Find help for writing your four required essays for The University of California application. There are eight prompts, which are called Personal Insight Questions, to choose from. Each of your four essays must be under 350 words.

Read more about the Personal Insight Questions for both incoming freshman and transfer students on the UC Admissions web site.

If you need more help, learn more about my tutoring and other services.

Find Tips, Ideas and Strategies on How to Write Your UC Essays
(Click the Flames!)

UC Personal Insight Question 1

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

UC Personal Insight Question 5

Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

UC Personal Insight Question 2

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving,
original and innovative thinking, and artistically, … Describe how you express your creative side.

UC Personal Insight Question 6

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

UC Personal Insight Question 3

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill?

How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

UC Personal Insight Question 7

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

UC Personal Insight Question 4

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

UC Personal Insight Question 8

What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

UC Shares Videos on Personal Insight Questions

 

As you probably know, the University of California changed its required essay prompts for 2016-17.

Instead of writing two longer personal statement essays, you now chose from eight prompts (which they call Personal Insight Questions) and write four short essays, each under 350 words. (For incoming freshmen; transfer students have similar, yet slightly different requirement.)

The University of California recently shared several videos intended to help students understand what is expected from these new Personal Insight Questions prompts. read more…

Start Your UC Personal Insight Question Essays for 2016-17 Now!

california-badge

Want to Go To College In California?
Get Your Application in ASAP!!

 

This year marks my 30th year living in California.

I love this state! I moved here from across the country to join my future husband in 1986, and never looked back.

The people are welcoming and forward-minded (for the most part), the dramatic natural beauty of ocean, mountains and dessert is everywhere, and the weather is near-perfect.

Also, California’s public educational system is unsurpassed, from the network of community colleges to the Cal States to its world-class research and learning universities, like Berkeley and UCLA.
read more…

Strategies for Each of 8 New University of California Essays 2016-17

new uc essays

Quickly Find Ideas for Each of the
8 New Personal Insight Questions

 

I hope everyone applying to any of the University of California schools this fall got the big news: They have all new essay prompts for 2016-17!

Instead of writing two longer essays, incoming freshmen now are required to write four shorter essays—and have eight new prompts, called Personal Insight Questions, to choose from.

Since the big announcement this spring, I’ve written eight new posts on each of the new UC essays.

I’ve listed them all together here (below) in this post so you can find them easily. read more…

UC Essay Prompt 7: Volunteer Your Best Story

uc essay prompt 7

University of California Personal Insight Question 7:

Time to Talk About One of Those Volunteer Experiences

UC essay prompt 7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

The minute I read UC essay prompt 7, I thought most students would jump at this question because most have spent endless hours volunteering during high school.

Now it’s time to recall some of your most interesting or meaningful “times” or experiences.

You could write a strong essay about giving back, but you have to be careful to avoid the cliche trap.The trick is to think of something unusual or unexpected that happened during one of those experiences.

read more…

UC Essay Prompt 6: Your Favorite Academic Subject

uc essay prompt 6

University of California Personal Insight Question 6:

Brainiacs, Nerds, Geeks and Former Slackers—This Essay is For You!

 

UC Essay Prompt 6: Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.

Well, this is probably the most straightforward of the eight Personal Insight Questions (which I call essay prompts) that the University of California admissions has to offer wannabe freshmen for 2016-17.

It’s also your best chance, similar to UC essay prompt 4, to showcase your passion for learning.

When you read UC essay prompt 6, did an answer pop into your head immediately?

If so, this could be a no-brainer essay for you to write. read more…

UC Essay Prompt 5: Take the Challenge

uc essay prompt 5

University of California Personal Insight Question 5:
Your Chance to Get Real and Personal

If You Have Faced Hardships, Share Them!

 

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?

If you are a high school student who has had to deal with some tough issues in your life or background, you should seriously consider writing about at least one of them in UC Essay Prompt 5 (also known as Personal Insight Question 5)

This is not whining or complaining.

In fact, students who have had to overcome or deal with obstacles in their life and managed to succeed in school despite those issues are highly desirable to almost all college and universities. And the UCs are no exception. read more…

UC Essay Prompt 4: Educational Experiences

UC Essay Prompt 4

University of California Personal Insight Question 4:
A Chance to Showcase Your Field of Interest

 

(For those of you just starting the UC application for 2016-17, incoming freshman pick four essays—each under 350 words—out of eight all-new prompts, known as Personal Insight Questions. I’m writing separate posts on ideas about how to write about all eight of them.)

If you know what you want to study in college, I would seriously consider writing about UC essay prompt 4.

It’s your chance to show the University of California that you already know something about this field and were serious enough to learn about it. read more…

UC Essay Prompt 3: Talents and Skills

hair-dryer

What Are You Good At?

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

 

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

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

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

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

UC Essay Prompt 2: Your Creative Side

uc essay prompt 2

University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 2)

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.

If this prompt jumped out when you first read through the eight essay prompts for the University of California application, good chance you have a creative side.

And you should seriously consider writing about it.

Even if this prompt didn’t initially appeal to you, consider it anyway.

It’s not just intended for aspiring artists! read more…

UC Essay Prompt 1: Leadership Experience

UC Essay Prompt 1

University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 1)

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

UC Essay Prompt 1 is the first of eight essay prompts for the University of California application that you can choose to answer if you are an incoming freshman.

Of the eight Personal Insight Questions, you only need to answer four.

If you consider leadership one of your defining qualities, or have had an interesting experience as a leader in some capacity, you might want to consider this essay. read more…

21 Tips for UC Personal Insight Questions and Essays

personal insight questions

 

Pick the 4 Best UC Personal Insight Questions for YOU!

If you’re applying to any of the University of California schools, you need to write four short essays.

To start, read through all eight of the Personal Insight Questions you have to choose from.

(Find specific ideas and strategies for each of the 8 new Personal Insight Questions at the bottom of this post!)

The goal is to write four short essays that as a whole will provide the UC admissions deciders with a picture of what makes you unique and special—and help set you apart from the competition. read more…

UC Essay Prompt 8: What Sets You Apart?

prompt 8

University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 8)

UC Essay Prompt 8: What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

Out of the eight new University of California essay prompts for Fall 2017, I think that most students should consider writing about Prompt 8 as one of their four required mini-essays.

More than any of the other questions, this prompt targets most directly what makes you YOU, and asks to understand something about your most fundamental qualities, characteristics or values.

It is also the most open-ended of the bunch. read more…

NEW University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017!

Bestselling Guide!

Essay Hell Amazon

Click to View on Amazon!

Find Strategies for Popular Prompts!

Essay Hell Prompts Primer

Click to View on Amazon!

Sample Essays

college application essays

Click to View on Amazon!

Essay Hell Writing Survival Kit

Click to View on Amazon!

Want to Become an Essay Jumpstart Expert?

Want to Become an Essay Jumpstart Expert?

Click badge to learn more!

Don't Miss My Next Hot Post!

* indicates required

Do You Work With Students Who Have Limited Resources?

I offer my essay writing guides and other resources free to counselors, teachers and others who work with underprivileged and underrepresented students. Contact me for details at: EssayHell@gmail.com.

Archives

new university of california essay prompts

First New University of California Essay Prompts
for their College Application in 10 Years!

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

In the past, incoming freshman wrote two core essays answering two prompts.

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

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

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

That’s a huge shift.

I love that there are more prompts to choose from, with themes ranging from leadership, creativity, service and personal individuality to more serious ones, such as sharing personal challenges or barriers to success.

I’ve written separate posts for each of the 8 new prompts, and you can find them below. Just click the blue link to get specific ideas and strategies for each Personal Insight Question.

RELATED: 21 Tips for UC Personal Insight Questions and Essays

After reading through these new prompts, I believe it will be important to choose four that show a nice variety as well as balance to showcase who you are.

In essence, these mini-essays will serve as your one personal statement, in that the goal is to highlight your most core qualities and values–and help you stand out from the crowd.

These new prompts are great news since they allow more flexibility in how you write about yourself. I also believe they should also be easier to craft than writing two longer essays.

If you are just starting the admissions process, I would just take the time to read through them and start thinking about which ones you might like to write about.

Unlike the old prompts, each of these new University of California essay prompts includes a series of additional questions, which can help you brainstorm ideas for your essays and also help you understand exactly what the UCs want to learn from you.

That is super helpful, so read them closely!

The UC also provided a new worksheet–Personal Insight Questions: Guide for Freshman Applicants–to help students brainstorm and craft their answers to these new prompts. This is an invaluable tool, and I urge everyone to use it!

uclogo

One piece of advice: If you are a student who has faced significant challenges or obstacles so far in your life or personal background, I would strongly urge you to write about them.

Numbers 4 and especially 5 would be the most obvious ones to help you write about those issues. I also believe those two prompts will produce the most poignant and meaningful mini-essays.

(I would suggest all students explore if they could include Number 4 or 5  as part of their four essays for the same reason.)

I also think UC Essay Prompt 8 is a terrific prompt, since it asks you to write about something unique about yourself. What a perfect opportunity to stand out!

The main danger of some of the other prompts is that you simply answer them and they end up being dull or boring to read. Even though these will be shorter essays, they still need to be engaging and meaningful!

As with all essays, I would advise you to always try to think of specific examples to support any main point you make.

Even though these are shorter pieces, look for your real-life moments and experiences to help you illustrate your points, especially when talking about your leadership, creativity, talents, skills, favorite subjects or volunteer activities. And ditto for sharing personal struggles.

One bit of sad news about these new prompts is that this will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for students to recycle their essays from other applications, especially The Common Application. Students also will need to come up with four rather than two strong topic ideas.

The key is to look at these new University of California essay prompts as opportunities to showcase yourself through a variety of lens so the admissions deciders can get an accurate picture of your individuality.

 

new university of california essay prompts

Locations of UC campuses

Here are the new University of California essay prompts and admissions instructions from the UC web site for incoming freshman (I will address the new University of California transfer essay prompts in an upcoming post):

Freshman: Personal insight questions

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

Directions

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

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

Remember, the personal questions are just that — personal. Which means you should use our guidance for each question just as a suggestion in case you need help. The important thing is expressing who are you, 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 a taking lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about your accomplishments and what you learned from the experience. What were your responsibilities?

Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to school activities. For example, do you help out or take care of your family?

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’s a talent or skill that you’re proud of, this is the time to share it. You don’t necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you?

Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule?

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 strived 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?

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

Things to consider: Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or activities — and what you have gained from your involvement.

Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)?

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. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

Things to consider: Don’t be afraid to brag a little. Even if you don’t think you’re unique, you are — remember, there’s only one of you in the world. From your point of view, what do you feel makes you belong on one of UC’s campuses? When looking at your life, what does a stranger need to understand in order to know you?

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? We’re not necessarily looking for what makes you unique compared to others, but what makes you, YOU.

* * * * *

Here are some additional details about these new University of California essay prompts that you might find helpful or interesting (This was released from the admissions department today.):

After almost 10 years, UC is changing the personal statement section of its undergraduate admissions application, replacing the current two personal statement prompts with short-answer questions that students can choose from.  The new questions, now called personal insight questions, aim to give applicants a greater say in the kind of information they share with the University. Students can express who they are and what matters to them not only in how they respond to the questions, but also through the questions they choose to answer.
 
The new questions also provide students with better direction and focus on topics that are important to campuses. Each new question aligns to one or more of the 14 comprehensive review criteria (nine criteria for transfer students) that campuses consider in their admissions decisions. “We hope this new format will not only provide us with additional insight into applicants, but also allow students to better choose the questions that speak to them most directly,” stated a UC admissions director.

Last Minute Help for UC College App Essay Writers!

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

 

 

It’s Not Too Late to Write Your College App Essays
Before the Nov. 30 Deadline

 

Yes, you have waited until the last minute. But don’t despair!

There’s still time to pound out two awesome essays!

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

Read through them, watch the videos, and get crankin!!

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

Last-Minute Help for UC Essays!!

 

If you are applying to the University of California schools, you have until the end of this month (this Sunday, Nov. 30!). As busy seniors, some of you might have waited to write your two college application essays over Thanksgiving, when you have some days off and can catch up.

The key, however, is to not let this last minute deadline dash ruin your Thanksgiving. So yes, you are really cutting it close. If you don’t have a plan, it could hang over your head the entire holiday weekend.

To not let these essays ruin one of the best times of the year–when you are supposed to be feasting with your family, watching football games and focusing on all you have to be grateful for–take a few minutes to map out a plan. These essays don’t have to take days and days to write. If you can latch on to some strong topic ideas, and then pound out a rough draft, you could crank them out in a matter of hours. read more…

UC College Application Essay Instant Boot Camp

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

 

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

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

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

How to Describe the World You Come From

Sample College App Essay for UC Prompt 1

Brainstorm the World You Come From read more…

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

How to Write the UC Transfer Essay: Why This Major?

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.

 

CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED POST
ON NEW UC TRANSFER ESSAYS!

(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.  read more…

Don’t Let UC Deadline Ruin Your Turkey Day!

 

If you are applying to the University of California schools, you have until the end of this month. As busy seniors, some of you might have waited to write your essays over Thanksgiving, when you have some days off and can catch up. Yes, it would be better if you already had them in, but there is still time.

The key, however, is to not let this last minute deadline dash ruin your Thanksgiving. The holiday comes late this year–Nov. 27–so it’s closer to the Nov. 30th deadline than ever. So yes, you are really cutting it close. If you don’t have a plan, it could hang over your head the entire holiday weekend. read more…

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

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

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

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

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

Click logo to visit Home Page!

popular posts

Need More Help?

college application essay

As a professional writing coach, I help students, parents, counselors, teachers and others from around the world on these dreaded essays!
Learn about my in-person and online tutoring, editing, workshops, books, and online courses, ... READ MORE....

Online Course

Learn to Write Your Essay in One Hour!

Udemy

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

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

Buy Course for $99 and Start Now!

Buy Now

Find Helpful Posts!

Bestselling Writing Guide!

Bestselling Writing Guide!

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