University of California Essay Prompts 1+2: Tips, Tricks, and Ideas

The University of California (UC) school system is the most prestigious state university system in the United States, and includes nine undergraduate universities: UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Merced, and UC Irvine. Six of these campuses ranked in the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 college ranking, most notably Berkeley at 20 and UCLA at 24. Total enrollment at University of California schools sits above 250,000, with each campus having around 25,000 undergraduate students.  

University of California schools have their own application portal, and the deadline is November 30th, a full month before the Common Application is due. Every school is included in this application, so it is easy to apply to multiple UCs, finances permitting. The application requires you to answer four of the eight personal insight questions, with a 350-word limit on each prompt. The prompts may seem a lot but with some organization and thought, they can be easily cracked. Here at Edbrand, we are happy to help! To start, just remember:

  1. Do not rush into prompts at first glance. Make sure that you have jotted down potential ideas for all but the ones you want to avoid, and ultimately write about the one with the most substance.
  2. Your answers should be able to highlight what is most important to you.

Prompt 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

Here, the admissions officers want to see your leadership experience as more concrete than a “president” or “treasurer” title on your resume. They are looking for how you have fostered mentorship, creative tension, and group action in your organizationLeadership roles are not limited to titled positions or to the school environment.

For example, just because you were only a member in the chess club does not mean you cannot have taken leadership in organizing a tournament or fundraiser. If you have indeed occupied a leadership role, convince the admissions officers that you have used the position to positively influence others. 

Prompt 2 

By defining creativity as, but not limited to, problem-solving, novel thinking, and artistic expression, this prompt expands creativity to encompass all academic fields. Therefore, do not be put off by this prompt if you are not in a traditionally “creative” role (i.e., artist or poet). The prompt’s emphasis on problem-solving allows you to draw narratives from (seemingly) mundane everyday tasks such as creating a contraption to massage your tennis elbow.

Here are some examples:

• In math, devising a non-textbook method to proving theorems

• In politics, integrating new quantitative methods in technology to gauge voter proclivities

• In English, scouting for “locations of inspiration” to write your next short story

• In history, writing a journal piece detailing a unique way to view Hitler’s invasion of Poland

• In science, finding ways to offer affordable care to HIV patients

All these examples, if explained well, demonstrate creativity. Ideally, you would want to finish your essay by detailing how you will apply such creative thinking in college and beyond.

This concludes our UC essay series! We hope that this helped! College essays can be challenging especially when deadlines are November 30th. Come chat with us if you have more questions!