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Real application examples and insights from students like you who carved their own path.

What Are the UC Personal Insight Questions?

❶Admissions officers have a very straightforward interest in learning about your accomplishments.

Freshman: Personal insight questions

Application Essays
Personal insight questions
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Think of the way movies ratchet up the tension of the impending catastrophe before the hero swoops in and saves the day. Keeping an audience on tenterhooks is important—and makes the hero look awesome for the inevitable job well done. Similarly, in your essay the reader has to fundamentally understand exactly what you and the group you ended up leading were facing.

Why was this an important problem to solve? Personal statements need to showcase you above all things. Because this essay will necessarily have to spend some time on other people, you need to find a good proportion of them-time and me-time. In general, the first, setup, section of the essay should be shorter, since it will not be focused on what you were doing.

The second section should take the rest of the space. So, in a word essay, maybe words go to setup, while words to your leadership and solution. Not only do you need to show how your leadership met the challenge you faced, but you also have to show how the experience changed you. In other words, the outcome was double-sided: What does creativity mean to you?

Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem? How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career? This question is trying to probe the way you express yourself. What this essay question is really asking you to do is to examine the role your brand of creativity plays in your sense of yourself.

The essay will have three parts. What exactly do you produce, make, craft, create, or generate? Of course, the most obvious answer would be a visual art, a performance art, or music. But in reality, there is creativity in all fields.

So, your job is to explain what you spend time creating. Why do you do what you do? Are you doing it for external reasons - to perform for others, to demonstrate your skill, to fulfill some need in the world? Or is your creativity private and for your own use - to unwind, to distract yourself from other parts of your life, to have personal satisfaction in learning a skill?

Are you good at your creative thing or do you struggle with it? If you struggle with it, why is it important to you to keep doing it? The most basic way to do this is if you envision yourself actually doing your creative pursuit professionally. How has it changed how you interact with other objects or with people?

Does it change your appreciation for the work of others or motivate you to improve upon it? Nothing characterizes higher education like the need for creative thinking, unorthodox ideas to old topics, and the ability to synthesize something new.

That is what you are going to college to learn how to do better. This essay wants to know whether this mindset of out-of-the-box-ness is something you are already comfortable with. They want to see:. Instead, give a detailed and lively description of a specific thing or idea that you have created. The question wants a little narrative of your relationship to your creative outlet.

How long have you been doing it? Did someone teach you or mentor you? Have you taught it to others? Where and when do you create? Anything worth doing is worth doing despite setbacks, this question argues - and it wants you to narrate one such setback. So first, figure out something that interfered with your creative expression. A lack of skill, time, or resources? Too much or not enough ambition in a project? Then, make sure this story has a happy ending that shows you off as the solver of your own problems.

What did you do to fix the situation? Your essay should include some thoughtful consideration of how this creative pursuit has shaped you, your thoughts, your opinions, your relationships with others, your understanding of creativity in general, or your dreams about your future.

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Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you? Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule? Whatever you write about, picture yourself talking about it with a glowing smile on your face. The first part of the question really comes down to this: Have you done an outstanding thing?

Do you have a mindblowing ability? Describe a place, a time, or a situation in which you were a star. A contribution could be anything from physically helping put something together, to providing moral or emotional support at a critical moment. The second part of the last essay asked you to look to the future. The second part of this essay wants you to look at the present instead. The general task is similar, however. Once again you're being asked to make connections— how do you fit this quality you have or this achievement you accomplished into the story of who you are?

In other words, this is probably not the time to write about getting arrested for vandalism, unless you can spin that experience into a story about how you been on the straight and narrow path ever since.

Even if your vandalism was really, really, cool, don't write about it. Admissions officers have a very straightforward interest in learning about your accomplishments. They want to know what makes you proud of yourself. It is something that relates to performance, to overcoming a difficult obstacle, to keeping a cool head in a crisis, to your ability to help others in need?

At the same time, they are looking for a sense of maturity. This is your chance to show that you truly get the qualities and experiences that make you into a responsible and grown-up person, someone who will thrive in the independence of college life.

Unless you were hired to paint the overpasses. Then definitely brag about it. The trick with this prompt is how to show a lot about yourself without listing accomplishments or devolving into cliche platitudes. Let's take it step by step. Make sure that somewhere in your narrative preferably closer to the beginning you let the reader know what makes your achievement an achievement.

Keep in mind that for some things the explanation might be obvious. For example, do you really need to explain why finishing a marathon is a hard task? The first question asked for a description, but this one wants a story — a narrative of how you do your special talent, or how you accomplished the thing you were so great at.

The main thing about stories is that they have to have:. An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today? Cue the swelling music, because this essay is going to be all about your inspirational journey. You will either tell your story of overcoming adversity against all or some odds, or of pursuing the chance of a lifetime.

A description of the setback that befell you: The prompt wants to know what you consider a challenge in your school life - and definitely note that this challenge should have in some significant way impacted your academics rather than your life overall.

The challenge can be a wide-reaching problem in your educational environment or something that happened specifically to you. An explanation of your success: How are you defined by this thing that happened? You could discuss the emotional fallout of having dramatically succeeded, or how your maturity level, concrete skills, or understanding of the situation has increased, now that you have dealt with it personally.

Or, you could talk about any beliefs or personal philosophy that you have had to reevaluate as a result of either the challenge itself, or of the way that you had to go about solving it. A short, clear description of exactly what you got the chance to do: Also explain why you specifically got the chance to do it.

Was it the culmination of years of study? An academic contest prize? An unexpected encounter that led to you seizing an unlooked-for opportunity?

How you made the best of it: Were you very challenged by this opportunity? Did your skills develop? How does this impact your future academic ambitions or interests? Will you study this area further? Does this help you find your academic focus?

Of course, whatever you write about in this essay is probably already reflected on your resume or in your transcript in some small way. Instead, you will be responsible for seizing whatever chances will further your studies, interests, or skills. Conversely, college will necessarily be more challenging, harder, and potentially much more full of academic obstacles than your academic experiences so far. UC wants to see that you are up to handling whatever setbacks may come your way with aplomb rather than panic.

Not every challenge is automatically obvious. Sure, everyone can understand the drawbacks of having to miss a significant amount of school due to illness, but what if the obstacle you tackled is something a little more obscure? Likewise, winning the chance travel to Italy to paint landscapes with a master is clearly rare and amazing, but some opportunities are more specialized and less obviously impressive. Make sure your essay explains everything the reader will need to know to understand what you were facing.

An essay describing problems can easily slip into finger-pointing and self-pity. Make sure to avoid this by speaking positively or at least neutrally about what was wrong and what you faced. This goes double if you decide to explain who or what was at fault for creating this problem.

Likewise, an essay describing amazing opportunities can quickly become an exercise in unpleasant bragging and self-centeredness. Make sure you stay grounded - rather than dwelling at length on your accomplishments, describe the specifics of what you learned and how.

A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone? The first part of this essay is about problem-solving. The prompt asks you to point at something that could have derailed you, if not for your strength and skill. The second part of Topic B asks you to consider how this challenge has echoed through your life - and more specifically, how your education has been affected by what happened to you.

And colleges want to make sure that you can handle these upsetting events without losing your overall sense of self, without being totally demoralized, and without getting completely overwhelmed. In other words, they are looking for someone who is mature enough to do well on a college campus, where disappointing results and hard challenges will be par for the course.

They are also looking for your creativity and problem-solving skills. Are you good at tackling something that needs to be fixed? Can you keep a cool head in a crisis? Do you look for solutions outside the box? Even more than knowing that you were able to fix the problem, colleges want to see how you approached the situation. This is why your essay needs to explain your problem-solving methodology. Basically, we need to see you in action. What did you think would work? What did you think would not work?

Did you compare this to other problems you have faced and pass? Did you do research? This essay is supposed to demonstrate your resourcefulness and creativity. The last thing you want is for you to not actually be the person responsible for overcoming the obstacle.

Make sure that your story is clear that without you and your special brand of XYZ, people would still be lamenting the issue today. Don't worry if the resource you used to affect a good fix was the knowledge and know-how that somebody else brought to the table. Just focus on explaining what made you think of this person as the one to go to, how you convinced them to participate, and how you explained to them how they would be helpful.

This will shift the attention of the story back to you and your doings. The most exciting part of this essay should be watching you struggle to find a solution just in the nick of time. You want to do the same thing here. Bring excitement and a feeling of uncertainty to your description of your process to really pull the reader in and make them root for you to succeed.

If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject honors, AP, IB, college or university work? Are you inspired to pursue this subject further at UC, and how might you do that? For some students, this will be an extremely straightforward question.

You can just pick a few of the most gripping moments from these experiences and discuss the overall trajectory of your interests, and your essay will be a winner. But what if you have many academic interests? Or what if you only discovered your academic passion at the very end of high school? At first glance, it sounds as if what you should write about is the class where you have gotten the best grades, or the class that easily fits into what you see as your future college major or maybe even your eventual career goal.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of pick—especially if you really are someone who tends to excel in those classes that are right up your interest alley. But if we look closer, we see that there is nothing in the prompt that specifically demands that you write either about a particular class or an area of study where you perform well.

For example, if your chosen topic is the field of literature, you could discuss your experiences with different genres or with foreign writers. You could also write about a course or area of study that has significantly challenged you, and where you have not been as stellar a student as you want. The second part of this prompt, like the first, can also be taken in a literal and direct way. On the other hand, you could focus on the more abstract, values-driven goals we just talked about.

Then, the way you explain how your academics will help you can be rooted not in the content of what you studied, but in the life lessons you drew from it. In other words, for example, your theater class may not have created a desire to be an actor, but working on plays with your peers may have shown you how highly you value collaboration.

And the experience of designing sets was an exercise in problem-solving and ingenuity. These lessons would be useful in any field you pursue and could easily be said to help you achieve your lifetime goals.

If you are on a direct path to a specific field of study or career pursuit, admissions officers definitely want to know that.

Having driven, goal oriented, and passionate students is a huge plus for a university. But of course, more traditionally, college is the place to find yourself and the things that you become passionate about. Instead, you have to realize that in this essay, like in all the other essays, the how matters much more than the what. No matter where your eventual academic, career, or other pursuits may lie, every class that you have taken up to now has taught you something.

You learned about things like work ethic, mastering a skill, practice, learning from a teacher, interacting with peers, dealing with setbacks, understanding your own learning style, and perseverance. In other words, the admissions office wants to make sure that no matter what you study you will draw meaningful conclusions from your experiences, whether those conclusions are about the content of what you learn or about a deeper understanding of yourself and others.

Focus on a telling detail. Because personal statements are short, you simply won't have time to explain everything you have loved about a particular subject in enough detail to make it count. Instead, pick one event that crystallized your passion for a subject, or one telling moment that revealed what your working style will be, and go deep into a discussion of what it meant to you in the past and how it will affect your future. At the same time, make sure that you have actual accomplishments to describe in whatever subject you pick to write about.

If your favorite class turned out to be the one you mostly skipped to hang out in the gym instead, this may not be the place to share that lifetime goal.

After all, you always have to remember your audience. In this case, it's college admissions officers who want to find students who are eager to learn and be exposed to new thoughts and ideas. Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place — like your high school, hometown, or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community? Why were you inspired to act?

What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community? This topic is trying to get at how you engage with your environment. What or who constitutes your community? Comparative rankings over time among top schools. Acceptance Rates at Selective Colleges. Real reaches, safeties, and matches from the class of ' Just got my transcript!! Tfw you write five essays and then realize the limits were by character count and not word count self.

In the path of Florence? Focus on preparation and staying safe. College apps can wait. My counselor just got fired for selling fake stocks to parents of students self. How important is rank? Google added a college data tool to their search self. Where can I go for free? Is there a way to have my teacher resend her rec letter?

Admissions rate of UPenn ED vs. Why do all the top colleges make it seem like its so easy to get into? Disabled returning student with upward trajectory seeking advice self.

To those looking for more information about their college. Should I apply for QuestBridge? Do I even have a chance?

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