Tips on UC Application Essay Prompts (Part I)

Also in: 简中 (Simplified Chinese) 繁中 (Traditional Chinese)

The University of California has 9 campuses that offer undergraduate admissions. For those who plan to apply to any of the 9 schools, you would only need to fill out the UC Application once and check the corresponding campus boxes at the end. Recently, UC has changed its essay prompts, now asking applicants to submit four 350-word essays as opposed to its previous two (1000 words total). Let’s dive into these prompts and look at the crucial points you must touch on and elaborate before submitting your final draft.


The UC Essay Prompts
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.  

Keywords: “an” leadership experience; influenced others; group efforts; over time
Approach: An means one. One leadership experience is enough so don’t throw in every role you’ve held throughout high school. Plus, the point here is to tell us how you influenced others and turn your contribution into group efforts. Don’t tell us you’re a responsible treasurer of Model UN, but let us know what exactly have you done to make your organization better. Also notice how it says “over time,” so tell us your journey rather than a handful of events.


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.  

Keywords: creative; “how” you express
Approach: When it comes to describing you creative side, make sure you provide concrete evidence or examples or your essay would become very dull. Even in the prompt it mentions “how” you express it, meaning you must include specific events. Say your creative side is best expressed in music, then don’t just say that—explain! What instrument(s) do you play? Do you compose your own materials? Do you perform every song differently? How do you make familiar pieces into something different and fascinating? Focus on the “how” and use concrete evidence.

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

Keywords: talent/skill; developed; demonstrated; over time
Approach: First define whether it’s a talent or a skill, and then go on to talk about development. Like Prompt 1, the readers are interested in how you developed this talent/skill over a period of time, so do not focus on one particular instance or event. Who introduced it to you? What was the process like? How did you develop/demonstrate it before compared to now? You may want to include some achievements but avoid bragging! We want to hear the progress you make along the way, so tell a compelling story.


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

Keywords: education opportunity/education barrier
Approach: Whichever you end up talking about, be sure to address why it’s education-related. Keep in mind that education is not just learning in classrooms or finishing projects for a class, but rather anything related to knowledge, learning, and curiosity. Was it you learning something from a teacher or mentor? Or was it you teaching to a group of students as an instructor? What were the obstacles you had to overcome? What was the most challenging part throughout this experience? The most stressful encounter? Be sure to explain the details to your readers.


(To be continued)

Also in: 简中 (Simplified Chinese) 繁中 (Traditional Chinese)

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