The University of California
CHANGED its prompts
for transfer students
this year (2106)!

Read Strategies for the New University of California
Transfer Essays for the updated information on the new prompts.



(OUTDATED!!) Why You Chose Your Major: A Love Story

If you want to transfer into any of the University of California schools (UCLA, Berkeley, UCI, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, etc.), you need to write two college application essays. One is the same prompt that all students are required to write—which basically asks for a personal statement style essay. It’s known as Prompt 2, and I wrote “Personal Quality, Talent, Achievement…”  as a guide on how to write this essay in a narrative style.

Now I want to offer some ideas on how to answer the second prompt required for transfer students:

Transfer Student Prompt 1: What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement. 

Like all prompts, the first step is to break it down and understand what it’s asking, so you answer it. (Use this as a checklist after you have written it.) This has four main parts:

1. What you will major in at the U.C.

2. How and why you got interested in that field or subject.

3. Examples from your past that involved that field, and contributed to your growing interest or knowledge in it.

4. What you have learned up to this point about this field or subject, and any ways it has affected you (your goals, what you value, etc.)

In general, I believe this essay will be shorter than the other (personal statement.) You have 1,000 words total for these two essays. It’s up to you, but I would shoot for roughly 600-700 for the personal statement, and 300-400 for this one about your intended field of study.

Think about this essay as a type of love story: You will recount the story of how you first met or the initial attractions, and/or what sealed the deal between you (share some of the highlights of your developing relationship with examples), and why you are convinced you will stay together.

To grab your reader at the start, my best advice would be to start your essay with your most interesting example of either:

1. What first sparked your interest in this field or subject (A specific moment, experience or “time”).

2. An experience you had related to this field or subject where you learned something about yourself, others or the world that helped confirm or develop your interest in it. (Places to look: volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities…) 

3. If you don’t have any remarkable direct experiences with this field or subject, find a core or defining quality that you have that has directed you toward it. Of course, try to include examples of real-life experiences where you developed this related core quality to illustrate your growing interest in this field or study. For example, if you want to study art. Maybe you don’t have a long list of specific art study programs yet, but you have had other experiences where you developed the arty qualities of being creative and expressive.

This is how you do not want to start your essay:

“My intended field of study at The University of California, Davis, is engineering. Over the years, I have developed a strong interest in this field and have participated in a variety of programs that have fueled my passion for engineering. Last summer, I worked at a company as an intern and learned many important skills related to computers and technology…”

Okay, this is an exaggeration, but you get the picture. Instead, pick one of those real-life experiences that either sparked your interest or helped you develop it, and start with that. This will engage the reader at the start, and also set you up to then explain the impact this experience had on you–what you learned about your field, how it challenged your thinking somehow, how you recognized that you were good at it (core qualities lined up nicely), how it made you feel about it in different ways, and that you enjoyed it.

Craft that moment into an anecdote, which is a way to relate a real-life moment using literary writing techniques. Anecdotes allow you to SHOW the reader your point as opposed to simply TELLING them about it. Put them in your shoes. Show yourself doing something related to your field or subject. Read these other previous posts to learn how to write an anecdote.

If you had an engineering-related internship or summer job, try to find a specific moment to share from that experience that illuminates your interest in this field. Start by sharing that moment, and how you felt about it, what you realized or learned, and go from there. Then you can work in other related experiences.

Basically, you are telling the story of how you fell in love with that field: How you first met, the moment you realized this was “the one,” other dating highlights, and how you have been changed and improved by this relationship, and your intentions for the future (Do we hear wedding bells? haha)

Sorry if that was an over-the-top metaphor, but maybe this will help you think about the order of your essay. Also, it is important to answer the fourth point about “what you have gained from your involvement” with this field. This is how I would wrap up the essay, and talk about how this field or subject matches who you are, what you care about, your passions, goals and dreams.