Skip Nav

21 Tips for UC Personal Insight Questions and Essays

What Are the UC Personal Insight Questions?

❶Unless you were hired to paint the overpasses. Check out these recommended successful UC applications!

Freshman: Personal insight questions

Admission essay writing tailored especially to your needs
Choose Your Test
Want to order a law school admissions essay?

Leadership experience Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. Creative expression Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: Describe how you express your creative side. Check out these recommended successful UC applications!

Talent or special skill What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? Overcoming educational barrier Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. Overcoming significant challenge Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. Academic inspiration Think about an academic subject that inspires you.

Want to go to the UCs? Unlock this package to read more! Bettering the community What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? What makes you special? Browse Successful Application Files. Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major, with a hobby in firearms and the shooting sports and a strong passion for creative writing.

I am a gay Vietnamese guy attending UC Berkeley this fall with a major in Economics and minor in film. New Posts Freshman Year: Want free admissions essay tips and insights? Want to learn more? See how it works. Already have an account? What colleges are you interested in? High School Graduation Year. Have an Invite Code? You will receive instructions on how to reset your password. Email has been sent to. The first part of the question really comes down to this: Have you done an outstanding thing?

Do you have a mindblowing ability? Describe a place, a time, or a situation in which you were a star. A contribution could be anything from physically helping put something together, to providing moral or emotional support at a critical moment. The second part of the last essay asked you to look to the future.

The second part of this essay wants you to look at the present instead. The general task is similar, however. In other words, this is probably not the time to write about getting arrested for vandalism, unless you can spin that experience into a story about how you been on the straight and narrow path ever since.

Admissions officers have a very straightforward interest in learning about your accomplishments. They want to know what makes you proud of yourself. It is something that relates to performance, to overcoming a difficult obstacle, to keeping a cool head in a crisis, to your ability to help others in need? At the same time, they are looking for a sense of maturity. This is your chance to show that you truly get the qualities and experiences that make you into a responsible and grown-up person, someone who will thrive in the independence of college life.

Unless you were hired to paint the overpasses. Then definitely brag about it. The trick with this prompt is how to show a lot about yourself without listing accomplishments or devolving into cliche platitudes. Make sure that somewhere in your narrative preferably closer to the beginning you let the reader know what makes your achievement an achievement.

Keep in mind that for some things the explanation might be obvious. For example, do you really need to explain why finishing a marathon is a hard task? The first question asked for a description, but this one wants a story — a narrative of how you do your special talent, or how you accomplished the thing you were so great at.

The main thing about stories is that they have to have:. An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today? Cue the swelling music, because this essay is going to be all about your inspirational journey.

You will either tell your story of overcoming adversity against all or some odds, or of pursuing the chance of a lifetime. A description of the setback that befell you: The prompt wants to know what you consider a challenge in your school life - and definitely note that this challenge should have in some significant way impacted your academics rather than your life overall.

The challenge can be a wide-reaching problem in your educational environment or something that happened specifically to you. An explanation of your success: How are you defined by this thing that happened?

You could discuss the emotional fallout of having dramatically succeeded, or how your maturity level, concrete skills, or understanding of the situation has increased, now that you have dealt with it personally. Or, you could talk about any beliefs or personal philosophy that you have had to reevaluate as a result of either the challenge itself, or of the way that you had to go about solving it.

A short, clear description of exactly what you got the chance to do: Also explain why you specifically got the chance to do it.

Was it the culmination of years of study? An academic contest prize? An unexpected encounter that led to you seizing an unlooked-for opportunity? How you made the best of it: Were you very challenged by this opportunity? Did your skills develop? How does this impact your future academic ambitions or interests? Will you study this area further?

Does this help you find your academic focus? Of course, whatever you write about in this essay is probably already reflected on your resume or in your transcript in some small way. Instead, you will be responsible for seizing whatever chances will further your studies, interests, or skills.

Conversely, college will necessarily be more challenging, harder, and potentially much more full of academic obstacles than your academic experiences so far. UC wants to see that you are up to handling whatever setbacks may come your way with aplomb rather than panic.

Not every challenge is automatically obvious. Sure, everyone can understand the drawbacks of having to miss a significant amount of school due to illness, but what if the obstacle you tackled is something a little more obscure? Likewise, winning the chance travel to Italy to paint landscapes with a master is clearly rare and amazing, but some opportunities are more specialized and less obviously impressive.

Make sure your essay explains everything the reader will need to know to understand what you were facing. An essay describing problems can easily slip into finger-pointing and self-pity. Make sure to avoid this by speaking positively or at least neutrally about what was wrong and what you faced.

This goes double if you decide to explain who or what was at fault for creating this problem. Likewise, an essay describing amazing opportunities can quickly become an exercise in unpleasant bragging and self-centeredness. Make sure you stay grounded - rather than dwelling at length on your accomplishments, describe the specifics of what you learned and how. A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school.

Why was the challenge significant to you? Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone? The first part of this essay is about problem-solving. The prompt asks you to point at something that could have derailed you, if not for your strength and skill. The second part of Topic B asks you to consider how this challenge has echoed through your life - and more specifically, how your education has been affected by what happened to you.

And colleges want to make sure that you can handle these upsetting events without losing your overall sense of self, without being totally demoralized, and without getting completely overwhelmed.

In other words, they are looking for someone who is mature enough to do well on a college campus, where disappointing results and hard challenges will be par for the course. They are also looking for your creativity and problem-solving skills. Are you good at tackling something that needs to be fixed? Can you keep a cool head in a crisis? Do you look for solutions outside the box? Even more than knowing that you were able to fix the problem, colleges want to see how you approached the situation.

This is why your essay needs to explain your problem-solving methodology. Basically, we need to see you in action. What did you think would work? What did you think would not work? Did you compare this to other problems you have faced and pass?

Did you do research? This essay is supposed to demonstrate your resourcefulness and creativity. The last thing you want is for you to not actually be the person responsible for overcoming the obstacle. Make sure that your story is clear that without you and your special brand of XYZ, people would still be lamenting the issue today.

Just focus on explaining what made you think of this person as the one to go to, how you convinced them to participate, and how you explained to them how they would be helpful. This will shift the attention of the story back to you and your doings.

The most exciting part of this essay should be watching you struggle to find a solution just in the nick of time. You want to do the same thing here. Bring excitement and a feeling of uncertainty to your description of your process to really pull the reader in and make them root for you to succeed.

If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject honors, AP, IB, college or university work? Are you inspired to pursue this subject further at UC, and how might you do that? For some students, this will be an extremely straightforward question. You can just pick a few of the most gripping moments from these experiences and discuss the overall trajectory of your interests, and your essay will be a winner.

But what if you have many academic interests? Or what if you only discovered your academic passion at the very end of high school? At first glance, it sounds as if what you should write about is the class where you have gotten the best grades, or the class that easily fits into what you see as your future college major or maybe even your eventual career goal.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of pick—especially if you really are someone who tends to excel in those classes that are right up your interest alley. But if we look closer, we see that there is nothing in the prompt that specifically demands that you write either about a particular class or an area of study where you perform well.

For example, if your chosen topic is the field of literature, you could discuss your experiences with different genres or with foreign writers. You could also write about a course or area of study that has significantly challenged you, and where you have not been as stellar a student as you want.

The second part of this prompt, like the first, can also be taken in a literal and direct way. On the other hand, you could focus on the more abstract, values-driven goals we just talked about. Then, the way you explain how your academics will help you can be rooted not in the content of what you studied, but in the life lessons you drew from it. In other words, for example, your theater class may not have created a desire to be an actor, but working on plays with your peers may have shown you how highly you value collaboration.

And the experience of designing sets was an exercise in problem-solving and ingenuity. These lessons would be useful in any field you pursue and could easily be said to help you achieve your lifetime goals. If you are on a direct path to a specific field of study or career pursuit, admissions officers definitely want to know that. Having driven, goal oriented, and passionate students is a huge plus for a university.

But of course, more traditionally, college is the place to find yourself and the things that you become passionate about. Instead, you have to realize that in this essay, like in all the other essays, the how matters much more than the what. No matter where your eventual academic, career, or other pursuits may lie, every class that you have taken up to now has taught you something.

You learned about things like work ethic, mastering a skill, practice, learning from a teacher, interacting with peers, dealing with setbacks, understanding your own learning style, and perseverance.

In other words, the admissions office wants to make sure that no matter what you study you will draw meaningful conclusions from your experiences, whether those conclusions are about the content of what you learn or about a deeper understanding of yourself and others. Focus on a telling detail. Instead, pick one event that crystallized your passion for a subject, or one telling moment that revealed what your working style will be, and go deep into a discussion of what it meant to you in the past and how it will affect your future.

At the same time, make sure that you have actual accomplishments to describe in whatever subject you pick to write about. If your favorite class turned out to be the one you mostly skipped to hang out in the gym instead, this may not be the place to share that lifetime goal.

After all, you always have to remember your audience. 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? This topic is trying to get at how you engage with your environment. What or who constitutes your community? Is your connection to a place, to a group of people, or to an organization?

What makes you identify as part of this community - cultural background, a sense of shared purpose, or some other quality? Before you can solve a problem, you have to realize that the problem exists.

Before you can make your community a better place, you have to find the things that can be ameliorated. No matter what your contribution ended up being, you first have to show how you saw where your skills, talent, intelligence, or hard work could do the most good. Did you put yourself in the shoes of the other people in your community? Understand some fundamental inner working of a system you could fix?

Knowingly put yourself in the right place at the right time? How did you make the difference in your community? If you resolved a tangible issue, how did you come up with your solution? Did you examine several options or act from the gut? If you made your community better in a less direct way, how did you know where to apply yourself and how to have the most impact possible? Community is a very important thing to colleges.

UC wants to make sure that you can engage with the communities around you in a positive and meaningful way. Before you can explain what you did in your community, you have to define and describe this community itself - and you can necessarily only do that by focusing on what it means to you. Feel all the feelings. This is a chance to move your readers. As you delve deep into what makes your community one of your emotional centers, and then as you describe how you were able to improve it in a meaningful and lasting way, you should keep the roller coaster of feelings front and center.

Own how you felt at each step of the process: Did you feel unprepared for the task you undertook? Nervous to potentially let down those around? Thrilled to get a chance to display a hidden or underused talent? 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? From your point of view, what do you feel makes you an excellent choice for UC? But, honestly, I think you should only choose this topic if you have an exceptional experience to share, and that any everyday challenges or successes of regular life could easily fit one of the other insight questions instead.

What this means is that evaluating whether your experiences qualify for this essay is a matter of degrees. For example, did you manage to thrive academically despite being raised by a hard-working single parent? Did you manage to earn a 3. On the flip side, did you win a state-wide robotics competition? Well done, and feel free to tell your story under Question 4.

Were you the youngest person to single-handedly win a season of BattleBots? Then feel free to write about it for Question 8. This is pretty straightforward. They are trying to identify students that have unique and amazing stories to tell about who they are and where they come from. There are many experiences in all of our lives that make us feel elated, accomplished, and extremely competent, that are also near-universal. Wondering whether what you went through counts?

This might be a good time to run your idea by a parent, school counselor, or trusted teacher. Do they think your experience is widespread? Or do they agree that you truly lived a life less ordinary? The vast majority of your answer to the prompt should be telling your story and its impact on you and your life. But the essay should also point toward how your particular experiences set you apart from your peers. One of the reasons that the admissions office wants to find out which of the applicants has been through something unlike most other people is that they are hoping to increase the number of points of view in the student body.

Think about, and include in your essay, how you will impact campus life. This can be very literal—if you are a jazz singer who has released several acclaimed albums, then maybe you will perform on campus. Or it can be much more oblique—if you are disabled, then you will be able to offer a perspective that differs from the able-bodied majority.

Nothing will make your voice sound more appealing than writing without embellishment or verbal flourishes. So the best strategy is to be as straightforward in your writing as possible. You can do this by picking a specific moment during your accomplishment to narrate as a small short story, and not shying away from explaining your emotions throughout the experience.

Your goal is to make the extraordinary into something at least somewhat relatable — and the way you do that is by making your writing down to earth. No matter what personal insight questions you end up choosing to write about, here are two tips for making your writing sparkle:. If you stick to giving examples that paint a picture, your focus will also become narrower and more specific.

Which of these do you think gives the reader a better sense of place?

Personal insight questions

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Applying to University of California? We explain how to attack the UC personal statements, with strategies on writing great essays for all 8 prompts. Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar. Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the.

Privacy FAQs

UC University of California. The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations.

About Our Ads

UC Application Essay Prompts March 15, uc school system; essay topic; what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California? Applying to college? View the app files and essays of accepted students. LEARN MORE. UC Personal Statement #1: Tips for writing an essay on prompt #1, describe the world you come from and how your world has shaped your dreams. UC Personal Statement Prompt #1 Tips for Writing Your Response to the University of California Essay Prompt #1. Note: The article below is for the pre University of California application.

Cookie Info

For the purpose of your Cincinnati application, writing ability is demonstrated in both The Common Application essay and University of Cincinnati personal statement. Many high school seniors dream about getting accepted to the college of their choice, and the best decision one can make is to get a professionally written college application essay. Help with college application essay may play a key role in the chances of the candidate to be accepted. Don't ruin yours with a poorly written application essay!