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Writing the UC Essays

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The University of California is one of the most esteemed state university systems in the United States. It has nine colleges focused on undergraduate and graduate education. These nine main campuses are

  • UC Berkeley,
  • UC Los Angeles,
  • UC Davis,
  • UC San Diego,
  • UC Santa Barbara,
  • UC Irvine,
  • UC Merced,
  • UC Santa Cruz,
  • UC Riverside.

All nine universities use one application, making it simultaneously easier to apply to various UCs. The application requires you to answer four questions (350-word limit) out of the eight personal insight questions.

Imagine UC was a person. If we met face-to-face, what would you want us to know about you? These personal insight questions allow you to tell us. You could write about your creative side. Your thoughts on leadership. A challenge you’ve faced. Whatever questions you answer, make sure you show us your personality—just as you would in real life. *


You should decide which of the four prompts you plan on answering. The eight prompts are:

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. *

Being in a leadership role can mean you act as a mentor, the person in charge of a particular task, or the lead in curating a project or event. Talk about your responsibilities and what you learned from the experience.

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. *

Talk about what creativity means to you and do you have any creative skills. How do you use your creative knowledge and solve significant problems? Creativity is a broad aspect; it allows you to display your academic life and your personal life.

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? *

The key way to write a convincing essay about a specific skill is to use that skill to explore ambitions, personality, motivations, and values. Why is this particular skill or talent meaningful to you? Did you work towards developing this talent or skill? Did you use your talent or skill to solve a problem?

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

The University of California wants to look at an educational opportunity that has added value to your academic experience. Did you participate in an honors program or have an informative conversation with a teacher or a professor? Did you enroll in any academy that focused on a major or occupation? Talk about how you dealt with any educational barrier and how it influenced you.

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? *

The admission committee at the University of California wants to know about any challenges you faced in school or your community. This is a great way to talk about your obstacles, how you handled them, and what you learned from the experience.

6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. *

Students are generally inclined to one particular subject; what have you done to further that interest? Talk about how you developed this interest and narrate any experience you had outside or inside the classroom. For instance, did you work as a volunteer, join clubs and/or organizations, participate in a summer program, or intern somewhere? What did you gain from such involvement?

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

Talk about your role in your high school or community. Did you find a problem you wanted to fix? If so, how did you solve it? What did you learn from your experience, and how did you influence others? Did you get help or work alone towards the betterment of the community or school?

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California? *

This is an excellent opportunity to describe anything you want that has not been answered in any questions for the admissions committee to know about you. You can share something that highlights a talent, opportunity, challenge, or skill that you think will help your application.


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