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.