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.
And think hard about how they affected you so you don’t repeat the same old stuff everyone else usually says. (“I love to help people.” or “I found it very rewarding.”)
Your volunteering experience doesn’t need to be impressive or unique. Many students work on similar projects, such as helping build houses or churches for the needy, tutoring special needs kids, working with seniors, etc. And the UC knows that.
Make sure to probe a little deeper into what you noticed as you helped out your community, school, town or home. Share what you thought, look for specific incidents or moments, and recall those observations or realizations that you didn’t expect.
Describe something specific that happened during that mission trip, trash pickup or fundraiser instead of describing what you did there in general terms.
That will make what you have to say more interesting and original.
I believe you need to give your essay a focus on something specific within that larger volunteering experience to make it meaningful and effective.
Here’s a sample outline that can help you give your topic interest and focus so you avoid the usual pitfalls of writing about volunteer experiences:
Sample Outline for UC Essay Prompt 7
- Start by describing “a time” something happened while you were working on some type of improvement activity. Include a problem that you faced to give it interest. Then background the larger project or experience, and what led up to it, why you decided to participate and how you felt about it. (A paragraph or two)
- Explain how you handled the problem related to that volunteer experience, what you thought about it and what you learned in the process. End with how you intend to apply this lesson in future goals.
The UC admissions included additional suggestions to help you brainstorm for this essay:
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?
The UC also shared this in the Personal Insight Question Freshman Guide to help you with UC essay prompt 7:
Did you contribute to a positive change at your school or in your community? What steps have you taken to accomplish this? Remember, even small changes can have a big impact. Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort?
I made a short presentation to help student learn How to Write Short Essays, such as these UC essays that need to have fewer than 350 words each.
Hi I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to write about a time I raised awareness for the refugee crisis by writing about how I did that and its impact on me.
Hi, that’s sounds like an excellent topic for this prompt! JR
I want to write about creating a more accepting environment in school through my club, but I have already mentioned the club earlier on in the application. Would it be hurtful to bring it up again in the personal statement? I would be writing about a specific event in my statement, if that makes a difference. Thanks!
No because mentioning the program again will be your chance to got more in depth and in detail about it.
Hello! I wanted to ask if I can use my experiences registering qualified students with members of Political Activist Club at my own school to write about how I moved from an active task of assisting students to the tedious work of marking which students were done registering, absent, or need to redo their forms and explain what I learned from changing roles.
Yes, that sounds like excellent fodder for this essay! Try to think of some “time” something happened with that work and share how you dealt with it and what you learned. That way it won’t be boring to read about. The key is to find one (or a couple) of your “experiences” to write about that you can use to SHOW the reader what you did and learned. Good luck! JR
I haven’t done any such things. I can’t even lie. So what I do?
Of course, don’t lie. If you don’t have volunteer experiencse, just pick one of the other prompts to answer. Remember, you only have to write about 4 of the 8. Pick the ones that allow you to share experiences and achievements and ideas that you want the UCs to know about you. Best of luck, Janine
Hi, I volunteer at a hospital and wrote about how my encounter with a woman who had cancer was an eye opening experience as there isn’t really a problem that I’ve had while volunteering. I was wondering if writing about that was ok? I used your guideline as reference, but I don’t know how to incorporate how my actions benefited others or emphasize my role in the community since I’m talking about an encounter rather than my volunteering as a whole. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
Hi, I’m a little confused about the community at home part. For example what if you help your parents with something important, could that count as making your community a better place.
Hi! I’m having a little trouble formulating exactly what I want to say for this prompt. I want to talk about creating my school’s first speech and debate team, how it grew from 3 members to 30, and how I convinced my administration to make it a course offered at my school instead of just a club. I really want to get across the point that I helped to positively impact the lives of not just the people on the team, but because it’s a class it’ll continue to affect students 10-20 years after I’ve left. I just don’t know how to really express that whilst staying true to the idea of keeping it specific instead of generalizing everything and making it boring.
Hi I volunteered at a hospital and wanna include it for prompt 7 but not so sure what to talk about since I wanna make it sound interesting and not something they have read before
Hello, I do an internship at a hospital, and I was wondering could I talk about how my volunteer work impacts the nurses and doctors? Or should I talk about how I help other people in my community?
Hello, although I plan on going into econ, I want to talk about how I am a campaign manager for my former English teacher, in our local election for school board. Does this sound like a good thing to talk about? (I heard not many students have been campaign managers). Thank you!
Sounds good! I haven’t heard of that either. I bet you learned some invaluable real-world skills!
Sounds great! I haven’t heard of anyone writing about that. I bet you learned some wonderful real-world skills!