UC Personal Insight Questions: The Ultimate Guide

UC Personal Insight Questions: The Ultimate Guide

This 2016-17 UC application year, you must write 4 short essays totaling 1400 words (350 word limit each). To give you some context, in previous years, students had to write 2 essays totaling 1000 words… So, you’ll have to come up with 2 more extra topics this year AND write more.

I hate to break it to you, but I believe these shorter essays are harder than the old ones. But, don’t worry — I got you. Let’s break down how exactly we should answer the new UC Personal Insight Questions.

How to Answer The UC Personal Insight Question #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.

Before we dig into each step, here’s a UC Essay Example for this Personal Insight Question. This student got into UC Berkeley’s prestigious EECS programming in the Engineering school… but he’ll be attending Stanford instead 🙂

First off, keep this in mind: Whatever UC prompt you pick, the essay responses (for the most part) will still need to have an underlying story. This is a must. Moreover, you only need ONE REALLY AWESOME ANECDOTE instead of 2-3 MEDIOCRE mini anecdotes. Quality of quantity, right?

So, let’s get down to answering this essay prompt:

Step #1: Brainstorm one anecdote in the scope of leadership

When you’re brainstorming about activities involving leadership, think outside the box. The notion of “leadership” doesn’t mean that you have to be the captain of the volleyball team or have a leadership title… you can be a leader and demonstrate leadership abilities in so many other ways.

Actually, here’s something interesting: Currently, I’m working with students who have drafted up their UC essays to this first prompt, and I’ve noticed that their interpretation of “leadership” is very generic. In other words, many students are already writing about being a club president, first chair flute, etc. This means that other students across the world (like YOU) who are applying to the UC system may also have the same generic interpretation of “leadership.”

So, be careful… you don’t want your essay to sound like everyone else’s.

Step #2: Pinpoint the conflict in the anecdote

As we already talked about, this short essay should have an underlying foundation of a story. Because stories have a conflict and resolution, we similarly need these two components in your essay. A conflict in this case can be a mistake, a challenge, an obstacle… it’s literally any roadblock that got in your way that you had to resolve. So, make sure that you include this conflict in your essay

Step #3: Include a resolution from your anecdote

Anyone can, (in theory) tell a decent anecdote. The storytelling part of writing is not going to be the most challenging part for you.

Your biggest challenge for these UC essays is to explain succinctly what you learned from this story. Your analysis of this particular experience must therefore be insightful. I mean, these essay questions are called personal insight questions, right?

This ability to be insightful and introspective is one of the key components these questions are measuring. Actually, the ability to be self-aware and insightful is one of the many factors for “success in college” as noted by Warren Willingham.

How to Answer The UC Personal Insight Question #2

Before we dive into this question, I have good news! Here’s a UC essay example for this essay prompt from a student of mine 🙂 . 

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.

I actually really like this prompt (and encourage you to consider selecting it) because the notion of creativity can be applied to every industry and discipline.

This leads me to a tip:
If anything, I would err on the side of staying away from the “arts” when answering this prompt. I say this only because you don’t want your interpretation of this essay prompt to be perceived as overly narrow.

Here’s how you can go about answering this:

Step #1: Brainstorm an activity or anecdote that showcases intellectual vitality.

Here are some questions for you to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Are you the type of person who is constantly thinking and loves new ideas and challenges? Are you sort of like an Elon Musk in that way? If so, what is an event or activity that has constantly pushed you to solve problems in innovative ways?
  • Are you innately curious and show your curiosity with action? Besides going down the rabbit hole of Googling everything, is there a subject that you’ve always been drawn to that you want to know everything about? If so, write about it!
  • Are you good at challenging ideas in a thoughtful way and seeing a problem or issue through multiple lenses? If yes, what’s an event or activity that showcases this?

Step #2: Analyze what this creative side means to you

Remember, you need to take each essay one step further — Don’t just express your creative side; tell the admissions officers why this is valuable and how you’ll take the learnings you’ve gleaned from your creative side and apply them to the rest of your life!

How to Answer The UC Personal Insight Question #3

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

I encourage a lot of my students to consider selecting this essay prompt because it has a lot of potential.

Remember, you can have a relatively loose interpretation of many of the UC prompts. In other words, you don’t have to be recognized as a “superstar” in basketball or robotics to answer this question effectively.

This leads me to a tip:
Refrain from writing about activities that many other students might also be good at. For instance, you might take great pride in playing violin or coding; however, a lot of students can share this commonality and could actually be better than you are. So, it’s usually better to brainstorm attributes about who you are that is unique and creative that makes you difficult to “compare” with other students.

Here’s how we can break down this prompt:

Step #1: Brainstorm your unique talent or skill

So far, I have students that have creatively interpreted this essay prompt in many ways; for instance, I have a student who is writing about emotional intelligence as a skill she takes great pride in. I have another student who is writing about his love of drawing tattoos (he doesn’t have a tattoo but can talk for hours about the historical significance of tattoos).

Once you’ve nailed down your talent or skill, strive to find an anecdote that captures you in your element.

Step #2: Analyze

This is that part where most students will struggle. So, spend extra time analyzing why this skill or talent is significant in your life. What has this ability taught you? How has this talent/skill opened doors for you? Why does it matter to you?

How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Question #4

Before you begin reading this UC Essay Guide, check out this awesome UC Essay Example for this prompt.

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

This essay prompt is interesting because it allows you to write about either an opportunity or a barrier — these are almost complete opposites.

So far, I have a few students that have picked this essay prompt and have written about taking advantage of educational opportunities; more specifically, they write about taking advantage of all the AP courses their school offers. I tend to cringe when I read these drafts. Let’s be real… many other students applying to your dream school are go-getters and have taken advantage of educational opportunities by taking challenging AP courses. That’s neither interesting nor special.

This is why I advise this: If you choose this prompt, try brainstorming an anecdote about overcoming educational barriers.

Here’s the basic outline to tackle this prompt:

Step #1: Brainstorm an anecdote showcasing the educational barrier.

Overcoming barriers is almost always a stronger anecdote than taking advantage of opportunities. Actually, the ability to overcome obstacles is an attribute that is highly correlated with success in college; thus, admissions officers are on the lookout for this personal quality in your overall application.

Step #2: Explain how you overcame your barrier.

What do you do when the going gets tough? How do you overcome obstacles?

Grit and resiliency are key personal qualities that admissions officers love to see. Thus, you want to explain clearly how you solved the problem that you were facing in your response so that you can showcase these key qualities.

Step #3: Analyze!

Yup, as always, you have to explain the significance of this experience. More specifically, describe what you learned from this experience and how you’ll apply these learnings to your future.

How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Question #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?

For the most part, if this essay prompt doesn’t jump out at you from the get-go, then perhaps this isn’t the best prompt for you to answer. I say this becomes this is a slightly tricky prompt.

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: A “significant challenge” is NOT getting an F on a chemistry test, working hard, then ultimately receiving an A in the class as a final grade. In other words, an academic challenge isn’t a “significant challenge” in this instance.

So then, what are significant challenges you can write about here? Well, they can be obvious issues like family, socioeconomic, personal, and health challenges.

If you do have a personal challenge that you feel comfortable writing about in one of these UC essays, then here’s the place. The trick is this: Your story cannot be a sob story. Let’s break down how you can go about answering this prompt:

Step #1: Describe the significant challenge.

You can describe the issue in one of two ways: A bird’s eye overview of the issue or a specific example/anecdote when the issue was at its peak.

Step #2: How did this challenge affect you?

This is where you can explain how this challenge impacted you academically.

Step #3: What did you learn from this challenge?

The most important note to remember about this essay prompt is this: You must end your essay on a forward-looking note! If you don’t end on a positive note, your writing will be crossing into the dangerous territory of a sob story, which is never how you want to end your college essays. Sum up your essay by showcasing how you’ll take the learnings from this experience and apply them to your future.

How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Question #6

Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.

If the Stanford Intellectual Vitality Essay and the USC Major Choice Essay (or any other major-specific essay) had a baby, it would be this prompt. In other words, this is a prompt where you can reuse a short response essay you’ve written for another university.

So far, A lot of students I work with have been picking this prompt; therefore, keep in mind that this is going to be a relatively common essay that the UC admissions staff will see. Moreover, be strategic about the academic subject you pick to write about. For instance, if you want to write about biology as your favorite academic subject, but you’ve never taken AP Biology and it’s offered at your school, then it doesn’t look like you love biology all that much (you’re not willing to challenge yourself). In the same vein, if you pick biology as your favorite subject but you didn’t do well in the class, then it doesn’t look like biology is actually your favorite subject… so I wouldn’t write about that.

The bottom line is this: If you’re picking a school-related subject, then pick a subject that you’ve done well in.

Also, keep in mind that you’re not limited to writing about JUST subjects offered at your high school. If you truly enjoyed a class you’ve taken through summer school, community college, or online courses, then these are great topics to write about as well!

Either way, whatever subject you pick, you need to create an essay with a unique spin on it. To do this, geek out about your favorite subject. So, let’s break it down on how you can answer this prompt:

Step #1: Introduce and show your passion for your favorite subject

Don’t say that your favorite subject is biology and leave it at that; you must geek out about a specific biological concept that you find intriguing. Geeking out will show your passion for learning and your intellectual curiosity.

Step #2: Explain why you find this subject interesting

Admissions officers want to understand what motivates you as a student. They want to understand WHY you find this subject interesting — do you like physics because your father is a mechanical engineer and you can have intellectual conversations with him now that you understand the concepts? Do you like economics because you can now understand how the market works and that’s why you’re dabbling in stock trading?

Step #3: Describe how the subject led you to take action to learn more

The other piece of the puzzle is to explain how this academic subject has influenced you. The best way to do this is to show how you’ve taken action on this academic passion of yours.

I’ll give you an example: I have a student who is writing about her passion for feminist theory, which is a class she took for fun at a local community college. In her essay, she geeks out about the feminist theory and her views on feminism in the scope of the current presidential election. This class opened her eyes and taught her to be more self-aware of unconscious gender biases in her everyday life.

How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Question #7

Psst! Check out this awesome UC Essay Example for this prompt!

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

This essay is relatively straightforward, so don’t fall into a very common trap of picking a volunteer activity and writing about how you love helping others. Please, please, please… do not write, “I love helping people” or any variation of this phrase in this essay (or any other college essay, for that matter). Why? Well, I can ask almost anyone off the street why they donate to charity or like to volunteer, and every person will say that they love helping others. So, “helping others” is not a unique trait that you have. What IS unique is your motivation behind why you like to help others. To delve deeper into the motivation behind anything, keep asking yourself “why.”

Anyways, I digress. If you’ve had a truly meaningful experience that has influenced your environment or the people around it, then this is the place to write it! But, you have to be strategic about the experience so it doesn’t cross into cliches. Here’s how to break it down:

Step #1: Brainstorm an anecdote showing how you’ve contributed to your community

For this essay (especially), you must have a specific anecdote so that you can explain its significance to you. Showing the reader how the event unfolded instead of telling is always more powerful.

Step #2: Explain why you were inspired to act

Your internal motivation to partake in the activity is a key data point that colleges want to understand. What motivates you? What moves you?

Step #3: Analyze what this experience has taught you.

You must always strive to complete this sentence in the most meaningful way possible: “This event taught me that…”

Once you’ve distilled the insightful learnings from this experience, the next step is to apply these learnings towards the future. Ask yourself this: How can you apply these learnings to your future moving forward?

How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Question #8

Check out this awesome UC Essay Example for prompt #8!

What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

At the heart of it, this question is asking you: What makes you, YOU? I really like this essay prompt — so much so that I sincerely recommend that you consider picking this essay prompt because it has a lot of potential to showcase who you are to the admissions staff.

Actually, because this prompt is so open-ended, you can reuse the anecdote and analysis from your Common App essay here. More specifically, this is how I’d break down this essay:

Step #1: Brainstorm an anecdote that resonates with you

I know, this is pretty open-ended of me to say, but use this guide about how to brainstorm college essay anecdotes to get find that perfect story. Trust me — this essay, no matter how short, will be strongest with an anecdote to carry your main message.

Step #2: Describe the problem or obstacle in the story

All stories have some sort of conflict, right? Describe it here. The conflict is the tipping point that helped you realize and learn something from this experience. Additionally, admissions officers love to see examples of resilience, creativity, and grit in handling a problem, so this is a great opportunity to showcase these attributes.

Step #3: Analyze!

Yup, you guessed it! You need to tell the readers what you learned from the experience. In other words, explain why this instance mattered to you. You’ve been living on this earth for 17-ish years — of all the stories you can possibly tell me, why are you telling me this one? Spend some time reflecting on this.

5 Ivy-level Personal Statement Examples [Updated 2023]

5 Ivy-level Personal Statement Examples [Updated 2023]

Here, we have 5 high quality Personal Statement essay examples from my students over the years. Great Common App Personal Statements tend to give a glimpse into each student’s life, thought processes, growth, and maturity.

Another trend that you may notice with these essay examples is that they’re not entirely CAREER or ACADEMIC based. It depends on the vibe you’re going for, but the general rule of thumb is to think about these essays from the perspective of the admissions officer.

In other words, it’s NOT as simple as “showing off your personality” in personal statement. You might hear this or read this somewhere, but, seriously, don’t listen to it. Your personality will not get you into a top school (unless you’re trying to hustle your way into a party when you’re not on the guest list, then that’s different.)

Think about it rationally: An admissions officer’s JOB is to assemble a cohort of great students into his/her university. Upon reading each application, an admissions professional is thinking: “How will this student contribute to our school? What will this person bring to the table?”

So, your personal statement needs to help answer that question. 

Note: Official Common App Personal Statement Prompts are posted here.

Remember, the word count is 650 words! And, just an FYI — titles for college app essays are completely unnecessary. I just included them in this post to refer to them more easily.


Treasure Hunt


Life Lessons from Crickets


Antique Enthusiast


Lessons From In-N-Out Burger


The Tortured Artist

Common App Personal Statement Example #1

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Common App Personal Statement Example #1: Treasure Hunt

Armed with a Tesoro metal detector, my father and I trekked up the 19-mile Dutchman Trail, the 6am sun peeking behind Saguaro cacti dotting the dusty desertscape. As we ascended Superstition Mountain, I flipped on the Tesoro, and waved it alongside the bedrock, expectantly waiting for a screech…the sound of metal!

During my sophomore year, [Name], a friend of my father’s, passed away, leaving behind boxes of oddities bequeathed to my father. Rummaging through the boxes, I happened upon [Name’s] Tesora–a metal detector. As an avid detecting hobbyist, [Name] had told me about the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mines, a gold mine from the 1890s rumored to be tucked within the Superstitions.

Within the boxes, I also managed to find a leather bag filled with over 10-pounds of dusty old coins, bullet cartridges, BBs–most likely items [Name] found metal detecting. Romanticizing the lifestyle of a gold prospector, I pestered my father to take me to the Superstitions.

So for nearly 2-hours, we meandered along the suffocatingly blistering trail, waiting for the Tesora to indicate treasure. BA-BA-BEEEEEP! Heart racing, I dug at the rock-hard dirt and unearthed my first treasure: a bent nail.

Few hours and several more screeches later, I uncovered more nails and rusty door hinges. By mid-afternoon with nothing to show, we trudged down the canyon. Still, my dreams of discovering the Dutchman Mine compelled me to drag my father through countless excavations; within a year, we had exhausted nearly all 12 trails of the Superstitions. Was I looking in the wrong places?

Eventually, I returned to [Name]’s leather bag. Upon closer examination, I realized this wasn’t some bag of dusty old trash–there were coins I’d never seen before. Wiping away the dirt, I found a penny from 1870 with a Native American head instead of Lincoln’s; there were several Ben Franklin half dollars ranging from 1951-1963; two 1926 buffalo nickels. Ecstatic, I researched online forums to decipher the coins’ values, and bought “The Redbook”, the bible of numismatics, to get me started.

For months, I sat in my room, gently cleaning the bag of [Name’s] coins with a moist towel, and read about the history of each coin, revealing a captivating American story.

Under my bed lie a menagerie of coins. Some, I’ve acquired through “numismatic roadshows” across Arizona; others, I’ve procured through metal-detecting every trailhead that I could find; many more, I’ve obtained through simply keeping an eye on the sidewalk and examining those pennies most people wouldn’t bother to pick up. A noteworthy item in my collection is an 1883 Morgan silver dollar minted in Philadelphia, worth about $75; however, this same exact coin can be worth over $2000 if minted in Carson City! This mintage is sought after because it was produced by silver mined at Comstock Lode, a historical mine that marked America’s first major discovery of silver!

Some pennies I’ve collected simply because the mintage year is significant. For example, I own a penny from 1912–the year the Titanic sank. Last year, I attended a coin collector’s bazaar in San Diego, and bought a 1943 penny made of steel, so the US could save copper for ammunition during World War II.

Through metal detecting, we often find items that we don’t expect–hidden gems. And now, instead of tossing them aside because it doesn’t hold intrinsic value, I revel in what it used to be. An old, rusty gear that I found on the trail? I took it home, learning that it may have been a clock gear. Bullet casings are plentiful finds, and I’ve learned to identify shotgun models from the cartridge headstamp, some cartridges almost 50-years old!

Being a numismatist has not only given me a new lens to view American history, but it has also taught me to always be on the lookout–you never know what nugget of learning (and history!) you’re going to find.

Common App Personal Statement Example #2

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Common App Personal Statement Example #2: Life Lessons From Crickets

“Welcome to the dungeon!” my mentor, [Name], quipped, as a whiff of musty cornmeal punched me in the nose. The dungeon was no wider than a broom closet, and 25-feet-long, illuminated by a naked, overhead bulb. My eyes widened as I noticed massive spiders in rows of 15-gallon tanks. Some tanks held glistening ground beetles, scuttling around their habitat of shriveled cucumbers.

“Sometimes the spiders escape, but don’t worry–they’re harmless,” [Name] said, pushing me forward. WHAT? Before I could properly respond, he made a grandiose gesture. “Ta-daaaa! Crickets!”

He carefully placed a dollop of gel into their tanks, clucking his tongue in a beloved manner most people would reserve for their dogs. Uhhh…how’d I even get here?

I scored the opportunity to conduct research at [University] through [program]. Given my interests in biology, I envisioned myself working in an innovative lab, knee-deep in cancer immunotherapy. So, when I was paired to work in Dr. [Name]’s ecological biology lab, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I wanted to make an impact on people–crickets weren’t the answer.

But as I began learning from [Name] all-things-crickets, I felt a twinge of excitement–his passion was contagious!

The more I investigated crickets, I became utterly fascinated by their complexities. I learned that only the males chirp to mate, and temperature affects chirping rates: the higher the temperature, the higher pace! Eventually, I formulated my research question: I had read studies indicating females preferred males with more frequent, higher-pitch chirps. What other factors affect frequency and pitch?

I strode back to the dungeon to consult [Name], who hinted that water intake would be an interesting variable to examine. Then, he dropped the bomb: “Figure out WHY,” he prodded, “WHY are you researching this? HOW does this help the world?”

“Come on, they’re just crickets!” I said, laughing.

[Name] shook his head. “You need a WHY to convince scientists the value behind your work,” he affirmed.

I took the bus home, confounded. Why investigate cricket water intake? Searching for answers, I turned to the overall objective of the lab, and pieced together a theme: The scientists were examining the repercussions of California’s drought on the ecosystem.

BINGO. With low water supply, male chirping patterns and therefore mating frequency would be affected, potentially leading to a decline in cricket populations! Because crickets are primary consumers, their demise would affect higher predators in the food chain, eventually impacting humans!

Wow. A cricket could have domino effects on our ecosystem!

I created an experimental set-up, and convinced Petsmart employees to begrudgingly help me catch only the male crickets with our bare hands. In individual tanks, some crickets were treated with no water, others with plentiful. A microphone recorded each cricket’s chirping for 3-days. Collecting gigabits of data, I analyzed the results, troubleshooted, and repeated the experiment. Months of work amounted to a poster I presented at [competition], winning me [placement]! Spoiler: water shortage decreases chirp rate and lowers chirp pitch, doubly decreasing the capacity for a dehydrated cricket to mate!

Crickets have taught me more than I imagined about the ecosystem, the scientific method, and about myself. Throughout my research, [Name]’s prodding taught me to constantly question, and ask, WHY. The why gave me purpose, pushing me onwards despite experimental failures. Searching the answer to the why’s gave me courage to contact another ecological biology lab for collaboration opportunities to examine eco-evolutionary dynamics–a new direction that could help predict when a population could go extinct. Clarity behind the why’s gave me confidence to push outside the lab and learn about legislation to protect our environment when I interned for Councilmember ___, an environmental legend whose office fights for legislation that incentivize businesses to utilize compostable disposable products.

You can bet that I still work at the dungeon every Fridays, helping [Name] capture rogue insects, and breeding crickets to study their offsprings.

Common App Personal Statement Example #3

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Common App Personal Statement Example #3: Antique Enthusiast

“Come over this weekend!” my friends would chant, as we waited for our rides.

I used to dread these well-intentioned invites. I’d often make excuses: Piano lessons, I’d say.

So, where DID I go, you ask? My family’s antique and art gallery.

In 8th grade, my father had some sort of mid-life crisis, and, instead of buying a Ferrari, he insisted that he fulfill his life-long dream of becoming an antique and art gallery owner. So, he literally moved us across the US, swearing that [town] was a hotbed for antiquing.

In a community filled with families whose parents had seemingly “normal” jobs, I felt ashamed to tell my friends that mine had a little mom-and-pop shop. Owning a family gallery meant that, every Saturdays, I went with my mother from 9am to 6pm to help sell the pieces, fix broken furniture, clean, and help my dad load up the delivery truck. On Sundays, I would drive 2-hours with my father to [City] to procure more antique pieces at real estate auctions, while my mother tended to the store.

And though I groaned every time my mother woke me up on Sunday mornings to get ready, I grew to enjoy these experiences. I loved plodding into the auction house, with the auctioneer’s rhythmic monotone blaring from the speakers, and examining the pieces up for bidding.

“These’ll be at least $400,” my dad would say, pointing at a pair of beautiful , 1940s-style art deco walnut nightstands. I’d carefully remove the top drawer, where the maker of the piece would be engraved on the sides.

“Ah, Kittinger. That’s a good company. Maybe they’ll go for a little more,” he’d add.

And as I sipped on my Coke, I’d observe my dad duel for the items, taking mental notes on the price point he would begin the bidding. As I became more engaged in our auction outings, I could better forecast the price point of each piece, from mid-century dining room sets to marble-top kidney-shaped desks, based on the manufacturer and overall popularity.

On Saturdays, I’d dutifully settle down at the counter next to my father, and listen to him detail the woodwork behind “bird’s-eye” dressers to the customers marveling at the pieces in our showroom. Oftentimes, I’d take it upon myself to repair furniture, such as chips on the legs of a newly acquired Queen Anne style needlepoint chair. I’d slather on some wood putty, sand it down, and carefully apply wood stain to make it match in color.

Oftentimes, I’d peruse the store and learn about the gallery pieces, including the newest painting he bought: Is that an original Martin Heade or a replica? I’d also learn about the business turmoils that embroiled Royal Copenhagen, leading to its discontinuation of its iconic china that were now worth several hundred dollars, peacefully resting in a display case in our store. Sophomore year, I observed my father taking inventory and doing accounting. Fascinated, I learned about credits and debits and eventually took over the books this year, teaching me business principles, firsthand.

Junior year, in my World Cultures class, I learned about kachina dolls that the Hopis used to bring rainfall. Upon learning that one of my father’s distributors also specialized in Native American pieces, I begged him to buy me a kachina doll. “Sure,” he said, but he made me pay him back on a layaway plan…and I learned the hard-truth about compounding interest rates.

The treasures that occupy our store all have remarkable stories, each one sparking my everlasting curiosity behind its economic history and cultural significance. Now that I’m older, I’m inspired by my father’s pursuit of following his entrepreneurship dreams and my family’s steadfast support. I was lucky to be along for the ride; as I approach the next-stage of life, though, I aspire to be in the driver’s seat, recruiting friends ride along with me.

Common App Personal Statement Example #4

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Common App Personal Statement Example #4: Lessons From In-N-Out Burger


“TAKE OVER THE CORNER!” a voice screams.“TAKE OVER THE CORNER!” a voice screams.

As the dreadful words rang in my ear, I fearfully froze. As I adopted the Corner’s subservient position, I prepared myself for confrontations and irritating, last-minute changes to “finalized” orders. After all, In-N-Out’s mantra persisted: the customer is always right. Yet, as I stood by, fumbling with my earpiece, I wondered: why was I even working here?

Then, I remembered. Because of my family’s faltering financial capabilities, I could no longer afford the $3,500 tuition for a bioengineering program. Still, I refused to relinquish this opportunity and got a job to make ends meet. It would require immense sacrifice and labor but the program would be worthwhile, enriching my academic understanding.

A ding resonates from my headset, triggering a conditioned response.
“H-h-h-i, what can I get for you?” I stammer.

I nervously await a response, but only an engine’s deafening churns echo in my ears. Roaring in mockery of my stutter, it evoked uncomfortable childhood memories—times when I struggled to socialize. Oftentimes, interacting with customers felt frightening, as they would sneer and address me with condescending tones. Though I was overwhelmed by my fears of backlash, my nightmare had just begun…

An enraged voice explodes from my headset, “ARE YOU DEAF? I want—” But, with the sound of his speeding vehicle charging to my window, his voice abruptly cuts off. Now face-to-face, the tensions between us increase:
“I’m so sorry, I had a hard time hearing you,” I sheepishly reply.
“Get this right, it’s for my kids!”

My eyes then scan the backseat of his minivan, now understanding the perplexing order was not intended as a challenge of my competence, but for his family. I cautiously take his order again, this time nodding in acknowledgement of his children’s allergies and yelling it back to the cooks. His tone gradually lightens, and his face relaxes. I courteously reach out, offering paper hats and lap mats to the entire family. A smile appears on his face, as he extends a warm “thank you” before driving off.

It was a small interaction occurring over mere minutes, yet my thoughts lingered on his attack: idiot. While he loosely blurted “idiot” in anger, I interpreted it as a personal attack. Disheartened, I wondered: how could he be so mean?

“He’s just having a bad day,” my co-worker affirms.

And, that’s when I realized: he probably was having a bad day. For the first time, a total stranger had called me an idiot; yet no matter how inept a fast food worker was, I would have never singled them out. But, this man—for no rational reason—had the anger and impatience to insult me. I didn’t know why he acted this way, but nothing could change the actions or thoughts of others. I could only control my reaction and stop taking things personally. 

Thus, I detached myself from the situation. No longer allowing harsh comments to intensify my long-held insecurities, I adopted a position that fostered empathy and accommodated distinct backgrounds. And, soon enough, I began counteracting customers’ frustrations with compassion, hoping a cordial demeanor would eventually arise. Just maybe, their attitude would lighten up through acts of kindness—the offerings of paper hats and lap mats—making their day slightly more positive.

Because of this experience, I now approach the world seeking first to understand and then to be understood. Diverse opinions compose a broad spectrum of arguments, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. And, I embrace these differences as a beautiful blend of thought rather than a separating factor. With this outlook on life, I’ll continue to build relationships with people of all cultures, political associations, and religions.  My labor cultivated not only personal growth but also opportunity. The following summer, I moved into the laboratories and lecture halls of bioengineering to learn about bioreactors, assays, and tissue engineering.

Common App Personal Statement Example #5

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Common App Personal Statement Example #5: The Tortured Artist

The darkness of [City] envelops me as I scan every tree in sight to harvest tree bark–a unique, bold material–to use in my art assignment: creating a portrait of my community. Pleasant notes of pine mingle in the air as I absentmindedly hum the tune the school marching band is playing in the background. Remaining oblivious to everything around me, I quickly fill my bag to the brim with bark.

Once home, I immediately jam music into my ears and jerk the curtains shut to drown out any distractions. I focus on producing something new–shocking. Surely, bark that I found within my neighborhood would be a strange twist on the prompt.

Unrestrained, I created a strange peeling sculpture out of birch and sycamores. While definitely an eye-catcher, I paced around the piece with uncertainty. Did this accurately depict my community?

In my frenzy of constructing artwork that would draw attention, the mission of the prompt had taken the backseat. I unplugged my ears and slid the drapes open. Slipping out the door once again, I was determined to take my neighborhood beyond face value this time.

With this new lens, my neighborhood took on a whole new light. The soothing pine scent now clashed with the gas exhaust from the reckless BMWs whizzing by; the music I once heard was replaced by the cacophony of household arguments. Meanwhile, my phone buzzed in my pocket, agitated with texts from miserable friends rambling about their problems.

As newcomer to [City], I had only seen the determined front of excellence that my community upheld, complete with performances of neighbors that sent over cherry pies. This environment was a saturated image of perfection that my family and I strove to blend into. We became like everybody else; seamlessly executing our smiles out on our manicured lawn.

Wanting to capture this image of a forced mask of idealistic standards, I shelved the bark sculpture and began envisioning a new idea for a portrait of my community. Using the inspiring potential within everyday objects, I transformed the ads of airbrushed models into a mask that I could actually wear. Those faces of models with hollow grins shared the anguished expressions of the people around me; it reflected my observations of how damaging it could be to maintain a constant likeness of perfection.

This project marked one of the turning points in my artistic and personal growth. Through years of art classes that emphasized precision in mimicry, I had taken pride in breaking out of this constricting technique by creating shocking artwork. Each new artistic endeavor came with different materials–it was a statement of originality and willingness to experiment. However, my steadfast resolve on being audacious required only superficial vision; it created a shield in which my thoughts and ideas were smuggled away from possible rejection and judgment by my peers. To actually showcase my thoughts and emotions via art required a certain vulnerability that I hadn’t dared to explore.
I realized that this barrier–this fear of vulnerability and judgment in my creations–limited the impact I wanted in my art. In a way, my neighborhood and the people around me paralleled my fears, enforcing inauthenticity.

The facades we put on to keep up with the Joneses fueled me to wear the masks–my own artwork–as part of the final display. This courage to physically be a part of the final display fueled me to continue pushing creative boundaries by using innovative mediums; it pushed me to remain vulnerable by showcasing the more undisclosed aspects of my life.

I want to utilize artwork to not only shed light on the world around me, but also to continue evolving my interaction with art to create a real impact. Much like my artistic transformation, I hope to inspire others to reveal their potential beyond their masks.

2023 Ultimate Guide: 20 UC Essay Examples

2023 Ultimate Guide: 20 UC Essay Examples

Here are 20 UC essay examples (also called UC Personal Insight Essay Examples) from students of ours that have been accepted to at least UCLA or UC Berkeley. If you have writer’s block and want to jumpstart your UC personal insight essay writing process, then these UC essay examples will most definitely help :). Remember, you must write 4 UC essays; the word limit is 350!

Additional UC essay resources:

Table of Contents

UC Personal Insight #1 Examples

Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

Personal Insight Prompt 1 Pro-tip

This leadership essay is something many students struggle with. But if you can nail this topic, it can be a powerful UC Personal Insight essay. The trick with this essay is this: it’s all about how you define leadership. 

Sure, leadership can be the obvious things:

  • Being captain of the school soccer team. 
  • Co-founding a club, being a president of an extracurricular. 

But these are also leadership qualities for this UC Personal Insight essay:

  • Stepping up as a leader in the family (taking care of siblings, etc)
  • Campaigning and standing up for what you believe in (going to Black Lives Matter protests, organizing mask drives during coronavirus)

Here’s a pro-tip: Most students have an obvious answer to UC Prompt 1. Think outside the box :). The UC Personal Insight Essay examples below will show you how it’s done!

UC Essay Example 1: Leader of school choir

It’s a convoluted masterpiece: 64-pages plastered with musical symbols and Latin. Though Rutter’s “Requiem” sounds rather grotesque (and shrieky) when I’m straining to hit an A5, our debut at Carnegie Hall was a hit!

I’ve been in the _______ girl’s choir since age-11, devoting my Saturday evenings to singing with a group of girls I now call family. Over the years, _______ has become my safe space–from losing badminton matches to coping with my grandfather’s cancer diagnosis, my _______ family gives me momentum to power through my low points.

I first encountered “Requiem” when _______ was announced to perform at Carnegie Hall. Though we were initially ecstatic, reality hit swiftly afterwards–in the form of weekly 5-hour rehearsals. Slowly, our already-small choir shrunk, and our sound became weak–dimensionless.

Desperate to elevate our sound, I coordinated auditions to recruit 5 new members. I mentored the new recruits, introducing them to the other girls and leading sectional practices to ease them into their vocal parts. I was in their shoes once, so I knew how vulnerable singing with a group of total strangers was.

Though we were now 15-strong, we lacked richness in our sound–the majority of us were sopranos, but we needed more altos to enhance the harmony. A soprano myself, I volunteered to sing the alto part.

Rather than singing the melody like I was accustomed to, I listened and learned to harmonize with the sopranos while forging my own in the background. Although I was giving up the limelight, I was undertaking a crucial role–laying the foundation of the harmony. Learning alto wasn’t easy–but ultimately, my versatility helped us find our sound.

As I reached that A5 on stage at Carnegie Hall, I realized that effective leadership is about walking the line between being in the foreground, recruiting new members–and being in the background, singing alto. It’s about supporting the girls around me–my family. My love for _______ propelled me to step up and take action, while also teaching me to step back and let others shine.

UC Essay Example 2: Volunteer Club Director


Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump. My heart hastily beat in panic.

Realizing there were only five days left before the charity diner, my thoughts scrambled, overwhelmed by the surmounting of tasks. As the Area Director in charge of five [town]-based Interact clubs and raising funds for anti-trafficking, it was duty to make ends meet; asking for help would only be a sign of weakness. Thus, I willingly endured the consequences and sleep deprivation, eventually losing balance of my schedule…

Ding. A message reads from my phone: “You’re not alone, how can I help?”

Two opposing arguments then battled in my mind. If I delegate, quality work would not be guaranteed. Yet, if I didn’t delegate, deadlines would be missed. I swallowed my ego, knowing there was really one choice, and replied:

“Yes, can you find a venue to fit 75 attendees? Try community centers, and mention we’re a non-profit organization to negotiate the price down, and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!”

For months, I had rejected the support of my officers. I struggled to accept help because it meant relinquishing control, so I surrendered to self-isolation in belief that it was the easiest way out. But, it wasn’t; I worked alone, trusted only myself, and suffered alone.

This exchange marked a pivotal transformation in my leadership. From it, I discovered the true responsibilities of a leader–not to figure out every detail of an event, but to delegate tasks and guide officers in the process. I found purpose, existing to foster leadership within others and oversee the execution of an event. I formed various committees, appointed heads, and enforced a timeline that also listed responsibilities. We were brought together–officers would tackle increasingly difficult tasks, and I would provide the resources: leadership advice, budgeting information, letterheads to request donations. The reality was, I couldn’t do everything on my own, no matter how much I strove for self-reliance and independence. Instead, teamwork and interdependence yielded greater accomplishments–cultivating personal growth, fostering fellowship, and altogether raising $[___].

UC Essay Example 3: Founder of Non-profit


Shipped away from the faraway land of [state name], I moved to India in 8th grade. My parents wanted me to be more globally exposed, but what would I gain from moving 8,000-miles away, anyways?

To engage me in the community, my mom took me to visit the outskirts of Hyderabad where we happened upon a rusty house, home to 35 orphaned children.

We began conversing with their only caretaker and learned the children had never seen life outside these 4 broken walls; additionally, each kid had built their own emotional wall, created from trauma from being abandoned by their parents. From behind the caretaker, I saw vivid brown eyes stare at me, eyes belonging to a little girl who was taking solace, hiding.

“Hi there…” I said, but that was all she wanted to hear before hurtling away.

I later learned her name was [name].

Over the next few days, [name] occupied my mind.  How could I help? Eventually, I came up with the idea for [organization name], an organization that would help those kids by raising funds from students at my high school. Breaking through their emotional walls became my goal.

For a year, I visited the kids daily. With every dance class and tutoring session, I sensed their walls slowly crumbling. [Name] however allowed her barrier to block her off completely; her progress became my mission.

One morning, she smiled meekly, ushering me into her room, where she showed me her beloved doll. At that moment, I realized it wasn’t just a doll, but a symbol of her willingness to reciprocate friendship.

[Name] was so deep in her emotional abyss that showing her I cared wasn’t enough. Working relentlessly to prove that I wasn’t going to give up was crucial, and her growth through [organization name] created an internal transformation, allowing her to let love in. As a leader, I learned that bestowing hope onto others can show them that making a difference stems from within.

A year later, I waved bye to the motivated children as I moved back to the States. Though they weren’t completely healed, their smiles showed our progress.

UC Essay Example 4: Basketball Coach


Shoes stomping on concrete in an awkward rhythm and sweat dripping from my jaw, I labored across the finish line. I stood tall, sticking my chest out only to realize that I was the last finisher. Just as men drive Ferraris to flaunt their power, being the fastest runner in middle school meant respect from boys and giggles from girls. Belly jiggling, I ran away from taunts being hurled in my direction.

At the nadir of my physical strength and confidence, I joined my school’s basketball team in hopes of winning my middle school crush’s heart. Although I initially set out with love in mind, I quickly realized that the basketball court wasn’t a simple concrete ground; it was a harbor where I could train my body and prove my budding athleticism, boosting my self-confidence.

As a former player returning to serve as basketball coach 2 years later, I had a unique perspective compared to my colleagues, giving me a unique leadership advantage: unlike older coaches, I was close in age to my players, allowing me to better connect with them. I understood that young boys thrived on competition, so I focused on team scrimmages, which encouraged my players to play fiercely against each other. While other coaches relaxed on the sidelines, I stood in the center, shouting words of encouragement. Instead of telling my players to run one measly lap, I personally led them on half-mile runs, insisting that running was important because it teaches mental perseverance alongside physical fitness. As a leader, I practiced what I preached, doing pushups as punishment on the rare occasions I was tardy.

Despite being an ambitious basketball coach, I had realistic expectations for my players. After all, these boys didn’t aspire to play professional basketball, so I understood there were more aspects to sport than demonstrating excellence. Realizing that there is much perseverance and dedication involved with basketball, I utilized the sport as a method to nurture my players into responsible young men. In contrast to the large number of absences at the beginning, attendance was perfect at the season’s end.

UC Personal Insight #2 Examples

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.

Personal Insight Prompt 2: Pro-tip

This UC Essay is an essay prompt that maaaany students gravitate towards. This is a creative UC essay, so here’s a tip: define creativity in your own way. You’ll see in the UC essay examples that you can define creativity in a traditional way, from art to dance. 

But, there are more interesting takes on this prompt. Make sure that you explain why something is creative, for you. For instance, students you can be creative doing the following:

  • Yoga 
  • Building homes for Habitat for Humanity  
  • Sumo wrestling (I’m serious!)

UC Essay Example 5: YouTube Creator


“Why do you try so hard?” my friend asked, upon learning that I was editing videos for the third day in a row.

He wasn’t a fan of dedicating time to a task that wasn’t instantly beneficial. For me, however, making YouTube videos wasn’t for short-term gain; I was invested in procuring an audience. To achieve this goal of channel expansion, I hunted for an answer to one question: what strategies did my competitors employ to gain more views and subscribers? I spent 5 years trying to answer this question.

Eventually, I realized the answer was simple: I was too hyperfocused on montage videos–compiled of the most exciting gameplay moments. Video montages were a crowded niche; competing with established channels would be quite an ambitious undertaking. Thus, I began experimenting with other types of videos, such as video game reviews, which turned out successful. I gained traction and found my niche by targeting a Russian audience that doesn’t have the ability of watching English-speaking YouTubers who review games.

Understanding which upcoming games people are excited about is critical in making game review videos. My channel was getting bigger because audiences of gamers wanted to hear judgments on upcoming games before spending their cash. After some time, I attracted enough viewers to expand into other areas of video game-related content.

With over 80 videos and a total of 13,000 views, I’ve learned that I should never expect instant rewards; success always means staying dedicated to work despite setbacks, a principle I’ve started to apply to everything I do, from hobbies to work. My understanding now is that, in all areas of business–including programming–improving a product visually and functionally is just as vital as actually making it. By making videos and exercising my creative side, I learned that it is only by combining the technical side of a product with a good presentation of it to consumers that true commercial success can be achieved.

UC Essay Example 6: Unique & Creative Artist


Art itself is a nuanced word, possessing evolving meanings throughout my life. As a boy, art meant drawing Power Rangers. As a young adult, art serves as a medium where I can impose my feelings and thoughts upon the world, devoid of concerns about others’ approval or disapproval.

Unlike other forms of communication like news articles or Twitter, there are certain liberties artists can leverage to convey their opinions because people approach artwork open mindedly. Instead of condemning a piece as offensive, viewers often deem artwork to be insightful. Thus, through color and lines, I express my queer thoughts without fear of retribution.

During the 2016 election, I created a piece depicting Hillary Clinton as power-hungry. If I had simply voiced this aloud, I would’ve been ridiculed. Instead, I received sophisticated feedback from my peers–some agreed with my perspective while others didn’t. I realized then that artwork serves as a battlefield, in which discussion is encouraged yet the original intent of the art is not criticized.

Delving deeper into my craft, I’ve been entranced by encouraging discussion through the usage of provocative media. Inspired by Alan Turing, a mathematician who dedicated his life to crack the German enigma code, I wanted to portray the notion of sacrifice for the sake of a job. To convey this, I covered a mannequin face with pieces of heart playing cards and planted test tubes around its skull. The cards represent Turing’s human love for his family while the test tubes represents his almost drug-fueled obsession with his work, circling his brain like a crown.

Before these 2 pieces, my primary focus of study was drawing and painting, where I  valued realistically recording what I saw above all else. After making these 2 conceptual pieces, I realized my true talent lies in my thoughts. While there are many artists in the world who can draw and paint better than I, my thoughts are inimitable. I have embraced the idea that art’s true purpose is to allow others a window into an artist’s mind instead of simply replicating reality that nearly everyone can see.

UC Personal Insight #3 Examples

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Personal Insight Prompt 3: Pro-tip

UC essay 3 about greatest skill or talent is an essay examples students seem to really like. I’ll be honest, I’m not a HUGE fan of this essay prompt, but it could be quite powerful if you write this UC PIQ well. 

For this UC essay prompt, I’ve seen students writing about anything, from surfing to soft skills like empathy. Actually, if you’re really into writing this essay prompt, check out this UC Personal Insight Essay example for prompt 3 about surfing for another unique take on this.

UC Essay Example 7: Talented Artist


A bag of stale bread crackled as my mom and I walked hand-in-hand to [name] lake. It was duck feeding time, marking the beginning of my Sunday ritual at age 8. I looked forward to these outings, but not because I enjoyed ducks–I always searched for the woman in the paint-stained hoodie, a true caricature of an “artist.”

She had reached the lake before we did, and stood motionless with her eyes glued to the landscape, painting. I loved observing how she observed her surroundings. Enthralled, I enrolled in art classes.

My art teacher taught me how to capture texture in the shadows, the proportions of the human body, and how the eyes of a portrait hide an artist’s intention. As a student fascinated by human behavior, I was drawn to sketching people in real life. For years, I took pride in  my ability to accurately capture the real-life essence of my subjects.

During freshman year, I was invited to study art in Manhattan. I proudly displayed my works to the Artist-in-Residence, [name].

“These sketches look incomplete,” he said, unimpressed.

So began the most artistically grueling 6 weeks of my life. Everyday, I reinterpreted my sketches to what I hoped was completion; everyday, [name] shook his head. However, I was getting close and developing my own sense of style.  

One day, as I sat on a bench in Times Square, sketching, I noticed how hurried everyone was; I felt a sense of urgency simply by watching. Inspired, I began to capture this hurried look in my art; the end result looked rushed and, ironically,  unfinished. But, it was unfinished with a purpose: it truly captured the essence of my subjects. [name] approved.

That summer, I learned that I’m never finished as an artist; I will continually evolve and my artwork will shift in parallel. Therefore, my previously prized accurate depictions of people doesn’t truly capture their essence. I’ve learned to create my own signature way of interpreting people, and in the UCs, I look forward to contributing my perspectives of growth and artistic vision in the studio and beyond.

UC Personal Insight #4 Examples

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

Personal Insight Prompt 4: Pro-tip

Personally, I love this UC Essay Prompt. After all, you’re going to college to learn (college is literally an educational opportunity), so it’s an awesome opportunity to talk about summer internships and research experiences you’ve held. 

If you have an educational barrier that you’d like to highlight for this UC Personal Insight Essay, that’s also a great option, too. Make sure that you spend time in your essay talking about how you overcame the barrier — this is extremely important! The UC essay examples do a great job painting a picture of how students have taken advantage of educational opportunities. 

UC Essay Example 8: Engineering Research Opportunity


My friends blast Drake in the car, heads bobbing to the rhythm as we drive to Chipotle. Instead, my car “music” tends to be TED talks, ranging from Tony Robbins to artificial intelligence.

Junior year, I was especially moved by a TED talk by MIT professor [name] about renewable energy storage systems. Growing up with an environmental engineer mother and reading Elon Musk’s biography, I became further inspired in alternative energy sources. Sophomore year, I event created a sodium battery by transforming algae in river water for a science fair, winning me [].

Inspired by Professor []’s TED talk, I reached out, and emailed him. Eventually, I was put in touch with a post-doctoral student on the project, leading to a summer internship where I studied liquid battery electrodes.

My first day, I received a stack of Dr. []’s papers dating back to 2000–building blocks of this cutting-edge technology. Eager to prove myself, I shied away from asking for help. Slowly, I pieced together the chemistry behind rechargeable lithium batteries and lab’s objective to create cost-effective, liquid-metal renewable battery separated by a molten salt electrolyte.

Eventually, my mentor called me out for hiding away in the corner.

“Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness–questions lead to ideas that can challenge scientists to think about problems differently!” Dr. [] insisted. I later witnessed this collaborative nature firsthand at weekly lab meetings–debates led people to alter their investigative approaches!

I learned to ask questions, leading to opportunities where I assisted researchers to prepare for tensile tests; my constant prodding even led me to assist the analysis behind the mechanical behavior change of designer polymers behind the battery! As I connected with labmates, I began to see the beauty behind science; scientists build upon other researcher’s findings, and science flourishes in a setting where people are encouraged to challenge the status quo, leading to progress.

At the UCs, I’m eager to build upon my research experience in renewable technology; I aspire to learn, and grow alongside the many talented students, eager to make an impact in our world.

UC Essay Example 9: Attending Biotechnology COSMOS


“I’m sorry but we can’t afford to send you to COSMOS anymore,” my father whispered.

I stared back defeatedly, unsure how to respond. Because of my grandfather’s recent death, my family could no longer afford the $3,500 tuition required for my bioengineering program. Still, I refused to let this opportunity go to waste and got a part-time job at In-N-Out to financially support myself. Knowing how desperately I needed the money, my manager often asked:

“You weren’t scheduled to work today, but do you want to come in and work for six hours?”

“Yes!” I always responded, as six hours brought me eighty dollars closer to my goal.

For hours upon hours, I deciphered orders into the abbreviated buttons on my screen, restocked the dining room, and diced potatoes. Customers oftentimes spoke down at me; just being there felt miserable. I wanted to break down, quit working, but continued believing that my persistence would be rewarded with the opportunity to attend COSMOS. Therefore, I endured the stress and exhaustion.

Thus, I realized: all opportunities required sacrifice, but only I determined whether or not its pursuit would be worthwhile. In overcoming a steep $3500 tuition fee, I took one step forward towards financial independence and discovered that all goals were attainable; it simply depended on my priorities, willingness to sacrifice, and desire to work towards them.

My time at In-N-Out cultivated not only an income, but also personal growth. Fearful of rejection and judgment, I started the job intimidated by the task of interacting with strangers. But, as I initiated more and more conversations with a warm “Hi, how are you?” customers became less frightening, oftentimes responding with a genuine smile. And, soon enough, our short exchanges evolved to meaningful conversations, as routine customers would share a distinct story about their family, culture, or accomplishments. Because of this experience as an order-taker, I now embrace every opportunity to connect with people, understand their background, and broaden my perspective of the world.

UC Essay Example 10: Applied Math Research Opportunity


Kalman filtering is a secret technique that hides in plain sight. Kalman filters guided the Apollo mission to the moon, but they’re like arcane magic in engineering circles. They use programming, mathematical models, and physics to make educated guesses about complex systems. Last summer, eager to take my first steps in aerospace at [company], I was given the chance to create a prototype Kalman filter to fly their satellites in space.

However, when I first stepped foot on [company’s] campus, I was assigned to updating the flight software’s user interface. I had previous experience in similar work so I went straight to my mentor and told him about my aspirations to expand my horizons during the internship. It took two weeks, but we eventually convinced the Applied Math Department to give me the Kalman filter project.

Completely new to this graduate-level field, I worked with fury and concentration unlike any time before. I slowly built up my project, meticulously planning a library of Java classes that could be deployed in any future Kalman filter use-case. I even read a shelf-full of books on topics ranging from communications’ circuit design to orbital mechanics and software architecture.

Just when my project seemed to sputter alive, my tests showed that it wasn’t converging on the satellite’s location. To identify the error in my algorithm, I took my mentor’s guidance, emailed experts at [company], and read every scientific paper I could find. After another week of debugging, my colleague and I found that the algorithm was over-shooting because the covariance matrices were being updated twice. I fixed the bug and felt elated; I had created a fully functional Kalman filter!

Along the way, I took advantage of every opportunity to network, participate in professional development, and grow my understanding of large corporations. My supervisor taught me business basics, the pros and cons of company reorganization, and how contract acquisitions work. I reached out to program managers and found mentors in people that had shaped aerospace since its infancy. My 7-week [company] internship helped me grow as an individual, a computer scientist, and an entrepreneur.

UC Essay Example 11: Computer Science Internship


February 23rd, [year]. 7:59am. As I walked into the library—suffocated by the stress of students frantically making last-minute edits before the entire school submitted their year-long benchmark—the servers came crashing down as the school’s slow internet drastically plummeted from 4 bars to 1 in seconds.

After watching this catastrophe for the 9th time, I wondered how many more heartbroken students there’d be until Irvington eradicated the primordial network system. Thus, I contacted the organization accountable for the networking—[city] Unified School District’s IT Department. After addressing specific problems in my school with the chairman, he offered me a position as a summer intern.

As a student customer and now employee of [city], I had the power to tie my two passions of serving my community and coding together. With my extensive knowledge of the student body’s needs, I knew exactly where to deploy internet access points in places with high student traffic. I eventually developed a symbiotic relationship with my coworkers, as I helped them understand their student customers while they taught me how to troubleshoot networks. In that, I realized that engineers must understand their customers inside-out to be efficient and valuable to their projects.

As I continued connecting iPads and internet-ready devices to high-speed internet, I realized that these Internet of Things (IoT) could bridge the human world and technology. After proving myself useful in installing access points, I contributed to my coworkers’ project of conserving schools’ electricity and air conditioning when school isn’t in session. The following weeks, I used my programming expertise to assign static IP addresses which allow schools to control the electricity remotely. Through this I realized that anyone could code “HelloWorld”. However, actually applying these programming concepts to make real-life improvement—whether it be saving energy or speeding up wifi—connected the dots of humanity and the future of technology.

As this booming technology industry’s exponential growth skyrockets every blink of an eye, technology and humanity are more intertwined than ever. Furthermore, I hope to be a catalyst in our innovative generation where devices are getting faster and smarter by combining my technical skills with people’s needs.

UC Essay Example 12: CS Research


A crackle shook the sky as a meteorite plummeted towards Earth. Below, a tyrannosaurus-rex bellowed its final roar as the meteor engulfed the world aflame. 

“Do it again!” the kids shouted. I smiled at my TechHive team–we had created the museum’s coolest exhibit by creating an augmented-reality (AR) world (while capitalizing on the universal appeal of explosions in children). 

A month ago, our world consisted of scrap cardboard and tangled wires. But with some creativity, we combined servo motors to animate the dinosaurs in their swampy habitat. 

In the middle of our “world,” a camera attached to a Raspberry Pi (a small computer) streamed video into Google Cardboard (VR Headset), controlled by lines of C. By wearing Google Cardboard, visitors were teleported to the Mesozoic. 

Watching the children fumble with the controls of our Playstation-3 controller, however, I realized that they were limited by clunky hardware–the joystick wasn’t responsive, and couldn’t direct precise camera movements. 

Spending hours calibrating the controller, I realized the future of robotics lay in the software–automation could transcend barriers of manually-controlled robotics by self-analyzing the data, and self-correcting imperfections by learning from its own mistakes.

Funneled by curiosity, I pursued computer vision (CV) research under Dr. [] at CalPoly SLO, where we trained machines to “see” the peak ripeness of strawberries from images, so that farmers could determine the optimal time and labor necessary for harvesting.

Using MATLAB and the RGB-values of sample strawberries, I implemented algorithms that extrapolated data onto live action cameras in strawberry fields which identified, counted, and determined the ripeness of the strawberries. 

From integrating AR into a dinosaur exhibit at TechHive to creating algorithms that optimize farmers’ harvests using computer-vision research, I’ve realized that the true beauty of technology lies in its interdisciplinary applications. With these experiences of combining hardware and software, computer science and agriculture, I’ve emerged empowered to tackle problems from combining multidisciplinary perspectives. 

It is through this implementation of ingenuity with the raw cutting edge of technology that I aspire to further explore at the UC’s and develop my true potential to apply engineering to revolutionize the world.

UC Personal Insight #6 Examples

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

Personal Insight Prompt 6: Pro-tip

YAAS. Love this UC Essay prompt, and the Personal Insight Examples below do a great job showcasing this concept.

Here’s a hint: If you can, I would write more about how you’ve furthered this academic interest OUTSIDE the classroom. In other words, for this UC essay, let’s say you want to write about biology. Try to talk about something outside of AP Biology. What other experiences do you have outside of school that got you passionate about this particular subject?


UC Essay Example 13: Political Advocate


Upon returning from my AP Government field trip Washington D.C., my conversation with Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill echoed in my head. I felt inspired by their platform of promoting the common good and refusing lobbying from large corporations. Although I may not be a politician, I was inspired to believe that I could still make a difference in my local community.

Driving up to my front door, I found a letter taped on my front door in bold letters: “VERIZON’S  CELLULAR TOWER INSTALLATION”.

“Who-the-what-now!?” I exclaimed as I found that 5 houses had received same notice. After researching the effects of cellular towers, I found that close vicinity to one would put my family at a high risk of cancer.

Within the next 48-hours before the tower’s approval at City Hall, I rallied everyone and their grandmas to be proactive for the sake of their health and community.  Although learning about public policy was enthralling, actually applying it to the real world seemed like a distant idea—one that only my Congresspeople could do. However, I began realizing that anyone could make in impact leveraging determination and the help of one’s community.

Upon arrival to the city council meeting, I was shocked to see the room overflowed with 350+ people with banners—my teachers, principals, and friends came to show their support! Neighbors who once bickered over whose dog urinated on whose side of the lawn put their differences aside for the common interest of their community.

As I walked up to the podium to present the case, I thought about Hobbes’s natural rights philosophies. Through these civic concepts, I truly understood that our free will determines our self-governed society. The power of public policy lies in the hands of the people.

With an army of people behind me, I could see that they too, understood that politicians may have high statuses to make a change. However, a community setting their differences aside for one common goal is much stronger than one politician. I realized it only takes the power of one—one person, one action, one community—that makes all the difference.

UC Essay Example 14: Favorite subject = Economics 


In the crisp white room of the Tate gallery, something caught the corner of my eye. “The Snail” it was titled. This was a piece that, despite appearing distinctively simple to me, held significant value in the art world. Although I held a lot of respect for an artist like Matisse, I questioned the presence of the art piece in the gallery: Why is this regarded as priceless in the art world?

Having studied art for over 10 years, I have often wondered how some pieces were deemed priceless while others were left to be forgotten. This subsequently led me to question how one quantifies the value of art. During my study between the intersection of art and economics, I explored this question by learning about the economics of supply and demand, and looking into economic bubbles.

As I further investigated economic models and assumptions, I began to appreciate that rationalitya core tenet of economicsdoesn’t apply just to physical utility of a product.

“The Snail” represents an example of an object that cannot be immediately quantified; its intrinsic value rises because it symbolizes cultural and historical significance. “The Snail” was unique and coveted not only because it was one of the last pieces by a renowned artist, but it also celebrated Matisse’s passion for creativity despite inevitable limitations of age, arthritis, and cancer.  

Studying the economic explanation behind the value of art has taught me to reconsider what I would describe as quantifiable value, and consider the meaning behind utility. The physical benefit of a product doesn’t always determine its value. This has influenced me to appreciate the importance of understanding the rationale behind people’s decisions, and has allowed me to reach a deeper understanding of the psyche behind behavioural economics.

This process taught me the importance of making connections between seemingly unrelated fields like economics and psychology to investigate the meaning behind art that gives it new meaning, new light. Upon returning to the Tate Gallery the following summer, I approached exhibitions with a new mindset, and a newfound appreciation for art pieces that provoke new questions and curiosity.

UC Essay Example 15: Pre-med/Biology Student


There is a certain joy in appreciating the beauty of the natural world. Learning the processes of life is like enjoying a entrancing story, a tale that further captivated me through science classes.  I wanted to continue reading this story outside of school, and over the past summer, I was able to work at Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma at Stanford University. There, my internship with Dr. [name] helped define my future and solidify my passion for life sciences.

I came across this internship during junior year after my school counselor encouraged me to applyI couldn’t believe it when she chose me to join the team! I had some prior wet lab experience through food chemistry projects to create vegan cheese at [organization name] (my neighborhood bio-hackerspace), but working with world-renowned scientists and a Nobel Prize winner just a few doors down was definitely intimidating. I was assigned to work with Dr. [name] to examine the effects of misregulation of airway smooth muscle in the airways of the lungs during embryonic development. Defects could lead to serious diseases affecting the lung, including asthma. We use cutting-edge single-cell analysis to look at expressed genes in the lung to create a library and understand how the cells reacted to disease.

My main task was optimizing our single cell protocol since we desperately needed higher efficiency. I scoured the internet for ideas, reading papers that left my head spinning and talking to experts who made me more confused. After a summer of struggle, I came across a paper that described an enzyme that could join incomplete genetic sequences together so they would not be lostbingo, just what I needed. The months of failure finally led to a fruitful solution, and the increase of data was pivotal in our lab’s application for grants.

The internship exposed me to the two sides of researchthe grind and the overwhelming happiness following a positive result.  The pure joy of watching my project bear fruit made me fall more in love with research and has influenced me to continue my journey towards making the world a healthier place.

UC Personal Insight #7 Examples

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Personal Insight Prompt 7: Pro-tip

This UC Essay prompt is really nice, and allows you to showcase the types of contribution you’ll make to the UC campus.

Here’s a pro-tip: make sure you write about an experience that genuinely resonates with you, because your emotional connection to this topic is very important. Take a look at the essay examples below; you can definitely feel just how much these students cared about their specific cause.

UC Essay Example 16: Creating Cancer Awareness Week


The first day I rolled [Name’s] wheelchair around school, people stared and whispered about him. Classmates even smirked, “This will definitely grant you an A in [] class.” Dumbstruck by the lack of empathy around me, I picked my jaw up off the ground and replied, “[Name] isn’t some charity project for his incurable cancer. He is my friend.”

In my little bubble we call “high school”, my community is caught up in the stigma that we’ll only succeed when we achieve a 4.0 GPA or be the ‘first person to cure cancer.’ However, in reality, the stress that eats us up pales in comparison to the bacterium consuming [Name’s] brain. Although his time is limited, he isn’t dying. He’s living. [Name’s] optimistic outlook gave me a reality check and reminded my peers and me to stop from worrying about “straight-A’s” and start caring about people around us. Weeks following, I hosted a [Cancer] Awareness Week to help my peers to not only empathize with [Name], but also see life through his eyes.

Through spending time with [Name], I’ve been inspired by his positive outlook. I wanted to show him that his school community would fight alongside him during his battle. As people began to put their priorities in perspective, hundreds of community members participated in the walkathons and school fundraisers that I hosted for him, raising $[] to try to ease his family’s financial burden for his monthly treatments.

Today, as we walk down the halls together, classmates still stare–they stare with admiration as they give [Name] a warm “What’s up!” Through my friendship with [Name], both my community and I understand the lesson which most adults only realize at the end of their lives: The shortsightedness in the mindless race to superficial success are meaningless without taking the time to genuinely cherish our relationships.

UC Essay Example 17: Volunteering through Debate Club


In [xth] grade, I was lucky enough to join the middle school debate team; it made me articulate, graceful, and deliberate with my thought process. However, in high school, I learned that my middle school debate program was shut down–my childhood playground was torn down in front of my eyes! Nearly 100 kids, including my little brother, would be robbed of the opportunity given to me.

I envisioned a program that would meet after school, getting kids and parents excited about forensics at a younger age. Within 2-weeks, I started meeting with the school principals in my city to communicate my visions. Fortunately, they were very receptive to the idea, prompting me to begin advertising the [name of organization] immediately. By November, we held our first practice.

We started our meetings by teaching the kids to give 30-second speeches debating fun topics like Spiderman versus Superman or Chocolate versus Vanilla Ice Cream, to capture their interest. The students were unruly out of excitement for learning “big kid stuff”, but their enthusiasm made the extra effort truly worth it.

Each of the 30 students approached debate differently and pushed me to expand my own understanding of public speaking. Eventually, we progressed to topics like yearlong school and California’s 3-strikes law. It was gratifying to see the kids’ growth through this process. The most amazing experience I had was when [Name], who would cry behind his wireframe glasses when asked to stand in front of the class, gave a one-minute speech in front of everyone. In his courage I saw the grit and wit of a successful speaker.

I’m thrilled that my humble platform has gained traction in the community. This is my second year running the club and my other team members clearly show the enthusiasm to keep the organization alive. Best of all, within two years, we will see the first batch of [name of organization] alums in varsity debate at my high school.

UC Essay Example 18: Caring for Disabled Patients


She was nothing like I imagined. Sitting in a wheelchair like a pale doll, she had tubes and inch-long stitches covering her body.

I had no idea what I had signed up for when I took the job of caring for [Name], who has disabilities that prevent her from talking, walking, and standing. I knew that this would be an enormous responsibility, but I resolved to stay committed, believing that helping someone who needs it is a must.

For months, I didn’t know how to act around  [Name]: how should I talk to her? Can I touch her? Despite my efforts, there was a palpable distance between us–physically and emotionally.

I had to gain [Name’s] acceptance. Eventually, I noticed her irrevocable schedule, consisting of stretching, using her standing frame, watching movies  then napping in an endless loop. Her nurses rarely engaged with her or even asked her what she wanted to do. So I took a  different approach by simply talking to her and treating her like any human should.

Slowly she began opening up to me, and eventually, I learned that she enjoyed piano. A week later, I brought a keyboard to teach her how to press the keys and she began clapping when I entered her room! As we became closer, it felt wrong to get paid for caring for a close friend, and I proposed to  [Name’s] family how I would be happy to continue taking care of [Name] on a voluntary basis.

I have been taking care of  [Name] for three years now. Through her, I’ve learned my greatest lesson: learning how to be happy and enjoy the present. [Name] enjoys everyone and everything around her, despite her limitations. She blows me a kiss when I play piano and claps when I walk in the room. Even the healthiest people I know don’t have the same capabilities to be genuinely happy like she does. Through [Name], I’ve been inspired to adopt her joyful and unconditionally loving  mentality, which are perspectives and contributions that I aspire to bring to my UC community.

UC Personal Insight #8 Examples

Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Personal Insight Prompt 8: Pro-tip

This UC essay makes people a bit anxious.  I mean, what is that ONE THING that sets you apart from everyone else? Here’s my argument, whether or not you decide to answer this prompt: One day, you will go out into the workforce and interview for your dream job. A question your future employer WILL ask is something very similar to this UC essay. “So, there are tons of qualified candidates for this dream job… what makes YOU so special?” And, you’ll have to convince them. 

So, see this UC Personal Insight Question as the perfect opportunity to practice your answer. The essay examples below do a great job showcasing the plethora of different interpretations you can take on this prompt.

UC Essay Example 19: Culture of Hard Work


“Did you get that from the Dollar Store?”

My cheeks blushed with embarrassment, as I glanced over my 64-pack of crayons that were, in fact, from the Dollar Store. I was told by my parents to value these crayons because their sheer quantity would last me through elementary school. And, out of all my friends, I was the only one to receive free meals. I was convinced that our family was special; when in actuality, I was being protected from a harsher reality.

Years later, when it came to the discussion of my father’s retirement, I intermediated as a translator. Yet, before I could decipher our financial consultant’s advice, my father stormed off, shouting with his thick accent:

“No retire! I work!”

Thus, my father continued his career as a postal carrier. He endured an exhausting daily cycle: delivering mail along a 10-mile route, running errands after work, then resting until his next shift. His ceaseless fatigue affirmed that our family’s income was hard-earned money.

“Why does Papa keep working?” I asked.

“He just likes to work,” my mom replied.

But this was a white lie. Tears trailed down from my eyes when I discovered the surmounting amount of loans—all confessing the magnitude of my parents’ sacrifices to create a “normal life” for me. I was given a quality education, because my parents took out a mortgage for a house in a better school district. I was given ceaseless love and support, because my mom gave up her career to become a full-time mom.

In some form, sacrifices are always being made by our family, friends, and community—all for another’s benefit. Having grown up in a working class family,  entitlement did not exist; only hard work, regardless of whether it was mine or my parents, would better the conditions over time. Thus, raised by the altruistic and diligent examples that I call Mom and Dad, I became an individual who aids others unconditionally and values the simple pleasures of life. Yet, above all, I value connectivity, as there are always people who have pushed me towards success.

UC Essay Example 20: LGBTQ Advocacy


As a newly-minted driver, I had limited options where I was permitted to drive my mother’s Camry. Amongst the tantalizing choices–including Chevron–I chose CVS for my escapades.

I’d peruse each aisle, starting with toiletries. I enjoyed reading shampoo ingredients, leading me to learn about the chemical bonds of its compounds like sulfate, an insecticide.

One Tuesday in late-January, I found myself crashing into the velvet adorned Hallmark card aisle. Reading each Valentine’s Day card, I realized: ALL these were geared towards heterosexually-identifying people.

As a straight female, I unquestioningly supported LGBTQ rights. However, this moment opened my eyes to the nuances that quietly lurked in my pharmacy–nuances that could make a gay person feel excluded.

I later learned 1-in-10 Americans identify as LGBTQ, meaning Hallmarks of the world were turning a blind eye to 32-million LGTBQ-identifying people, sending the message that their love was different!

I wanted to back my support with action, prompting me to attend my school’s LGBTQ Club meeting. I felt uncomfortable, like all eyes were on me as my classmates witnessed me walking into LGBTQ meeting. A fraction of myself began to understand how difficult it might be to “come-out” even in a supposedly open-minded environment.

Later, I wrote a piece in my school newspaper detailing my CVS revelation and LGBTQ Club experiences, imploring our school to be more mindful of the unconscious biases we create. I also spearheaded my school’s prom committee, ensuring it was inclusive. This year, I helped launch “LGBTQ Week” at my old middle school, teaching students to be mindful of the language they used.

I smile as lightbulbs go off in the kids’ minds as they realize that we can’t simply assume that a boy automatically has a girlfriend, meaning we have to be mindful of the gender pronouns we use. I smile when a student who I later learned has two mothers came to give me a fist-bump. At the UCs, I’m steadfastly committed to ensuring that we create a loving, inclusive community; to the UCs, I aspire to continue turning on more lightbulbs of realization, intellectually and personally.

How to Answer The Common App Essay Prompt #1

How to Answer The Common App Essay Prompt #1

The Common App Essay Prompt #1:

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Are you a first generation college student?

Is English your second language?

Ever faced any hardships in life that were defining moments for you? This is the type of anecdote idea that’ll arise when you’re doing college essay anecdote brainstorming exercise #3

Well then, this is the essay where you can SHINE, my friend!

Let’s break down how to answer The Common Application Essay prompt #1.

First thing’s first: Common Application essay prompts are all of the type, “tell us more about yourself.” This means that you need to dig deep and find that one memorable story with a memorable message that the admissions folks will remember.

The message is that one-liner statement that embodies who you are. It’s that one statement that you want the admissions officer to remember about you once he finishes reading your personal statement.

So, back to the essay prompt. This first Common App Essay prompt is nice because it gives you a few topic ideas for your essay; it wants you to focus on your background, identify, interests, or talent.

Sweet, let’s start there.

How to Answer the Common App Essay: What’s a college essay anecdote based on your background?

“Background” could be anything. This is some vague stuff.

Maybe your background is that you have parents that are super famous and were never in your life… or you were bullied… or you had a tough living situation growing up. Your background can be your culture or your upbringing.

Your background is literally anything that has shaped you. Story topics here are endless.


Here’s the thing.

Don’t write a sob story. If you’re writing about something sad, then, yes — your tone is going to be sad. But, you must end on a positive note. The conclusion is extremely important.

You must end with how your background has defined and molded you into a harder, better, faster, stronger version of you (what a good song).


Don’t end your essay with a trite message like an old Disney film. Go deep in your analysis of what you learned from this experience and how you’ve grown from it.

How to Answer the Common App Essay: What’s a topic based on your identity?

This is pretty related to the background.

Your identity could be the fact that you’re Chinese. Maybe you’re part of the LGBT community? Maybe you identify yourself as the mini-version of your super accomplished sibling and you’re trying to get out of that mold?

Or, maybe… you’re a hipster *gasp* (actually, for the most part, don’t write about being a hipster)

There are plenty of defining identities that have molded you. A lot of great stories can stem from these.

How to Answer the Common App Essay: What’s a topic based on your interest?

Ooooh. Admisisons officers (and human beings in general) absolutely love reading about interests and passions. These interest-driven essays can sometimes be inauthentic, though, because students can feel the need to write about an interest that they’re not THAT into, but they think it makes them sound intelligent.

For instance, I recently read an essay by a student who wrote about his passion for cancer biology.

I prodded him a bit about the topic: “Um, really? You reallllly think about cancer biology in your spare time and you just can’t get enough of it?!”

Eventually, he said he was genuinely interested in it, but we decided that his interest in cancer biology wasn’t a strong enough one-liner message he wanted the admissions committee to remember about him. Afterall, he had only read articles and books about cancer biology.

A passion for cancer biology could be a great topic as long as it truly defines you.

The bottom line is: You have one shot to “talk” to the admissions officer during the application process. How do you want to be remembered?

How to Answer the Common Application Essay: What’s a topic based on your talent?

Here’s my advice about writing about your talents for your college admissions essay: Don’t do it.

Well, if your talent is an interest or passion of yours, then write all you want about it. But, keep in mind that you need to sound likeable in your essay… and no one likes a braggart. So, if you decide to write about a talent, don’t write about how awesomely awesome you are at that talent.

Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) Example

Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) Example

How do you write a great Letter of Continued Interest (also called LOCI) after a waitlist or deferral? 

A great Letter of continued interest (LOCI) serves as another update to your dream school. Keep it professional, but also make sure to have your unique voice and personality show. 

Below, we have some LOCI best practices, and more importantly, and awesome Letter of Continued Interest Example. 

Table of Contents

Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI): Best Practices

Are you worried that your letter of continued interest or LOCI will be a bit… lame… because you have NOTHING to update colleges on?

No need to stress about the LOCI. I’m CERTAIN you have something to share. You probably don’t think it’s “good enough.”

First, revisit your submitted application. Ask yourself: What have you NOT shared with the college since you last applied?

It can be extracurriculars or personal stories that you share in your LOCI. The Letter of Continued Interest example below will give you ideas, but just know this: Top schools like UPenn or even NYU want to see the personal sides of you. In other words, you don’t always have to flex your extracurriculars.

Here are a few best practices: 

  • Thank the admissions for another opportunity to showcase yourself in this letter. 
  • Express your LOVE and EXCITEMENT for the school. In order to do that, TALK about something specific about the school that captivates you.
  • Showcase your GROWTH throughout the college admissions process and reflect on that in your letter.
  • Keep it to one page.

LOCI Best Practice: Showcase your growth

If you do the college application process effectively, you should have a better understanding of who you are, what makes you unique, and what you hope to gain from a college experience. 

In the Letter of Continued Interest or LOCI, reflect on the growth that you have had over the past few months. Here are some questions for you:

  • How do you think you have personally grown through writing about yourself 100+ times?
  • If you were 1.0 version of yourself BEFORE college apps, who are you now (You 2.0) from doing all this self reflection?

Write about your growth from the experience!

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Best practice for LOCI: Showcase your love for the school

Here’s another awesome hack: Showcase demonstrated interest in your LOCI. Basically, that means you’ve done a lot of research into the school and know EXACTLY why you want to go there and how you will contribute to the school community. 

The LOCI example touches on this very well. You’ll see that below. But for now, here are a few ideas:

  • Have you done an interview? If so, what did you learn about the school that made you want to go, even more?
  • Did you get a chance to go to another virtual information session or even on-campus visit? If so, what did you learn about the school that made you want to go?
  • Were you able to talk to a current student/alum of the school? Did they have an experience that you can write in your LOCI about why you’re even MORE excited about the school?

Example of Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI)

Below is the LOCI or Letter of Continued Interest example. Obviously, please do not plagiarize 😅

LOCI Example Below: 

Dear XXXX Admissions,

I hope this letter finds you well! I am grateful for the opportunity to be considered again for admission, and I’m very excited to tell you about what I’ve been up to since November!

While writing my college essays, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the last few years of high school so far. I started out at [Name of high school] feeling extremely overwhelmed; it seemed like everyone knew what they wanted to be when they “grew up.” To try to answer this question, I threw myself into everything, from backpacking in Yosemite for 5 days (I decided this wasn’t for me) to performing for a poetry slam. Therefore, since the first semester of senior year, I have been continuing to push myself to get out of my comfort zone, alongside maintaining all As in my classes. 

I have a poster on my wall that says, “Seek Discomfort”. Since November, I led my team for [nonprofit organization] to start our first ever race, where we donated over 40 pairs of shoes to students in [location], and helped them train by running 10-15 miles a week alongside the Pacific coast. We purposely woke up at 5:30am for these sunrise runs, and we purposely pushed each runner’s limits a little further each week. We even ran into the icy cold ocean at the end of one session simply to underline the fact that being uncomfortable is the first stage in personal growth. Currently we have 8-14 students that join us consistently each week on the beach runs. We aim to grow it and have another eager underclassmen from my track and field team to take over this community so it continues to flourish even after we graduate high school.

As the older sibling to my 10-year-old step sister, I have also been spending more time babysitting her since submitting my application, because my mom is working more than ever before. Recently, my sister began to express interest in coding. As an aspiring psychology major, I have little experience, but we have been taking online classes through [Program], and we are in the process of coding a motion sensor security camera for her room using a Raspberry Pi. This is outside of my comfort zone, but we are learning and teaching each other on the weekends. It has been extremely rewarding to spend quality time with her while learning a new skill. Creating our own personal project has made me more interested in exploring how computer science (CS) can be utilized to help diagnose mental health issues and ways to offer more personalized support for those suffering. At [college name], I hope to explore the myriad of ways that CS intersects with the humanities and social sciences to create solutions that help others.

I recently had the amazing opportunity to speak to [name of alum], a graduate of [school name], to learn more about the school. His experiences in [a personal anecdote] extremely excite me, as I aspire to do the same; I’d love to pursue [a particular program at the school] by contributing back to the city of [name]. Through our meeting, I realized that students at [school name] are go-getters; they want to grow as individuals, and they continuously seek discomfort to do so. This is exactly the type of environment that I would love to contribute to. I believe that people with a growth mindset continuously push each other in a community to achieve their best selves. I’ve witnessed this power of a true, growth-oriented community through my running career and mentoring underserved youth through [nonprofit x]. Should I be admitted, I will absolutely attend and I will push my peers to be the best versions of themselves that they can be to elevate themselves, the greater community, and [school name] spirit.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my letter.

Warm Regards,