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.

I also wrote 21 Tips for the UC Personal Insight Questions that you might find helpful with these new UC essays.

While working with a group of private college admissions consultants from the San Diego area recently, one of them had another great idea on how students could approach picking their four topics from the prompts.


new uc essays


Jackie Wooley of Summit College Counseling (who is now a trained Jumpstart Essay Expert) suggested that students first think of the different activities, achievements, personal qualities, core values, etc. that they wanted to feature in their college application (beyond what information would be included without the essays), and then go through the eight Personal Insight Questions and find the ones that would help them develop and showcase these in more depth.

I thought that was an excellent way to use these four shorter essays to enhance and deepen your entire application, and make sure to show the UC a complete, balanced and personal snapshot of yourself.

The UC will learn a lot about you from seeing your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and list of specific accolades and achievements.

But these essays are your chance to personalize parts of yourself and background that could give them an even sharper and unique understanding of what sets you apart from other students.

You also can simply start by reading through the 8 Personal Insight Questions and see which ones appeal to you and spark ideas on what to write about.

Just make sure that the four you pick do not overlap in the points you make about yourself, and take advantage of this opportunity to highlight parts of yourself through four different lens.


Strategies for the New UC Essays:

Here are my ideas and tips on ways you could think about the 8 essay prompts to get started. Click on the prompt and it will link to an entire post on that 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.
  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. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

You also might find my tutorial How to Write a Short Essay helpful, since each of these essays needs to be less than 350 words each.

Good luck!