Answering the UC Personal Insight Questions

Learn how to best answer the new UC application essay questions.
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The University of California has released new essay questions (prompts) for the 2016 (Fall of 2017) admissions application.  Students must answer 4 out of the 8 questions using no more than 350 words for each essay.  Sometimes having more options makes the deciding which ones to answer more difficult.  Danielle Bianchi Golod shows students easy to follow methods to answer each essay creatively and without stress.

This course applies to high school students and transfer students applying to: UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz.


Introduction to Answering the UC Personal Insight Questions


  • How to Use This Course Learn more about how the "Answering the UC Personal Insight Questions" course is laid out and how to use it to your advantage. Answering the UC prompts has always given students pause, this year is no different with the 8 new prompts students must choose from.
  • Frequently Asked Questions About the UC Essay Prompts Here are some of my students' most frequently asked questions (and my answers) about the new UC personal insight questions:

Building Your Essay


  • Simplifying the UC Personal Insight Quesitons Before we get started on brainstorming topics for your essays, I thought I would simplify each of the 8 Personal Insight Questions to show you exactly what each essay should be focused on:
  • 14 Ways to Find Your Perfect Topics Now, to get yourself brainstorming, here are some questions to help you think about what to write about. And, by the way, this exercise works better if you literally write down answers to these questions—start a document on your computer. And, do yourself a huge favor—don’t write really general responses. Instead, get to the nitty gritty here and write multiple examples for each response:

UC Personal Insight Question 1


  • UC Personal Insight Question 1 Explained This is a chance for you to show the readers that you have dealt with challenges and come out better because of them/despite them…or it’s a chance to show how you are an innovator—maybe how/why you started a new club.Some of my past students have decided to start new clubs at their schools because they found a huge void or felt like someone/something needed a bigger voice. One of my students (who was very interested in environmental science) decided to start a recycling program that turned into something bigger—
  • UC Personal Insight Question 1 Example Personal Insight Question 1 ExampleAs I walked down the street, I watched people walk around him, try to avoid him, and by all means refrain from any eye contact. I had gotten to know him by name, but I, too, was guilty of avoiding him at first. He was clearly homeless, but never bothered anyone. He just chose to sleep in the middle of the sidewalk some days.

UC Personal Insight Question 2


  • UC Personal Insight Question 2 Explained This is a chance for you to show the readers your right brain activities (creativity, imagination, holistic thinking, intuition, arts, rhythm, visualization). You can be creative in your Fine Arts class, your Engineering/Robotics club, your Taekwondo class, or on the piano. However, this is not a place to explain a talent like you would write on a resume description. Instead, by all means, be creative in responding…
  • UC Personal Insight Question 2 Example Question 2 ExampleI stand there, knowing that soon the time would come for me to bust that door down. I run the scene through my head and each line shoots through my mind like Harley-Davidsons on the freeway: fierce, fast, and determined.The techie disconnects the door from its hinges and a surge of adrenalin pulses through my body, setting my nerves on edge.

UC Personal Insight Question 3


  • UC Personal Insight Question 3 Explained I usually say to my students that they should NOT write about a sport or about playing a musical instrument because it is challenging to make the response sound any different from another athlete or musician. Most students talk about all the time they put into the activity, how they learned the meaning of perseverance, hard work, and grit. I have read students’ essays for over 16 years and I cannot count how many essays discuss that theme.
  • UC Personal Insight Question 3 Examples EXAMPLE 1I was practically raised backstage in symphony concert halls. My parents are both professional musicians in the Pacific Symphony. Every weekend, even before I can remember, I spent time listening to classical music and applauding Brahms and Tchaikovsky spectaculars… It was no surprise that I was expected to study music. However, after six years of piano,

UC Personal Insight Question 4


  • UC Personal Insight Question 4 Explained This is a chance for you to show the readers that you look outside of school to experience something that interests you. Maybe it’s a potential major or possible career path. Maybe you want to be a surgeon, so you volunteer at the local ER. Maybe you love animals so you intern at the Pets In Need clinic or with the local veterinarian. Maybe you
  • UC Personal Insight Question 4 Example UC Personal Insight Question 4 ExampleAll I could do was cry. My hands gently glided over the distinctive letters etched into the granite stone. The chilling water numbed my fingers. Tears rolled down my face as the water streamed over the fountain.I had never been interested in the Civil Rights Movement during my first two years in high school. It was something of the past:

UC Personal Insight Question 5


  • UC Personal Insight Question 5 Explained Careful: Many students may think to go with dealing with a family member’s death, depression, dealing with someone’s suicide/their own attempt at suicide, and/or substance abuse (their own/family member’s). Please think about these points before you write that kind of an essay:
  • UC Personal Insight Question 5 Example UC Prompt 5 ExampleKnowing my interest in pursuing a medical career and my experience traveling in third world countries, she had invited me to join her. I was fascinated by the lecturer’s discussion on the popularity and success of the support clinics after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Toward the end of

UC Personal Insight Question 6


  • UC Personal Insight Question 6 Explained Think about your favorite subject(s) at school and any experience you’ve had outside the classroom that supplemented your passion/knowledge/studies well. Do you love history and/or international relations…did you have an internship, shadowing experience, or job in D.C.? on capitol hill? Working for the mayor/governor?Do you love the idea of advertising? Perhaps you have a background or personality that is very inviting and people tend to
  • UC Personal Insight Question 6 Examples EXAMPLE 1 (Art History)…My comprehensive World History and Art History courses prior to my trip that year had taught me to use my own perspective to find a deeper meaning in every piece of literature, every work of art, and in every person I studied. They had even altered the way I related to my parents’ friends. High school can be

UC Personal Insight Question 7


  • UC Personal Insight Question 7 Explained Did you finish your Eagle Project or help out at your church? Your nursery school? The senior living facility near you? Did you start your own arts and crafts camp for kids? Did you start a club that connects with your community?When you write, remember to SHOW the
  • UC Personal Insight Question 7 Example UC Essay Prompt # Example“It will only hurt a little bit.” I dread hearing those words ever again. I can still remember sitting on the operating table as they cut out the patch of skin on my head. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t in pain but could have died. The doctors called it Melanoma, I call it the reaper. The doctor looked at me and said,

UC Personal Insight Question 8


  • UC Personal Insight Question 8 Explained This is definitely the most open-ended question. My students have been looking to a personal statement they may have written for another application (Apply Texas, Common Application, etc) and shortening it. Perhaps you responded to the Apply Texas prompt: “identity, an interest, or a talent that defines you in an essential way.” Or the Common App prompt,
  • UC Personal Insight Question 8 Example UC Essay Prompt #8 ExampleI was their Martian, the eighteen-year-old, fair-skinned American, clad in Converse sneakers, telling tales of beaches and surfers and something called the internet. They were twenty little munchkins with sticky, dusty faces and hands, growing up in rural Peru…We wanted to understand each other, but