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UC Browser vs Other Browsers: Which is the Best for Your Desktop?
When it comes to browsing the internet on your desktop, there are numerous options available. However, UC Browser for PC has become quite popular in recent years due to its speed and user-friendly interface. In this article, we will explore UC Browser for PC and compare it to other browsers in terms of features and performance.
Introduction to UC Browser for PC
UC Browser is a free web browser developed by Chinese mobile internet company UCWeb. It was originally designed for mobile devices but has since been adapted for use on desktop computers. One of the key features of UC Browser is its speed, which is achieved through data compression and cloud acceleration. This means that pages load faster and use less data than other browsers.
In addition to speed, UC Browser also offers a range of features such as ad-blocker, video downloader, and customizable themes. The user interface is clean and easy to navigate, making it a good choice for those who value simplicity.
Comparison with Google Chrome
Google Chrome is one of the most popular browsers in the world, so how does UC Browser compare? In terms of speed, both browsers are quite fast but UC Browser has an advantage when it comes to data compression. This can be especially useful if you have limited bandwidth or are using a slow connection.
Another advantage of UC Browser over Google Chrome is its built-in ad-blocker. While Chrome does offer ad-blocking extensions, they are not always effective and can slow down your browsing experience.
However, one area where Google Chrome excels is in its integration with other Google services such as Gmail and Drive. If you are heavily invested in the Google ecosystem then Chrome may be a better choice for you.
Comparison with Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox has long been known as a reliable alternative to Google Chrome. It offers a range of add-ons and customization options that make it a popular choice for power users. However, when it comes to speed, UC Browser once again has an advantage.
UC Browser’s data compression and cloud acceleration mean that pages load faster than Firefox. Additionally, UC Browser’s ad-blocker is more effective than Firefox’s built-in blocker.
That being said, Firefox does have some advantages over UC Browser. For example, Firefox is open-source software which means that anyone can contribute to its development. This has led to a large community of developers creating add-ons and extensions for the browser.
Overall, UC Browser for PC is a strong contender in the world of web browsers. Its speed and user-friendly interface make it a good choice for those who value simplicity and efficiency. While it may not have all the bells and whistles of some other browsers, its data compression and ad-blocker make it a great option for those with limited bandwidth or who are concerned about privacy.
That being said, whether UC Browser is the best choice for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. It’s worth trying out different options to see which one works best for you.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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- You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions.
- Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
- Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you. However, you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.
Keep in mind
- All questions are equal. All are given equal consideration in the application review process, which means there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.
- There is no right or wrong way to answer these questions. It’s about getting to know your personality, background, interests and achievements in your own unique voice.
- Use the additional comments field if there are issues you'd like to address that you didn't have the opportunity to discuss elsewhere on the application. This shouldn't be an essay, but rather a place to note unusual circumstances or anything that might be unclear in other parts of the application. You may use the additional comments field to note extraordinary circumstances related to COVID-19, if necessary.
Questions & guidance
Remember, the personal insight questions are just that—personal. Which means you should use our guidance for each question just as a suggestion in case you need help. The important thing is expressing who you are, what matters to you and what you want to share with UC.
1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. 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 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? 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? 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 is 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? 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 you are today? 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? 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 future career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)? Are you inspired to pursue this subject further at UC, and how might you do that?
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 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? 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? 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.
Give yourself plenty of time for preparation, careful composition and revisions.
Making a list of accomplishments, activities, awards or work will lessen the impact of your words. Expand on a topic by using specific, concrete examples to support the points you want to make.
Use “I” statements.
Talk about yourself so that we can get to know your personality, talents, accomplishments and potential for success on a UC campus. Use “I” and “my” statements in your responses.
Proofread and edit.
Although you will not be evaluated on grammar, spelling or sentence structure, you should proofread your work and make sure your writing is clear. Grammatical and spelling errors can be distracting to the reader and get in the way of what you’re trying to communicate.
Your answers should reflect your own ideas and be written by you alone, but others — family, teachers and friends can offer valuable suggestions. Ask advice of whomever you like, but do not plagiarize from sources in print or online and do not use anyone's words, published or unpublished, but your own.
Copy and paste.
Once you are satisfied with your answers, save them in plain text (ASCII) and paste them into the space provided in the application. Proofread once more to make sure no odd characters or line breaks have appeared.
This is one of many pieces of information we consider in reviewing your application. Your responses can only add value to the application. An admission decision will not be based on this section alone.
Need more help?
Download our worksheets:
- English [PDF]
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How long does it generally take to write the UC essay?
<p>I've started my app, but I haven't started the essay part. Am I screwed? Or do you think the remaining time is ample to do a good solid job on it?</p>
<p>I'm making constant revisions to prompt #2, but I haven't written anything for prompt #1 yet x.x I'm hoping to have inspiration by next Tuesday. That's when I want to send in my application <em>because I'll get my November Japanese subject test score back</em></p>
<p>I think if you have a good idea in mind for your essays, you should be able to write a good one. I find that I write pretty quickly if I have inspiration.</p>
<p>If you can focus on doing nothing but writing, revising, and editing your essays, you could get it done in 24 hours or less. </p>
<p>I kinda can't do that so im trying to break it up into little parts :D</p>
<p>How long? 500 words? I wrote the "core" of one of my supplemental essays (around 230-something words) in around 30 minutes, and added the rest and sharpened it/spiced it up in about the same time the next morning. It was about my area of interest though, so it wasn't too difficult. </p>
<p>Other essays, for me, have taken weeks of random notes jotted down and so on, but I could only really write them once something hit me right. When that happened, it usually took a few hours. As I did more essays, it became easier, for sure. Also, if you write enough essays, most supplements won't seem so different. A lot of supplements and prompts fall into the same general categories, it seems. A few exceptions are the Beloit "words of you" essay, and the U of Chicago essays, of course.</p>
<p>When are you due, Little_duck? Even if you need to send by Wed, you have time. Try to get some editors to check out your work beforehand though.</p>
<p>If your due date doesn't coincide with mine, I'll edit some for you also.</p>
<p>The UC essays are due on Nov. 30th, basically the apps. are I mean.</p>
<p>but i know kids who started like back in October so I was thinking I'm way behind but apparently not?</p>
<p>It depends on the person, duck. Some people work better under pressure, and some like to schedule in their app time over long periods of time so it doesn't feel overwhelming. I work better under pressure, but ironically am an obsessive-compulsive planner. So, I finished all the stuff I knew would kill me much farther in advance (specifically, the activities and awards sheets, which I wanted to be perfect) and put off the stuff I could delay until around the week prior. I planned it that way. It sounds weird, but I knew that I might have worse essays if I wrote them on more sleep. The 230 word essay I told you about was written after an all-nighter, and the night before also had little sleep. And the essay came quickly and was pretty strong, IMO. A lot of writers need to "let go" and I, an admittedly tense person, relax better while sleep-deprived. Go figure!</p>
<p>If you don't KNOW that this works for you, don't do it. Also, I tried to give myself enough time to be able to chill and re-read without tiredness obscuring mistakes I'd made. I still made a major mistake, though I doubt that I would have avoided it because it stemmed from something that I didn't notice for months. </p>
<p>Try to finish this week, if you can. Then email it to a teacher, or ask for readers here. It will also give you some time to step away and then have the chance to view your writing again with "new eyes." I don't know how many essays you need to finish, but I think that, if you manage your time and focus your writing skills, this week is ample enough time, as long as you are applying to under 10 schools (not counting sheer and simple common app schools).</p>
<p>I wrote both of mine in two days. I wrote them both (my first one was actually the same prompt as another of my essays). I then proofread it and waited until the next day to proofread it again.</p>
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The Do’s and Don’ts of Answering UC Personal Insight Questions
- by Alexa Carter
- May 18, 2021
For many high school seniors, the college application process can be a scary one. The dreaded writing portion can be especially time-consuming. You have to describe yourself to an application reviewer and hope they get to know you aside from your test scores and course load. Some colleges require long essays; some don’t require them at all. The University of California requires you to respond to four out of eight Personal Insight Questions , and you have a maximum of 350 words for each.
Fear not, though: These are great opportunities to express yourself. The prompts let you describe different aspects of your life instead of feeling confined to writing one impersonal summary. When starting this part of the UC application, I learned a lot along the way.
Prepare in advance: DO!
A rule so simple that it seems obvious. I was in high school once, too, and as a college student, I hate to break it to you, but procrastination still creeps in. The UC application opens on August 1 every year and closes on November 30. That means you have about four months to work on your application. I’m not saying on Aug. 1 you should sit down and knock it all out. In fact, I started looking at my application at the end of October and submitted it in mid-November.
You’re given a large window of time for a reason. This is your college application we’re talking about, so it’s important to take the time to think and pre-plan what exactly you want to write about.
Choose questions based on what you think the reader will like: DON'T!
I'll admit I’m guilty of this one. When I first looked at the Personal Insight Questions I wrote down the four questions I thought would look really good on my application.
It wasn’t until I actually sat down to draft how I wanted to respond to each question that I noticed two were too similar in content. Later in this blog, you’ll see why it’s important to differentiate what you write about. But for the time being, I’ll simply say I went back to the list and picked a question that was a little out of my comfort zone. The new question I chose actually ended up being my favorite response. I felt better making that switch after learning that all of the personal insight questions are viewed equally. Reviewers are looking for thoughtful answers, not necessarily the right answer.
Relate your past experiences to the person you are today: DO!
There are two things to remember when explaining the growth you've experienced facing your challenges:
- If the event happened during your childhood it needs to have had a lasting impact on you.
- If the event happened recently, how have you grown since it happened?
If you're going to talk about a setback you faced — like the time you broke a bone in the second grade — it should describe its lasting impact on you . Either describe its lasting impact or choose another question or instance that aligns better with your current self.
In one of my responses, I wrote about how I fractured my elbow during my junior year and was out for half of the Varsity Tennis season. Through hard work, I was able to place second in the league tournament and made it to CIF with my doubles partner. This was relatively close to when I was applying, and the event had made an impact on my life.
Childhood stories and recent events are great instances where you can show growth. Make sure in either case you make strong connections between the event to how you’ve become the person you are today.
Repeat the same stories: DON'T!
Application reviewers only get 1,400 words to learn about you. This may seem like a lot, but fitting your life into four short responses can be tough. That’s why with so few words, it’s crucial you present diversity in the content. You can do this by picking questions very different from each other or mixing your accomplishments into other prompts. Whatever you choose to do, remember: diversifying is key.
Proofread your work and ask for edits: DO!
When writing my responses I thought they were great, needing not a single revision. I was wrong. When my IB English teacher offered to read my Personal Insight Questions, I thought, “Why not?” I brought her my printed responses and she started marking them up right away.
At first, I was surprised. Did I really do that bad? When she read her suggestions to me, I agreed with every. single. One.
It’s easy to associate constructive criticism with a pejorative. Sometimes we forget others' suggestions help open our minds to things we don’t always think of on our own. That’s the great thing about being human. We all have our own perspectives. If we embrace it for what it is, we can make our work that much better.
DON’T spend your entire essay talking about an inspirational person
This one seems easy on the surface, but it's really hard to avoid once you get down to writing.
When any of us talk about the most inspirational person in our lives it's hard not to want to include all the context that makes them so great. Again, you only have 1,400 words to give reviewers a peek at what makes up your life, accomplishments, and background.
If you spend 25 percent of that time talking about someone else, it’s even harder for them to get to know you. Inspirational people are huge influences on who we are and it’s hard not to give them the credit they deserve. If you are going to reference them, do it briefly and pivot to how that person’s influence has made you who you are .
Yes, the college application process can be scary to start, but it can also be a fun exercise reconnecting with yourself. You get to share your accomplishments and personality through self-reflection. It might seem awkward sharing it all with a stranger, don’t get me wrong. Think of it more like a written highlights reel. If a friend was describing you to a stranger, what parts of your highlight reel would they want to share?
For information about Personal Insight Questions, check out these resources from the University of California’s website , this blog from UC Davis Undergraduate Admissions, and this webpage from UC Davis about Personal Insight Questions.
University of California 2023-24 Essay Prompt Guide
University of California 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations
The Requirements: 4 out of 8 essays, 350 words each.
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Oddball , Community , Activity
The UC application sounds like a riddle. Every student must write four essays, but choose from eight prompts. The rules may be unfamiliar, but the game is the same: tell admissions something they don’t know – and then do it three more times! The instructions counsel you to “select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances,” and frankly, we couldn’t agree more. A strategic applicant will choose a constellation of prompts that highlight vastly different aspects of their lives and personalities, leaving an admissions officer with a deep and complete picture of who they are. Don’t get hung up on trying to divine the questions admissions wants you to answer. In the end, they just want to get to know the real you, plus the application swears that “there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.” So follow your heart (!) and don’t let the fatigue get to you. Avoid robotically starting every answer by restating the question and be as anecdotal as possible. With each essay, your goal isn’t just to answer the question, but to tell a very short story about yourself!
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.
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 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.
When answering this question, avoid the siren song of your resume. This question isn’t asking you for a list! Remember: it’s your job, as an applicant, to use every essay as an opportunity to reveal something new about yourself. Think of a moment when you were in a position where you worked really hard to help a group of people. Maybe you are always the one helping your younger siblings with their homework, and you struggled to find ways to engage your dyslexic younger brother with math. Maybe, as a camp counselor or church volunteer, you were in charge of choreographing and instructing a number for a group of seven-year-old hip hop dancers to perform. Perhaps, on a Habitat for Humanity school trip, you became the head cook, whipping up everything from pancakes to chicken fajitas while galvanizing a team of sous chefs to pitch in.
The point is, try to isolate a single leadership moment, and bring it to life with vivid details. Describe where you were, what was happening around you, and what you were feeling. Discuss what challenges you faced, and what you ultimately learned from the experience. Don’t shy away from challenges or even failures, since these are exactly the sorts of character-building experiences that can demonstrate resilience and quick thinking.
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.
You may think that this question was geared towards the artistically inclined, but take a closer look. The wording offers many potential definitions that veer away from traditional conceptions of creativity (and actually, it asks you for your personal definition!). Creativity lies in your outlook: seeing the opportunity to use one of your skills in a novel situation; looking at a problem from a new angle to find the solution that no one else could see. This question is, in reality, ideal for the more scientifically oriented to create a more well-rounded profile. Creative types, on the other hand, might want to proceed with caution since, really, every question is an opportunity to show off your talents and describe your artistic endeavors.
No matter who you are, though, remember this classic writing advice: show don’t tell. So, you claim that gardening, or Calculus, or painting is how you show your creative side. Okay. So, then immerse the reader in this activity with you . If you enjoy gardening, describe the plants, their qualities, and how you make your horticultural choices; are you drawn to the aesthetics or are you botanically inquisitive? Similarly, if your subject is Calculus, show the reader how you sat in your dad’s office for six hours straight trying to calculate Pi on a three dozen sheets of paper using red crayon. If you love to paint, show the reader where you paint, what you paint, and why you paint, describing the colors, textures, materials—the essential process behind your art. Write descriptively so that the reader can feel as if he or she were experiencing your creative passion with you.
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 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.
If question 3 reminds you of question 2, you’re not alone. Often, when we talk about a talent or skill that we have honed over the course of a lifetime, we’re inclined to describe it as an art — a creative extension of who we are. So if you choose to respond to both of these questions, make sure to highlight distinct skills in each.
The good news is: finding your subject should be easy! You just need to answer this question: what makes you proud? Think about the stories that your friends and family like to share about you. Think about moments when your hard work paid off. When you can zero in on an experience that makes your heart swell, you’ll be able to pinpoint your essential subject. If the memory of your first swim meet victory still makes you smile, draw us into your rigorous training schedule; describe the aspects of the sport that motivate you to wake up early and push yourself. What were your challenges? What has this experience taught you? This narrative should have a clear timeline that traces your growth from the past to the present and into the future. How do you plan to further develop your talent in college and/or after college? Show not only that you have grown, but that you will continue to grow as you take your first steps into adulthood.
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.
This question is tricky because it has two parts. So first break the question down: You can write about either A.) How you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity OR B.) How you have worked to overcome an educational barrier. The “or” is key. You are not being asked to write about both parts of this question. Just write about one.
If you have participated in an afterschool program, internship, honors program, or a special class that was meaningful or inspiring to you, you will want to think about choosing option A. Maybe it was an afterschool program for young, aspiring lawyers, or an advanced history class that you took at your local community college. This is an opportunity for you to showcase your ambition and highlight the kinds of challenges that engage and excite you. Beyond underscoring an academic interest, reflect on the personal qualities required for you to succeed. And remember to show, not tell! It will save you from accidentally humble-bragging your way through this assignment.
Now, for option B. If you have worked to overcome a disability, struggled in school because you have a different background than your peers, suffered financial hardship, or something along those lines, you can choose to write about option B. To nail this tricky task, you will need to highlight not only the ways you struggled, but also the qualities that helped you succeed. How would you define yourself? Resilient? Hardworking? Brave? Zero in on a quality that resonates with you, and write targeted descriptions that bring it to life. (No one is going to believe you if you just write, “I am resilient,” and leave it at that.) Lastly, reflect on how this barrier shaped who you are today, and what skills you gained through facing this educational barrier.
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”.
If you skipped question 4 or chose to write about option A, this question is a gift: a second chance to showcase your resilience in the face of obstacles. On the other hand, if you chose to write about option B in question 4, this might feel redundant. You are free to write about both, but again, proceed with caution and be sure to select a totally different challenge.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: questions that ask you to describe a struggle or failure are really probing for stories about success. What pro-active steps did you take to address the problem at hand? Even if your solution didn’t work out perfectly, what did you learn? In facing this challenge, did you discover a courageous, creative, or hard-working side of yourself? Did you learn something valuable about yourself or others? Highlight the upside. How did this challenge shape who you are today? And how will the skills that you gained dealing with this challenge will help you in college and beyond?
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 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.
If you’ve ever referred to yourself as a “nerd” or “geek”, this question is probably for you. To nail down a topic for this bad boy, you can work in two directions: (1) think about how your favorite academic subject has impacted your extracurricular pursuits, or (2) trace one of your favorite hobbies back to its origins in the classroom. Maybe your love of languages led you to take a job at a coffee shop frequented by multilingual tourists. Or perhaps your now-extensive coin collection was resurrected when you did a research project on ancient Roman currency. Whichever way you go about it, building a bridge between the scholarly and the personal lies at the heart of answering this prompt.
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.
Some backwards advice: When writing about community service, you should always start with yourself. Community service essays are cliché minefields. To avoid drifting into platitudes, you need to ground your writing in the specificity of your life. Don’t start with the action and end with what you learned. Instead, dig into your motivations. If you spent weeks petitioning your school community to raise the hourly wage for custodial staff, what prompted you to act? What assumptions did you have about income inequality and what did you learn about your community in the process? Or, maybe you weren’t too enthused about your community service. Maybe you participated in a soccer-team-mandated day of coaching a pee-wee team. What caused your skepticism? How did you turn the experience around?
Also, don’t just choose a topic that sounds impressive. “This year I acted as the co-chair of the Honors Society, presiding over twenty different cases.” If you didn’t, in fact, really enjoy Honors Society, write about a topic that means something to you instead. Think of a moment where you felt like you made a change in your local community. It can be something small; it does not have to be monumental, but it should mean a great deal to you. Describe the moment, using detail to bring it to life, and then reflect on what that experience taught you, and how you hope to continue these activities in the future.
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 change. 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..
This question is really just what it says it is—an open-ended, choose-your-own-adventure question. Is there something that you really, really want to tell the UC admissions team that you feel makes you a strong and unique candidate that is not showcased in the other three personal insight questions? As with the other questions, whatever topic you choose, please use detail and description to bring this topic to life for the reader, and include thoughtful reflection on why this topic matters to you. Also, be sure to explain why your chosen topic makes you stand out as a strong candidate for the UC schools, since the question specifically asks you to do that!
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How to Write Great UC Essays (Examples of All Personal Insight Questions Included)
A step-by-step guide to conquering all uc personal insight questions, with an example of each.
(Note: This article can also be found in our free, 110-page comprehensive guide to writing every college essay, How to Get Into America’s Elite Colleges: The Ultimate Guide .
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: the uc personal insight questions, overview: the uc essay prompts, how to choose uc prompts, outlining your uc essays, uc personal insight question 1: leadership, uc personal insight question 2: creativity, uc personal insight question 3: talent, uc personal insight question 4: educational opportunity/barrier, uc personal insight question 5: adversity, uc personal insight question 6: academic passion, uc personal insight question 7: community, uc personal insight question 8: everything else, uc personal insight question 9: transfer, part 3: frequently asked questions.
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, and value. At the top of this list are UC Berkeley and UCLA, widely considered Public Ivies . Educating nearly quarter of a million undergraduates, UCs are a home for California residents, out-of-state attendees, and international students alike.
Given their attractiveness, admission is competitive, ranging from 8.5 percent for UCLA and 11.4 percent for UC Berkeley to about 21 percent for UC Irvine and 47.1 percent for UC Santa Cruz (all numbers for the 2022 entering class). And every year, it gets tougher to make the cut for some of the most sought-after campuses like UCLA, which sat at 18 percent in 2014–2015 and has been sinking steadily since.
But it’s worth the effort to apply to UC schools. Why? Because filling out one application allows you to apply to every UC school.
You can think of the campuses according to the following tiers, based on their U.S. News & World Report rankings . Eight of the nine undergraduate campuses ( UCSF and UC Hastings offer graduate degrees only) rank in the top 100 schools, with six of nine in the top 50:
Tier 1: UCLA (#20) tied with UC Berkeley (#20) in 2022, UC San Diego (#34, tied with UC Irvine in 2022. In the latest rankings, UC Santa Barbara was ranked higher, but San Diego has historically appeared higher.) Tier 2: UC Santa Barbara (#32), UC Irvine (#34), UC Davis (#38) Tier 3: UC Riverside (#89), UC Merced (#97), UC Santa Cruz (#83)
(Related reading: The Best UC Schools: UC Rankings 2022 )
An overview of applying to UC schools
If you’re already filling out the Common Application, that means you’ll write a personal statement, complete the Activities section, and assemble supplemental essays for several schools. If you’re also applying to the UCs, you might consider ordering your process this way:
Write your Common App personal statement .
Shorten your Common App personal statement for use on one UC essay, if applicable.
Write remaining UC essays and fill out the UC Activities section (which is longer than the Common App Activities section ).
Repurpose your UC Activities list for Common App Activities and your remaining UC essays for Common App supplemental essays .
However it would be a mistake to treat the UC application as another set of supplemental essays, or as small fry after tackling your 650-word personal statement. Here’s how we recommend planning and then executing the essays that comprise your application to the University of California.
Why do UC essays matter? How much do they matter?
Over the past decade, as the University of California received more applications— 206,405 freshman applications for the 2023 entering class —the admissions committees found themselves unable to make difficult calls on students based solely on test scores and GPAs. That’s why, in 2017, the UC system switched to new “personal insight questions.” They are, in other words, an opportunity for you to show who you are beyond your scores; that’s why the committees dreamed these up, and it’s why spending time to craft these essays will go a long way.
These questions are also a chance to show more sides of yourself than students could in previous years when applying to UC schools, when there were fewer questions asking for longer answers.
The UC schools follow holistic admissions, like many private universities, which means their ranking system takes into account a number of qualitative aspects of your life—whether or not you’ve made the most of the opportunities you’ve been given, the level of your extracurricular involvement, and other “big picture” elements. While holistic admissions can be frustrating to those of us on the outside, leaving us to question what exactly gets weighed behind the scenes, there is one certainty: your essays matter—some folks estimate they account for up to 30% of admissions decisions—when a university tells us its process is qualitative and subjective.
Let’s meet our students
As we move through this guide to acing your UC application, we’ll be following a few students who successfully made it to Tier 1 UC campuses. These students are based on several real applicants with whom we have worked over the past nearly 20 years.
Student #1: Arman. Arman, a generalist, has strong grades, earning a 4.0 with high honor roll. He participates in academic team events, and is also physically active, playing intramural basketball and coaching younger children in YMCA after-school activities. He’s not sure what he’d like to major in, but he’s worked at a law office over the summer and is interested in cultural studies and education.
What’s not on his resumé? Arman comes from a mixed ethnic background—he’s Mexican-American and Armenian-American—and both cultures have informed his childhood, sometimes complementing one another, and other times colliding.
Student #2: Maria. Maria is passionate about the environment, having grown up in California during the drought. From her AP Environmental Science class to the various recycling and water-saving initiatives she’s volunteered on in her small Central Valley town in the northern part of the state, she’s learned what she likes and hopes to study. She also plays tennis and has danced since she was small.
What’s not on her resumé? She’s never pursued it in a formal extracurricular fashion, but Maria loves art, and does pottery and ceramic work here and there on weekends.
Student #3: Karan. Karan, an international applicant, is interested in the arts. He likes reading and cinema, and might want to study anything from Art History to English to French film. He moved around a lot so his extracurriculars are inconsistent, but he has made some short films on YouTube and has competed in parliamentary debate.
What’s not on his resumé? Karan’s lived in three countries: India, the U.A.E., and Canada. Due to the constant geographic instability and the need to always chase the next visa, he’s never felt quite at home in any of those environments.
Student #4: Denise. Denise, a transfer applicant, has always been interested in technology. Though her large public high school did not have much in the way of computer science courses, she got herself accepted to STEM summer programs, where her passions were confirmed. She wants to be closer to the tech world, though she isn’t sure what she’d like to study—STEM, business, or some intersection of the two.
What’s not on her resumé? Denise was raised by a single father and her family has not had an easy time financially for many years.
Student #5: Nadia. Nadia is passionate about politics and political advocacy. An enthusiastic competitor on the statewide mock trial and debate circuits, she has taken every class at her large public high school related to government and speech possible. She’s also interested in international relations and law school.
What’s not on her resumé? Nadia struggled with low self-esteem and physical and cyberbullying when she was younger. Her older siblings often had to intervene to keep things from getting out of hand. This is often still on her mind.
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As we’ve said, there is only one application required to be considered by all the UC campuses. There are eight essay prompts (called “personal insight questions”) on the UC application. UC requires students to answer four of the personal insight questions, and there’s no right answer about which ones you choose. Each of the eight UC personal insight questions has a 350 word limit.
This is not quite like your Common App. The Common App gives you the chance to make one single, bold, loud statement—a 650-word personal statement—and to embellish that essay with more information in the Activities section and, in some cases, in supplemental essays. The UC application, by contrast, gives you four chances to make shorter, more focused statements. This means you’ll want to think about coherency and consistency, while also avoiding repetitiveness.
The main difference between the UC personal insight questions and the Common app personal statement essay is that with UC, you may not be able to tell a single story in all its glory, as you can theoretically do in the Common App essay. But the advantage with the UC personal insight essays is that you have multiple chances and multiple angles to express yourself. In many ways, the UC application can feel “truer to life,” since so few of us have a single story or experience that defines us, but are rather comprised of many smaller stories. Thinking about the UC application in those terms can lift some students out of the funk that comes from the sense that you need to express your whole self to an admissions committee in order to get in.
Here are the most recent University of California freshman application personal insight questions :
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?
Some students have the impulse to try to parcel out what they feel is their “Single Important Story” across several essays, since they have only 350 words instead of 650. We suggest not thinking of the UC application in these terms. Instead, try to offer four pieces of yourself that, when placed together, add up to make a whole.
So how do you choose which four pieces to use—or, more directly, how do you choose which four questions to answer of the eight offered? It’s not about picking one question to describe the four extracurricular activities you’ve participated in, or one question that explains your major, another that explains your personal life, and two for extracurricular activities. There’s no formula. But here are a few things to take under consideration as you determine which questions make the most sense for you to answer:
Can you reuse your personal statement or supplemental essays to answer one of the UC prompts?
Does the phrasing of any of these questions remind you of the prompt you responded to on your Common App personal statement?
For example, when considering questions 4 and 5, “an educational barrier” and “significant challenge”, recall this Common App prompt: “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”
Does the phrasing of any of these questions remind you of a Common App supplemental essay, or have you written something that answers the question already?
For example, question 2 asks you to describe the way in which you are creative. This might overlap with a response to one of the recent supplemental essay questions from Rice University—“The quality of Rice's academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspective do you feel that you will contribute to life at Rice?”—if you wrote about intellectual or academic creativity, as Maria did.
2. Repetitiveness vs. coherency
Perhaps you want the admissions committee to know about your experience navigating a large high school with few academic opportunities. You might see a chance to explain this in either Question #4 (which we’ll call the educational opportunity/barrier question) and Question #5 (which we’ll call the personal adversity question).
There’s no reason you can’t answer both. But you’ll need to be able to articulate a separate goal for each answer. Drawing up a separate mini-outline for each question (which we’ll explain more shortly) will help you determine whether you’re truly writing two different essays about related topics, or repeating yourself without adding new information or angles on the original.
3. Add to your uniqueness
As mentioned above, you’ll likely be competing against over 200,000 applicants for a limited number of UC seats. That means you’ll need to highlight anything that makes you stand out or speaks to your uniqueness.
Choosing questions like number six (Think about an academic subject that inspires you) or number seven (What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?) can give you space to elaborate on unique qualities you have that would benefit UC schools.
Try to think of your responses as painting a full picture of you as a person and imagine how an admissions committee member might imagine you when reading your essays. Choose to answer questions that help you stand out and provide insight into the person you will become given the opportunity to be a UC student.
4. Most importantly: which questions speak to you?
Your heart might not start to thud faster at every single one of these questions. But there’s likely one “buzzword” that popped out to you. Creativity. Leadership. Community. Challenge. Figure out which question contained that lucky buzzword, and work on answering that one first. That will put you in a positive headspace for continuing to the other questions that may not come quite as naturally.
While 350 words isn’t very long—about three paragraphs—it’s still long enough that you may benefit from outlining your essay in advance. The good news is that most 350-word, three-paragraph essays follow a standard structure. Some students treat their UC essays as short-answer questions, which might imply that you don’t need an outline. Try to avoid that by, instead, treating them as highly-condensed essay questions.
We’ll get into some specific examples shortly as we go question-by-question, but for now, keep this basic model of the three-paragraph, tripartite essay in mind:
Paragraph 1: Hook (and thesis statement)
In this paragraph, the writer hooks us, with an image, a brief anecdote, or a snappy sentence or two. But there’s little time to linger.
By the end of the paragraph, the writer clearly articulates their thesis statement, which will guide us through the next two-thirds of the essay.
In an essay this short, the thesis statement does not always come at the end of the first paragraph. Sometimes the first two paragraphs are taken up by captivating narration of an event, and the thesis comes in the conclusion, in the successful thematic and narrative tying-up of the essay. But when outlining and planning your essay, it’s a good idea to be certain about what the thesis is, and to try to begin to convey it—either outright, or hinting at it—by the end of the first paragraph. We’ll see some examples of it appearing in the first, second, and third paragraphs below.
Paragraph 2: Examples, illustrations, and a sense of change/growth overtime
In this paragraph, the writer brings in specific illustrations of the thesis statement, and, crucially, must convey a sense of time, change, and/or growth. Like many college essays, the UC questions ask applicants to reflect on a significant moment in order to demonstrate introspection and analytical insight. Change is often crucial to that. Usually you are not the same on one side of a major life experience as you are on the other.
Paragraph 3: Conclusions, including a sense of how the essay topic will influence the writer now and into the future
As with many good essays, this paragraph should try to lead the reader to a sense of closure, conveying a lesson and a sense of what has been learned and gained from the experience.
Here is the first personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. 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 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?
Leadership UC essay example
Let’s use Arman’s essay as an example:
I exclaimed, “You’re too lazy for your own good!” In the moment, it seemed like a perfect way to motivate my best friend, Serj. I was trying to get him to the gym. He’d asked me to hold him accountable as his workout partner. But as soon as those words slipped out, I saw in Serj’s posture, wide eyes, and flared nostrils that I had made a huge mistake.
This exchange had been a long time coming. For months I had texted Serj one hour before our scheduled gym sessions. Still, Serj canceled on me frequently. When he did show up, he seemed happy—but that was rare. I’d been lifting weights for three years, and I know how great you can feel because of it. But by yelling at Serj, I was not convincing him of the benefits of being active. I was shaming him. Five gut-wrenching seconds after I delivered my stinging honesty, I apologized. But we hardly spoke for two weeks. Eventually he accepted my apology, even thanking me for pushing him to be active. I knew, though, that I would have to earn his trust again as a workout partner.
That day, I discovered honesty’s best friend: empathy. I thought telling Serj the cold truth about his behavior would finally help him see that he was wrong to blow off the gym. But my honesty was my subjective opinion. When I later talked to Serj, I learned about the fears that had kept him from self-motivation—he had never been athletic, and he found it hard to believe that putting himself through a physical ordeal would be useful. He was already berating himself enough in his head. I didn’t need to do it for him. Since that experience, I have exercised more empathy when asked to lead. When coaching elementary school kids at sports camps, I praise their effort first before delivering criticism. Children are glad to retry any drill—but I know it’s in part because I’ve imagined, first, how scary it is to try something new, and I’ve acknowledged that first.
We can reverse-outline Arman’s essay to see how it’s working:
Paragraph 1: He has a hook —him yelling at his best friend, and then he provides brief context, just enough to inform us without derailing us.
There’s not much of a big “thesis” statement when you first glance at that paragraph, but when we look closer, we see that there is one sentence that will drive us through the next two paragraphs: “I had made a huge mistake.” That’s enough here.
Paragraph 2: You could say paragraph #2 is all about offering more context for how we reached this emotionally climactic moment that served as the hook.
But it’s also doing the work we mentioned above, of demonstrating change. Note that Arman isn’t showing change or growth overtime by saying “on day one of working out we did this, on day two that…” etc. Instead, he’s demonstrating a sense of change and growth through reflection and retrospection. We can tell that he has grown since the mistake because he acknowledges why it was a mistake (“shaming him”). The paragraph also mentions an apology, which is a sign of change.
Paragraph 3: Lastly, the essay begins its final paragraph with a very clear lesson that is an elaboration on the thesis in the first paragraph: “I discovered honesty’s best friend: empathy.” Now we can read the previous paragraphs through that lens.
Even better, paragraph three does two more things with its conclusion: First, it resolves the original conflict and we learn what happened with Serj. And second, it actually uses a personal story to discuss extracurricular activities, but without being heavy-handed. It spins out the lesson with Serj to something that is already listed on Arman’s activity list, coaching kids’ sports.
One key takeaway from Arman’s essay is its careful balance of humility and reflection. When students see the word “leader,” they can often begin to brag about themselves and their accomplishments. But your activity list can contain all the big wins and important titles under your belt. The essay is a chance for you to humanize those, and to demonstrate introspection. Arman does that by showing how he made a mistake and corrected for it.
Arman also avoids getting bogged down in abstract concepts, another pitfall of questions that ask about “leadership” and “community.” In fact, Arman doesn’t even use the word “leader” until the final paragraph—that’s a major show of strength. It demonstrates that he understands how he is answering the question—by discussing two intangibles of leadership, honesty and empathy. He earns the right to talk about honesty and empathy because he’s writing only about his own experience for two paragraphs, so by the time he touches on those big, abstract words, he’s already filled them with his own meaning.
Here is the second personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
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?
Creativity UC essay example
Let’s use Maria’s essay as an example:
For twelve years, I have spent my weekends and summers making ceramics and painting at the community center, and when I need to relieve stress, I often sketch. These might seem like private acts of self-expression. But they have impacted the way I solve problems, particularly in my sustainability work. I’m passionate about the environment, and a few years ago, I realized many of my classmates didn’t understand how to live with the lowest impact on the environment. With the help of a science teacher, I founded the Water Conservation Club and set out to engage my peers. Art proved invaluable in these projects.
The first initiative we tried was a calendar initiative for elementary school students. I visited classrooms, talked about recycling, environmentalism, and clean energy, and then asked first, second, and third-graders to draw pictures of how they could live more sustainably. Their drawings showed them picking up trash, saving water, even going on a hiking trip with their families instead of flying across the country for vacations. With the children’s parents’ okay, we turned their drawings into calendar art, and sold the calendars, raising over $1,000 for TreePeople’s Drought Defense Challenge, which hopes to tackle California’s 6-year drought. I’ve visited those classrooms and found that those students are still engaged. Their parents arranged a carpool, they use leftover water to water the class plants, and recycle paper and plastic.
The second initiative was a children’s book I wrote and illustrated, called It’s Just One Drop. It followed an anthropomorphized water drop walking around town, seeing the different ways people waste water, which affected his reservoir home. The community members eventually realize their wrongdoings and work to conserve water through taking shorter showers, turning the sink water off, and doing full loads of laundry. Although the book hasn’t been published yet, I’ve used it to teach preschoolers the importance of water conservation.
In either case, I could have talked to classrooms using a chalkboard or a PowerPoint. But bringing my proclivity for art into the picture helped me reach young people who might otherwise have glazed over.
How is Maria’s essay working? It’s not quite like Arman’s, or like the standard model we outlined above, but that’s just fine. She reached this structure organically, with her first draft, and it can serve as another model for how to answer these questions.
Paragraph 1: Maria explains that she loves art (which answers “how she expresses her creative side”) and offers a clear thesis statement about how art helps her solve non-artistic problems. The thesis statement is especially strong because she’s not talking about art applying to non-artistic problems in the abstract—she specifically tells us she’s going to discuss her environmentalism work.
Paragraphs 2 and 3: Both of these serve as the body paragraphs that give two different examples of Maria’s artistic inclinations empowering her to do better work on sustainability.
Paragraph 4: Maria doesn’t need much of a conclusion here, because it’s pretty clear how art has helped her deal with non-artistic problems. She also doesn’t need a whole lot of emotional introspection for this essay. All she needs is to remind us that without her art habit, those would have been more boring projects. Maria could also talk about her prospective major or how she wants to leverage art in it, but when she reached this version of the essay, it read as complete and fulfilled in its own right.
A good application would have some answers that read like Arman’s—introspective, personal, emotional—and some like Maria’s—efficient, clear, interested in communicating her skills and activities. But too many like Maria’s will make a student sound cold and calculating, whereas too many like Arman’s might make the admissions committee forget that he is a student who can accomplish tasks and get things done.
Here is the third personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
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 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?
Talent UC essay example
Let’s take a look at Denise’s essay on this topic:
The first time I touched a computer, I didn’t know it was a computer. That is to say: I am of the generation that never had to think much about technology, because it’s always been available to us. But one day in middle school I asked my father how it worked. “How what works?” he asked. “The phone,” I said, pointing to his cell phone. And then I realized my question applied to the other devices I’d taken for granted—the computer, streaming videos, apps. That summer, my dad found out about a free program at a local university on Saturdays. It would teach you the basics about computers, including how to code.
Ever since, I have been learning about coding as much as I could. My high school does not have a computer science class, but I petitioned my school to let me enroll in a few classes on technology and society, including intro to computer science, at a community college. I have also used resources like General Assembly to self-teach. I came to love working with computers and coding because each problem I had to solve goes toward building something. The reward doesn’t always come quickly—there are bugs to fix and many ways you can break what you are trying to build. But when it does, it’s visible.
I also studied design and graphics on my own and used the combination of these skills to create websites for friends, family, and local businesses. While it is not a formal extracurricular activity, it is my after-school job.
It would be funny to call coding a “talent.” It has never felt like it came naturally, but through sweat and frustration. Perhaps my talent is my interest in computers, the same thing that caused me to ask “How does it work?” when I was younger is now what causes me to ask “How can I make this work?”
Denise’s essay is built in the following manner, which may now be familiar to you!:
Paragraph 1: A hook, though it’s a mild hook. She begins by telling us a bit about what she got to take for granted as a young person, then points out that she pushed against the grain of truly taking it for granted. It’s an expert humble-brag.
There’s no clear thesis statement in this paragraph in the sense that Denise doesn’t say “My talent is coding.” Rather, there’s an implied thesis emerging at the end of the essay, when she tells us that her “talent” is a combination of determination (“sweat and frustration”) and curiosity (“how can I make this work?”). That’s an awesome way to redefine the prompt on her own terms.
Paragraphs 2 and 3: This section shows the growth and change we look for in the middle of an essay. It’s very concrete, telling us everything Denise did to get herself an education in technology.
Paragraph 4: In the concluding paragraph, Denise makes sure we don’t get lost in the weeds that paragraphs 2–3 brought us into. She’s at risk of allowing us to forget that she’s supposed to be talking about her talent in an introspective way if she doesn’t do this. But in the first sentence of the paragraph (“It would be funny to call coding a ‘talent.’”) she reminds us of the essay’s topic while also subverting it. It’s another great humble brag—in telling us that she doesn’t believe it came innately, she’s humble, but she’s just intelligently chronicled (the brag!) all the ways she worked hard to get to this place. Again, here she could choose to add, “therefore I wish to study computer science in California,” but it’s implied in this strong essay.
Here is the fourth personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
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?
Educational opportunity/barrier UC essay example
Let’s take see what Karan wrote on this topic:
The summer after ninth grade, I had the chance to attend a pre-college program in North Carolina. It was a special opportunity because I had never before been to the United States, and I knew I wanted to go to college in the U.S. I have grown up around the world, in India, the U.A.E., and Canada. But this program had a few spots for international students, and I was selected to attend. Students took a college-level course for three weeks. I chose to enroll in a class called ‘Philosophy in Literature and Film.’ The focus, for my session, was philosophies of technology and science.
Over those weeks, I read thinkers and writers and watched films and listened to music by artists I had never heard of, from Philip K. Dick to Jean Baudrillard to Kraftwerk. I learned to think about art as what my professor called an “anxious condition”—the way society expresses its concerns, about politics, the future, and, in the case of our class, technology.
As the product of a school system where math and science are prized above the humanities, I had to convince my parents that studying philosophy in books and movies was a good way to spend the summer, and I came back personally certain that it had been. I could now see big themes and meaning in popular culture and in the books I read. And before, I was unsure of how to integrate my interest in things other people thought of as abstract: religion, philosophy, history, books, and film. My summer class showed me that ideas like religion and philosophy can serve as lenses to analyse the past and popular culture, or as the material that we use in writing books or making films.
I would like to continue this journey of interdisciplinary study in college, possibly becoming a professor. The program I attended marked the beginning of my certainty about this path.
Karan’s essay has a few things going for it, namely that it’s written in a readable and informational style both on the structural and the sentence level, which is to his advantage because he’s discussing complex ideas, including critical theory, philosophy, and more. Let’s break it down:
Paragraph 1: This paragraph is all about the who-what-when-where-why. Karan tells us what the program was, how he came to attend it, when he went, and crucially tells us why it mattered to him (“a special opportunity”). The “thesis” for this essay will come later, and that’s fine, because the opener is very clear.
Paragraph 2: This paragraph demonstrates more specifics about the program. It’s really important that Karan does this, because otherwise the admissions committee might think he doesn’t remember much of what he learned in class. He gives just enough information—three names and one phrase used by the professor—to show that he was mentally present and, more importantly, intellectually moved by the course.
Paragraph 3: Now we get into the meat of why what Karan learned mattered to him—that change and growth. He gives several specific takeaways: he discovered the value of the humanities, and learned about what interdisciplinary study means. Again, his concreteness while discussing abstract topics works to his advantage.
Paragraph 4: Karan concludes efficiently and tells us that the summer has shaped his professional ambitions. That clearly answers the question about how he took advantage of the opportunity.
There are a few other small things Karan did that are worth noticing. He paid attention—consciously or subconsciously—to the language in the question, which differentiated between opportunities and barriers. He chose to write about an opportunity, which implies privilege; his parents may have paid for this program. But because he acknowledges it as a ‘special opportunity’ and says he ‘had the chance’ to go, he doesn’t come across as entitled, but in fact, grateful.
Here is the fifth personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
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?”
Adversity UC essay example
Here is Maria’s response to this question:
It was October my junior year, when my mom learned she had breast cancer. It was terrifying. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I went to school exhausted, helped with errands, and tried to juggle classes and extracurriculars. My energy began to drop, as did my grades.
Unexpectedly, it was tennis that helped me overcome this academically and personally challenging period. Since I was six, my dream was to win a tennis tournament. But I struggled with the pressure of competition. I foreshadowed my loss prior to a match, allowing nerves take over. My body trembled; it was difficult to breathe. By the end of middle school, my losses outweighed my wins, and I no longer believed in myself.
But shortly after my mother received her news, I began to work with a new coach—Dusan Vemic, Novak Djokovic’s former assistant coach. Novak’s positive mindset had encouraged and inspired me at some of my lowest points, so working with Dusan seemed like fate. I explained my anxieties, hoping he could fix them. He simply said, “Make the most of every moment and focus on yourself. This is how you win.”
The advice was almost annoyingly simple. And yet, his Zen-like philosophy emanated every time he watched from the sidelines. It turned out that he wasn’t trying to get me to win. He was trying to get me to enjoy tennis as I had not been able to for years. I won more, though not a whole tournament.
More importantly, I took the new perspective off the court, to AP English, my toughest class, when my mind would always wander to my mom. It took me tremendous effort to write essays and comprehend the material. I was so scattered that my teacher advised me to drop the class. But Dusan’s meditative philosophy helped. I stayed in the class, focused on each step, gradually improving, ultimately earning a 4 on the AP exam. When school was out, I got my reward: I could come home and sit next to my mom, and just be with her for a while.
Maria successfully handles three challenges in this question by wrapping them into one: her mother’s illness, a difficulty with AP English, and struggles with tennis. Her key idea comes in an unexpected place, right in the middle of the essay. But because she braids the whole piece around Dusan’s philosophy, this essay works. Let’s look closer:
Paragraph 1: She introduces us to the major challenge (the hook), her mother’s diagnosis. But then she quickly and clearly articulates how that manifested to her—low energy, exhaustion.
Paragraph 2: This paragraph has a clear thesis statement—tennis helped her—and then backs into a bit of context about tennis, which is necessary for us to understand the rest of the essay. It also articulates a goal—winning a tournament—which in this case ends up being a red herring. It’s not what the essay is about, but it tells us what Maria thought life might be geared toward at the time.
Paragraphs 3 and 4: In these paragraphs we see growth and change. A change literally occurs in that a new character enters Maria’s life in paragraph 3, her tennis coach; in paragraph 4, he gives her advice which goes on to affect her life.
Paragraph 5: This concluding paragraph very clearly (though not heavy-handedly) ties up all three challenges, telling us how the tennis philosophy served her through her school troubles. Maria might have reached the end of a draft and realized that she didn’t have a great resolution for her mother’s diagnosis. It’s such a big, existentially challenging question to try to tackle in 350 words. That’s why the brevity of her final line works so well: it acknowledges that she can’t fix that, but, using that Zen-like philosophy of her coach, admits that the best she can do at this point in time is to spend time with her sick mother, and that’s pretty good.
One of the toughest things about answering the Challenge Question is the risk of cliché. Often when we are facing major challenges—illness, grief, loss, anxiety, etc—we are dealing with emotions beyond the scope of language. That means that the language we use to talk about it, with other people, with therapists, and in an essay, can sound like platitudes. “Just be in the moment” is, in a vacuum, a pretty cheesy lesson, no matter how much truth is contained in it.
Maria does a good job here of acknowledging that the words her coach gave her were not enough. She characterizes his words (“Zen-like philosophy”) and interprets them for us, telling us they weren’t about getting her to win but about giving her another kind of strength. It doesn’t matter if she’s gotten her coach’s intention right—what matters is that the admissions committee sees how Maria internalized those words, which would be clichéd on their own, and made them into something particular and healing for her circumstance.
Here is the sixth personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
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 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?
Academic passion UC essay example
Nadia has a strong response to this question that we will use as an example:
The academic subject from which I draw the most inspiration is US Government and Politics. My interest in understanding the process through which our country’s government affects every individual stems from observing the material I learned in the classroom applied in a real world setting.
My interest in the subject encouraged me to enroll in the Advanced Placement course. One of the topics discussed that spoke to me most is the power of political participation. Inspired by this particular lesson, I practiced my activism by applying for an internship at the office of my district’s congressman, Matt Dababneh. There, I spent four months answering phone calls, filing papers, and reading letters, and learned the importance of community relations, social skills, and organizational skills needed to thrive in politics.
Following the completion of my internship, I continued my community involvement by joining my school’s student council, where I was selected by the administration to become class representative. My duties were similar to that of my internship, where I addressed complaints from students and moderated them directly to the administration. One example was when a group of students approached me regarding the lack of a mock trial class at our school. I gathered signatures, wrote a letter of request, and took the matter to the principal. My community participation led the school to offer a mock trial class to all middle and high school students.
At the University of California, I intend to pursue a major in Political Science to further my understanding of politics and the impact of each individual on policymaking. Furthermore, I am compelled to participate in student government upon my acceptance to UC schools in order to exercise my interests in a much larger and diverse community of students.
Nadia’s essay is short, efficient, and gets to the point—but it gets the job done. A word like “passion” can sometimes cause us to entertain flights of fancy, trying to convey something about the ineffable reasons we find poetry transcendent, or our abstract dreams of becoming a doctor in the wake of a grandparent’s death. Sometimes it is the right choice to use dramatic language to talk about a dramatic issue. But Nadia’s approach matches her personality. She’s a get-things-done kind of person. She developed an interest in politics, and went about chasing that career.
We can look more closely, still:
Paragraph 1: This is an example of an essay that opens with its thesis statement. Nadia doesn’t fuss about with a hook. She could—another student might open with the day they first saw the California state capitol—but her essay is just fine without that, because it’s clear and communicative. She also tells us that her interest stemmed from the intersection of theory and real-life application, which means that we can expect her essay to discuss the real-life application of politics.
Paragraphs 2 and 3: And indeed it does! Off the bat, Nadia tells us about working for Dababneh in paragraph 2, and in the ensuing paragraph, about her student council work. Giving us two different experiences is great because it shows a pattern of interest in the subject. It’s even better that Nadia draws a through-line—she talks about her experience at the Congressman’s office influencing her run for student government. That tells the admissions committee not only that there was change and growth, that key quality the middle of the essay must convey, but also that Nadia is aware of that change and growth and can make narrative sense of it.
Paragraph 4: Nadia concludes with a natural spin-it-forward take. At UC, she plans on continuing with these interests, and she knows exactly how.
As is the case with many of these responses, we wouldn’t want all of Nadia’s essays to read exactly like this. We’d want her to have a little bit more personal introspection in at least one of the others, even if that doesn’t come naturally to her. But this essay is spot-on in answering the question honestly and with good energy.
Here is the seventh personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
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?
Community UC essay example
We’re going to turn to Nadia again, here:
For most of my childhood, I was overweight. I was bullied by my classmates, who pushed and shoved me and called me “fatso” and “blimp.” When I was fourteen, I began eating healthier and exercising. It took two years to shed not only the weight but also the pain that had come with being a pariah. I did not want anyone else to suffer from the physical and mental pain that I endured as an overweight child.
In order to spread awareness about childhood obesity, I co-founded the Healthy Kids club, which organizes fundraisers and invites guest speakers to educate students about early-onset heart disease and diabetes, as well as how these diseases follow into adulthood and worsen with age. We worked to get healthier snacks in school, successfully banning certain junk foods like chips and soda, and regularly met with cafeteria staff to ensure health conscientious items remain on the menu.
In my junior year, we registered the organization as a 501c (3) nonprofit. Working with other schools in the Los Angeles area, we initiated a program called “An Apple a Day Fades it Away”, where we visited schools, handed out apples, and presented elementary school students with activity-filled days of education about the critical role healthy eating plays in lifelong health.
My own experience led me to found the group, and continues to inform our presentations. At each session with young people, I tell my own story. The ability to show students pictures of myself from five years ago, not being able to play sports or participate in PE due to asthma, and now the captain of a varsity team, means I can connect with students on a personal level. As I depart for college, I will ensure that the Healthy Kids Foundation remains a presence in my high school hallways, and I hope to create a chapter of it at the University of California, where I can draw on college students to serve as volunteers, spreading the message in even more communities.
Nadia’s doing a lot well here. Notice that in this essay, she did get pretty personal, which makes that hyper-efficient academics question more tenable.
Talking about her own vulnerability also serves another purpose: it gives her humility in a question that might often invite a sense of savior-like arrogance. Most of us, at eighteen, haven’t solved a major problem in the world; we might have put in some respectable work in our communities, though, and this question gives students a chance to articulate that.
Getting this question right requires a sense of scope and scale—students should be able to talk about a major issue they care about, and then explain how they’ve addressed it in their own communities, without pretending that they’ve solved the root cause of that entire issue. In other words, you should try to tap into a global issue and address how you dealt with it locally.
We’ll take a look at the play-by-play to see how Nadia’s achieving this effect:
Paragraph 1: Here, Nadia does have a hook—her own pain, frustration, and change—and by the end of the paragraph, she’s made the personal public, turning her pain into a force for larger good.
Paragraphs 2 and 3: These paragraphs document and detail what Nadia did in the group. Her trademark efficiency is back here. She’s clear about her accomplishments, which is a breath of fresh air for admissions officers, who often see vagueness when young people try to categorize what exactly they do with their extracurriculars.
Paragraph 4: Nadia concludes this by returning to her personal story, which bookends the essay nicely, and then she also does what she did in the academics question, spinning her interest forward.
Here is the eighth and final personal insight essay prompt, with notes from the UC Admissions website about how to think about it:
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.
Everything else UC essay example
For this last essay, let’s return to Arman:
I grew up in an insular ethnocultural community that is very proud of its “pure” heritage. As a biracial Mexican-American and Armenian individual attending an Armenian private school with “full Armenians” my entire life, I have often felt like an outsider. For example, I have heard many Armenians express serious disapproval about Armenians like my mother marrying odars, that is, foreigners. Unfortunately, this way of thinking insults my proud Mexican-American heritage, and leads me to wonder whether I am a disgrace or even a burden to my community. This thought process extends to my relationships with others. I am often wondering if race plays into how people interact with me.
Of course, I’ve experienced many occasions when Armenians wanted to learn about me or become friends initially based on my biracial status. But the bad has sometimes outweighed the good, causing my confidence to plummet.
I hope to develop a more positive self-concept at the University of California through interactions with diverse students and by studying my two heritages in a way I cannot in high school. Through ethnic studies classes—many of which were pioneered at UC schools—and extracurricular groups, I think I can have more conversations about race that have not been possible in my life thus far. By learning from professors and other student leaders, I will be able to facilitate complex, yet necessary conversations about race for others, in turn, so that members of my college community feel integrated and appreciated for their differences.
Arman uses this essay to talk about exactly what isn’t on his resumé. In another one of his essays, the Academic Passion question (Question #6), he did discuss his interest in cultural studies and global identities. But he hasn’t had a chance to discuss this element of his personal life yet, so here it goes. It’s a good way to make use of Question #8.
You might also take advantage of Question #8 to adapt your Common App PS, if you haven’t already been able to shorten and reuse that. This is a chance to communicate what hasn’t already found a home.
For one last time, let’s break down Arman’s essay:
Paragraph 1: Arman is primarily interested in communicating something personal as clearly as possible here, so he doesn’t mess around with a hook, but instead moves quickly to his thesis: “I have often felt like an outsider.” He uses the rest of this question to provide informational context for a reader who doesn’t know what it was like to grow up Armenian-American and Mexican-American.
Paragraph 2: This is a middle paragraph that doesn’t quite show the “change and growth” we’ve been talking about, but it still works. In this case, Arman has set up one concept—his outsider status—in paragraph 1, and he uses paragraph 2 to briefly caveat it, acknowledging what his reader might be thinking. (“Is that really always the case?”) But he quickly moves it back to his territory.
Paragraph 3: Now, Arman spins things forward, and in a very rich manner. He not only says “I want to go to the University of California to pursue xyz,” but demonstrates that he has fully imagined how his life can change intellectually and personally from attending a UC school. He also shows that he knows something about the UC system, referencing its diversity and academic history.
It’s a short essay, well below word count, but it answers the question with intelligence and flourish, so hats off!
Students applying to transfer to the University of California must answer three of seven questions— the question list is the same as the above, minus the “Academic Passion” question. There is, for the fourth response, one required question all transfer applicants must address. Here it is:
Please describe how you have prepared for your intended major, including your readiness to succeed in your upper-division courses once you enroll at the university.
Things to consider: How did your interest in your major develop? Do you have any experience related to your major outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, or participation in student organizations and activities? If you haven’t had experience in the field, consider including experience in the classroom. This may include working with faculty or doing research projects. If you’re applying to multiple campuses with a different major at each campus, think about approaching the topic from a broader perspective, or find a common thread among the majors you’ve chosen.
Transfer UC essay example
Let’s see how Denise handled this question:
I have spent my first two years at Foothill Community College in Los Altos, California, learning about the technology industry, which is in our backyard. It has been an education both in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I have focused on computer science, while out of the classroom I have completed internships to learn more about Silicon Valley, where I hope to make my career.
My computer science courses have prepared me technically for a career in the industry. From my class in IT systems to my honors distinctions as a Cisco securities technician and as a VMWare certified professional, I have the skills to find work at a technology company (as I did as an intern last summer at a software firm in San Jose). My hope is that by transferring to the University of California, I can add to these competencies a larger sense of the technology world, by learning about advancements across fields from virtual reality to artificial intelligence.
I have also prepared to pursue a second major in business at the University of California. I have taken courses in basic business law, where I learned more about the regulations technology companies are subject to, and in marketing, where I practiced explaining complicated scientific ideas to lay people and learned more about the psychology behind getting users’ attention and keeping it. In addition to my tech internship at the software firm last summer, I have also continued working with that company’s marketing department part-time. I interview companies who use this firm’s software and write up case-studies about their use-cases, which the company then uses to get more clients. All this has trained me to understand the day-to-day workings of businesses. I look forward to learning more about international business trends at the University of California, and to attending public talks led by business leaders around the state.
Denise tackles this question in three neat paragraphs:
Paragraph 1: She ties together her two interests, in computer science and business, and also states that she’s worked on them in and out of the classroom.
Paragraph 2: She devotes this paragraph to talking about technology. Her resumé and GPA are both a little stronger on business matters, but she’s articulated a clear interest in technology, which makes this paragraph ring authentically. It also recalls her other essay about her talent, and keeps a consistent picture.
Paragraph 3: Denise then does the same thing in her business paragraph. In both paragraphs, she makes sure to spin things forward, making it clear that she has goals that will be much more easily achieved if she can attend the University of California.
How should I think about the activities section? Can I copy and paste my Common App activities?
Take a look at our Common App Activities Section guide for general help with tackling extracurriculars. You’ll notice that the UC application lets students go longer, listing up to 30 activities, whereas the Common App won’t let you write down more than 10 activities. The UC application also divides things into categories, including Coursework other than A-G, Educational Prep Programs, Volunteer & Community Service, Work Experience, Awards & Honors, and Extracurricular Activities.
Because the UC application allows for more entries—and a higher character count, 500 as opposed to 150—than the Common App, we suggest writing the UC list first, then figuring out what your top 10 most important or meaningful activities are and cutting those down to size for the Common App.
(Suggested reading: How to Write an Impressive UC Activities List )
Should I apply to all the UCs? How should I choose, if I’m not applying to all of them?
The University of California makes it easy to apply to its campuses; all you have to do is click the boxes next to schools’ names. We advise you to apply to all the schools you’re even remotely interested in if you have the financial resources to pay each application fee ($70 per school).
To choose which schools to apply to, research introductions to the campus provided by the university admissions offices, try to visit, watch YouTube videos of campus tours, and speak with current students and alumni about their college experience. Those will give you a good sense of the qualitative elements that distinguish campuses from one another.
I’m an out-of-state student. Do I stand a chance of getting in?
You do, but it’s harder. Each campus has different demographics . At UC Berkeley, about 85% of freshmen in the fall of 2022 were in-state students, whereas at UC Riverside, 82% were California residents . Out-of-state applicants must have a 3.4 GPA or above, and never earn less than a C grade. You can find more information about the differences between applying as an in-state versus out-of-state student here , from the admissions office.
I’m an international student. Should I apply to the UC system?
The University of California is a popular choice for international students for many reasons. These are big research schools, and some of the best in the world. Though international students make up a small percentage of UC students across all campuses—just over 10%—it’s still worth applying to as many of the campuses as you can.
I attend a competitive high school in California—does this ruin my shot at getting into the highest-ranked UCs (e.g., UC Berkeley and UCLA)?
There are longstanding questions among California residents about how the UCs make their decisions. There have been reports, for instance, about capping out-of-state admits to keep things from being too competitive for in-state students. We’ve also heard that UC schools prefer to admit international students because they pay full tuition. Nevertheless, one thing college counselors seem to agree on: UCs, even the “lower-tiered” ones, make for very competitive safety schools.
In general, college admissions are getting more competitive because more people are applying to college. This is the case for in- and out-of-state applicants. But it seems like the UCs have responded to public criticism a few years ago by holding out-of-state applicants to high standards (requiring a baseline of a 3.4 GPA), and trying to give spots to more Californians.
Overall, though, students who attend better schools with more resources are expected to achieve higher academic and extracurricular accomplishments than their counterparts at schools with fewer AP classes, extracurriculars, etc. Holistic admissions means students are evaluated within their own context, based on whether or not they took full advantage of what was available to them. Many students from competitive public and private high schools across the state get in each year, so it's certainly possible to get into a Tier 1 UC regardless of where you attended high school.
Does my declared major matter for getting into one UC or another?
Admissions committees don’t expect your major to stay stable between what you put on your application and what you end up studying, so in many cases you aren’t applying for admission to a particular department. The exceptions are engineering, which requires a separate application at UC Berkeley (and applying as an undeclared major as an engineer is very competitive); arts and architecture, engineering and applied science, nursing, and theater/film/television at UCLA; and dance, music, engineering and creative studies at UCSB.
But if you feel strongly about one course of study or another, you might consider making that a topic or a mention in one of your essay responses. The admissions committee is looking for a clear story across your four essays, so if you’re interested in biology and medicine but write two essays about your high school English class, you might also want to balance that with an answer that explains your interest in medicine, or even how your love of reading dovetails with your interest in biology and medicine.
About the Author
Dr. Shirag Shemmassian is the Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting and one of the world's foremost experts on college admissions. Over the past 15 years, he and his team have helped thousands of students get into top programs like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT using his exclusive approach.
Want to learn more about what it takes to get into UC schools?
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How to Get Into UC Berkeley: Requirements and Strategies
How to Get Into UCLA: Requirements and Strategies
How to Get Into UC San Diego: Requirements and Strategies
How to Get Into UC Irvine: Requirements and Strategies
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How to Write the University of California Essays 2023-2024
The University of California (UC) school system is the most prestigious state university system in the United States and includes nine undergraduate universities: UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Merced, and UC Irvine.
The University of California system has its own application portal, as well as its own deadline of November 30th—a full month before the Common Application is due. All nine universities use one application, so it is easy to apply to multiple UCs at the same time.
The application requires you to answer four of eight personal insight questions, with a 350-word limit on each prompt. This may seem daunting at first, but we provide this guide to make the prompts more approachable and to help you effectively tackle them!
University of California Application Essay Prompts
Note: There is only one application for all the UC schools, so your responses will be sent to every University of California school that you apply to. You should avoid making essays school-specific (unless you are applying to only one school).
You might want to start by deciding which four of the eight prompts you plan on answering. The eight prompts are:
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.
As you begin selecting prompts, keep the purpose of college essays at the forefront of your mind. College essays are the place to humanize yourself and transform your test scores, GPA, and extracurriculars into a living, breathing human with values, ambitions, and a backstory. If a specific prompt will allow you to show a part of who you are that is not showcased in the rest of your application, start there.
If nothing immediately jumps out at you, try dividing the prompts into three categories: “definites,” “possibilities,” and “avoids at all costs.” “Definites” will be prompts that quickly spark up a specific idea in you. “Possibilities” might elicit a few loose concepts, anecdotes, or structures. And “avoids” are prompts where you honestly cannot see yourself writing a convincing essay. Next, take your “definites” and “possibilities” and jot down your initial thoughts about them. Finally, look at all of your ideas together and decide which combination would produce the most well-rounded essay profile that shows who you are as an individual.
Of course, this is just one way to approach choosing prompts if you are stuck. Some students might prefer writing out a list of their values, identifying the most important ones in their life, then figuring out how to showcase those through the prompts. Other students select prompts based on what they are excited by or through freewriting on every prompt first. Do not feel constrained by any one method. Just remember:
- Do not rush into prompts at first glance (though trial writing can be very valuable!).
- Make sure that you consider potential ideas for many prompts before making final decisions, and ultimately write about the one with the most substance.
- The prompts you select should allow you to highlight what is most important to you.
Check out our video to learn more about how to write the UC essays!
The 8 UC Personal Insight Questions
“Leadership Experience” is often a subheading on student resumes, but that is not what admissions officers are asking about here. They are asking for you to tell them a specific story of a time when your leadership truly mattered. This could include discussing the policies you enacted as president of a school club or the social ties you helped establish as captain of a sports team, but this prompt also gives you the freedom to go past that.
Leaders are individuals with strong values, who mentor, inspire, correct, and assist those around them. If you don’t feel like you’ve ever been a leader, consider the following questions:
- Have you ever mentored anyone? Is there anyone younger than you who would not be the person they are today without you?
- Have you ever taken the initiative? When and why did it matter?
- Have you ever been fundamental to positive change in the world—whether it be on the small scale of positively impacting a family member’s life or on the large scale of trying to change the status of specific communities/identities in this world?
- Have you ever stood up for what’s right or what you believe in?
Leadership is a concept that can be stretched, bent, and played with, but at the end of the day, the central theme of your essay must be leadership. Keeping this in mind, after your first draft, it can be helpful to identify the definition of leadership that you are working with, to keep your essay cohesive. This definition doesn’t need to appear within the essay (though, if you take on a more reflective structure, it might). Some examples of this include “being a positive role model as leadership,” “encouraging others to take risks as leadership,” and “embracing my identities as leadership.”
Here are some examples of how a leadership essay might look:
- You’ve always loved learning and challenging yourself, but when you got to high school it was clear that only a certain type of student was recommended to take AP classes and you didn’t fit into that type. You presented a strong case to the school counselors that you were just as prepared for AP classes as anyone else, enrolled in your desired classes, and excelled. Since then, AP classes have become more diversified at your school and there has even been a new inclusion training introduced for your district’s school counselors.
- When you were working as a camp counselor, the art teacher brought you two of your campers who were refusing to get along. To mediate the conflict, you spent long hours before bed talking to them individually, learning about their personal lives and family situation. By understanding where each camper came from, you were better equipped to help them reach a compromise and became a role model for both campers.
- As a member of your school’s Chinese organization, you were driven by your ethnic heritage to devote your lunch breaks to ensuring the smooth presentation of the Chinese culture show. You coordinated the performers, prepared refreshments, and collected tickets. You got through a great performance, even though a performer didn’t show and some of the food was delivered late. You weren’t on the leadership board or anything, but exhibited serious leadership, as both nights of the culture show sold out and hundreds of both Chinese and non-Chinese people were able to come together and celebrate your culture.
Like the last prompt, this prompt asks about a specific topic—creativity—but gives you wiggle room to expand your definition of that topic. By defining creativity as problem-solving, novel thinking, and artistic expression, this prompt basically says “get creative in how you define creativity!”
Additionally, this broad conception of creativity lets you choose if you want to write about your personal life or your academic life. A robotics student could write about their love of baking on the weekends or their quick thinking during a technical interview. A dance student could write about their love of adapting choreography from famous ballets or their innovative solution to their dance team’s lack of funds for their showcase. You have space to do what you want!
That said, because this prompt is so open, it is important to establish a focus early on. Try thinking about what is missing from your application. If you are worried that your application makes you seem hyper-academic, use this prompt to show how you have fun. If you are worried that you might be appearing like one of those students who just gets good grades because they have a good memory, use this prompt to show off your problem-solving skills.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to describe any skill in creative pursuits as you answer this prompt. The prompt asks you how you express your “creative side,” alluding to creative instinct, not creative talent. You could write about how you use painting to let out your emotions—but your paintings aren’t very good. You could write about dancing in the shower to get excited for your day—but one time you slipped and fell and hurt your elbow. Experiences like these could make for a great reflective essay, where you explore the human drive towards creative expression and your acceptance that you personally don’t have to be creatively inclined to let out creative energy.
- A math student writing about a time they devised a non-textbook method to proving theorems
- A creative writer describing how they close-read the ups-and-downs of classical music as an attempt to combat writers’ block and think of emotional trajectories for new stories
- An engineering student writing about cooking as a creative release where numbers don’t matter and intuition supersedes reason
- A psychology student writing about the limitations of quantitative data and describing a future approach to psychology that merges humanism and empiricism.
This is the kind of prompt where an answer either pops into your head or it doesn’t. The good news is that you can write a convincing essay either way. We all have great talents and skills—you just might have to dig a bit to identify the name of the talent/skill and figure out how to best describe it.
Some students have more obvious talents and skills than others. For example, if you are intending to be a college athlete, it makes sense to see your skill at your sport as your greatest talent or skill. Similarly, if you are being accepted into a highly-selective fine arts program, painting might feel like your greatest talent. These are completely reasonable to write about because, while obvious, they are also authentic!
The key to writing a convincing essay about an obvious skill is to use that skill to explore your personality, values, motivations, and ambitions. Start by considering what first drew you to your specialization. Was there a specific person? Something your life was missing that painting, hockey, or film satisfied? Were you brought up playing your sport or doing your craft because your parents wanted you to and you had to learn to love it? Or choose to love it? What was that process like? What do these experiences say about you? Next, consider how your relationship with your talent has evolved. Have you doubted your devotion at times? Have you wondered if you are good enough? Why do you keep going? On the other hand, is your talent your solace? The stable element in your life? Why do you need that?
The key is to elucidate why this activity is worth putting all your time into, and how your personality strengths are exhibited through your relationship to the activity.
Do not be put off by this prompt if you have not won any big awards or shown immense talent in something specific. All the prompt asks for is what you think is your greatest talent or skill. Some avenues of consideration for other students include:
- Think about aspects of your personality that might be considered a talent or skill. This might include being a peacemaker, being able to make people laugh during hard times, or having organization skills.
- Think about unique skills that you have developed through unique situations. These would be things like being really good at reading out loud because you spend summers with your grandfather who can no longer read, knowing traffic patterns because you volunteer as a crossing guard at the elementary school across the street that starts 45 minutes before the high school, or making really good pierogi because your babysitter as a child was Polish.
- Think about lessons you have learned through life experiences. A military baby might have a great skill for making new friends at new schools, a child of divorce might reflect on their ability to establish boundaries in what they are willing to communicate about with different people, and a student who has had to have multiple jobs in high school might be talented at multitasking and scheduling.
Make sure to also address how you have developed and demonstrated your selected talent. Do you put in small amounts of practice every day, or strenuous hours for a couple of short periods each year? Did a specific period of your life lead to the development of your talent or are you still developing it daily?
The purpose of college essays is to show your values and personality to admissions officers, which often includes exploring your past and how it informs your present and future. With a bit of creativity in how you define a “talent or skill,” this prompt can provide a great avenue for that exploration.
This prompt offers you two potential paths—discussing an educational opportunity or barrier. It is important that you limit yourself to one of these paths of exploration to keep your essay focused and cohesive.
Starting with the first option, you should think of an educational opportunity as anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for life and your career. Some examples could include:
- participation in an honors program
- enrollment in an academy geared toward your future profession
- a particularly enlightening conversation with a professional or teacher
- joining a cultural- or interest-based student coalition
- plenty of other opportunities
The phrasing “taken advantage of” implies the admissions committee’s desire for students who take the initiative. Admissions officers are more interested in students who sought out opportunities and who fought to engage with opportunities than students who were handed things. For example, a student who joined a career-advancement afterschool program in middle school could write about why they were initially interested in the program—perhaps they were struggling in a specific subject and didn’t want to fall behind because they had their sights set on getting into National Junior Honor Society, or their friend mentioned that the program facilitated internship opportunities and they thought they wanted to explore therapy as a potential career path.
On the other hand, if an opportunity was handed to you through family connections or a fortuitous introduction, explore what you did with that opportunity. For example, if a family member introduced you to an important producer because they knew you were interested in film, you could write about the notes you took during that meeting and how you have revisited the producer’s advice and used it since the meeting to find cheap equipment rentals and practice your craft.
If you choose to write about educational barriers you have faced, consider the personal characteristics and skills you called upon to overcome the challenge. How did the process of overcoming your educational barrier shape you as a person? What did you learn about yourself or the world? An added plus would be talking about passing it forward and helping those in your purview obtain the knowledge you did from your experiences.
Some examples of educational barriers could include:
- limited access to resources, materials, technology, or classes
- lacking educational role models
- struggles with deciding on a passion or career path
- financial struggles
One example of an interesting essay about educational barriers:
As a student at a school that did not offer any honors classes, you enrolled in online lectures to learn the subject you were passionate about — Human Geography. Afterward, you spoke to your school administrators about high-achieving students needing higher-level courses, and they agreed to talk to the local community college to start a pipeline for students like you.
Either way that you take this prompt, it can be used to position yourself as motivated and driven—exactly the type of student admissions officers are looking for!
This prompt is three-pronged. You must 1) identify a challenge 2) describe the steps you have taken to overcome the challenge and 3) connect the challenge to your academic achievement.
When approaching this prompt, it is best to consider these first and third aspects together so that you identify a challenge that connects to your academic life. If you simply pick any challenge you have experienced, when you get to the third part of the prompt, you may have to stretch your essay in ways that are unconvincing or feel inauthentic.
That said, remember that “academic achievement” reaches far beyond grades and exams. It can include things like:
- Deciding your career goals
- Balancing homework, jobs, and social/familial relationships
- Having enough time to devote to self-care
- Figuring out how you study/learn best
- Feeling comfortable asking for help when you need it
You should begin brainstorming challenges and hardships that you have experienced and overcome. These could include financial hardships, familial circumstances, personal illness, or learning disabilities. Challenges could also be less structural—things like feeling like you are living in a sibling’s shadow, struggles with body image, or insecurity. While it is important that your challenge was significant, it matters much more that you discuss your challenge with thoughtful reflection and maturity.
Some ways to take this prompt include:
- Writing about how overcoming a challenge taught you a skill that led to academic success — for example, a high-achieving student who struggles with anxiety was forced to take time off from school after an anxiety attack and learned the importance of giving oneself a break
- Writing about a challenge that temporarily hindered your academic success and reflecting on it — for example, a student who experienced a death in the family could have had a semester where they almost failed English because reading led to negative thought spirals instead of plot retention
- Writing about how a challenge humbled you and gave you a new perspective on your academics — for example, a student with a part-time job who helps support her family missed a shift because she was studying for a test and realized that she needed to ask her teachers for help and explain her home situation
As you describe the steps you have taken to overcome your selected challenge, you will want to include both tangible and intangible steps. This means that you will need to discuss your emotions, growth, and development, as well as what you learned through overcoming the challenge. Was your challenge easy to overcome or did it take a few tries? Do you feel you have fully overcome your challenge or is it a work in progress? If you have fully overcome the challenge, what do you do differently now? Or do you just see things differently now? If you were to experience the same challenge again, what would you have learned from before?
Here are some detailed examples:
- Your parents underwent a bitter, drawn-out divorce that deeply scarred you and your siblings, especially your little brother who was attending elementary school at the time. He was constantly distraught and melancholy and seemed to be falling further and further behind in his schoolwork. You took care of him, but at the cost of your grades plummeting. However, through this trial, you committed yourself to protecting your family at all costs. You focused on computer science in high school, hoping to major in it and save up enough money for his college tuition by the time he applies. Through this mission, your resolve strengthened and reflected in your more efficient and excellent performance in class later on.
- Your race was the most significant challenge you faced growing up. In school, teachers did not value your opinion nor did they believe in you, as evidenced by their preferential treatment of students of other races. To fight back against this discrimination, you talked to other students of the same race and established an association, pooling together resources and providing a supportive network of people to others in need of counseling regarding this issue.
The first step for approaching this prompt is fun and easy—think about an academic subject that inspires you. This part of the essay is about emotional resonance, so go with your gut and don’t overthink it. What is your favorite subject? What subject do you engage with in the media in your free time? What subject seeps into your conversations with friends and family on the weekends?
Keep in mind that high school subjects are often rather limited. The span of “academic subjects” at the university level is much less limited. Some examples of academic subjects include eighteenth-century literature, political diplomacy, astronomy, Italian film and television, botany, Jewish culture and history, mobile robotics, musical theater, race and class in urban environments, gender and sexuality, and much more.
Once you’ve decided what subject you are most interested in and inspired by, think about a tangible example of how you have furthered your interest in the subject. Some common ways students further their interests include:
- Reading about your interest
- Engaging with media (television, film, social media) about your interest
- Volunteering with organizations related to your interest
- Founding organizations related to your interest
- Reaching out to professionals with your academic interest
- Using your interest in interdisciplinary ways
- Research in your field of interest
- Internships in your field of interest
While you should include these kinds of tangible examples, do not forget to explain how your love for the subject drives the work you do, because, with an essay like this, the why can easily get lost in describing the what . Admissions officers need both.
A few examples:
- You found your US government class fascinatingly complex, so you decided to campaign for a Congressional candidate who was challenging the incumbent in your district. You canvassed in your local community, worked at the campaign headquarters, and gathered voter data whilst performing various administrative duties. Though the work was difficult, you enjoyed a sense of fulfillment that came from being part of history.
- Last year you fell in love with the play Suddenly Last Summer and decided to see what career paths were available for dramatic writing. You reached out to the contact on your local theater’s website, were invited to start attending their guest lecturer series, and introduced yourself to a lecturer one week who ended up helping you score a spot in a Young Dramatic Writers group downtown.
- The regenerative power of cells amazed you, so you decided to take AP Biology to learn more. Eventually, you mustered up the courage to email a cohort of biology professors at your local university. One professor responded, and agreed to let you assist his research for the next few months on the microorganism C. Elegans.
- You continued to develop apps and games even after AP Computer Science concluded for the year. Eventually, you became good enough to land an internship at a local startup due to your self-taught knowledge of various programming languages.
With regards to structure, you might try thinking about this essay in a past/present/future manner where you consider your past engagement with your interest and how it will affect your future at a UC school or as an adult in society. This essay could also become an anecdotal/narrative essay that centers around the story of you discovering your academic interest, or a reflective essay that dives deep into the details of why you are drawn to your particular academic subject.
Whatever way you take it, try to make your essay unique—either through your subject matter, your structure, or your writing style!
College essay prompts often engage with the word “community.” As an essay writer, it is important to recognize that your community can be as large, small, formal, or informal as you want it to be. Your school is obviously a community you belong to, but your local grocery store, the nearby pet adoption center you volunteer at, your apartment building, or an internet group can also be communities. Even larger social groups that you are a part of, like your country or your ethnicity, can be a community.
The important part of your response here is not the community you identify with but rather the way you describe your role in that community. What do you bring to your community that is special? What would be missing without you?
Some responses could include describing how you serve as a role model in your community, how you advocate for change in your community, how you are a support system for other community members, or how you correct the community when it is veering away from its values and principles.
Here are some fleshed-out examples of how this essay could take shape, using the earlier referenced communities:
- A student writes about the local grocery store in his neighborhood. Each Sunday, he picks up his family’s groceries and then goes to the pharmacy in the back to get his grandmother’s medication. The pharmacist was a close friend of his grandmother’s when she was young, so the student routinely gives the pharmacist a detailed update about his grandmother’s life. The student recognizes the value in his serving as a link to connect these two individuals who, due to aging, cannot be together physically.
- An animal-loving student volunteers one Saturday each month at the pet adoption center in their city’s downtown district. They have always been an extremely compassionate person and view the young kittens as a community that deserves to be cared for. This caring instinct also contributes to their interactions with their peers and their desire to make large-scale positive social change in the world.
Your response to this prompt will be convincing if you discuss your underlying motives for the service you have done, and in turn, demonstrate the positive influence you have made. That said, do not be afraid to talk about your actions even if they did not produce a sweeping change; as long as the effort was genuine, change is change, no matter the scale. This essay is more about values and reflection than it is about the effects of your efforts.
Lastly, if you are discussing a specific service you did for your community, you might want to touch on what you learned through your service action or initiative, and how you will continue to learn in the future. Here are a few examples:
- Passionate about classical music, you created a club that taught classical and instrumental music at local elementary schools. You knew that the kids did not have access to such resources, so you wanted to broaden their exposure as a high school senior had done for you when you were in middle school. You encouraged these elementary schoolers to fiddle with the instruments and lobbied for a music program to be implemented at the school. Whether the proposal gets approved or not, the kids have now known something they might never have known otherwise.
- Working at your local library was mundane at times, but in the long run, you realized that you were facilitating the exchange of knowledge and protecting the intellectual property of eminent scholars. Over time, you found ways to liven up the spirit of the library by leading arts and crafts time and booking puppet shows for little kids whose parents were still at work. The deep relationships you forged with the kids eventually blossomed into a bond of mentorship and mutual respect.
Be authentic and humble in your response to this essay! Make sure it feels like you made your community a better place because community is a value of yours, not just so that you could write about it in a college essay.
This is the most open-ended any question can get. You have the freedom to write about anything you want! That said, make sure that, no matter what you do with this prompt, your focus can be summarized into two sentences that describe the uniqueness of your candidacy.
The process we recommend for responding to open-ended prompts with clarity involves the following steps:
1. On a blank piece of paper, jot down any and every idea — feelings, phrases, and keywords — that pop into your head after reading this prompt. Why are you unique?
2. Narrow your ideas down to one topic. The two examples we will use are a student writing about how her habit of pausing at least five seconds before she responds to someone else’s opinion is emblematic of her thoughtfulness and a student whose interest in researching the history of colonialism in the Caribbean is emblematic of their commitment to justice.
3. Outline the structure of your essay, and plan out content for an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
4. Before you start writing your essay, write one or two sentences that summarize how you would like the admissions officers to perceive you based on this essay. These sentences will not be in your final product, but will help you to maintain a focus. For our examples, this would be something like “Natalie’s habit of gathering her thoughts before responding to other people’s opinions allows her to avoid undesired complications and miscommunications in her social interactions. This has not only helped her maintain strong relationships with all the staff members of the clubs she leads, but will also help her navigate the social environments that she will face in the professional world.” A summary for the student writing about their interest in the history of colonialism could be “Jonathan has always been highly compassionate and sympathetic by nature. When they found out about the historical injustices of colonialism in the Caribbean through the book The Black Jacobins , they realized that compassion is what is missing from politics. Now, they are inspired to pursue a political science degree to ultimately have a political career guided by compassion.”
5. Finally, write an essay dedicated to constructing the image you devised in step 4. This can be achieved through a number of different structures! For example, Natalie could use an anecdote of a time when she spoke too soon and caused someone else pain, then could reflect on how she learned the lesson to take at least five seconds before responding and how that decision has affected her life. Jonathan could create an image of the future where they are enacting local policies based on compassion. It is important to keep in mind that you do not want to be repetitive, but you must stay on topic so that admissions officers do not get distracted and forget the image that you are attempting to convey.
As exemplified by the examples we provided, a good way to approach this prompt is to think of a quality, value, or personality trait of yours that is fundamental to who you are and appealing to admissions officers, then connect it to a specific activity, habit, pet peeve, anecdote, or another tangible example that you can use to ground your essay in reality. Use the tangible to describe the abstract, and convince admissions officers that you would be a valuable asset to their UC school!
Where to Get Your UC Essays Edited
With hundreds of thousands of applicants each year, many receiving top scores and grades, getting into top UC schools is no small feat. This is why excelling in the personal-insight questions is key to presenting yourself as a worthwhile candidate. Answering these prompts can be difficult, but ultimately very rewarding, and CollegeVine is committed to helping you along that journey. Check out these UC essay examples for more writing inspiration.
If you want to get your essays edited, we also have free peer essay review , where you can get feedback from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by editing other students’ essays.
You can also receive expert essay review by advisors who have helped students get into their dream schools. You can book a review with an expert to receive notes on your topic, grammar, and essay structure to make your essay stand out to admissions officers. Haven’t started writing your essay yet? Advisors on CollegeVine also offer expert college counseling packages . You can purchase a package to get one-on-one guidance on any aspect of the college application process, including brainstorming and writing essays.