Tips on UC Application Essay Prompts (Part II)

Previously, we looked at 4 of the 8 UC essay prompts and discussed how you may go about writing them. For those who plan to apply to any of the 9 UC campuses, we will move on to the next 4 prompts and provide a general direction for you to follow as you compose your first draft.

Recap—Prompts 1 to 4

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.

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.

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

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

Prompts 5 to 8

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?

Keywords: steps you’ve taken; academic achievement

Approach: I didn’t include “challenge” in keywords because the challenge itself should only be the starter. First of all, your readers are more curious about what happened after the challenge and the lessons you’ve learned when overcoming this challenge. Be specific and let us know your actions. In addition, we want to know how this setback affected your academic achievement. This can be interesting. Does it help you look at questions differently? Read differently? Does it change your approach to a problem? A science project? Or the way you divide work among a group? Let us know!

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

Keywords: “an” academic subject; inside/outside of the classroom.

Approach: Again, an means one. Tell us that one subject that inspires you. This prompt is included also because the UC wants to learn more about your academic interests and perhaps what you plan to study later. Show your passion in the field and tell us something most high schoolers wouldn’t necessarily know. If possible, tell us the story between you and this particular subject. Who inspired you? What have you learned inside and outside of the classroom? Were you capable of implementing what you learned? In what way?

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

Keywords: community; better

Approach: Simple, the emphasis is on making your community better. The key here is to start from your value—what matters to you? What do you think is the most important when building a healthy community? Is it education? Human rights? Sustainability? Let the readers know what you care about first. Next, you can either explain your approach or use examples from your past experience. After all, we want to know what have you done, not what you will do. However, it’s okay to include your future plan as well, just keep in mind it shouldn’t be the main focus.

8. 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?

Keywords: “additional information”

Approach: This is technically the “additional information” section if you couldn’t find a fourth prompt that matches your topic in in mind. Present yourself and your qualities in a way that makes you a strong candidate. The UC is one of the most popular schools in the world, with UCLA already received more than 100,000 applications in 2017. In order to stand out, tell the admissions officers something they wouldn’t find in other applicants, and don’t repeat something already mentioned in your application. Good luck!

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