University of California Essay Prompts 5+6: Tips, Tricks, and Ideas

Welcome back for another edition of UC app essays. Today, we go through essay prompts 5&6. Let’s get to it! 

Prompt 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?

The word “challenge” is extremely broad in scope and could range from financial hardships to familial circumstances to personal illness to learning disabilities. This prompt asks you to connect this obstacle with your academic situation, so it should have had an impact on your performance in school.

“Academic achievement” stretches far beyond grades on exams. It could mean your intellectual goals or your struggle to balance homework with your part-time job, and perhaps the strain in your relationships with peers and teachers due to such time constraints. As a result, think of the challenge first before deliberating whether it could be linked to something academic-related.

Make sure to talk about what you learned from the challenge, detailing growth and maturity along the way. You may not have risen above the challenge yet, and may have even been defeated, or may be conquering it right now. In all cases, development must exist, so be sure to document them. What has become different because of this challenge? Examples here can be difficult and require you to be vulnerable. This is good for students who aren’t shy of sharing. Its fine if you cant share, just choose one of the other prompts! 

Prompt 6 

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

First, reflect on an academic subject that makes you happy to study. What have you done in and/or outside of the classroom to learn more about it? Did you watch Too Big to Fail and brought it as discussion material to your economics teacher’s office hours? How do you plan to advance in your chosen subject if you do not intend to major in it? If you could create a college class that looked and sounded like your chosen subject, what would the class be called? What would the curriculum be like?

Remember to include concrete accomplishments such as research, internship, volunteer experience, homemade project that you pitched to the school board, etc. Do not forget to explain how your love for the subject drives the work you do, because the why can easily get lost in describing the what. 

Here are some examples: 

• You continued to develop apps and games even after you took computer science in class 9. Eventually, you became good enough to land a summer internship at a recently funded startup due to your self-taught knowledge of various programming languages.

• Sociology as subject fascinated you in class 11. You read a research paper about public health policy written by a researcher in your city.  Eventually, you mustered up the courage to email the author of the paper who agreed to let you assist his research for the next few months. 

We hope this helps! UC deadlines are November 30th. Come chat with us if you have more questions!