College Admissions Essays
How to Answer Prompt #1 for the College Application Essay
for the University of California:
“Describe the World You Come From”
Only read this if you are applying to a UC (University of California school, such as UCLA, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Irvine, Santa Cruz, etc.). There are two college essay prompts. Here is some advice regarding the first one:
Prompt #1 (freshman applicants)
Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Read this closely. Note that it asks you to describe one thing and then tell about another–so there are two points you need to address in your essay. When you describe the world you come from, think of this in a figurative sense. Do not just write about your hometown. Instead of the word “world,” try substituting it for the word “community.” Anything can be your world (a mini-community of shared activities, people, passions or places), from your yoga class to your bedroom to your job washing dishes to your grandmother’s kitchen making tortilla soup. It’s wide open. Just pick a topic. Also, the examples they give, “family, community or school” are just that, examples. Do not write a little about each of these. And do not just write about “my family” or “my school.” Way too broad. Write about your uncle’s magic shop, where you learned to juggle, or the Scrabble club you started at your school even though you are the world’s worst speller, or the old movie theater in your town where you love to watch old films on rainy days. (Check out link at bottom of this post to my Tumbler blog with images and quotes to spark ideas for what makes your world.)
Quickie World-Finder: What do you like/love to do? Where do you do it? Who do you do it with? Bingo! You have just landed on one of your worlds!
Although I think the bulk of your college application essay should focus on this world, and how it has affected you, also address the second part about your dreams and aspirations. This has the potential to be general and boring, so make sure to talk specifically about how you will apply the lessons (values, skills, ideas, insights, etc.) you have learned in your world to your future. (Hint: It wouldn’t hurt if you can show how these dreams and aspirations link to your specific college goals. For example, if your “world” is hanging out in your parent’s garage fixing an old truck, mention how the problem solving-skills you learned there will help your aspirations to be some type of engineer one day.)
If you are one of those A-type overachievers (hey, it’s OK, these UCs are insanely competitive!) who still feels insecure about understanding the UC prompts, check out this 50-minute video of a counselor guru spelling it all out at a convention for college admissions folks. Just don’t let her freak you out too much. Definitely good info here, but I say overkill. Your choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zo6NI4wHf4&feature=related
June 2012 Update: Allen Grove, who writes about college admissions for About.com, wrote this short guide to answering the UC’s ”Describe the World You Come From” prompt.
Here are some more helpful posts:
Need help for UC application essay Prompt #2: “Tell about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, …”
This post can help you write your 650-word essay for the new Common Application.
Need help getting started? Here’s my sure-fire brainstorm guide: Jumpstart Your College Essay.
Need help writing a “grabber” introduction for your college admission essay? Read this post, How to Write an Anecdote.
Best for last: You must check out this super helpful Tumbler blog that uses images to help you find your “world” for your college application essay!***
*Also, if you are still looking for a “world” to write about, there are lots of ideas in the comments. Definitely worth scrolling through to see what others are thinking of writing about. Thanks for sharing all your ideas!
I believe you can write these UC essays on your own. But if you feel like you would like my personal help with them or other college application essays, find details on my Services page.
Best of luck! Janine Robinson
How Can This Book Help You?This fast-and-easy guide is like having your own private writing coach take you through 10 simple steps to find a unique topic and crafting a narrative, "slice of life" essay. Perfect for answering the new Common Application, private university, public college, supplemental and scholarship essay prompts!
Find Help By Topic
- About Admissions Officers
- Add a Twist
- Avoid "English-ese"
- Bump Up a Dull Essay
- Choosing a Topic
- Common Application
- Common Prompts
- First drafts
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- How to Be Likable
- Personal Statements
- Sample Essays
- The Common App
- Title Your Essay
- UC Prompt #1
- UC Prompt #2
- UC Prompts
- University of California essays
- Warning to Top Students
- When You Are Done
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