If you’re the middle of applying to colleges, you should know by now that the UC applications have undergone a drastic change. Eliminating the 2 required UC prompts, the UC application now consists of four 350 word essay, chosen from 8 new UC prompts.
The change might seem a little drastic, but don’t freak out just yet. This doesn’t mean you can’t still learn from previous UC application essay examples. In fact, we’ve put together all the UC prompts that are available and examples from our database to help with your essay writing:
UC Prompt #1
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.
UCBerkeley2019, UC Berkeley ‘19
“As a high school student, I wondered how I can make a difference on this suburban dullness. Rather than just looking at the high school that I attended, I decided to impact something bigger, my community. More specifically, I became motivated to reach out to my entire city by hosting a carnival-themed festival called Sharkfest.”
UC Prompt #2
2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
ClaireL, UC Los Angeles ‘20
“Suddenly, a glimmer of inspiration. My gaze settled on my viola, sitting patiently in its gleaming silver case. Why not try Pythagoras’ experiment for myself? I plucked the C-string, holding my finger down at exactly ½ of its length. Almost miraculously, the sound of a C—one octave higher, exactly twice the frequency—rang out. Moving my finger to 1/3 its length, this time it was the G with a frequency three times the original C, one octave and a perfect 5th higher.”
UC Prompt #3
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
Sydney_hack, UC Davis ‘20
“Then high school happened. I started taking theatre classes and film classes and I saw my friends go to college as musical theatre majors and film production majors. I saw people following their dreams. I’d entered a whole new world. I began to think of all the things that made me happy. Filmmaking stood out to me and I began to pursue any opportunity I could-I took the filmmaking class at school, I offered to help film video series for the San Diego County Bar Association and the Enright Chapter of the American Inns of Court. I’d run into this new, creative world full force, with no guide or notion of what I was to expect.”
UC Prompt #4
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
G.carrascou4, UC Berkeley ‘19
“This was initially a problem for me, however, as I attended three different schools within the short period of my first six months in the country. The first school only saw me for one week; the second school saw me for a semester; the third school saw me finally settling in what would become my home school from elementary all through high school. This transition from a nomadic lifestyle to a more sedentary one provided me with an idea of what my goals were, where I was going to achieve them, and how I was going to accomplish them. In a sense, it was my transition from a helpless, extinct Cro-Magnon to a Homo Sapiens with a future ahead.”
UC Prompt #5
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?
Stellaaa, UC Santa Barbara ‘19
“School became difficult for me emotionally and academically. Rumors about my brother spread like a wildfire. A majority of my friends heard about these rumors and no longer wanted to associate with me. It was not soon before I felt isolated at school. I tried my best to cope with the loneliness, repeatedly telling myself that it was a phase. It became difficult for me to focus in school without thinking about my brother or that people were afraid to be around me. This did not discourage me from making new friends; however, it made me develop trust issues. I began to take more caution of who to trust, which served to be an advantage for me because during this time I become more self-aware of myself. At that moment of self realization, I had a clear perception of what was best for me, as well as the two options I had - to allow the emotional and academic stress to eat me away, or to see it as a challenge to overcome.”
UC Prompt #6
6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
AndyDC, UC Berkeley ‘19
“Another factor that I consider a major contributor to my personal identity is, oddly enough, a computer program that I was introduced to at age 12. RCT3, as it is called, is a 3D physics simulation game that allows users to essentially build and manage anything users dream up. For me, it offered a refreshing creative outlet for my imagination to flourish. But what enthralled me most was not the game itself, but the flowering community of users behind it. Making our home on internet forums, we were a thriving community of real-life architects, engineers, and programmers all bound by love of the game. Political and geographical barriers had never seemed so trivial to me. We discussed and collaborated on projects and even edited the source code of the game. I was enamored by the hardware and simple code that gave rise to such a versatile platform.”
UC Prompt #7
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
Lord of the Lords, UC Berkeley ‘19
I have always been someone who takes initiative. I pick up trash during trips to the beach, I spend my winter break raising money for hurricane relief, and I make anti-bullying videos in my spare time. And I always want to do more. So when I noticed all the trash that seemed to be accumulating at my high school, I decided to start a campus-wide recycling and composting program. I presented my idea to my AP Environmental Science teacher who shared my concern. She suggested starting a club to get more people involved, an idea which I loved. Thus, the AP Environmental Science (or APES, for short) Club was born.
UC Prompt #8
8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?
Want to know what set you apart? Check out these two packages that were curated by 2 UC admission experts:
Ms. Sun focused on finding UC applications with strong, competitive GPA and test scores that was accompanied by strong essays. After all, numbers are important, but they don’t tell the full story
Suzanne Dougherty curated her package with a different approach. She specifically wanted to highlight UC applicants who were accepted by Ivy League universities, but still chose to attend UC schools. This not only demonstrates each profile’s strong application, but also reveals the appeal and opportunity that UC schools offer.
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Are you looking to apply to UC Schools? or just starting to build out your college list? Make sure to search through profiles of students accepted to see essays, stats, and advice. See how they got in, and how you can too!
Note: There is only one application for all the UC schools. Therefore, your responses will be sent to every single University of California school that you apply to. Hence, avoid making essays school-specific (unless you are applying to only one school).
To choose which questions to answer, first browse the eight prompts as a list, and sort them into one of three categories: “definites,”“possibilities,” and “avoid at all costs.” With “definites,” after reading the prompt, you immediately know what you will say and how you will say it. With “possibilities,” a few vague ideas swirl in your head, which you think can be sorted out and possibly develop into a great essay. With “avoid at all costs,” you want to have nothing to do with these essays.
Afterwards, jot down bullet point ideas for the questions you for sure want to write about. Then, select out of the “possibility” questions that would, in combination with your “definites,” produce the most well-rounded essay profile, which would both highlight your few key strengths as well as reveal your complexities and breadth of character. While doing so, it is important to base your decision on not only your immediate liking for the topic, but also on the available substance (anecdotes). Repeat this process until you are faced with only four questions.
This is just one way to approach choosing prompts. Since for some, the process happens organically, do not feel constrained to the method above. Just remember:
- 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.
- Your answers should be able to highlight what is most important to you.