personal Insight Question essays.

In this article I've gathered 18 of the best University of California essays that worked in recent years for you to learn from and get inspired.

What is UC Berkeley's Acceptance Rate?

UC Berkeley is one of the top public universities and therefore highly competitive to get admitted into.

This past year 112,854 students applied to Berkeley and only 16,412 got accepted. Which gives UC Berkeley an overall admit rate of 14.5%.

And as of 2022, the University of California no longer uses your SAT and ACT when deciding which students to admit.

UC Berkeley Acceptance Scattergram

This means that your Personal Insight Questions are even more important to stand out in the admissions process. That is, your essays are more heavily weighed.

If you're trying to get accepted to UC Berkeley, here are 18 of the best examples of Personal Insight Questions that got into Berkeley.

What are the UC Personal Insight Question Prompts for 2022-23?

The Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) are a set of eight questions asked by the UC application, of which students must answer four of those questions in 350 words or less.

Here are the Personal Insight Question prompts for this year:

  • 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 stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

18 UC Berkeley Personal Insight Question Examples

Here are the 18 best Berkeley essays that worked for each Personal Insight Question prompt #1-8.

If you're also applying to UCLA, check out more unique UCLA essays from admitted students.

UC Berkeley Example Essay #1

Uc berkeley example essay #2, uc berkeley example essay #3: clammy hands, uc berkeley example essay #4: memory, uc berkeley example essay #5: chemistry class, uc berkeley example essay #6, uc berkeley example essay #7: debate, uc berkeley example essay #8, uc berkeley example essay #9, uc berkeley example essay #10, uc berkeley example essay #11, uc berkeley example essay #12, uc berkeley example essay #13, uc berkeley example essay #14, uc berkeley example essay #15, uc berkeley example essay #16, uc berkeley example essay #17, uc berkeley example essay #18.

UC PIQ #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. (350 words max)

From an early age I became a translator for my mother anytime we went out in public. This experience forced me to have conversations with adults from a young age. It made me become a great communicator, while helping my parents overcome their language barrier.

Being a communicator has allowed me to lead. When I joined my school’s National Honor Society I was given the opportunity to lead. Applying the skills I used from being my mother’s translator I was able to do what no one else could, make the calls and start the club’s most successful event to date an annual Food Drive at a local Albertson’s, which collects over one ton of food every November. Also developing events like an egg hunt at the local elementary school, a goods drive for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and stabilizing a volunteer partnership with a local park. I have been able to grow as a leader, who actively communicates and brings parties together, planning events and having them run smoothly with minor issues. For instance, last year there was an issue with the homeless shelter not picking up the food for the food drive. In a spur of the moment solution I managed for club member’s parents to collectively deliver the food. My ability to communicate benefited me allowing me to find a solution to an unanticipated problem.

Throughout the four years I have been in journalism I have led; mentoring younger writers and improving the way the paper operates. Staying after hours, skyping with writers about their articles all helped establish my role as a leader, who is always supporting his team. I have done this while writing over 100 articles, editing tons of pages, and managing deadlines. I learned that while being a leader requires effort, it is the passion like I have for journalism that motivates me to lead in my community.

Being a leader so far in my life has taught me that I need to communicate, be passionate, and pass on my knowledge helping cultivate future leaders, who can expand and supersede my work.

UC PIQ #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. (350 words max)

Video games have cultivated my creative thought process. When I was a toddler I invented a game I would play with my brothers. It was nothing along the lines of Hide-and-Seek or Tag, but rather, it was meant to mimic a role-playing video game. It was called "Guy" and came with its own story, leveling system, and narrative story. While seemingly impossible to translate the mechanics of a video game into real life, the "Guy" trilogy provided hundreds of hours of fun to pass hot summer days and escape the harsh reality of our parents arguing and eventual divorce.

This thought process translated into my educational career. have always thought of a tough class or test as a video game. This mostly due to my excessive amounts of video games I played as a child through middle school (especially 7th grade). Each year comes bigger and "stronger" challenges, bigger and stronger bosses to defeat. My senior year will have me face the most powerful boss yet; full AP course load on top of heavy club involvement and community college classes.

Many thought of this "secret boss" as an impossible challenge; something that could never be beaten. No one from my school has ever attempted to take on such a challenge, let alone defeat it. That is probably what excites me about it. In a game, messing around with lower level enemies is fun for a while, but gets boring when it is too easy. The thought of a challenge so great and difficult makes the victory even more rewarding. Stormy skies, heavy rain, and epic boss battle music; I'll take that over a peaceful village any day. In the future, I seek to use this thinking to drive research. I think of abstract physics concepts like secret door and levels that need to be proven true or just a myth in the game. One day, I can make my own discovery of a secret "cheat code' that can help everyone who plays a little game called life.

UC PIQ #3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (350 words max)

I’ve always hated the feeling of clammy hands, the needless overflow of adrenaline rushing through my veins, and the piercing eyes that can see through my façade—the eyes that judge me. I felt like this debilitating anxiety that I suffered through was something I could not avoid when doing the thing I was most afraid of—public speaking. I still felt every sweat droplet run down my skin before each speech, and this anguish never completely dissipated. Fortunately, I learned to moderate my fear in high school when I decided to join the speech and debate program. My anxiety has slowly faded in intensity as I’ve gained certitude and poise with every tournament, and every chance I’m given to speak on behalf of others; this talent has allowed me to be a voice for the voiceless.

Out of all the national tournaments that I’ve competed in, the MLK invitational holds a distinct place in my heart. It was my first invitational tournament in which I competed exclusively in Lincoln Douglas debate. I only had two weeks to prepare myself since it was finals week, while my competitors had upwards of two months to prepare. I was fortunate to break into the final round, as my years of experience helped me to articulate and explain my few arguments more effectively, while also refuting my opponent’s.

I realized that the extent of one’s knowledge is useless if it cannot be made known in a way that is clear to others. I learned that preparation is necessary, but one can be so focused on what they are going to say that they don’t hear the arguments presented. I kept an open and ready mind for various claims and strategies which left me free to adapt to the opponent’s argumentative style each round. This ability to think on my feet has served me well in countless debates, speeches, and presentations. I continuously use these skills to become a better and more active listener in my daily interactions as well.

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My greatest skill is my ability to remember things really well, whether they be minute details or important information that should not be forgotten. Over time, I’ve had a knack for remembering details most people would not even bother to remember, such as old test scores, atomic masses, and other details involving numbers. My friends have always marveled at my ability to remember all these numbers. When I was in chemistry class, we used the periodic table so much that I soon began to remember the atomic mass of the more common elements, and even the molecular mass of common compounds like glucose or water. One of my best friends, who is undoubtedly the smartest person in our class, even finds it crazy that I can remember all these numbers and always tells me that my memory of numbers is amazing. I also used my memory to learn and remember how to solve the Rubik's cube, which amazes my friends, as they find it to be complex with many different, possible combinations.

This skill that I have developed, however, isn’t completely under my control, as sometimes I just remember random and irrelevant facts without really trying to do so. I recall one weekend when my eight-year-old cousin was attempting to memorize the digits of pi: I remembered them along with him, learning up to forty digits in just one day. The skill is seemingly natural and not something I have worked hard to develop, as I may be able to use my memory to my advantage, or it can be a disadvantage. It helps when I have multiple tests in one day, or a test with many questions where I have to remember a lot of information, such as finals. Sometimes, however, it is a disadvantage when I remember information during a test that is not relevant to the topic, such as random dates, names, or song lyrics, to name a few. This skill is very important to nonetheless, as it has assisted me all throughout my life in many tests and challenges involving memory.

UC PIQ #4: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. (350 words max)

At 10:30 pm on a hot, summer, Wednesday night, you would expect my friends and me to be having the time of our lives and going out on crazy high school adventures— but instead, we were actually stuck in a chemistry laboratory trying to map out the Lewis structure of sulfuric acid.

Over the summer of my sophomore year, my friends and I enrolled into ‘Introduction to Chemistry’, an evening course at our local community college. As a six-week summer course, I spent two hours in lecture, two hours in the laboratory, and another two hours studying on my own for four days a week for six weeks. It was evident that I struggled with adjusting to the pace of college when I received 19% on a quiz. I felt left behind, exhausted, and overall pathetic. No matter how many hours I spent studying, I couldn’t keep up. But instead of giving up, I picked up certain strategies like reading the material the night before, rewriting my notes, and joining a study group; eventually working my way up to a B.

At the end of that summer, I learned so much more than just chemistry. On top of having the raw experience of what college is like, my chemistry experience taught me that it is okay to fail. I discovered that failure is an essential part of learning. Coming to this realization inspired me to take more college courses and rigorous courses in high school. I transformed into a hungry learner, eager to fail, learn, and improve. By seizing the opportunity to take this course, I pushed myself beyond my limits. This experience and realization changed how I wanted to pursue the rest of high school, college, and life in general.

I walked into my first day of the chemistry class expecting to walk out with an A; but thankfully, I didn’t. Instead, I walked out of that class with a taste of the college experience and a principle that I now live by-- that it is okay to fail, as long as you get back up.

The relationship I cultivated with my school's college center, by simply being inquisitive, has been most significant. Over my years in high school the college center became my 2nd home, where I learned about extra opportunities and triumphed with help from counselors.

For instance, with help from my school’s college center I applied and was accepted as an LAUSD Superintendent Summer Scholar this past summer. The program selected 15 juniors out of over 450 applicants to work in one of 15 departments, and I was chosen to work for the communications department, which received over 70 applications – making me 1 of 70. Interning for LAUSD at their 29 floor high rise was very eye-opening and exposed me to working in communications alongside seasoned professionals. The opportunity gave me the chance to meet the Superintendent and school board members, who are politically in charge of my education. As part of the communications department I learned how the district operates a network of over 1,300 schools and saw how the 2nd largest school district shares info with stakeholders through universal press releases, phone calls, and the district homepage.

I wrote several articles for the district publication and worked with public information officers who taught me the principles of professionalism and how to communicate to over 1 million people. Recently, I was called from the district to become a part of their Media Advisory Council working alongside district heads, representing the students of LAUSD.

Working for LAUSD furthered my passion to pursue careers in both communication and education. I have always had a desire to be a journalist and the internship assured me of that. I want to write stories bringing student issues from areas like mine to light. Being exposed to the movers and shakers that control education in Los Angeles has heavily motivated me to become an educator and at some point become a school board member influencing the education students like me receive.

Support from the college center has spawned opportunities like a life-changing internship and set me on course for a future full of opportunity.

“Give me liberty, or give me death!”, I proudly exclaimed, finishing up a speech during my first Individual Event competition for Speech and Debate, also known as Forensics Workshop. Public speaking was always one of my shortcomings. During countless in-class presentations, I suffered from stage-fright and anxiety, and my voice always turned nervous and silent. I saw Speech and Debate as a solution to this barrier that hindered my ability to teach and learn. With excessive practice, I passed the tryout and found myself in the zero-period class. All of my teammates, however, joined because they loved chattering and arguing. I had the opposite reason: I despised public speaking.

I was definitely one of the least competitive members of the team, probably because I didn’t take the tournaments very seriously and mainly worried about being a better speaker for the future. Throughout the daily class, I engaged in impromptu competitions, speech interpretations, spontaneous arguments, etc... Throughout my two years on the team, my communication, reciting, writing, and arguing skills overall improved through participation in events such as Impromptu, Original Oratory, Oratorical Interpretation, Lincoln Douglas Debate, and Congress. I even achieved a Certificate of Excellence in my first competition for Oratorical Interpretation -- where we had to recite a historical or current speech -- for Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death.”

I decided to quit Speech and Debate because I felt as if it has completed its purpose. After this educational experience, my communications skilled soared, so I could perform better in school, especially on essays and presentations. Leaving this activity after two years gave me more time to focus on other activities, and apply communications skills to them. In fact, I even did better in interviews (which is how I got into the Torrance Youth Development Program) and even obtained leadership positions in clubs such as Math Club and Science Olympiad Through my two years in Speech and Debate, I believe I became a much better thinker, speaker, and leader. Taking advantage of this opportunity boosted my self-esteem and overall made high school a better experience.

UC PIQ #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? (350 words max)

Although many would say that hardships are the greatest hindrance on a person, my hardships are my greatest assets. The hardships I have overcome are what push and drive me forward. If I had not gone through the failures of my 7th grade year I may have been satisfied as a B or C student. It is easy for us to use our hardships as excuses for not doing work, however, this is a mistake that many people make.

Through my struggles and failure, I have realized an important truth: I am not special. The world will continue to go on and expect me to contribute no matter what I have gone through. Everyone endures some type of obstacle in their life; what makes people different is how they handle them. Some sit around and cry "boo-hoo" waiting for people to feel sorry for them. Others actually take action to improve their situation.

Through hard work, I have been able to outperform my peers, yet I know there is still room for improvement. The thought of actual geniuses in top universities excited me; I long to learn from them and eventually surpass them, or perhaps enter a never ending race for knowledge with them. I used to live an hour away from school. I would have to wake up and be dropped off at a donut shop at 4 in the morning and then walk to school at 6:30 am. After school, I would have to walk to the public library and stay for as long as it was open then wait outside and get picked up around 9:30 pm. I am reluctant to retell this story; not because I am ashamed, but because it is not important. It doesn't matter what hardships I have endured, they do not determine who I am. What matters is what I have done.

At the start of high school, I saw nothing but success. From grades to extracurricular activities, everything seemed to be going smoothly. However, as my sophomore year progressed, this wave of success was soon swamped by a wave of disillusionment. I struggled to perform in Calculus and as a Vice-President, but instead of looking for a solution, I looked for excuses. Ultimately, when I was forced to face my two F’s and my lost elections, the world came crashing down. The vision I had meticulously planned out for the future seemed to shatter before my eyes. My self-confidence plummeted to an all-time low. I thought my life was over.

However, my response to this failure was what would ultimately determine the direction my life would take. In the end, I made the right choice: instead of continuing to blind myself with a false narrative that cast all the blame off my own shoulders, I admitted to my own shortcomings and used this experience as a lesson to grow from.

In doing so, I learned to focus on the aspects of my life that I was truly passionate about instead of spreading myself too thin. I learned to face challenges head-on instead cowering at the first sign of difficulty, even if it meant asking others for help. I learned to accept and utilize my own differences to create my own unique leadership style. Most importantly, rather than letting this mistake define me, I ignited a sense of determination that would guide me back on the right path no matter how many obstacles I encounter.

Looking back, this tragic mistake was a double-edged sword. While it definitely leaves a stain on my record, it is also likely that I wouldn’t have been able to find the same success a year later without the lessons I gained from this experience. At the end of the day, while I still grimace every time I contemplate my sophomore year, I understand now that this mistake is what has allowed me to develop into the person I am today.

Throughout my childhood, I grew up in a nine-person household where the channels of our TV never left the Filipino drama station and the air always smelled of Filipino food. But the moment I left home, I would go to a typical suburban elementary school as an average American kid at the playground. I grew up in a unique position which I both love and hate: being a second-generation Filipino American.

I love being a second-generation immigrant. I have the best of both worlds. But I also hate it. It chains me to this ongoing struggle of living under the high expectations of immigrant parents. How could I hate the part of me that I loved the most?

Growing up, I lived under the constant academic stress that my parents placed on me. Their expectations were through the roof, demanding that I only bring home A’s on my report card. My entire academic career was based on my parent’s expectations. Their eyes beat down on every test score I received. I loved them so much, but I could only handle so much. The stress ate me alive, but I silently continued to work hard.

Living under this stress is the biggest ongoing challenge of my life thus far. Until last year, I never understood why my parents expected so much from me. Finally being old enough to understand my parent’s point of view, I realize that they set these high expectations in the hopes that one day, all of the pain and struggles it took to get to America will pay off. Since then, I’ve overcome the high expectations of my parents by converting their pressure into a fireball of ambition and motivation, deeply ingrained in my mentality.

This intense desire to succeed in America as a second-generation immigrant is something that has and always will fuel my academic drive. As the first person in my family to go to college in America, I’ve made it my life aspiration to succeed in academics in the honor of my family-- a decision made by me.

UC PIQ #6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. (350 words max)

Understanding the past helps us make better choices in today’s society. History provides us with the views of people and politics, the ethnic origin of people, and much more. At the base of all history, there is an intensive culmination of research which hopes to address or bring light to a story.

My passion for history began while digging deep into own family’s story, researching the history of Latin America, and the origins of the city I was raised in.

For example, when I first saw my favorite show Avatar The Last Airbender, I spent hours researching the mythology of the show which in the process made me learn about the philosophy of China: daoism, Confucius, and the mandate of heaven. Anything can be put within a historical framework to understand the context; every decision, tv show, and law has a history and that is exactly what I love. History forces us to take into account the voices of the past before we can attempt to plan for the future.

History has helped me become a more effective writer for the school paper. It has made me think like a attorney, revisiting old cases, and writing up a winning argument in a mock trial. Thinking like a historian has helped me make sense of the current political climate and motivated me to help start Students For Liberty, at my school’s campus where political ideologies are shared respectfully.

Learning, about history drives my inquisitive nature — I demonstrated this desire by volunteering at a local museum to learn more about the origins of my community in Carson. Ultimately, learning about the Dominguez family who established the Harbor Area of LA.

In terms of academics and performance, I have passed both of my history AP exams in World and U.S. history — being the 2nd person in my school’s history to do so. Studying history in highschool has nurtured my love for social science, which I hope to continue in college and throughout my life.

Ever since I was little, I have possessed a unique fascination for nature and the way it interacts with itself. As I sat in the prickly seats of old tour buses and the bilingual tour guide has silenced himself for the dozens of passengers that have closed their curtains and fallen into deep slumber, I would keep my eyes glued to the window, waiting to catch a glimpse of wild animals and admiring the beautiful scenery that mother nature had pieced together. At Outdoor Science Camp, while most of my friends were fixated on socializing and games, I was obsessed with finding every organism in the book. Nothing else caught my attention quite like ecology.

As high school dragged on and the relentless responsibilities, assignments, and tests washed away the thrill of learning, ecology was one interest that withstood the turmoil. At the end of a draining day, I would always enjoy relaxing to articles detailing newly discovered species or relationships between species.

This past summer, I was able to further this interest when a unique opportunity to volunteer abroad caught my eye. Flying over to the beautiful tropical shorelines of the Dominican Republic, I was able to dive into the frontlines of the battle against climate change, dwindling populations, and habitat destruction brought about by mankind, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

While everyone was obviously ecstatic about snorkeling in the crystal blue waters, only I was able to retain that same excitement about trekking through knee thick mud and mosquito infested forests to replant mangrove trees. While tracking animal populations, my heart leaped at the sight of every new species that swam right in front of my eyes. Even when it came to the dirty work of building structures to rebuild coral and picking up trash along the beach, I always found myself leading the pack, eager to start and do the most.

From this experience, I realized that pursuing the field of ecology was what I could picture myself doing far into the future, and this was how I was going to impact the world.

UC PIQ #7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words max)

Originally I saw volunteer work as a nuisance. I felt that it was an unnecessary "requirement" for college. I felt that someone decided to do volunteer work while in high school and now it has become the norm and is essentially required for college. Once I began to get involved, however, I found a true appreciation for the work I was doing.

I loved helping people and, as always, wanted to challenge myself. I worked at the Bellflower Volunteer center and tutored kids every day available, as well as helping out with large special events put on by the city. I then joined Key Club and made it my mission to attend every single event no matter what; even going to the lengths to walk for 4 hours starting at 5 in the morning (it was still dark outside) for a 2-hour beach clean up. I then became Service Event Coordinator and also made it my mission to have an event every week, while attending all of them, while still working at the Volunteer Center. I also started a tutoring program in math at my school as I really enjoy helping my peers academically.

It always warmed my heart to see fellow ninjas( our division mascot) at events I had planned, friends and neighbors at Bellflower events, and CSF members at tutoring.I am always willing to help people with anything. If someone needs my help I will stop whatever I am doing to help in any way that I can. Lending a helping hand is an important part of our society; however, a helping hand cannot do anything if the other hand does not reach for it as well. We need to be able to help ourselves first before others can help us. I tried to create a community where I could help people, but also people could help themselves so that there is no reason for anyone to not be able to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Throughout my childhood, the phrases “get good grades” and “make money” constantly harassed my every waking moment. Life seemed pointless, a never-ending cycle of trying to make more money to create artificial happiness. However, through partaking in my middle school’s ASB, I discovered my love for helping others, and I realized that I wanted to make my life about changing the world and leaving behind a better future for the generations to come.

In an attempt to live up to this philosophy, I have performed hundreds of hours of community service. From volunteering at a senior home to distributing food to the homeless, there is no doubt that I have made a substantial impact on those around me.

Despite all this, my most significant contributions are the ones that take place every day and are often undocumented. Picking up trash, staying long after my job is complete to help other groups, or even saying, “Thank you. Have a nice day,” to anyone who has provided a service for me are just a few examples. While they seem insignificant, these small actions add up.

However, above all, my biggest contribution is building meaningful connections with the people around me and making sure they realize how special and important they are to me and everyone else. In nurturing those who are less experienced, assisting those who are struggling with their emotions or their studies, and inspiring those who have untapped potential, I am not merely applying a band-aid on a wound, but elevating a whole community around me to tackle and prevent ailments the next decades will bring.

Years from now, I will likely have forgotten about my modest academic achievements. However, the memories of seeing someone I had mentored blossom into a strong leader and the smiles and laughter of someone I’ve helped battle through depression will forever be ingrained in my mind.

Serving food at school carnivals, embellishing the local marsh, tutoring students after school, and discharging patients at my local hospital were some of the ways I actively supported my city. However, a distinct way of being engaged in my community involved being selected for the Youth Development Program last summer. This organization works with the Torrance Refinery and selects thirty out of hundreds of applicants. The first week of this program involved activities that trained students for college and eventually their careers by making them adept in communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. For the next four weeks, students were assigned a specific job around the City of Torrance and Torrance Unified School District (TUSD).

I was placed in the TUSD Information Technology Department, along with six other students, and we essentially helped deal with technology-based issues around the district. Even though my professional desire incorporates biology and chemistry, I had a compelling interest and math and technology. I gave back to my community by utilizing the technological skills I gained at work. My colleagues and I traveled daily to several schools around the district and assisted in technological advancements: testing network ports and preparing schools for newer phones, imaging and updating new laptops and desktops, and arranging and setting up new computer labs and Chrome book carts.

Today, many people globally use technological and visual aids to assist their education. My summer job also allowed me to make a difference in the education of others. With the faster internet, newer telephones and computers, teachers could instruct more efficiently and students can be educated more effectively, thus improving their academic performance in the future. This program helped me a lot by boosting my teamwork and leadership skills, which will be extremely valuable as I will be pursuing many president/vice-president positions in my senior year. However, this program has allowed me to make a stronger impact on other people rather than myself; I feel delighted that my work in summer will be beneficial to twenty-thousand students across Torrance.

UC PIQ #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? (350 words max)

In 2011, I started at a newly built school spanning sixth to twelfth grade. The school’s inception was not the greatest with gang culture and issues plaguing the school and nearby community. From this moment I knew wanted to make a change, improving the school and local community.

For example, two years ago a bicyclist was crushed by a container truck across the street from my school, several peers of mine and I advocated for a bike lane to get installed on the street to protect cyclists from the busy traffic. I worked day and night for three weeks using my connection with the city’s public works director to meet with city officials and make a change. I looked for solutions and ways to improve my community and lead the charge to better our street. When we met with city officials they agreed and ultimately approved our bike lane proposal. This civic action started with a group of three concerned high school students, in which I helped facilitate the conversations resulting into a bike lane project, that will be built the summer of 2018 after I graduate high school. Ultimately helping solve an issue in my community.

Using my influence as part of the Associated Student Body I advocated for a new medical academy on my school’s campus to address the growing interest in medicine and health careers of many students at my school. While I am not personally interested in a health related field, I recognized that many students at my school did and teachers agreed. I came in as an intermediary, who because of my position in ASB was also a member of my School’s Shared Leadership Council (SLC), through these means I motivated other ASB officers to support the academy’s inception and after a grueling amount of meetings in which we went through logistics the academy was approved for the benefit of students.

I am a student who will attend a UC pursuing my passions in journalism, education, and history; while being an involved student making the campus a better place than when I first arrived.

Rather than relying on pure intellect, I choose to excel through continual self-improvement, my ability to overpower obstacles, and an unrelenting force of determination. There are thousands of students smarter than me, students with better test scores, students with more volunteer hours, and quite possibly, a more socially acceptable sense of humor. I can assert, however, that my determination and ambition is hard to match.

I am willing to look in the face of the impossible without fear; in fact, the only emotion flowing through my body would be excitement. There are thousands of intelligent students, however many are unable or are unwilling to utilize their full potential. Although not a genius, I have shown my ability to improve drastically in capability over time.

At some point in my middle school career I was not technically supposed to still be enrolled because my grades were too low; now I'm on track to be valedictorian of my class. I am willing to do whatever it takes to meet my goal; if there were a service event across the country I would be willing to walk the entire way; if I could take a million AP's I would. I understand that it is a big jump to go from Bellflower High School to a UC in terms of academic difficulty; however, that is part of the excitement. I am not afraid of failure, it does nothing but make me stronger. Am I capable of making a jump of such a magnitude? It is not my judgment to make; I am only here to try.

The spin-the-wheel slows down and eventually stops at ‘try again next time’. That is, until I secretly push it one slot over to ‘princess tiara’. As the child hurries away to the next carnival game with the tiara in her hair, her mom turns back at me with a warm smile and mouths the words “thank you”. Seeing genuine happiness in the people of my community while volunteering at events such as my school carnival always remind me why I love my community so much.

I hold a lot of pride in how I’ve become a prominent figure in my community. From volunteering at festivals for my local elementary school to becoming employed by the City of American Canyon Parks and Recreation Department, I relish being in the hub of the community. I love our annual Fourth of July parades and Easter egg hunts, where I am stopped every 15 minutes to catch up with the crazy kids I worked with at summer camp or even just with the staff I’ve met from school. Growing up and connecting with such a diverse community is and will always be a large part of who I am. From kindergarten up until my senior year of high school, both my small community and I as an individual have grown immensely. By volunteering at local events, connecting with the people of my community, and finally getting employed by my city, I know that I have contributed to the successful growth of my community.

Although I really love my community here in the small town of American Canyon, I cannot help but think of the other great communities that I can potentially be a part of as well. I believe that by going to the University of California, I will be able to thrive in the liveliness of the communities that the campuses are well-known for. A major contribution I believe that I can bring to the University of California is integrating, being involved in, and building the school’s community so that both I and the school can grow together for each other.

What can you learn from these UC Berkeley essays?

If you want to get into UC Berkeley in 2022, you need to write great essays that help make you stand out. From these 18 Berkeley essays that worked, here are some takeaways:

  • Use specific examples of places and events (name them) ( #8 , #17 )
  • Tell a story ( #6 , #18 , #7 )
  • Demonstrate your background, identity, or culture ( #3 , #15 , #4 )

If you enjoyed these UC Berkeley essays, you'll also like reading our top UCLA essays that worked. They answer the same PIQ prompts, but quite differently.

Applying to other public universities? Check out these awesome University of Michigan essays.

Let me know, which UC Berkeley essay was your favorite and why?

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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").

We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies . We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.

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 .

Interested in taking the SAT one more time? Check out our highly detailed explainer on studying for the SAT to learn how to prepare best.

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 .

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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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Bonus Material:  Download 25 UC Essays That Worked

Preparing to apply to any of the University of California schools? If so, you may have already heard about the UC Personal Insight Questions or PIQs, which are just their version of the college admissions essay. 

Students who earn admission to the UC schools–especially the more selective ones like UCLA or UC Berkeley–spend countless hours perfecting their UC PIQ essays, which are a crucial factor in the admissions committee’s decisions. 

Over years of helping students gain admission to the UC schools, we’ve developed an approach designed to help you respond to these unique essays and maximize your chances of admission. This post will cover everything you need to know about the UC Personal Insight Questions, including a detailed analysis of 8 real sample essays. 

Download 25 UC Essays That Worked

Jump to section: What are the UC Personal Insight Questions? How to approach each of the 8 UC Personal Insight Questions Analysis of 8 Real Sample UC Essays Final considerations for UC essays as a whole Next steps

What are the UC Personal Insight Questions?

While many other colleges simply use the Common App as their application portal, the University of California schools have a completely different system. The primary difference is that instead of writing one long essay, you’ll choose to answer 4 out of 8 “Personal Insight Questions,” with each response between 250 and 350 words. 

The good news is that these same four essays can go to all of the UC schools: it takes no more work to apply to all the UCs than to apply to just one. 

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The bad news is that even if you’ve already written your Common App essay, you’ll have to do a lot of additional work to prepare your UC application. In this post, we’ll walk you through tips for answering each prompt, discuss how to ensure all of your application essays work together, and then do an in-depth analysis of 8 real sample essays. 

You can also jump ahead to the analysis of the sample essays here Analysis of 8 Real PIQs or download our collection of real, successful responses to the UC Personal Insight Questions below. 

How to approach each of the 8 UC Personal Insight Questions

Uc personal insight question 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.  .

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The first UC essay prompt is straightforward enough: you’re expected to tell a story exemplifying your leadership experience. If you can think of a concrete instance that demonstrates your leadership ability, this is a great prompt for you to answer. In particular, it can let you expand on one of your extracurricular or resume activities and really highlight what made that experience unique. 

A few suggestions and warnings before you start drafting, however. As with the majority of college admissions essays, the key here is to tell an evocative narrative story and really get the admissions committee’s attention and interest. With that in mind, here is a quick list of do s and don’t s specifically for the first prompt: 

  • Do begin this particular essay with a detailed story, as if you were writing a chapter of a novel. The number one thing college essay counselors have to tell students is: “Show, don’t tell!” and that’s especially true for this personal insight question.
  • Do interpret the prompt broadly. Leadership isn’t just being president of a club or captain of a sports team, and you don’t need to have an official “position” to write about a moment you influenced others. 
  • Do pick an example that involves you contributing to the community or the greater good.
  • Do , above all, stay self-aware and humble.

On that note, some important things to avoid: 

  • Don’t brag or self-aggrandize! This is much tougher than it may seem, and is where a second set of eyes from one of our college essay experts would come in handy. Almost nothing is worse than an application essay that makes it seem like you’re full of yourself, and it’s tricky to avoid that when you’re meant to write about your own abilities. 
  • Don’t pick an example of leadership without any positive social effects. This goes hand in hand with the previous Don’t. Let’s say you were part of a school club where you became president–if you can’t point to any positive outcomes for the organization or other people, it’s not worth writing about. 
  • Don’t rehash your resume. This is meant to be a story of a particular moment, with a little bit of reflection on what you learned. Don’t make this a run-down of your roles and responsibilities–or you might have the admissions committee yawning. 

The following are things to consider when writing this essay, according to the UC schools themselves: 

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 the lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about what you accomplished 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?

UC 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.  

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The second UC Personal Insight Question lets you talk about almost anything. Do you make art, music, or literature of any kind? Do you have a unique way of looking at the world and making decisions? Do you organize your life in an unusual way? Any and all of these would make good topics for this essay prompt. 

As before, take a look at a handful of quick do s and don’t s below. Later in this blog post Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 2 , we’ll do an in-depth analysis of a response to this prompt. 

  • Do interpret the prompt, well, creatively! You get to decide what counts as “creativity,” so long as you can tell a convincing story about it. 
  • This is, of course a risk, but a necessary one. We often recommend reaching out to a trusted college essay expert (like, say, one of our very own here) to make sure you’re not being a bit too risky. 
  • Do use specific examples of this creative practice, as opposed to just generalities. 

Below are specific things to avoid with the second UC PIQ essay prompt:

  • Don’t shoehorn something impressive from your resume into this essay if it doesn’t fit. Students too often try to cram every impressive achievement from their lives into their college admissions essays, but that won’t come off the right way here. 
  • Don’t choose anything that would be a red flag for colleges. Weird is perfectly okay (even good!), but anything illegal or antisocial is a big no. They want you to be creative, but they also want you to be a good member of their college community. 

There aren’t many absolute don’t s for this essay–it’s designed to be flexible and fun. For a thorough analysis of a successful example, see the end of this post  Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 2 . 

Here are some more drafting tips from the UC schools: 

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?

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

Here’s another great essay prompt for those of you with strange or unique skills: the more unusual, the more unexpected, the better! As with the first two prompts, see below for some advice based on the mistakes we’ve seen students make with this essay prompt. 

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  • Do interpret “talent or skill” as broadly as you like. Sure, if you’re a world-class pianist, you can write about that. But we’ve also seen stellar responses to this prompt that talk about students’ empathy, or their ability to speak up for others, or their ability to recite obscure facts. 
  • Do show your talent or skill in action, with one or more specific stories. 
  • Do connect those stories with what it actually says about you. Why should a college admissions officer care that you’re an expert woodworker or yodeler? How has it shaped how you view the world?

Like any essay prompt that asks you to talk about what you’re good at, this one can bait you into coming off as cocky. Here’s what to avoid: 

  • Don’t spend the whole essay talking about how good you are at this skill or talent. It’s fine to brag a tiny bit, but you don’t want to cross the line into cockiness or egoism. 
  • Don’t present the talent or skill, whatever it is, as inherently valuable or impressive. Let’s say you bench 300 pounds or are a chess grandmaster (or both): don’t just toss that fact at the admissions committee and expect them to be impressed. Explain why it matters. 
  • Don’t write about something that’s only in the past unless you can connect it with your future. If you achieved something great years ago, you need to explain how it affects you now .

Here are the UC schools’ pointers: 

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 it, 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?

UC 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.

This looks like one question, but is really two very different questions bound together. 

The first asks what important or unusual educational opportunity you’ve made use of–this can be a summer class you voluntarily enrolled in, an independent research project you conducted, or some sort of international service learning experience. In other words, it should be something that goes beyond your regular schoolwork. 

The second is quite different: has there ever been something stopping you from learning or attending school? This could be trouble at home, health problems, or learning challenges. In other words, this is a “hardship” question, and the ideal place to tell the UC schools’ admissions officers what challenges you overcame to get the grades and test scores you did.

The advice below varies depending on which aspect of this prompt you’re planning to address. 

For the opportunity:

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  • Do convey excitement about the educational opportunity, whatever it may be. The more passionate you are about what you learned or achieved, the better. 
  • Do highlight how it changed you and your perspective on learning/academics in general. 
  • Do note any concrete outcomes from this experience: did you publish a paper, learn a new skill you still use, etc.? If so, here’s the place to tell the admissions committee about it. 
  • Don’t just write about something you were forced to do as part of your schoolwork.
  • This is a tricky one, as it’s hard to know what comes off this way to admissions officers. The best advice we can give here is to talk this over with a college admissions counselor or essay expert . 
  • Don’t try to undermine or downplay the experience by saying you weren’t interested in it or didn’t get much out of it. If that’s how you feel, you should answer a different prompt. 

For the educational barrier:

  • Do go into an appropriate level of detail about the barrier. It may be difficult to write about, but if there was real hardship preventing you from attending school, completing assignments, or testing well, you need to convey the severity to the admissions committee.
  • Do focus more on “overcoming” than on the hardship itself. While you want to make the severity of what you faced clear, you want to highlight what you did to overcome it. 
  • Don’t write about something that could be considered minor, or something that most students face. Struggling to get up early, procrastination, or problems with “bad” teachers are almost never worth discussing in an essay like this. 
  • Don’t try too hard to explain away grades or other academic problems. It’s fine to touch on how the obstacles affected your academic performance, but you don’t need to make excuses. Let your story speak for itself. 

Here’s what the UC schools have to say about this prompt: 

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 you are today?

UC 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?

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This prompt is very similar to the “obstacles” element of the fourth PIQ. For that reason, it’s quite rare to see a student answer both prompt 4 and 5: there’s generally a bit too much overlap.

 What sets this prompt apart from the previous one is that the “challenge” is a bit broader. It’s not just asking for an educational barrier, but for the most significant challenge of any sort you’ve had to overcome. 

That being said, our advice for this one is generally the same as for the second half of prompt number four, and there aren’t any special rules for this one in particular. If you have a story that fits both this prompt and prompt number 4, the deciding factor should be the nature of the obstacle. 

If the hardship is more personal, choose prompt number 5; if it’s more logistical/educational, choose prompt number 4. In either case, the choice of prompt doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you tell the story. 

Here’s what the UC website advises for this prompt: 

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?”

UC 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. 

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If you already know what major you want to pursue, PIQ 6 is a great prompt to respond to–especially because you can largely reuse any “Why Major?” essays you may have written for other schools.

If not, you can still answer this question, so long as you’ve got some sort of academic interest or passion. But don’t forget the second part of the prompt: they don’t just want to hear what interests you, they want to hear what you’ve done about it. 

Great avenues for exploration here: research projects or papers, particularly interesting school projects, and any kind of self-directed learning. You don’t have to have published something or anything like that. So long as you’ve seriously engaged with an intellectual interest by reading and thinking, you’ll have plenty to write about. 

In general, most students would be wise to select this prompt. It lets you seriously discuss something that is otherwise unlikely to be represented in your application, and your intellectual passions are something every college admissions officer wants to hear about. 

For this essay: 

  • Do think about a specific moment that exemplifies this interest, perhaps telling the story of when you first fell in love with a subject or idea. 
  • Do highlight your passion and interest with evocative, almost over-the-top language–you want your love for this topic to really come across in this college essay. 
  • Do feel free to go a bit into the nitty-gritty of your research or reading. Even if the UC admissions committee isn’t familiar with the terms or authors, they’ll appreciate the fact that you are. 
  • Don’t just write about a class or subject in which you perform well, grades-wise. Here, passion matters more than performance. 
  • Don’t forget the second part of the prompt: convey your passion, but prove that you actually pursued that passion beyond what is simply required by school. 
  • Please don’t try to play this one too cool and write about how nothing taught in school is interesting/engaging/etc. If that is how you feel, pick a different prompt. 

The UC schools’ website suggests you bear this in mind: 

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 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?

UC Personal Insight Question 7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  

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Like the previous essay prompt, this question is one that you should easily be able to recycle from one of your supplemental essays for another school, which often ask a similar question. 

This one is totally straightforward: simply give the UC admissions officers detailed information about some sort of community-oriented project you’ve been involved in. It’s also a great place for you to explore what community means to you. 

The ideal way to answer this question is with a mix of narrative and big-picture overview. Start with a scene of you in the action, actually contributing to these service efforts. Then, zoom out and talk more broadly about your involvement and what service to your community means to you. 

Specific pointers for this essay prompt include: 

  • Do use at least one specific, detailed anecdote of you engaged in this community or service work. 
  • Do stress your commitment to this work and talk about its importance. 
  • Do , if applicable, talk about this work’s broader implications for you as a student and community member: has it changed how you view your role in the community? Will it affect how you contribute to the UC community?
  • Don’t pick something that you were only involved with in the past or a handful of times. For example, if you just volunteered at a soup kitchen twice to get your NHS hours, it’ll be clear to admissions officers that this doesn’t represent a serious commitment to service. 
  • Don’t pick an activity that solely involved you raising money for charitable causes. You need to have been actively involved in whatever this work was. 
  • Don’t use this as an opportunity to highlight your accomplishments. It’s fine to talk about how successful (or not) you were in your efforts, but you want the focus to be on the importance of service work and how it benefited others. 

Other things to bear in mind, courtesy of the UC schools themselves: 

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?

UC Personal Insight Question 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?

Like the very last prompt of the Common App personal statement, this is the catch-all question designed to let you write more or less anything. This is a real double-edged sword. 

On the one hand, with UC PIQ 8, you have tons of freedom: you can write about whatever you think is an important part of your UC admissions application. 

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On the other, this prompt often baits students into trying to cram in a highlight reel of what makes them a “strong candidate,” which is not the way to go. 

If you have compelling answers to four of the other UC prompts, you should simply answer those. The only reason to tackle this prompt is if there is something fundamental to your story and who you are that cannot be made to fit one of those other prompts. In that case, this is your chance to tell that story. 

Because responses to this prompt can go so wrong so easily, we especially recommend running any ideas by one of our college essay advisors, who can ensure you don’t jeopardize your UC application by picking the wrong approach to this prompt. 

Since this one is a freeform prompt, we just have a couple things to definitely avoid:

  • Don’t use this as a place to brag about achievements, grades, test scores, or broadly about how great you are. 
  • Don’t use this prompt to double down on something that’s already sufficiently explored in other areas of your application (like in the other essay responses, for example). 

Analysis of 8 Real Sample UC Essays

In this section, we’ll present you with a successful sample response to each of the first 8 UC Personal Insight Questions, then explain what about each one works. Using these examples and our guide above, you should have most of what you need to start your own UC application essays. 

For more sample essays like the one below, you can check out the collection we put together of 25 real UC application essays that worked, getting students into schools like UCLA and UC Berkeley. 

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 1

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

Tck. Tck. Tck. The sound of my pen streaking across my notebook — marking every concern, inquiry, and supporting point in the meeting. My nonprofit was considering partnering with a local organization, and our board was meeting to discuss the ramifications of such a decision. Opposing board members were concerned that partnering with New Jersey organizations would disadvantage members in other parts of the world, but supporting members believed the partnership would grow our impact by creating more direct service opportunities.

As the meeting ended, I stared at my notes. Both “sides” had made valid points, and I knew I needed to come up with a solution that incorporated both to ensure none of our members were at a disadvantage. As I paced around my room, thinking of possible solutions —it hit me. We don’t need to limit our impact to solely New Jersians: we can offer all our members the opportunity to introduce us to local nonprofit organizations and offer virtual opportunities to support those groups, like phone-banking.

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 As the leader of our organization, it’s my job to listen to the ideas of each board and community member to come up with a way forward. In the time since that board meeting, I have made it more of a priority to work with our members to figure out which issues mean most to them and tackle those head on. The outcome of this team-oriented approach has not only allowed us to create more direct-service opportunities, but it’s also allowed me to foster a collaborative and tight-knit community where everyone feels valued and heard. People work harder and are more engaged when they are fighting for issues they specifically care about, so fostering this collaborative planning environment has made our impact even stronger. 

By learning to encompass various viewpoints—even ones different from my own—I have taken a more balanced approach to leadership as I learn to meld multiple opinions into a cohesive whole. The sum of our varied perspectives is more potent than any one could be alone.


So, what makes this essay work? 

Beginning: First, it starts creatively, putting us directly into the middle of a narrative. The first words are slightly disorienting, but that’s a good thing–it means we want to read to find out what’s going on. Note that even though the narrative scene isn’t all that exciting (it’s a meeting, after all), the author uses strong storytelling to make it compelling anyway. 

Middle: After dropping us into the story, the essay quickly and efficiently moves on to giving us the background and setting up the stakes: there’s a problem this organization faces, and the writer, as the organization’s leader, needs to find the solution. 

End: Without giving us too many bureaucratic details (which would probably lose the admissions officers’ interest), the writer quickly conveys that they found a solution. Far more importantly, they move on to discussing why this matters and how it affected their understanding of leadership. 

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The last two paragraphs are the real heart of this essay: admissions officers at elite universities want to see that you’re someone who thinks critically about what “leadership” means, and how you see yourself as a member of a larger community or project. 

The situation this essay describes isn’t life or death; it is, in fact, a pretty classic problem faced by many students holding any kind of leadership role in a school club or local organization. But what’s crucial is that the writer of this essay always frames leadership in terms of doing good for others. The writer never brags, never comes off as cocky. Instead, they focus on what positives they’ve been able to accomplish for others. 

The key elements of this essay that allow it to work: story, stakes, self-awareness. 

For more examples of responses to this and other UC Personal Insight Questions, download our collection of real sample essays below. 

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 2

Prompt: Describe how you express your creative side.  

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When photography was first invented in 1837, most people didn’t consider it a form of art. Photography was truth, they claimed. Even now, some still see photography as the least “artsy” of the arts. I started challenging that idea when I first picked up a digital camera two years ago. My camera has taught me to use technical skills in a creative way. Not only do I have to master lighting, composition, and Photoshop, I have to envision the work that I want to produce and move towards that goal at every moment. 

For me, the artistic process is far from linear, especially when things don’t quite work out the way I’d originally wanted. The lighting is too harsh, the digital noise gets overwhelming, or the highlights are blown out. But I never give up on a photo just because something’s off about it. Although those cases are hard to work with, sometimes they’re the most interesting, because that’s when I start using my most creative post-processing techniques. With some smoke and mirrors — and a few brush strokes in Photoshop — I can transform a seemingly boring photo into something that makes my friends go, “Wow, how did you do that?” The end result often qualifies more as digital art than photography. 

I’ve found that creativity in photography is not so different from creativity in science. Humans are visual learners, so it’s much easier to deliver a message through an image than through words alone, even when that message is about math or biology. In past years, I’ve served as a tutor to students in various environments, be it debate camp or frenzied lunchtime cram sessions, and when I need to explain something abstract, I gravitate towards diagrams rather than long-winded explanations. When my initial attempts don’t get through, I think of analogies or stories to help my hardworking classmates access their abilities to learn visually. 

At college, I would expect to engage in equally challenging conversations with fellow scholars, during which we will have to use every creative resource at our disposal to truly see what we’re learning.

This is a great example of a straightforward response to the “Creative side” prompt. The writer doesn’t do any formal tricks, instead directly conveying their passion for a particular art form in detail. 

Beginning: The essay starts off with an interesting take on its subject, and very clearly articulates why it’s important to the student: photography is art, and has taught them to view the world more creatively. 

Middle: This essay really shines in its body paragraphs, precisely because of the level of detail (“The lighting is too harsh, the digital noise gets overwhelming, or the highlights are blown out”) it manages to convey about the process of photography. It doesn’t matter whether we know exactly what that all means; what matters is that the author clearly does. 

End: The writer successfully connects this creative passion with other aspects of their life (science, tutoring) and even ends by suggesting how this passion will make them a better and more capable classmate and student. 

Key elements: passion+detail+connection to academics.

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 3

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

The stall horn blares, and the plane sways under the control of my feet. Shoulders tense, I look outside to maintain balance: even a small tap of a foot or shift of the stick could throw the plane into a downwards roll. The plane begins to shake- my cue to recover. I pitch the nose down and push the throttle full forwards. Despite high-stress situations, piloting is my dream career. Whether airliners or navy jets, I know I will be happiest in the air.

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I started out building model airplanes out of paper and pencils at Civil Air Patrol meetings, which first introduced me to basic aviation principles: pitch, roll, and yaw. From there, a presentation in my computer science class taught me about Joby Aviation, a local startup working on electric gyrocopters for everyday travel. Already knowing I wanted to fly, I felt inspired to work with aircraft as an engineer as well. I decided to enroll in flight lessons and subsequently took a job as a receptionist at my flight school.

When flying, time passes by as fast as the air around me. As warnings blare, pilots chatter over the radio and the plane’s glass bubble gets swelteringly hot. There’s a lot to be aware of, but I’ve learned to multitask and focus amidst distractions. Similarly, being at the airport quickly thrust me into the world of aviation. I found myself fascinated not only by aerodynamics but also by fuel chemistry, avionics, and materials. Sumping fuel from the fuel tanks, I wondered, how do different fuel textures affect planes’ engines? Running my hand along the propeller, I pondered: how would the aircraft fly if this were wood? Plastic? I became fascinated by the specificity and variability of aerospace materials and eager to learn more about them.

My love for aerospace is part of why I am eager to study engineering. I imagine myself designing new aircraft and optimizing the ones I fly. Whether I become a pilot or an engineer, the lessons I learn flying will be beneficial in any future paths I take.

Beginning: Like many (though not all) of the best essays, this one starts by dropping us directly into the story. It’s far less appealing or interesting to read someone say “my greatest strength is…” and far more enjoyable to see that strength in action. The story here is told with precise details, highlighting the stakes of what’s going on. 

Middle: Details, details, details–look at all those details! You should, by now, be seeing a trend in these essays. What makes this background about the students passions work are the specific details they provide about it: the models, the aviation principles, the gyrocopters. As with the example essay for the second prompt, these details serve to convey the student’s passion and their knowledge. 

End: As with the previous essay, the importance–the “so what?”–of this essay appear here. Why should we (and all those admissions committees) care that this student can fly planes? Well, because it’s taught them to “multitask and focus amidst distractions,” plus lead them to learn more about all sorts of related fields. 

Key elements: story+detail+connection to academics.

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 4

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

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Last summer, I volunteered with a global NGO called the Paper Carton Alliance. Its focus is recycling and sustainability, and I was fortunate enough to assist them while practicing my Mandarin Chinese. While I was there, we conducted site research at recycling plants and I learned about one of the most efficient recycling systems in the world. I came to understand Chinese by speaking it daily and hearing it in different contexts. I spoke in meetings as well as in casual conversations with my coworkers.

I also learned how to address cultural barriers and discomfort. Especially in the more rural areas of Taiwan, people weren’t expecting foreigners and would ask me where I was from or why I was there. At one meeting, once the manager learned that I could understand Chinese, he instead began to speak Taiwanese so that I wouldn’t understand him because he felt uncomfortable about a foreigner participating in the meeting. I was frustrated, but I realized that this wasn’t the time to assert myself. It was more important to respect my elders. I let them continue the meeting, taking notes to learn, and appreciating that there are times to step back.

Learning this cultural “language” was as important, if not more, as learning Mandarin. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t have had in an American classroom, but saw firsthand in a foreign Country.

Throughout the trip, I also saw efficient recycling methods and how governmental economic policy creates measurable differences in how businesses operate. Taiwan’s recycling program, one of the best in the world, inspires me to create something similarly effective after I graduate, starting on a local level. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I interact with nature regularly, whether running cross-country or swimming in Aquatic Park. I’m co-president of our school’s Ocean Conservation Club because I feel it’s not only a passion, but a human obligation to consider the environment. My volunteering with the Paper Carton Alliance stimulated both my passions for multiculturalism and environmental preservation. I hope to continue to work on behalf of the global environment in college and beyond.

Beginning: This essay opens clearly and directly without much of a story. It tells us what the student was involved in, sets up the context, and helps us understand why it matters. While normally we love seeing an essay start with a story, sometimes the topic doesn’t lend itself to that. 

Middle: The little anecdote in the middle of this essay about the manager switching languages is interesting and engaging; more importantly, it allows the writer to reflect critically on a nuanced issue (respecting cultural norms vs asserting yourself). By exploring that question, the writer shows admissions officers that they’re someone who thinks deeply about real-life issues and walks away from them with lessons. 

End: At the end, the author connects this educational opportunity with their passion for sustainable change and other areas of their life. They don’t try to cram every accomplishment in–instead, they just briefly connect some relevant aspects of their life to show that this learning opportunity wasn’t just a one-off, but actually continues to shape how they view the world.

Key elements: Passion+self-awareness+stakes.

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 5

Prompt: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. 

Until that moment, I hated being black. I hated my dark brown skin and wished that I was just a few shades lighter so that I was pretty. I hated my thick coily hair and wished it was straight like the other girls at school. I hated my African features and looking so different from everyone.  

But I hid it all. The older I got the harder it was to feel comfortable in my skin.

My mom held me as I cried, and for the first time in my life, I actually believed her when she called me beautiful. My wide nose and big lips make me uniquely interesting. My curly 4c hair gives me character and expression. My dark skin is exactly what makes me beautiful. For years I was blinded, but after my mom hugged me, I looked in the mirror seeing myself for the first time. I admired my dark skin that glows in the sun. I marveled at my wild hair that frames my face and fits any style of my character. I smiled at my full lips that speak my truth everyday, sharing my experiences with the world as I learn to love myself and love others. 

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Every day I face life in a society that wants me to doubt myself, my abilities, and my success as an African American woman. Yet everyday when I look in the mirror I love the reflection looking back at me. The little black girl who never thought she was pretty is almost unrecognizable today. I will share my confidence with all the black girls around me. I will uplift them as my mother uplifted me. As a black woman in STEM, I have the unique opportunity to serve my sisters who are often overlooked in the healthcare industry. Not only can I set an example to young black girls of the greatness they will achieve, but I’ll also get to provide them care in a system that delegitimizes their pains. I will protect them and show them that they are beautiful and valid because they are black. 

Beginning: This essay starts with a series of incredibly powerful, vulnerable assertions. Not only does this student speak frankly about how she viewed herself, but by writing, “until that moment…” she’s also conveying to readers that there’s a story to come. 

Middle: The body of this essay tells a compact, fluid story, effectively using the “But I hid it all” for emphasis and contrast. It recounts that moment of change when the student overcame this discomfort, recounting an emotionally charged experience in bold, detailed prose. 

End: The student then connects this story more directly to the prompt, to wider social issues, and to the student’s academic calling. Note that this essay doesn’t try too hard to recount the writer’s accomplishments or to “sell” the writer as a good student or community member. It doesn’t need to. Instead, it clearly connects a moment of personal growth with the issues faced by black women, articulating how that connection has shaped what this student hopes to accomplish. 

Key elements: Vulnerability+detail+social issue+academics

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 6

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

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After watching a video about a man with 1,000 Klein bottles under his house, I became fascinated with topological shapes, figures that cannot be broken or torn, only morphed. Inspired to research single-surfaced Klein bottles, twisted Mobius strips, and their relationship to other branches of mathematics, I turned to Google Drawings and started designing a topology infographic.

As I traversed the web for information, one search led to a million others. I tumbled down the topology rabbit hole, hopping from one definition to the next to make sense of fundamental concepts. However, I found joy in deciphering definitions and complex notation. As I learned, I imagined myself taking classes and fully comprehending what were then somewhat cryptic definitions.

My calculus teacher, Mr. K, lent me a book: “Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid”. Absorbing the information in the pages, I recognized the miraculous nature of mathematics. Godel’s logical theorems, Escher’s topological visuals, and Bach’s musical epiphanies connected and built upon each other through a vastly spreading mathematical web. An excitement stirred within me and my eyes gradually opened up to the full extent of mathematics left to learn after high school. I began to wonder if I could study advanced mathematics with an engineering degree. Later, I discovered that topology, a seemingly unrelated field to engineering, is used to construct circuits and optimize materials for aerospace engineering. Through this, I realized that I can always find a way to connect my passions to my goals.

As I wrapped up my research project, I added the finishing touches: a vector icon of a torus and an image of a Klein bottle. Conveying what I’ve learned through a creative presentation is something I excel at, and I enjoy helping others learn in a visually dynamic way. As well as being an artistic opportunity, my topology research also deepened my passion for mathematics, something I am determined to follow through as I select my college courses.

Beginning: with a quirky start (what’s a Klein bottle? Why are so many under that house? Is that where Klein bottles are supposed to go?), this essay hooks us readers and begins recounting the writer’s intellectual pursuit of “topological figures.” It’s unusual, it’s detailed, and it’s clearly from the heart. 

Middle: As is classic for these essays, the middle sketches in detail how the student pursued this interest: a specific book connecting three different figures, each of which inspired this student’s love of math. Again, the details make this work: think about how much more boring this essay would be if we didn’t get the specific names and contributions of the three figures in the book.

End: the end shows, very briefly, the outcome of this learning process: a creative research project tying back to that original Klein bottle. What’s great about this essay is that it doesn’t recount some expensive or inaccessible learning experience like an elite summer camp or trip abroad. The student’s interest was hooked by a weird fact, so they pursued that interest through books, online searches, and a project, all things that just about anyone can do if they wish to. 

Key elements: quirky intro+Details+tangible outcome. I just wish this student told us what a Klein bottle is. 

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 7

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

One. Two. Three. Four. I looked around the room as anxious faces filled in. An awkward silence hung over us as I turned toward my best friend. A part of me felt guilty to be here; I wondered what would happen if any of my family members found out I was bringing “shame” to them. On the other hand, a part of me was glad that there was a place where I could proudly express this part of my identity. 

Finally, I broke the ice and introduced myself, “Hey guys, I’m the co-President; thank you all for coming to the first meeting of the year.” Soon enough, other people introduced themselves, and we started discussing our goals for the year in the affinity group. 

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With a plan came weekly meetings. We made posters to promote inclusivity within the school, created educational presentations highlighting LGBTQ+ figures/struggles, and spearheaded activities/discussions to foster a safe place within the Gender and Sexualities Alliance. Our conversations ranged from inspiring LGBTQ+ activists throughout history to members’ personal experiences of coming out to loved ones and what that can mean for a person based on individual circumstances. I realized that the Gender and Sexualities Alliance wasn’t, in fact, a place of shame: it was a community where we could educate, empower, and (most importantly) be ourselves. 

At the very beginning, neither my co-President nor I thought the Gender and Sexualities Alliance would become what it is today. Through all of our efforts came more people, and that group of four became a group of fifteen and only kept growing. Those previously nervous faces turned into ones of confidence and pride—ready to make a difference within our school. The GSA founded a community passionate about creating a more inclusive environment where individuals felt safe to be themselves—enabling them to be more confident in all aspects of their lives, including academic/social pursuits within the school and beyond. I’m proud to have created a space where I can feel secure in myself and encourage others to feel so, as well.


Beginning: As some others, this essay starts in the middle of a story, with a catchy, slightly confusing first line. Done well, these kinds of openers just about always work: we want to know what’s happening, so we read on. That this opening also introduces something like a secret that could bring “shame” further raises the stakes and interest. 

Middle: In this essay, the body serves to provide the relevant context–like what the meeting is about and what the writer’s role is–while also continuing the important narrative of the author coming to terms with their identity. It’s that last bit, which requires vulnerability and self-awareness to write about, that is crucial to this sort of essay. 

End: As we’ve seen before with similar essays, this conclusion serves to move the focus partially away from the student and onto the larger community. The student’s identity is clearly important here, but no less important is “creating a space” where people can feel secure. This shows a commitment to diverse, open-minded communities, which is precisely what colleges are meant to be. 

Key elements: narrative intro+vulnerability+community

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 8

I’ve always hated Las Vegas, so I wasn’t thrilled when my dad’s family gathered there to celebrate my Grandma’s birthday one summer. Being around my Nigerian family made me nervous because I felt so -washed. Because I’m not close with my dad, I’m especially distant from my Nigerian heritage. I don’t speak our tribe’s native dialect, Ishan, like the rest of my family. I barely recognized the traditional dishes my cousins ate so comfortably. 

As my relatives lovingly reunited, I quickly felt lost in my own family. 

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Nigerian parties are always spent dancing the night away. I hid in a corner, waiting desperately for the night to end before it had begun. Yet my cousins took me in with open arms, quickly erasing my fear of being the sore thumb. They didn’t see me as the outcast I envisioned myself to be. As we swayed to the motions the song progressed the strangers in the audience grew more and more familiar. We danced the night away to Nigerian hip hop, and the lively music drowned out the distance I felt from my culture. The lights of the hall illuminated the bright colors of our traditional African outfits as we jerked and jived to the beats. For the first time in my life I was fully immersed in my culture, and I felt so blessed to have a family with so much pride that leaves no one behind. They had given Vegas a new meaning: one of love, acceptance, and family. 

Being an American-born child to immigrant parents is a unique identity, one that comes with a beautiful background of cultural pride met with self-assimilation to avoid a sense of “other” we often feel. There are countless students who feel out of place in their families, out of touch from their backgrounds as I did. But that summer showed me how much you can give to others by sharing your culture. My hope is that in sharing my experiences with the UC community, we all learn from one another’s cultures and welcome each other with open arms as a family

Essays that respond well to the 8th prompt don’t tend to follow a particular pattern. All that matters is that they convey some essential element of the applicant’s background, which is precisely what this one does. 

Beginning: This essay starts with a strong assertion that immediately leads into a story, leading the reader to question why it is that the writer hated Las Vegas. At the same time, it sets the stakes of this essay: this writer doesn’t feel at home with aspects of her family’s background. 

Middle: The middle picks up and works to resolve that tension, most importantly by telling a detail-rich narrative of this writer’s experience at the family reunion. 

End: Finally, the essay directly and clearly articulates why all this matters: this student’s unique identity has shaped their understanding of community, and has helped them develop into someone who’ll be an open-minded, empathetic member of the University of California.

Key elements: narrative+detail+vulnerability+community

Final considerations for UC essays as a whole

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It’s crucial to remember that, unlike in most other colleges’ admissions processes, there is no “main” essay or “personal statement” here. That means your four essays have to work together, painting a coherent but not repetitive picture of you as a college applicant. 

This leads to several important takeaways:

  • Don’t double dip. Each essay needs to illuminate some new aspect of your personality. If you answer the leadership prompt by writing about your role as president of a STEM club, you shouldn’t try to talk about that same club for the community prompt. 
  • Vary your style and structure . This is an often underlooked one. Because UC admissions officers will be reading your four college application essays back to back, you need to vary how you tell each story. We’ve said in this post that a great way to start is in the middle of a story, and that’s true. But you can’t do that for every single essay, or it’ll look like you only know the one trick. 
  • Use each prompt tactically. What we mean here is that you need to think carefully about what you want each of your UC college admissions essays to do for your application. Are you someone whose profile is all-STEM, all the time? Then you might want to use, say, the creativity prompt to highlight something about you totally unrelated to STEM, while using the academic interest prompt to expand on a particularly impressive research project you were involved in. 
  • Reuse and recycle. If you’re applying to non-UC schools, then you’ll also likely have to write a Common App personal statement and supplemental essays. The Common App essay can always be cut down and turned into one of the UC essays. Most of your supplemental essays are also going to be perfect responses (once lengthened) to many of the UC prompts. 

To check out more real-life examples of successful UC application essays, click the link below. And, if you’re ready to start drafting and want to maximize your chances of an admission to one of the more selective UC schools, contact us to get paired with an expert tutor–many of whom have gone through and succeeded in the University of California admissions process. 

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  • Feb 16, 2022

Guide to UC Personal Insight Question #1: Leadership Experience

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Welcome to Thinque Prep's series on the UC Personal Insight Question responses. You can access other posts in the series at the following links...

10 Top Tips for Your Best UC Personal Insight Question Response s

Guide to UC PIQ #2: Creativity

Guide to UC PIQ #3: Greatest Talent

Guide to UC PIQ #4: Greatest Educational Opportunity/Barrier

Guide to UC PIQ #5: Greatest Challenge

Guide to UC PIQ #6: Favorite Academic Subject

Guide to UC PIQ #7: Community Service

Guide to UC PIQ #8: Free Response

This post will focus on the first Personal Insight Question option, which is concerned with leadership experience.

Question Breakdown

Here's the text of PIQ #1 , straight from UC's website

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

Many students see this question and automatically skip over it because they've never had an official leadership title and think that means this question isn't for them. However, even if you've never been the president or vice president of a club, a team captain, etc., you can still write a great response to this question. In this context, "leader" is a role you take, not a title.

In order to help you expand your concept of what counts as leadership experience, I've brainstormed some examples, all of which would make great topics for PIQ #1 :

Choreographing one of your school’s theatre productions

Managing ticket sales for your school’s dances

Leading your family’s effort to start composting all of your home’s food waste

Taking the lead on planning all events and activities for a big family vacation

Caring for younger siblings while your parents are at work

Leading practices for your younger sibling’s Little League team

Settling a disagreement between the middle school and high school youth groups at your church

Organizing a group of neighbors to start a group of crossing guards to help protect younger kids walking home from school on a busy street

As you can see, none of the examples above involve "official" titles, but they're still totally valid examples of leadership - and the list doesn't end there. Any situation in which you've taken the initiative to solve a problem and/or stepped up to take special responsibility in a group effort can work as a topic for this essay.

The only thing I encourage you to avoid is choosing to respond to this question by explaining how you "lead by example," whether that be in a group of peers or your family. This is because, as I note in 10 Top Tips , it's important to be able to prove whatever you claim about yourself with specific examples/evidence, and it's difficult to prove the argument that others displayed a positive behavior because you did.

Another tip on topic selection: avoid taking a list approach. By that I mean, don't just write 350 words listing every time you've ever shown leadership. PIQ responses are all about depth over breadth. Instead of trying to cover too much ground, instead, choose one specific experience to go into detail about.

Once you think you're confident about the experience you want to write about, I suggest you begin by creating a thesis - one straight-up, to-the-point sentence that summarizes what you want to say in your response. This thesis does NOT need to appear word-for-word in your actual essay; it's just a pre-writing tool to help you develop a focus and stick to it.

I've come up with a few examples of what a student might use as a working thesis for PIQ #1 :

My experience as a choreographer for my school's production of Guys and Dolls challenged me to be a flexible and patient leader of a lot of different personalities, stay organized when leading large rehearsals, and create numbers that highlighted the unique strengths of each dancer.

Taking the initiative to plan my family's big trip to Thailand presented more logistical challenges than I expected, but ultimately I learned a lot about staying organized and being open to the suggestions of others.

When I organized my neighborhood's first team of volunteer crossing guards, I was just trying to solve a problem of safety, but I found my solution also improved the sense of connection and trust between all of our families.

You can see that each of the working thesis statements above is quite different. What they have in common is that they clearly delineate 3 things: the challenge/experience, a bit of detail about what the author did, and a preview what the result of their efforts were. These things should form the focus of your response. Writing a brief thesis early on gives you a statement to return to throughout the writing process, so you can make sure you're staying on track and not going off-topic.

Questions to Consider

So now that you know what the response should be focused on, what actually goes in it? I break down the content of a PIQ #1 essay like this...

What did you do?

How did you do it?

What was the impact?

What did you learn?

How can you apply what you learned in the future?*

*#5 is optional. Describing how you can apply what you learned in your academic/professional future is certainly on-topic, but I wouldn't say it's strictly necessary.

If you think this structure looks "too simple," guess what?! Responses to the UC Personal Insight Questions are supposed to be clear and straightforward. They don't need to read like fictional scenes with dialogue. They don't need to be structured like 5-paragraph essays. What's important is that you answer the question in detail and teach the reader something meaningful about yourself.

I suggest you simply copy/paste the 5 questions above (1. What did you do?, etc.) in a document and start answering all of them with some brief sentences and/or bullet points. Don't rush. Don't be anxious about getting wording or structure "perfect." Be thoughtful. Take time for reflection.

Once you've thoroughly answered the questions above, you will have formed a solid rough draft. Just keep coming back to your writing, adding more detail, cutting material that might have gone a little off-topic, organizing your writing into paragraphs, and polishing your spelling and grammar.

My other suggestion? Ask someone to read your writing. Give them the 5 questions above and ask how thoroughly you answered each of them. Also consider showing them the thesis you came up with and asking them how well they think you stayed true to it throughout the essay. Friends and family can be excellent readers. You should also consider having a professional writing coach check out your work. Thinque Prep's college counseling and essay help services can help you out at any step in the essay-writing process, from brainstorming to your final draft.

Example PIQ #1 Response

Finally, let's check out a real example response to PIQ #1 .

As a seven-year-old, I came to a profound realization on a warm summer morning while camping at San Onofre State Beach with my family. Peering out of my tent, I examined ominous, grey containers with an assemblage of large steel piping draining into the ocean and stared in disbelief at the complexity of this contraption perched above the roaring waves -- it was a nuclear power station.

Eight years later, while reflecting on this experience, I involved myself by speaking at city council meetings in the efforts to find a safe and affordable way to relocate the nuclear waste present just meters above the water at San Onofre. Spearheaded by youth activism in my city, this endeavor has been an arduous process, which still has no long-term solution; however, this undertaking established my environmentally-driven interests in activism and instilled in me a crucial understanding of the local political scenes.

As a 16-year-old, I again involved myself in local politics with the ambition to end the construction of a toll road through residential and environmental districts in San Clemente. With the help of countless other people, many of whom had a much larger impact than me, we successfully halted the construction and saved thousands of homes and a plethora of local wildlife habitats.

As of today, I have broadened the scope of my work through the creation of an environmental organization titled “The Broadacre,” which aims to spread environmental policies throughout Orange County. Through The Broadacre, I, along with our many members, have successfully lobbied for numerous legislations with the most important being our public smoking ban in downtown San Clemente and a reforestation effort in fire scorched areas of CA; however, the benefits have extended beyond that. I've found that my role in my community is to ensure environmental progress through activism, which has not only benefited my community, but has also instilled in me an innate sense of purpose, and for that I am grateful. In the future, I envision myself still fighting for environmental progress globally, and an opportunity to attend the most environmentally conscious educational system in the United States is certainly something I would never take for granted, and is something I look forward to greatly.

Ready to get more in-depth with the next question? Check out Guide to UC Personal Insight Question #2: Creativity for more insight on how to make your UC application essays shine.

Nina Calabretta is a college English instructor, tutor, and writer native to Orange County, CA. When she’s not writing or helping students improve their skills as readers, writers, and critical thinkers, she can be found hiking the local trails with friends and family or curled up with a good book and her cat, Betsy. She has been part of the ThinquePrep team since 2018.

With offices located in beautiful Orange County, ThinquePrep specializes in the personalized mentorship of students and their families through the entire college preparation process and beyond. With many recent changes to college admissions - standardized tests, financial aid, varied admissions processes - the educational landscape has never been more competitive or confusing. We’re here from the first summer program to the last college acceptance letter. It’s never too early to start thinking about your student’s future, so schedule your complimentary consultation today!

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  • Posted on February 10, 2022
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How’s the first week of school going, y’all? As we all resume in-person or virtual classes, most of our high school seniors now meet the cold reality of this semester: not only do they have to attend classes and maintain their GPA, as well as create lasting memories with their closest friends, but they also have to complete multiple college essays and applications (approx. 9-12 applications on average) within a short, short amount of time. Trust us , we know it takes up a lot of time, and the college essays tend to take up the most amount of time, overall. So we’re here with another blog post on how to effectively and efficiently approach another specific type of personal essay: the University of California Personal Insight Questions , otherwise commonly known as “the UC essays.”


Unlike the Common App personal statement, or most personal essays required by private and public colleges, in which students must write a single essay on a single topic that is slightly longer in length (around 650 words), students applying to any college in the University of California school system must answer 4 of 8 prompts on a variety of topics. Each essay is a short answer of 350 words maximum. And each essay must directly answer its prompt. (More on that later, promise.)

We’ll copy and paste the topics below. As you skim through them, ask yourself: which questions elicit the greatest response from me? Does a specific prompt allow me to immediately recall a specific moment or memory? Which prompts would allow me to tell the most compelling story about my life? And (perhaps most importantly), which prompts would be the most fun for me to address?

Here are the prompts:

  • Describe an example of a leadership experience in which you’ve 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’ve taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you’ve faced.
  • Describe the most significant challenge you’ve faced and the steps you’ve taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  • Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you’ve furthered this interest inside and/or outside 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 stand out as a strong candidate for admission to the University of California?

Alright. Are you done reading ‘em? Are you ready to brainstorm? Before you get started, here are some helpful tips:


Due to the UC essays’ limited word count for each prompt (trust us—350 words is not a lot of space to write about your life), it’s important to make sure you answer the prompt as effectively and efficiently as possible. For these essays, unlike the Common App essay, you can’t write a long introduction about your random love of birds before discussing your experiences with leadership—you need to get straight to the point, and answer the prompt as quickly as you can.

However, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to be creative or tell a story within the essay; in fact, it’s highly encouraged that you do so. Readers will always, always tend to prefer to read essays that are written more like a short story, rather than a dry, boring recitation of the facts. Have you ever heard of this old writing rule: “Show, don’t tell”? That means it’s best to describe a particular moment through your writing, with lots of sensory imagery and action, rather than merely addressing it. For example:

TELLING: “I swam the 50 Free for my high school swim team and I won second place. I was pretty proud of myself.”

SHOWING: “The roar of the audience’s applause still ringing in my ears, I emerged from the water’s surface to see my time emblazoned in bright lights on the scoreboard: 23.97 seconds, my new personal record. It didn’t matter that I’d walk home with silver—I still walked home with my head held high.”

See the difference? The second option is much more thrilling to read, and therefore much more likely to maintain your reader’s attention. Even while you have to address the prompt directly, you can still find ways to make your essay read more like a story. So don’t be afraid to be creative!


While the UC essays’ short answer prompts should allow students to write about a wide variety of experiences and personal skills, you’d be surprised how often a student will write about the same story from their life over and over and over again. This is a crucial mistake to avoid. As you look through the UC essay prompts, don’t just make sure that you write about different aspects of your personality and experiences—make sure you choose a varied group of prompts, too.

Since you can only write about 4 of the 8 topics, you want to make sure that the 4 topics you select will allow you to write about a wide range of topics. Notice, for example, that Prompt #2 asks you to write about your creative side, while Prompt #3 asks you to write about a talent or skill. Many, many students will choose both Prompt #2 and Prompt #3, and write about the same creative talent: painting, for example, or their love of the piano. This is something you should never do, and it can easily be avoided if you choose different prompts altogether. Check out this basic description from the PrepScholar blog of the ways in which each of the UC essays prompts differ:

  • 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.

When in doubt, choose at least one essay prompt from these three basic categories. It’ll be difficult to show off a wide range of skills, for example, if you only choose Topics 3, 4, 5, and 8.

Once you’ve chosen the topics, think also about whether all aspects of your life are adequately represented in your four essays. If all of your essays talk about your academic interests, for example, you might be in trouble; similarly, don’t write about sports or extracurricular activities for all four prompts. Once you’re done brainstorming each of your essays, ask yourself: is there a crucial part of my life that isn’t represented in these essays? If you’re an important member of your church, or have volunteered at a food bank for several years, make sure that you find a way to include those experiences in your essays! These short answer prompts are a crucial opportunity for you to write about a lot of different aspects of your life and goals, so make sure you use this opportunity to the fullest.


It’s a classic rule in writing that the hero on the Hero’s Journey must overcome some trial or obstacle before achieving success. That is, it’s important to have the hero face a problem, but it’s equally important to show that the hero has solved that problem. Think about it: how many stories have you experienced where nothing happens to the hero, and the hero accomplishes nothing at all? It’s pretty rare, right? And difficult to do well? That’s true for your personal essays, too.

Remember: these essays are a chance to show off not only your personality and passions, but to also show that you are a mature, responsible young adult who is capable of growing and learning from your experiences. So be sure to highlight your growth and what you’ve learned in each of your essays. If you describe a problem you faced in one of your essays, you must make sure you also describe how you solved that problem. If you weren’t able to solve that problem, then you must make sure you describe what you learned from the experience. It’s deeply important that you show that you’ve progressed as a student and a person within each essay, so don’t forget to do so!

Okay! That’s all for now. As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the UC essays, or want to set up a session with us. We’d be happy to help you tackle any part of your college essays. Best regards , Jordan Sutlive

College Counseling Strategist

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Home » Campus Life » Learning Commons » Programs » Academic Writing Center

Academic Writing Center

The academic writing center is open.

The Academic Writing Center is currently  open  for the spring 2024 semester.

Clifton AWC Spring Hours:

  • Mondays - Thursdays, 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
  • Fridays, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 

The AWC is located in 401N Langsam Library and online.

The Academic Writing Center provides UC students with free writing assistance.  Please note, Academic Writing Center appointments are offered both in-person and online. Students should make note of the location when they make an appointment.  If you would like a trained writing tutor to help you get started on your writing assignment or review your writing, make an appointment or submit your paper for feedback. 

AWC Tutoring Services

The Academic Writing Center offers in-person appointments as well as two online services for students: AWC Online and AWC Tutor Feedback. These services are accessible for all UC students, so read below to see which one is best for you. Be sure to check out more resources on our Writing Resources page . 

AWC In-Person

AWC In-Person allows students to meet with AWC tutors in-person to work on their papers and projects. If you're meeting in-person, bring two printed copies (or send a digital copy to the AWC email), prompts and instructions from the professor, research materials (if applicable), and any questions or concerns about the draft.

After scheduling the appointment, you will be emailed a confirmation notice for your appointment. At the time of your appointment, you will check in at the Front Desk in the AWC (Langsam 401N). Then, you will meet with an AWC tutor to discuss your work.

AWC Online allows students to video conference with AWC Tutors and work on their papers online and in real-time through Zoom.

After scheduling the appointment, you will be emailed a link to an online video conference room. At the time of your appointment, ensure that you are in the video conference room to discuss your writing with your tutor.  

AWC Tutor Feedback

With AWC Tutor Feedback, you can submit essays of six pages or less that are double-spaced, or three pages or less that are single-spaced, and one of the AWC tutors will review it, respond with helpful feedback, and email your draft back to you within 48 hours (potentially longer on weekends and around holidays).

Please note that submissions will not be reviewed while the AWC is closed.  Submit your essays via the  feedback submission form . Our tutors will respond within 48 hours, or potentially longer on weekends and holidays. 

Schedule an Appointment

The best way to meet with a tutor is to schedule an appointment. Doing so secures your time with a specific tutor of your choosing. Please schedule an appointment by clicking the "schedule an appointment" button above or by phone at (513) 556-3912.

AWC Philosophy Statement

The Academic Writing Center (AWC) aims to promote a collaborative understanding of writing and composing practices. In working with our tutors, we hope students will view writing as a means of better understanding course content, critical thinking, innovation, creativity, and reflective practices.

The AWC prioritizes student-directed composing practices, such as brainstorming, organizing, expanding, analyzing, or revising. However, the AWC is not an editing service—this means our tutors are specifically trained to focus on higher-order concerns such as clarity, cohesion, and critical thought, instead of grammatical correctness.

The AWC tutors will work directly with the student text. During appointments, students will read their work aloud, collaborate with the pen or keyboard in hand, and engage in conversation with the tutor. Tutors will facilitate, guide, and assist, but they will not, and cannot, do the work for the student.

Questions about the AWC?

If you have any questions regarding the Academic Writing Center, please email [email protected] or call the AWC Front Desk at (513) 556-3912.

Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers

Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers

The drop-in Writing Studio will be open on the 4th floor of the TLC 3/18 through 3/20 1pm-4pm for Finals Week Winter 2024.

Writing Specialists will be available for appointments during Finals Week 3/18-3/22.

AATC Writing Support

Why do students choose to use writing support at the aatc.

  • We help build better writers, not just better papers
  • We view writing and reading as a process that we’re here to help with
  • We help students build their academic confidence and competence
  • We have a friendly atmosphere where students can discuss their writing

Looking for writing and reading help?

  • New appointments open daily, and the calendar posts more appointments for the next two days each evening, but if you are having trouble with the system, please contact our front desk team. We are most heavily impacted during midterms and finals and appreciate your patience. 

Looking for additional support as an undergraduate student, graduate student, or faculty member?

The University Writing Center provides consultations for the UC Davis community. Read more on their website for how to book an appointment.

AATC Writing Support Services

Writing Support in the AATC offers a variety of appointments to help you succeed with your writing and reading. Click on the buttons below to read our guides and access our calendars. The Writing Studio will be open on the 4th floor of the TLC Monday-Thursday 12pm- 5pm starting on January 16 for Winter 2024. It will be open 3/18 through 3/20 from 1pm-4pm for Finals Week.   Individual (in-person) appointments can be scheduled through OASIS and will also take place at the TLC. Individual (remote) appointments can be scheduled through OASIS with tutors and specialists. For Finals Week individual appointments, we will be offering only Writing Specialist appointments. Please check out our guides for how to select an in-person or remote appointment.

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Writing Workshop Schedule (click to expand)

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due and Avoiding Plagiarism

For more information and to sign up, please visit the UC Davis Library's Workshops, Tours and Orientations page

February 21, 2024 at 3:10pm-4:30pm in Shields Library Instruction Lab room 165

Services for Faculty and Staff (click to expand)

If you would like a Writing Specialist to visit your class or partner with your program, we can give a 15-20 minute presentation on services or a design a customized workshop with you. To get started, please complete our  interest form . 

We also have a video of our presentation on our services that you're welcome to show your class.

If you would like to assign a PlayPosit module on avoiding plagiarism, please consider adding these videos AATC made with the UCD Shields Library.

Please contact Kevin Sitz ( [email protected] ) for more information.

Campus Writing Support Resources (click to expand)

The Writing Support Services in the AATC is not the only UC Davis department that offers writing support. These departments offer one-on-one consultations, online resources, workshops, and more to help support your writing beyond coursework.

The Internship and Career Center can help you with applying for jobs and internships. 

Health Professions Advising can help you prepare your materials when applying for graduate school in the medical professions.

Pre-Grad and Law Advising can help you prepare your materials when applying for graduate and law school.

The Office of Research Grant Writing can help you with writing research grants and provides many resources.

The Entry Level Writing Online Resource Page offers many online resources related to improving your writing abilities.

The Writing Center offers appointments and writing support for all undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty.

Academic Department Listings of Tutors for Hire

Some Academic Departments on campus maintain lists of tutors that students can hire. AATC has no affiliation with these listings and does not endorse or vet these tutors. Please carefully consider the following before contacting a private tutor

  • Read any disclaimers on the department listing
  • Agree on a price in writing
  • Talk about what success will look like for you
  • Ask how the tutor is qualified
  • For safety, meet the tutor in a public place

Ready to look for a private tutor to hire? Listings for the Department of:  Chemistry ;  Mathematics ;  Physics ;  Statistics

Become a Tutor

If you are interested in helping others be as successful as you are, consider applying for a tutoring position. The rewards are great for both you and the students! Please click  here  for more information and to fill out our online application form.

Other Campus Resources for Students

Not sure where on campus to go for something? Student Affairs has a great Where to Get Help guide.

Looking for help overall with your classes not just a specific subject? The Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services (OEOES) offers Success Coaching and Learning Strategies support services.

uc essay about tutoring

Welcome to Euphony Coaching!

Specializing in Personal Insight Questions for the University of California

Whether you're looking to craft solid Personal Insight Questions, appeal an admissions decision or write compelling Common Application statements (or all of the above!), Euphony can help.


What does eu·​pho·​ny mean? 

The word euphony derives from the Greek word “Euphōnos” meaning "good sound" or “musical” and refers to the quality o f being pleasing to the ear .

By helping students write clear, concise, and meaningful essays, I feel euphony reflects my work helping people present their best selves in writing.

What Clients Say

"I actually got into every UC I applied to. Your help was really really helped me to package my extracurricular experiences well and make my PIQs the best they could be, so thank you!"
— Elisa, Attended UCLA

Editorial: Why it’s smart for universities to bring back the SAT requirement

A student looks at questions during a college test preparation class

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The SAT and ACT are making a small but important comeback after the tests were widely dropped as a requirement for college applications during the pandemic.

Most schools went test-optional, meaning students could submit scores if they wanted but not doing so wouldn’t count against them. The University of California won’t consider test scores at all.

Only a handful of schools have resurrected the testing requirement, but among them are heavyweights in the world of higher education: MIT, Dartmouth and Georgetown. Most recently, the University of Texas at Austin and Brown University joined the list and the University of North Carolina is considering it . Yale also will require standardized test scores, but tests such as Advanced Placement can be used in place of college entrance exams.

HANOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 8: A Dartmouth Campus Shuttle moves through campus at Dartmouth College on February 8, 2024 in Hanover, New Hampshire. Dartmouth College has announced it will once again require applicants to submit standardized test scores, beginning with the next application cycle, for the class of 2029. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Opinion: So Dartmouth will require the SAT again. Here’s what really matters for Californians seeking degrees

Testing drama captivates the media, but most Americans aren’t pursuing the Ivy League and face bigger hurdles in pursuing higher education.

Feb. 13, 2024

Additional competitive schools are likely to join the group, along with schools that aren’t as selective. The University of Tennessee, which accepts 68% of applicants, decided a year and a half ago to bring the tests back .

The tests were criticized long before the pandemic as giving an unfair boost to more affluent students who could afford tutoring. And it’s true that scores are closely correlated with family income. But the pause in testing gave colleges a chance to study the issue more closely. They found that SAT scores were extremely effective at predicting whether students would succeed in college.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 13: A graduate with a decorated cap attends The University of Southern California's 2022 commencement ceremony on Friday, May 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: The demise of liberal arts? Students lose when colleges trade humanities for STEM

Universities were never meant to be merely career-prep schools. But more universities are shrinking non-STEM departments.

Nov. 26, 2023

No one should be surprised. The University of California convened a panel several years ago to study the issue at length and it reached the same conclusion . The standardized tests were more equitable than grades, the panel said, because grade inflation is more pervasive at affluent schools. Yet UC refuses to consider test scores, after bowing to pressure from critics. We hope that the trend toward reinstating the tests in admissions makes UC leaders rethink this position.

Making the tests optional was actually counterproductive, Dartmouth, Yale and Brown found. Their applicant pools became less diverse, because low-income students and students of color were less likely to apply even if they had good test scores, thinking they hadn’t tested well enough.

The whole debate has sadly ignored the bigger factors perpetuating the uneven playing field of college admissions. Yes, rich students can receive SAT tutoring, and it helps, though only a little. The most rigorous study of the topic found that tutoring could raise scores by about 20 points.

CLAREMONT, CA - APRIL 12: A campus tour takes place at Claremont McKenna College on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Claremont, CA. The school has reopened in-person tours after shutting them down last year amid the pandemic. The college tour is a key aid in helping students make their big decisions. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: Early decision admissions for college unfairly favor wealthy students

Legacy admission is on the wane but colleges are doubling down on early decision, another admissions practice that favor the wealthy.

Jan. 4, 2024

Meanwhile, some aspects of college admission tilt the field in favor of wealthier students more than test scores do. For example, teachers at more affluent schools have more time for writing letters of recommendation for college applications than teachers at low-income schools.

Athletes continue to get the upper hand on acceptance , and not just in commonly played games like football and soccer that most students have access to in high school. Golf, equestrian, fencing, gymnastics and crew are among the sports that require families to pay for their children to participate, and those athletes also get preferential treatment in college admissions.

Essays can be coached, heavily edited or even written by college consultants for a fee. A 2021 study at Stanford University found that the quality of essay content was closely correlated with family income among University of California applicants. Yet UC kept the essays and got rid of the tests.

Northridge, CA - January 22: Nicolette Parra, a university student, supports her faculty during the first of an alleged five-day strike over pay at California State University Northridge on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024 in Northridge, CA. The strike is across all of the system's 23 campuses and is the largest ever faculty strike in the system's history. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: U.S. colleges are overusing — and underpaying — adjunct professors

As much as 70% of faculty at U.S. higher educational institutions are contract workers without benefits or job security. That’s not good for them, students or schools.

Feb. 1, 2024

There is nothing inherently evil about the SAT or ACT. It all depends on how they’re used. They can act as a reality check — a student who didn’t get great grades might show a lot of potential in the test scores, and vice versa. And, as UC did before it scrapped the tests , colleges should consider the scores in context, such as, is this the best score in a generally low-scoring high school? A score might reflect the education at that school, not the student’s aptitude for college work.

These latest changes also point to a larger problem in admissions at selective colleges: Every school seemingly wants different things. Some want high SAT scores, others care more about AP exams, and others don’t want any standardized test scores. Some enhance grade-point averages depending on how tough the courses are, others don’t, and others in just some cases.

Of course, schools have a right to seek out the students who will fit best at their institution. But the lack of transparency and consistency has given rise to a nearly $3-billion-a-year industry of pricey college-admissions consultants.

Talk about tilting the playing field.

More to Read

Los Angeles, CA - August 14: Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. Fourth grade students form lines as they assemble for the first day of school at Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School on the first day of classes for LAUSD students. (Al Seib / For The Times)

Most California students fall short of grade-level standards in math and reading, scores show

Oct. 18, 2023

Pasadena, CA, Monday, August 28, 2023 - CalTech Professor Jared Leadbetter meets with university admissions ambassadors. Leadbetter helped develop an alternative path to admissions, dropping calculus, chemistry and physics course requirements for incoming students. Left to right are, Leadbetter, Catharine Chang, Jj Jones and Miles Jones. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

No high school calculus, chemistry, physics class? Caltech has a new admission work-around

Aug. 31, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 29: Kashish Bastola, a rising sophomore at Harvard University speaks outside of the Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday, June 29, 2023 in Washington, DC. In a 6-3 vote, Supreme Court Justices ruled that race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina are unconstitutional, setting precedent for affirmative action in other universities and colleges. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Commentary: Affirmative action ruling demands earlier intervention for equal college access

Aug. 1, 2023

A cure for the common opinion

Get thought-provoking perspectives with our weekly newsletter.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board determines the positions of The Times as an institution. It operates separately from the newsroom. You can read more about the board’s mission and its members at About The Times Editorial Board .

More From the Los Angeles Times

San Francisco, CA - Homeless activists hold a memorial outside San Francisco City Hall for the dozens of people who have died unhoused on the city's streets. Steeped in history, culture and wealth, San Francisco now has a dubious reputation for intractable homelessness, rampant crime and an exodus of business. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: San Francisco voters rejected the removal of two judges. It’s a win for independence in the court

March 15, 2024

Los Angeles, CA - March 05: Los Angeles City district 4 city council candidate Nithya Raman speaks to the crowd as she hosts an election night event in Edendale on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: Councilmember Nithya Raman’s reelection is a win for a more affordable, humane Los Angeles

March 14, 2024

In March 2014, scientists recaptured P-22 in late March and, after noticing crusting on his hair and skin, treated him for mange.

Editorial: California’s rat poison bans aren’t working. Wild animals and pets are still dying

Castaic, CA - February 22: Sarah Olaguez, Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Closure, joins residents of Val Verde and Castaic protesting to call for Chiquita Canyon Landfill to be closed in Hasley Canyon Park in Castaic Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Garbage has been burning deep inside the landfill due to a chemical reaction for much of the past year, and recently scalding-hot contaminated water has surged to the surface. The protest follows calls from the County Supervisor Kathryn Barger's office, which said the landfill should provide funds to relocate residents who want to temporarily move until the issue is resolved. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: Chiquita Canyon Landfill’s toxic fumes show the danger of continuing to dump our trash

March 13, 2024


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Nick S. Santa Monica, CA, available for online & in-person tutoring

The College Lad - Leading SoCal Writing Coach & Test Expert

My own writing has been published in over a dozen publications and my years of experience writing web copy have taught me how to apply that punchy style to college essays in order to grab a reader's attention. I don't just write... See Nick's full profile

Bryan H. Nashville, TN, available for online & in-person tutoring

College Essay Expert with 5-Star Rating

As a college essay expert with a 5-star rating, I have helped countless students craft compelling and impactful essays that showcase their unique strengths and personalities. With a background in education and a doctorate in education, I... See Bryan's full profile

Bryan is an exceptional College Essay coach who can demolish any writer's block through a systematic approach that breaks down the prompt into small achievable goals. Bryan's ability to pull out the writer's most powerful thought... read the full review - Christopher , 15 lessons with Bryan

Amy A. Silver Spring, MD, available for online & in-person tutoring

Conquer the College Essay with Author, Journalist and Writing Teacher

I am an award-winning author and journalist with bylines in The Wall Street Journal, NPR's magazine, and Village Voice Media (200+ articles published). As a communications consultant, my clients include the World Bank, World Vision International... See Amy's full profile

I can't imagine a better writing tutor; she absolutely exceeded my expectations. I have been in the process of applying for speech-language pathology graduate school. It is an EXTREMELY competitive program (25-35 spots and 400 app... read the full review - Marissa , 7 lessons with Amy

Karen K. West Bloomfield, MI, available for online & in-person tutoring

Writing/Editing/Proofreading/Public Speaking, Doctorate/ College Essays

I have a BA in Communication from Michigan State University. As an industry professional with 30+ years in public relations/marketing/business communications, I wrote articles, literature, proposals, presentations, press releases, and advertising... See Karen's full profile

My daughter and I have been meeting with Karen for over 4 months writing college essays. She is extremely knowledgeable, meticulous, and supportive. We met Karen for the first time and knew that she was the perfect match. Her pers... read the full review - Michelle , 29 lessons with Karen

Ellen B. Bethesda, MD, available for online & in-person tutoring

College Essay and Application Coach with Admissions Reading Experience

...busy and stressful time. I can assist with building a college list, filling out the common app, or writing distinctive college essays —from personal statements and supplementals to med school secondaries—that make your application shine.... See Ellen's full profile

Ellen helped my son write his Common App essay. She is very patient and skilled. We are very pleased with the end product. Ellen is an excellent coach! We will definitely be using her again!... read the full review - John , 11 lessons with Ellen

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  1. UC Essay Examples Sample ️

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  2. Uc Essay Prompt 1 Examples

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  4. How to Write a Perfect UC Essay for Every Prompt

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  5. How to Write a Good Essay

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  6. Prompt 2 Uc Essay Examples ~ Resume Letter

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  1. How to Write an Insightful College Essay About Tutoring

    As a college essay topic, tutoring experience can be an effective way to highlight your academic expertise and communication skills. Essays about tutoring can also be some of the most endearing when they discuss the tutor-tutee dynamic. In short, a college essay about tutoring can be a great topic to round out your application narrative.

  2. UC Essay Examples

    Brittany's work has been featured in The Iowa Review, The Hopkins Review, and the Pittsburgh City Paper, among others, and she was also a 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee. UC Essay Examples - We offer example UC essays for each of the 8 Personal Insight Questions. Plus analysis of each essay.

  3. 2023 Ultimate Guide: 20 UC Essay Examples

    UC Essay Example 1: Leader of school choir. It's a convoluted masterpiece: 64-pages plastered with musical symbols and Latin. Though Rutter's "Requiem" sounds rather grotesque (and shrieky) when I'm straining to hit an A5, our debut at Carnegie Hall was a hit! I've been in the _______ girl's choir since age-11, devoting my ...

  4. 18 UC Berkeley Essay Examples that Worked (2023)

    UC Berkeley Example Essay #1. Prompt #2: Creative Side. UC Berkeley Example Essay #2. Prompt #3: Greatest Talent or Skill. UC Berkeley Example Essay #3: Clammy Hands. UC Berkeley Example Essay #4: Memory. Prompt #4: Educational Opportunity or Barrier. UC Berkeley Example Essay #5: Chemistry Class.

  5. How to Write a Perfect UC Essay for Every Prompt

    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.

  6. How to Write Great UC Essays (Examples of All Personal Insight

    Part 1: Introduction. Whether you're a California resident or not, you may have considered applying to University of California (UC) schools—and for good reasons. In addition to being the nation's best public university system overall, the UC system includes several elite schools that may be better options than private schools for competitive applicants due to their prestige, diversity ...

  7. How to Write the UC Application Essays: Step-by-Step Guide

    Step 1: Make a copy of the doc above by going to "File" and then selecting "Make a copy.". Step 2: Complete one BEABIES chart per topic you're considering. Get this: If done correctly (in other words, if you spend at least 15-20 min. per activity and really think about the questions listed at the link above), the BEABIES exercise will ...

  8. About us

    About us. University of California Admissions Essay Editing Service from UC Essay Coach provides more resources to students who have limited access to college application counseling resources, giving you an edge over your competition. Our UC Admissions Premium Package will help you brainstorm ideas for essays, edit your drafts, offer valuable ...

  9. How to Write Your UC Essays: A Comprehensive Guide

    If the answer is yes, then you probably know that you will need to include answers to four UC essay prompt in your college application. You will need to choose these four UC essay prompts from a set of eight prompts. These eight prompts are specific to the UC system; they are different from the Common Application prompts.

  10. How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Questions

    The Common App essay can always be cut down and turned into one of the UC essays. Most of your supplemental essays are also going to be perfect responses (once lengthened) to many of the UC prompts. ... Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike's SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of ...

  11. Peer Tutoring

    Peer Tutoring Spring Hours: Mondays - Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Fridays, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. In-person Peer Tutoring appointment check-in is located at 2510B French Hall West. Peer Tutoring appointments are also available online. Schedule an Appointment. Apply to be a Peer Tutor. The Learning Commons offers free tutoring for UC students.

  12. Guide to UC Personal Insight Question #1: Leadership Experience

    Check out Guide to UC Personal Insight Question #2: Creativity for more insight on how to make your UC application essays shine. Nina Calabretta is a college English instructor, tutor, and writer native to Orange County, CA. When she's not writing or helping students improve their skills as readers, writers, and critical thinkers, she can be ...


    WHAT MAKES THE UC ESSAYS UNIQUE? Unlike the Common App personal statement, or most personal essays required by private and public colleges, in which students must write a single essay on a single topic that is slightly longer in length (around 650 words), students applying to any college in the University of California school system must answer ...

  14. UC Essay Prompts: Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD

    The University of California schools have released their 2023-2024 essay prompts for applicants to the Class of 2024. Unlike most highly selective universities, the UC schools are not members of The Common Application — the school has its own application. Just like in previous years, applicants to the University of California, Berkeley, the ...

  15. Graduate Tutoring

    AWC Graduate Writing Support. All University of Cincinnati graduate students can utilize the Academic Writing Center for writing assistance regarding their coursework and final writing experiences. Schedule an appointment with a graduate writing tutor today to improve your documents and understanding of the graduate writing process.

  16. College Essay Guy

    We're Proud to Be One-for-One. College Essay Guy believes that every student should have access to the tools and guidance necessary to create the best application possible. That's why we're a one-for-one company, which means that for every student who pays for support, we provide free support to a low-income student. Learn more.

  17. Academic Writing Center

    If you have any questions regarding the Academic Writing Center, please email [email protected] or call the AWC Front Desk at (513) 556-3912. The Academic Writing Center at the Learning Commons provides free writing assistance to University of Cincinnati students via one-on-one tutoring appointments or tutor feedback on essays.

  18. Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers

    Writing Support Services is a unit within the Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers (AATC). Specialists and Tutors can all help with coursework, scholarship essays and appeals essays in appointments as well as work with students in the Writing Studio. Specialists (Workshops, Classes, Appointments, Writing Studio)

  19. University of California Admissions Essay Consulting

    Eliminate the confusion of your college essays and feel more confident in producing a polished, effective piece of writing that presents you in the best possible light. Euphony Coaching provides one-on-one coaching for UC PIQs, Common App, and other college essays from brainstorming to completion.

  20. 25 Highest Rated College Essay Tutors Near Los Angeles, CA

    1,689 hours tutoring. View Nicole's profile. I also have several years of experience in teaching and mentoring graduate, college, and high school students in formal academic writing. I edit and proofread theses, college essays, and research papers. I also teach students how to format their paper in APA style.

  21. Bringing back the SAT requirement is a smart move

    March 17, 2024 3 AM PT. The SAT and ACT are making a small but important comeback after the tests were widely dropped as a requirement for college applications during the pandemic. Most schools ...

  22. 25 Highest Rated College Essay Tutors Near California

    As a tutor in the Academic Support Center of a high school, my duties included helping students to write, proofread, and revise essays for their English, history, and religion classes, as well as their college essays. See Jacquelyn's full profile. 4.8 (55) 40 /hour.

  23. 25 Highest Rated College Essay Tutors

    Find a Private College Essay Tutor in any city. The Wyzant community of private tutors spans nationwide, making it easy to find an instructor nearby who can teach 1:1 college essay lessons online or in person. Pass the class, ace the test, or learn a new job skill. Compare tutor costs and qualifications and find your college essay tutor today.

  24. Does anyone know UC Essay tutor? : r/ApplyingToCollege

    [CWM] think modern "elite" essays are terrible and here's why. A basic outline to write your "I did a cool thing" essay. 10 Bonus essay tips [they] couldn't stretch into an entire blog post. Hey! You don't have to start with your Common App essay [CWM's] personal system for easily creating fun, original essay topics. Introducing "Half-Ideas"