University Of California Application Essays

Are you considering applying to one of the UC schools? UC schools are known for being one of the best state school systems available, regardless if you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. To apply, here are the UC essay prompts you can expect. 

Students choose 4 out of the 8 total UC essay prompts and respond with 350-word answers. The prompts were updated as recently as last year, so we can anticipate no change for the 2017-2018 application season. UPDATE: No major changes to the essay prompts this year! Just more details in essay prompt 6 & 8.

Here are the UC Essay Prompts for 2017-2018:

  1. 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.
  1. Creative expression

    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.
  1. Talent or special skill

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

  2. Overcoming educational barrier

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

  3. Overcoming significant challenge

    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?

  4. Academic inspiration

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

  1. Bettering the community

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

  2. What makes you special?

    Beyond what has already been shared in your application, 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

Are you planning to apply to University of California schools? Or you must just be starting the process of building your college list. Make sure to search through profiles of students accepted. Read full essays, stats, and student advice. See how our students got in, and how you can too!

About The Author

Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.




Personal Insight Questions

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

Think of it as your interview with the Admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.

Learn more about Personal Insight questions in the video below:

  • Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words. 
  • Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you, but you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.

Freshman Personal Insight Questions (link is external)

  • You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions. 

Transfer Personal Insight Questions (link is external)

  • There is one required question you must answer. 
  • You must also answer 3 out of 7 additional questions.

As a vital part of your application, the personal insight questions—short-answer questions you will choose from—are reviewed by both the Admissions and Scholarship offices.

At Berkeley we use personal insight questions to:

  • Discover and evaluate distinctions among applicants whose academic records are often very similar
  • Gain insight into your level of academic, personal and extracurricular achievement
  • Provide us with information that may not be evident in other parts of the application

What we look for:

  • Initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service to others, special potential and substantial experience with other cultures
  • All achievement in light of the opportunities available to you
  • Any unusual circumstances or hardships you have faced and the ways in which you have overcome or responded to them. Having a hardship is no guarantee of admission. If you choose to write about difficulties you have experienced, you should describe:
    • How you confronted and overcame your challenges, rather than describing a hardship just for the sake of including it in your application
    • What you learned from or achieved in spite of these circumstances

Academic achievement

For freshman applicants:

  • Academic accomplishments, beyond those shown in your transcript

For transfer students:

  • Include interest in your intended major, explain the way in which your academic interests developed, and describe any related work or volunteer experience.
  • Explain your reason for transferring if you are applying from a four-year institution or a community college outside of California. For example, you may substantiate your choice of a particular major or your interest in studying with certain faculty on our campus.

How to answer your personal insight questions

  • Thoughtfully describe not only what you’ve done, but also the choices you have made and what you have gained as a result.
  • Allow sufficient time for preparation, revisions, and careful composition. Your answers are not evaluated on correct grammar, spelling, or sentence structure, but these qualities will enhance overall presentation and readability.

If you are applying...

  • to a professional college (such as the College of Engineering or Chemistry), it is important that you discuss:
    • Your intended field of study
    • Your interest in your specific major
    • Any school or work-related experience
  • for a scholarship, we recommend that you elaborate on the academic and extracurricular information in the application that demonstrates your motivation, achievement, leadership, and commitmen (link is external)t.
  • to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)—the support program for students from low-income families in which neither parent is a college graduate:
    • Discuss how the program might benefit you
    • Tell us about your determination to succeed even though you may have lacked academic or financial support

Keep in mind

You can use the Additional Comments box to convey any information that will help us understand the context of your achievement; to list any additional honors awards, activities, leadership elements, volunteer activities, etc.; to share information regarding a nontraditional school environment or unusual circumstances that has not been included in any other area of the application. And, finally, after we read your personal insight questions, we will ask the question, “What do we know about this individual?” If we have learned very little about you, your answers were not successful.

​Learn more

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