How to Write the University of California Essay

How to Write the University of California Essay

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The University Of California (UC) has an enrollment of above 250,000, with each of its nine schools having approximately twenty-five thousand undergraduate students. UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara. Six of the campuses were among the top 50 colleges as ranked by the US News & World Report’s 2017. Two of the six that stand out are UCLA and UC Berkeley which were at position 24 and 20 respectively. As evidenced by the rankings, UC prides themselves in having the most esteemed state university system in the US.

Every year they accept new applications. University of California schools share the same application portal, which means that if you have the money, you can apply to multiple schools. Their application stands out since it is usually a month before the common application, with the deadline on the 30th of November each year. The application entails answering eight individual awareness questions of which you will be required to answer four of them. Each question has a 350-word limit. Initially, the questions although personal may appear challenging. However, at EliteEssayWriters, we will guide you deal with the essays accordingly.

The University of California Schools Entry Essay Prompts

Note: As mentioned above, you can only make one application to all the nine campuses under UC. This, therefore, implies that your essay will be open and not specific to one campus. However, if you are applying to a particular capus, then you can be school specific.

Writing any essay requires some level organization, tackling UC essay prompts is no different. There are eight questions of which you are expected to answer four. To identify which ones to answer, divide the eight prompts into three classes: “possibilities,” “avoid at all costs” and “definites.”

  • “Possibilities”: You get a hint of what needs to be done, though a bit uncertain but you can organize your idea and come up with an excellent essay eventually.
  • “Definites”: You are certain of what is required, and can comfortably organize your thoughts into a great essay.
  • “Avoid at all cost”: You have no idea of what is required and therefore would not want to attempt the prompt.

Now that you’ve divided the prompts as directed above, focus on the ones that you can comfortably write an essay on, outlining the main points. The idea is that you will work on the “possibility” and the “Definite”. “Definite” is not based on liking the subject of the prompt, although it does count, but rather on the availability of the narrative. You may like a topic but you don’t have content.

The above process will guide you identify the four questions that you will do. The goal is to reproduce an essay that reveals your intricacies, breadth of character, and highlights some of your key strengths.

The cited process may not work for everyone. There are different approaches that one can use, therefore, don’t limit yourself. However, regardless of the approach that you use, certain factors remain constant:

  • There is no need to rush. Answering questions at a first glance is not the right approach. Identify the prompts that you want to work on, then highlight the main ideas. Only write the prompts with the most material.
  • The essay is about you, it’s only logical that it should reveal what is essential to you.

The Eight Essay Questions

1. Refer to an incident(s) that demonstrates your leadership skills whereby you have influenced others positively, assisted resolve disputes, or have been part of a team and contributed to team effort.

The admissions officers are looking at your leadership skills. Just the title of a position is not enough, so, you need to show them how you cultivated creative pressure, group action and mentorship in the organization. Leadership goes beyond the school setting and is not limited to titled positions.

Take an example of being a chess club member. This doesn’t necessarily imply that you did not participate in a leadership role. You may have organized a fundraiser or tournament for the club even while just being a member. The goal is to show the admission officers how you utilized your position to be a positive influence on others.

Examples of essay responses to the prompt:

You were a member of the Chinese organization in your school. There was a culture show being organized. Being motivated by ethnic heritage, you devoted most of your lunch breaks to organizing the show. The goal was to ensure a smooth presentation. You collected tickets, coordinated performers, and refreshments. However, there were a few setbacks such as a performer not showing up and refreshments not arriving on time. You did not take up a leadership role in organizing the event but exhibited some good leadership. The culture show was a success as both nights sold out, and attended equally by hundreds of non-Chinese and Chinese people - all those people coming together and celebrating the Chinese ethnic heritage.

There is an orphanage club on campus where you were the president. Among your responsibilities was distributing clothes to the homeless. On one occasion, you held a conversation with someone who narrates the story of how his life took a turn for the worst when he fell ill and eventually had to pay an exorbitant medical bill. Shocked and deeply touched by his story, you decide to do medicine with the goal of making it affordable.

When you were a camp counselor you came across two kids who had trouble getting along. In a bid to solve the conflict, you spent a long time before bed speaking to them at a personal level to know more about their family situation and personal lives. Understanding both their situations put you in a position to help them resolve the conflict by guiding them reach a compromise. In the end, they became role models to other campers.

2. We all have a creative side which can be expressed in a variety of ways: artistically, problem-solving, innovative thinking and original, just to mention a few. How do you express your creative side? Describe.

Creativity goes beyond the traditional being artistic or a poet. Creativity here refers to problem-solving, artistic expression, and novel thinking skills among others; in the sense that you are to express creativity as applied to all academic fields. While answering the question, the goal is to focus on how you employed your creative skills to tackle everyday tasks. For instance, the stress on problem-solving is meant to help you draw experiences from seemingly ordinary everyday chores such as coming up with a contraption to help you rub your tennis elbow.

Examples to demonstrate creativity:

  • Formulating non-textbook ways of proving math solutions.
  • Incorporating new quantifiable systems in technology to assess voter tendencies in politics.
  • In history, you can write a journal detailing Hitler’s invasion with a unique perspective.
  • English – When writing your next short story, you scout for locations that offer inspiration to you.
  • Uncovering more affordable ways to offer care to HIV/AIDS patients in science.

The above are all examples that highlight creativity. Your essay should demonstrate in detail how you intend to use your creative skills campus and beyond.

3. What do you consider to be your greatest skill or talent? Describe how you have nurtured and demonstrated the skill or talent in your life.

This question is not about the long list of awards that you’ve won in the past, although, you still have to highlight them. The question is not looking for the superficial aspects but rather the deep meaningful aspects. Describe the activity that you have won awards in, and are dedicated to highlighting your personality and character traits, and how they have played a part in your success. Examples are compassion, tenacity, and honesty. The goal is to demonstrate to the admissions officers how valuable the activity is and dedicating your time is justifiable. Let your individual strengths stand out while describing the activity. Show the beauty and sense of the activity, convincing them that the activity is worth every second that you spend on it.

Do not shy away from the question if you don’t have any awards. The question looks at what you consider to be your greatest skill rather than what others consider to be a talent or skill. Importantly, address how you’ve nurtured and demonstrated your talent or skill. Examples: How long do you practice? Is it on a daily basis for a couple of hours or minutes? Or is it once or twice a year for long hours? Why divide your time that way? Have you ever shown your talent to other people? What awards have you won?

Examples that demonstrate talent or skill:

You’re not just a member of your school tennis team but a star, considering that you’ve played the sport since you were seven. You are the varsity MVP and have led the team to win a number of awards such as first place in the regional conference and second at the state level. Other than success on the pitch as captain, you have resolved conflicts between players and motivated the team when morale was low. You can also highlight how you have gained teamwork and leadership experience while being a member of the tennis team.

You are a flute player who has not won any awards in any competitions or played in honor audiences. However, you have found a way of using your music in a special way sharing the love of music with others. An example is playing each week without fail at the local senior center.

4. Have you been presented with a major educational opportunity? Or faced an educational barrier? Describe how you took advantage of the opportunity or worked to overcome the barrier.

Educational opportunity is not limited to scholarships. The idea is to look for opportunities that have enhanced your educational experience and made you better prepared to face life. Good examples include enrolling in an academy that directs you towards a specific profession, having a particularly instructive dialogue with an adult or participating in an honorary enrichment program.

You can only write about only one of the two. Should you opt to highlight the educational barriers that you have faced, then the essay should reveal how you intend to assist others facing a similar situation. This is because they can learn a thing or two from your experience. Therefore, show the personality traits or skills that you employed to overcome the barrier, and how the whole experience has impacted and shaped you into the individual you have become. Show the admissions officers that you intend to use your experience to aid others.

An example that demonstrates how you took advantage of an educational opportunity:

Having applied and gotten accepted into a specialized program in your school, you got a chance to work intensively in a STEM discipline such as computer science or engineering. The opportunity gave you an internship at a local engineering or computer software company. You also get to meet other elementary school goers and work with them in budding computer science and engineering programs.

An example that demonstrates how you overcame an educational barrier:

You were a student in a school that did not have honor classes, and as such, enrolled for online lectures in a discipline that you were passionate in such as human geography. Later on, you take the step of speaking to your school administrators regarding introducing higher-level courses for high-achieving students. They agreed to assist by talking to the local community college to start a program for students like you.

5. Which is the most important challenge that you have confronted and what steps have you taken to overcome it? How has this particular challenge impacted your academic achievement?

The concept “challenge” is wide and applies to various contexts such as financial difficulties, personal ailments, disabilities and circumstances at home. In this prompt, you are required to connect this hurdle to your academic situation, in that, the hindrance should have directly impacted your academic performance.

The notion of “Academic achievement” has much more to it than just the grades attained in exams. It can purport your intellectual objectives, how you balance your homework with your part-time job or it could simply signify the tension in the associations between you and your friends and teacher as a result of time constraints. Critically assess the challenge first before concluding that it’s related to your academic performance.

Ensure that you’ve discussed the lessons learned from the challenge and include the details of how you have grown and matured so far. The current context of the challenge may not be of importance as you may be overcoming it right now, you may have been defeated or you are working with it. The following two examples may be a highlight of what has changed as a result of this challenge:

  • Your parents’ dramatic and eventful divorce that left you and your siblings terribly scared, mostly affecting your little sister who was in elementary school. She was always distressed and sad and lugging more and more in her school work. You had no choice but to take care of her, paying more attention to her than your school work. The stressful situation made you commit to taking care of your family no matter what. You decided to focus more on computer science anticipating majoring in it in the hope of saving enough for her college. This challenge strengthened your resolve making you more efficient and achieving performing better in class.
  • Your most significant challenge while growing up was your race. Your teachers saw no value in your opinions and they did not believe in you as it was apparent through their preferential treatment of students from other races. Trying to find a solution for the discrimination, you consulted with students from your race formed a relationship forming a network that availed resources to others who faced the same challenge.

6. Reflect critically on an academic subject that inspires you. Define how you have furthered this fascination inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Begin with reflecting on which subject you take delight in studying. What things have you done to acquire more knowledge about the subject, in and outside the classroom? Have you read an inspiring book and presented it as a discussion material to your during their office hour? What do you plan on doing to advance in the particular subject if you do not plan on majoring in it? Suppose you were to come up with a class that is similar to your preferred subject, what name could you give the class? What curriculum would you create for the class to follow through? It is important to include relevant accomplishments related to the subject such as internships, volunteer involvements, research, projects presented to the school board, etc. You should also include an explanation of how the love that you have for the subject influences what you do and how you do it. The following are examples to highlight this aspect:

  • AP United States government class was very interesting to you that it influenced and drove you to campaign for a Congressional candidate looking to displace your district’s incumbent. You solicited for votes in the local community, labored at the campaign headquarters and collected voter data while you were executing several administrative duties. Even though you found the work to be very demanding, you enjoyed and cherished the sense of fulfillment that came from undertaking historical events.
  • The ability for cells to recreate and heal fascinated you so much that you decided to take the AP Biology class to learn more about the regenerative power of cells. In due course, you gathered the courage to address biology professors at your local university. One notable biology professor responded by agreeing to assign you as an assistant in his next research for the following few months on a particular microorganism named C. Elegans.
  • After the AP Computer Science was concluded, a year later, you were still intrigued with developing apps and games. Later on, through the self-taught knowledge on several programming languages, you became good at it that you were able to be hired as an intern at a local start-up where you could apply your skills for commercial applications and earning a good pay from it.

7. What actions have you taken to make your community and your school a better place?

Your community, including your school, could be any size starting from the small local grocery next door, the pet adoption center nearby or it could be the baseball team that usually practices near your home. Your community can as well be complex being as large as your country or ethnic group. You should demonstrate what role you play in the particular community and what reasons make you want to identify yourself as belonging to that community. You should briefly highlight the details of what motivates you to offer the service to your community and show the positive impacts that have resulted from your services so far. You should not shy from writing about your actions because they did not yield grand results, what is of particular concern is that your actions were genuine and the scale of change is not of concern in this context.

You should also discuss the lessons that you’ve learned from others in the course of offering your services and your projections on what you might be able to learn from other community members as you will be continuing to offer the service. The following are a few examples to demonstrate this:

  • You are passionate about classical music and you formed a club to teach instrumental and classical music in the elementary school in your neighborhood. Because the junior members of your community did not enjoy such services, you desired to expand their exposure to musical classes, as once done for you by high school senior when you were in middle school. You tried to influence the elementary school to create a music program to teach the juniors as you encouraged them to fiddle with the instruments that you availed to them. The approval of your proposal is not vital because despite that you have achieved to teach children what they could have otherwise not learned.
  • The services that you offer to the library may have seemed ordinary at the start, but with time, you came to the realization that you were enabling the interchange of knowledge as well as guarding the intellectual properties of the scholars in your community. You came up with ways of livening up the environment in the library by managing time for arts and crafts and by organizing schedules for evening puppet shows to entertain and preoccupy kids whose parents were at work. The associations with the kids grew into strong mentorship and mutual respect bonds.

8. Apart from what you have discussed in your application, what do you consider to make you be notable as a strong candidate for a chance to be admitted to the University of California?

This question is the most open-ended in your application. You are free to discuss any topic as an answer for this prompt. You should, however, take note that the form you choose to present the content of your focus can be summarized into two brief sentences that illustrate how your candidacy is unique.

The following process is the most recommended process that can be applied to address such open-ended prompts, which can also be applied to any other prompts:

  • Take a plain sheet and write down all the ideas that flow into your mind immediately after reading the prompt which could include feelings, phrases, and keywords.
  • Focus your ideas on one topic such as your habitual five-second pause before responding to a prompt in a conversation either in writing or talking.
  • Draft an outline for your essay and plot out content for the introduction, body, and conclusion. You should also consider thinking about how to structure the paragraphs.
  • Now you should be ready to compose your essay but before you start, you should pack into two sentences the perception that you would like to create in the mind of the admissions officers after reading the essay. Taking credit from the example earlier on, are you able to force yourself to collect your thoughts before responding to anything? This can help you to avoid blunders and undesired hostility in the event of hot verbal confrontations. This ability can also enable you to maintain strong relationships with the staff members of, say, the clubs that you head and also aid you in maneuvering through the political environment that you will be dwelling in in the near future.
  • Throughout your essay, you should dedicate your effort to creating the image that you conceived in the above step four. A minimum of 50% of your content should be directly or indirectly addressing the aspects that you touched in the two-sentence précis. Doing this will enable you to concentrate your focus on the personality you wanted to render to the admissions officer and avoid wandering off track into describing other less significant anecdotes. 

Some prompts are very specific and focus on a particular topic. For such prompts, you could apply the above process in reverse to ascertain that your essay has achieved the purpose you set out for it. If you have concluded the essay, give it to somebody else to go through it and then have them summarize it in a few sentences. If their summary matches with the idea you wanted to pass across, then you’ve achieved the purpose of writing. If the disparity is wide, then you should review your narrative and analysis to make sure that they relay the message that you originally intended to convey.

The following are two examples of topics for this particular open-ended question from which you can build upon your essay:

  • A rock in the forest that you have become fond of that has become your favorite inspiration spot for writing most of your English essays.
  • An odd ability or a bothersome pet that has come to your rescue at unexpected times.

Good Luck with Your UC Essays!

Landing an admission into any of the UC schools is not an easy task considering the thousands of applicants that submit their application each year with many of them scoring highly. This is the reason why being excellent in tackling personal-insights prompts is vital for depicting yourself as a worthy contender. Tackling these prompts can be somehow challenging but they can be very rewarding at the end of the day. Take into consideration the tips and advice offered herein and you will be on your way to any of the University of California schools.

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