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College Essay Tips

UC Personal Statement Prompts

UC online Application

You are asked to provide response to two prompts, both of which you must answer, using a maximum of 1,000 words total.

  • You may allocate the word count as you wish.  If you choose to respond to one prompt at greater length, we suggest your shorter answer be no less than 250 words.
  • Stay within the word limit as closely as you can.  A little over - 1,012 words, for example - is fine.

Prompt #1 -

Describe the world you come from - for example, your family, community or school - and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Prompt #2 -

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you.  What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?


Hint Hint: Think of this as your interview for the UC's.  This is your chance to tell them about the real you. All they know about you are your stats - grades, test scores, activities etc...   The biggest mistake that students have made in the past to spend 40-50% of their essay talking about the person who "inspired them" or about their family story. Spend a short paragraph telling them about your wonderful grandmother and the rest of your essay needs to be about you.  This is not a creative essay.  Do not waste words describing how the sunset over the mountains helped you realize you were destined to study medicine.  Blek! No sappy stuff.

Personal Statement Video


UC Admissions Video

UC Berkeley Admissions Video - made in 2008 but still great information!  Note the one big change for current applicants is  that UC no longer requires two SAT subjects tests.

Essay Tips

The college essay is often the most difficult part of an application for admission to a college.  To help you get off to a good start, we've put together the following tips and hints.  These are comments from from actual admissions staff.  We can't guarantee results, but this advice might help you get started.


Top Ten Tips for Writing the College Essay

  • 1. Be Yourself. Provide admission with a window into your values and experiences. You know yourself best, so be honest.
  • 2. Proofread your work! Misspelled words and grammatical errors do not make a good first impression of your writing ability.
  • 3. Stay Focused. Do not write a research paper. Write an essay with meaning, and tell us something about yourself that helps admission officers envision you as a member of your campus community.
  • 4. Grab Our Attention. Start with a great opener that catches the reader’s attention immediately. Make the admission officer want to continue reading more about you.
  • 5. Include Details. Use action words that make your essay come alive. Paint a picture that will hold the reader’s attention.
  • 6. Start Now. Use time you have over the summer to begin brainstorming. Create an outline of how you want to frame your essay. By the time the next school year begins, you should be almost finished.
  • 7. Be Original. We’ve seen plagiarized essays before, as well as the work of a parent, teacher or essay-writing professional. Don’t make that mistake.
  • 8. Keep it simple. Don’t use vocabulary that sounds overly sophisticated. Admission officers are not impressed by the overuse of long vocabulary words found in thesauruses. Find and use your own voice to tell your story.
  • 9. Get Feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Do not allow another to rewrite your essay, but edits and opinions from someone else are usually helpful.
  • 10. Don’t Stress Out! Enjoy the process of reflecting on and writing about one aspect of your life that is meaningful to you. Believe that most admission officers will enjoy reading your story.