10 Quickie Tips to Nail Your UC Essays

If you are just starting to write your four short UC essays (called Personal Insight Questions), listed below are ten simple tips that can help you crank them out.

I’ve written longer posts on the best way to brainstorm and map down answers for each of these questions for the University of California application, if you have the time and inclination. Find them here.

Too busy to read all those posts? No worries.

Start with these 10 basic suggestions to make sureyour UC essays hit the mark:

  • Content: make use of these essays to share more about your talents, accomplishments and experiences, and explain what they designed to you (eg What you discovered yourself). Pick prompts that allow you to feature what you would like to your overall application; maybe not simply ones that are easiest to answer. Say you worked as an intern in a science lab; this is your chance to explain just what you did and learned. Or which you played classical piano since age six; this is how you can go deeper and share exactly how that shaped you somehow beyond your playing ability.
  • Impact: The best trick to making your essay engaging and meaningful is to include some sort of related problem. For example, if you are authoring leadership (#1), try to find examples from your past where you tackled some form of problem in a leadership role. (Problems=challenges, mistake, obstacle, setback, conflict, phobia, flaw, obsession, change, etc.) This can perhaps work for several eight prompts.
  • Substance: Always include certain examples (moments, incidents or experiences from your daily life) to support your main points in these UC essays. If you don’t have at least one of these real-life details in each essay, it’s almost a done deal that your particular essay is far too general and certainly will lack meaning. When possible, start your essay with one of these specific examples to grab your reader from the beginning; then explain their larger meaning and go from there. (Example: If you might be talking about leadership, start with a specific ‘time’ you acted as being a leader in a group setting. Then explain just what qualities you used, your thoughts about just what leadership methods to you, and why, and everything you learned.)
  • Meaning: In the second half of any of these UC essays you can’t go wrong if you shift from explaining your answer, and supporting it with real-life examples, into explaining WHAT YOUR LEARNED about YOURSELF in the process. This is one way you can share something you did, and everything you love, or how you are, and also expand into WHAT YOUR LEARNED in the act. If you want to shift even deeper, include a sentence or two on WHY IT MATTERS to you and the world that you learned that lesson.
  • Hardship: If you have experienced any form of hardship in your lifetime, such as a major financial setback in your family due to work loss, low income, deportation, mental or physical infection, or other reasons, make certain to make use of at least one of these brilliant prompts to share that with the UCs. The best one (in fact, it’s designed for this specific purpose) is #4, at least the second half asking about an ‘educational barrier you have faced.’ You can also make use of #5 of a ‘significant challenge,’ just make sure to add second part about how it affected your academics. The UCs want to know if it has been harder for you to attain your success so far, and why. Also, if you is going to be a first-gen student (first in your family members to wait college), inform them! (You can also utilize the ‘Additional Comments’ section in the Other Academic History section to share personal obstacles to your success.)
  • Majors: once you learn just what field you want to study or major in at the UCs, it would be a good idea to make use of one of these brilliant prompts to showcase that, and include just what inspired you and exactly why you want to pursue it, and exactly how. (Colleges like to see this.) You might use almost any one of the eight UC essays to share your intended field of study or major, or even the general field that interests you at this point. Find the prompts that most naturally lets you work what you want to say into your related topic.
  • Effort: These prompts can feel overwhelming at first. Read through all eight so you obtain a sense of this different topics and options. If any one of them spark an idea of a related experience or point you need to showcase about yourself, consider writing about that one. At the same time, you can produce a set of the experiences, accomplishments, talents or whatever you want to share with the UCs, and then find the prompt that makes it easy and simple to write about them.
  • Strategy: When you select your four prompts for your UC essays, make sure the points you make, or the major experiences you share, don’t overlap. Ideally, you want these to highlight a variety of your experiences, accomplishments and talents, but also your defining qualities and values. Try to find variety and balance among the four your come up with. Verify your essays are about YOU, and YOUR experiences, and maybe not general discussions about your topic or others.
  • Style: The UCs have made a huge effort to move out your message that these short essays don’t need to be literary masterpieces. Of course, try to know the key POINT you want to make in each one so they have a focus, and support that with specific details and real-life examples. Focus on something specific, when possible, and then state the more general main point, last but not least, share what you learned. Write in a casual, familiar tone; don’t try to impress with fancy descriptive language or big words; get out a rough draft and then go back and trim under 350 words and proof it for errors. Don’t sweat these!
  • Formatting: When you copy and paste your four Personal Insight Question UC essays in to the application, it only accepts ordinary text. That means any formatting you did is going to be lost. So, for indicating paragraphs, do not indent and rather break them up with a double room. As opposed to italics (which won’t show), use quotation marks to indicate things like titles, foreign words, etc. Bolding also doesn’t show; instead use CAPS, but sparingly.

argumentative essay on racism

Extra Tip: If you wish to explain anything about your academic performance (such as dilemmas regarding your grades or performance), don’t fundamentally make use of these UC essays to explain why. Instead, you can find two places to share with you these explanations into the ‘Additional Comments’ section of the UC application: One is under ‘Other Academic History’ and the other with the ‘Personal Insight Questions.’ (Read how UC Berkeley advises applicants to utilize the Additional Comments section.)

Generally speaking, only use these two sections to spell out unusual circumstances that you didn’t address in the four Personal Insight Question essays. Examples: changes in your grade patterns; a move in high school that prevented you from taking more impressive range courses; medical or emotional dilemmas that affected your performance; financial issues (parental work loss; homelessness; low-income); immigration status issues, such as you are first generation (first in your family to wait college: MENTION THIS!) or deportation of family members; unexplained gaps in educational history, such as for example gap year or other absence. They are not essays so be direct and succinct; bullets points often work very well.

If you want more help on certain Personal Insight Questions and UC essa, have a look at these 21 methods for UC Personal Insight Questions that I composed last year if they first arrived. Most of the info and advice remains relevant and helpful.

When I happened to be invited to provide one of my college application essay writing workshops to students at Colorado Academy in Denver, Colorado, I had no idea it will be regarding the day of this big eclipse.

As Monday, August 21, neared, most of us discovered the sky would darken just about lunchtime inside my daylong workshop.

Even though I knew it will be hard to take on a full-on solar eclipse, I had been excited because Denver had been more in line with the action than my home in Southern California.

‘You’re going to function in the eclipse into your workshop, aren’t you?’ friend asked days before the trip.

‘I guess,’ I replied, agreeing the idea made perfect sense even though I wasn’t sure how to include it.

Sara Purviance, a college counselor at Colorado Academy, told me that she had bought the protective glasses for the 100 rising seniors, and they are able to go outside during the peak hour or so and eat their lunch.

Sooner or later, I discovered that watching the eclipse could be an ideal mini experience for the students to capture in the proper execution of an anecdote.

Workshop students from Colorado Academy in Denver watching the eclipse

If you know my way of how to write narrative-style college application essays, you have heard me speak about my love of anecdotes many times.

An anecdote is a fancy word for authoring a single moment or incident and recreating the essence of the ability using descriptive language techniques. The goal is to put the reader in that moment so they can see right now just what it was like.

RELATED: Understand How to Write an Anecdote

I encourage students to use anecdotes to power their essays with their own real-life experiences, using them to illustrate the more points they desire to make about themselves within their essays.

Anecdotes can be tricky to craft. The aim is to keep them super short (a paragraph or two) without much build-up and start as close towards the excitement or whatever happened as you can.

Even though they take practice to perfect, students usually grab this writing device quickly if someone teaches them just how to craft them, making use of sensory details, dialogue and emotion.

The bright, attentive students at Colorado Academy were no exception.

When they returned from their lunch break, and eclipse gazing, I gave them an assignment to recreate their experience as an anecdote.

After sharing some sample anecdotes from my best-selling college app essay writing guide, Escape Essay Hell!, so they are able to get the idea of just what they would write, I directed them by having a few simple prompts to add:

  • The Who, Just What, When, Where and Why.
  • One or more line of dialogue (quote someone), taking either what went through their head at the time or something somebody else said.
  • A sentence expressing how they felt

I provided them about 15 minutes to publish, and asked them to share. Three brave students read what they wrote. (See two of these anecdotes at end of this post.)

As usual, I was impressed with what that they had to state, and how they said it.

After the workshop, it dawned on me that I forgot to share with those students one important point:

Never select the eclipse as your topic ( for a personal statement type of essay, such while the Common Application)!!!

The eclipse as a college application essay topic is full of common topic pitfalls.

RELATED: How to discover a Great Topic for Your College Application Essay

Even though it was a unique and a rare natural sensation, ‘the time’ you experienced the eclipse most likely was not the most readily useful experience you could share in your essay to illustrate something meaningful about yourself.

Even when you can write about momentous or special experiences in your essay, the greater amount of everyday or ordinary (mundane) moments or incidents typically make better anecdotes.

I might also guess that students who elect to write about the eclipse will end up writing more about the science of the ability than just what they experienced and learned as a result.

The most readily useful college application essays are those which are not scholastic or formal in content or style, and instead share personal experiences they are able to use showing how they learned, changed and grew.

Also, anecdotes, which are really mini-stories, need something to happen. Even though something ‘happened’ with the eclipse (the moon went in front of the sun also it got dark at the center of the afternoon), you need something more personal.

For an effective anecdote, something required happened to you. That’s just what makes the ability personal and meaningful, which is your goal.

The takeaway?

When brainstorming topic ideas for your essays, you should not find impressive or momentous events to publish a great college application essay.

RELATED: Mundane Topics Work Best

Authoring earning your Eagle Scout badge, or the time you threw an absolute pass to win the state football championship, or leading a Model U.N. session, often end up on the dull side.

You can still feature achievements and life-changing moments in your essays, just make sure the essay is mostly about YOU and not soleley those standout experiences.

One last reason to stay free from the eclipse as your college application essay topic: there exists a good possibility a lot of other students watched that eclipse and will write about it.

I can hear the faculty admissions folks rolling their eyes and groaning, ‘Another eclipse essay.’

You’ve probably heard about cliché college application essays, and that’s because so many students have had similar experiences and composed about them. Examples: mission trips, tutoring special needs young ones, recreations injuries….watching the eclipse.

It is not impossible to write a standout essay about the eclipse, but you can find thousands of other topics that may serve you lot better.

Here are two anecdotes that College Academy students crafted in just about 10 to 15 mins.

First anecdote:

The light is slightly dimmer, only noticeable by an expecting eye. Quite contrary to the prior visions of this event I had in my head. Dissatisfaction fills the air in murmurs as my high school class munches on their Domino’s Pizza. ‘That was it?’ is being repeated by different mouths through the entire courtyard. I didn’t think it was that bad. Seeing the sun very nearly entirely covered by the moon is just a sight I am not going to forget too soon. The black as night atmosphere had not been achieved like I had been expecting, but it will still be an account I can tell my kids.

Second anecdote:

I stood outside of my high school, staring up at the sky, wearing glasses that blackened the sky aside from the wonderful and rarely seen solar eclipse. Every person around me had been wearing the same glasses, but while the moon got closer and closer to covering the sun, more people lost interested and started initially to speak to friends rather. ‘ Don’t you desire some food, Jack?’ My friend Mags asked. ‘I’m not really hungry right now. Besides, i would ike to experience this beautiful moment in nature instead The black silhouette slowly inched closer over the bright radiant orb of gas. It had finally reached it’s peaked so I decided it absolutely was time to get food. I looked down, took off my glasses and saw that everything around me seemed darker and colder. It absolutely was very surreal and I felt unstable but also very in tuned. I also saw that I was the last person out of 100 students that was still using their glasses. I felt a kind of pride to be able to recognize and appreciate this beautiful event. I happened to be able to stand in one single spot, look up at the sky, and appreciate the thing that was going on in front of me without missing out on a great conversation with my friends whom I hadn’t seen all summer. The impression had been sensational.

See how awesome these are?

If these students could write these in such a short time, I am aware you can find your real-life stories and tell them as anecdotes to power your own essays.

Copyright © 2018 Sundarganj Pourasava. All rights reserved.