20 Great UC Essay Examples (UC PIQs)

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!

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 ti

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 rationality—a core tenet of economics—doesn’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 apply—I 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 lost—bingo, 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 research—the 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

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.

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