UC PROMPT #2: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
Thank goodness for UC Prompt #2. This prompt gives applicants the opportunity to share, reflect, and stand out. Yet many don’t go far enough in bragging about themselves specifically and then connecting this to the second and third parts of the prompt.
As UC Berkeley states on its admissions website with advice about personal statements:
This prompt gives students ample opportunities to share what the UCs want in their entering classes: vibrant active students who are already making an impact. They need to know specifics so that they build a diverse class, where students can immediately feel comfortable taking action.
I break the UC Prompt #2 into three sections so that seniors can powerful personal statements.
Part 1: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you.
The prompt is asking students to brag, literally brag, about themselves in a very specific way. This first part literally asks applicants to write about “a” particular event or quality. They don’t want an autobiography or a generic quality. They want a specific example, and they want it to be “personal”– something that only the applicant can write about.
Many students don’t realize how significant many of their actions are. That’s why I have them develop a resume that is filled with action verbs. These action verbs not only help them complete the UC activity sections, but also can help students identify powerful topics for UC Prompt #2.
When I do workshops on the UC Personal Statements, I talk briefly about impact and different ways we can make a difference. Then I ask seniors to write down three actions that they initiated or took part of during high school that make them proud. I ask them to think about actions that reveal how amazing they are and what they have to offer a college. I then ask them to share a story about one of their actions with a partner, and I often hear first paragraphs of their statements emerge.
I encourage students to pick topics that no one else can write about in their senior class. Even if they are part of a team, trip, or cast, they can write about specific events or moments that led to their unique experiences and contributions. I show them some samples of essays: some that begin with specifics and lead out to the motives and the actions that contributed to the topic and others that begin with the overall success and lead backwards to a specific example.
Many students want to end their essays there, but there are only done with one third of the prompt.
To help students with both Part 2 and Part 3 of the prompt, I show seniors positive personality charts, and sometimes these traits help them identify what makes them proud and what kind of person they are. These charts also lead to great character development lessons.
Part 2: What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud
The second part of the prompt asks them to literally explain what about this quality or accomplishment makes them proud. Students need to dig deep and reflect on what this means individually and communally. They need to help the readers see their ability to understand themselves and how their actions benefit themselves and diverse communities.
For kids who are stuck, we can help them try to understand why they chose to participate in the activity and what impact it has had on themselves and the communities they serve.
Part 3: how does it relate to the person you are?
Finally, the last part of the prompt asks high school seniors to connect their specific example to the kind of person they are. This is challenging for any adult to produce and even harder for 17 and 18 year olds who are just figuring out who they are.
With this part of the prompt, I help students understand they can take this as narrowly or globally as they are able. I ask them guiding questions to help them navigate the transition from the specific to the more general. I use the image of a metaphor and try to help them see that whatever we do or accomplish is connected to who we are –whether we realize it or not.
Helping students see their strengths and their power through metaphors is very empowering. It can be as simple as looking at the significance behind a role or a position. One girl wrote about being a sweeper on and off the soccer field and that led to powerful second and third sections. A young man wrote about washing cars and connected that to being the kind of person who will go back two or three times until it’s done the way the “customer” wants it. Another young man connected his trying to register people to vote with his own optimistic belief in the political system and everyone’s place in it—even though he couldn’t himself yet vote.
I don’t believe that the last two parts of the prompt have to take that much literal space in the essays. Sometimes, it’s just a line or two. Sometimes it’s a paragraph or two because students connect it to other parts of their life. The best writers infer much of it throughout their essays and can summarize it at the end.
The beauty of UC Prompt #2 is that we really get to see the seniors’ passions emerge. We really get to see what they value and the different ways they are making an impact. This statement is often re-usable for scholarships and other applications because it can share unique ways students are sharing, reflecting, and ultimately standing out.
By Rebecca Joseph
If you’re the middle of applying to colleges, you should know by now that the UC applications have undergone a drastic change. Eliminating the 2 required UC prompts, the UC application now consists of four 350 word essay, chosen from 8 new UC prompts.
The change might seem a little drastic, but don’t freak out just yet. This doesn’t mean you can’t still learn from previous UC application essay examples. In fact, we’ve put together all the UC prompts that are available and examples from our database to help with your essay writing:
UC Prompt #1
1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
UCBerkeley2019, UC Berkeley ‘19
“As a high school student, I wondered how I can make a difference on this suburban dullness. Rather than just looking at the high school that I attended, I decided to impact something bigger, my community. More specifically, I became motivated to reach out to my entire city by hosting a carnival-themed festival called Sharkfest.”
UC Prompt #2
2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
ClaireL, UC Los Angeles ‘20
“Suddenly, a glimmer of inspiration. My gaze settled on my viola, sitting patiently in its gleaming silver case. Why not try Pythagoras’ experiment for myself? I plucked the C-string, holding my finger down at exactly ½ of its length. Almost miraculously, the sound of a C—one octave higher, exactly twice the frequency—rang out. Moving my finger to 1/3 its length, this time it was the G with a frequency three times the original C, one octave and a perfect 5th higher.”
UC Prompt #3
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
Sydney_hack, UC Davis ‘20
“Then high school happened. I started taking theatre classes and film classes and I saw my friends go to college as musical theatre majors and film production majors. I saw people following their dreams. I’d entered a whole new world. I began to think of all the things that made me happy. Filmmaking stood out to me and I began to pursue any opportunity I could-I took the filmmaking class at school, I offered to help film video series for the San Diego County Bar Association and the Enright Chapter of the American Inns of Court. I’d run into this new, creative world full force, with no guide or notion of what I was to expect.”
UC Prompt #4
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
G.carrascou4, UC Berkeley ‘19
“This was initially a problem for me, however, as I attended three different schools within the short period of my first six months in the country. The first school only saw me for one week; the second school saw me for a semester; the third school saw me finally settling in what would become my home school from elementary all through high school. This transition from a nomadic lifestyle to a more sedentary one provided me with an idea of what my goals were, where I was going to achieve them, and how I was going to accomplish them. In a sense, it was my transition from a helpless, extinct Cro-Magnon to a Homo Sapiens with a future ahead.”
UC Prompt #5
5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
Stellaaa, UC Santa Barbara ‘19
“School became difficult for me emotionally and academically. Rumors about my brother spread like a wildfire. A majority of my friends heard about these rumors and no longer wanted to associate with me. It was not soon before I felt isolated at school. I tried my best to cope with the loneliness, repeatedly telling myself that it was a phase. It became difficult for me to focus in school without thinking about my brother or that people were afraid to be around me. This did not discourage me from making new friends; however, it made me develop trust issues. I began to take more caution of who to trust, which served to be an advantage for me because during this time I become more self-aware of myself. At that moment of self realization, I had a clear perception of what was best for me, as well as the two options I had - to allow the emotional and academic stress to eat me away, or to see it as a challenge to overcome.”
UC Prompt #6
6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
AndyDC, UC Berkeley ‘19
“Another factor that I consider a major contributor to my personal identity is, oddly enough, a computer program that I was introduced to at age 12. RCT3, as it is called, is a 3D physics simulation game that allows users to essentially build and manage anything users dream up. For me, it offered a refreshing creative outlet for my imagination to flourish. But what enthralled me most was not the game itself, but the flowering community of users behind it. Making our home on internet forums, we were a thriving community of real-life architects, engineers, and programmers all bound by love of the game. Political and geographical barriers had never seemed so trivial to me. We discussed and collaborated on projects and even edited the source code of the game. I was enamored by the hardware and simple code that gave rise to such a versatile platform.”
UC Prompt #7
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
Lord of the Lords, UC Berkeley ‘19
I have always been someone who takes initiative. I pick up trash during trips to the beach, I spend my winter break raising money for hurricane relief, and I make anti-bullying videos in my spare time. And I always want to do more. So when I noticed all the trash that seemed to be accumulating at my high school, I decided to start a campus-wide recycling and composting program. I presented my idea to my AP Environmental Science teacher who shared my concern. She suggested starting a club to get more people involved, an idea which I loved. Thus, the AP Environmental Science (or APES, for short) Club was born.
UC Prompt #8
8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?
Want to know what set you apart? Check out these two packages that were curated by 2 UC admission experts:
Ms. Sun focused on finding UC applications with strong, competitive GPA and test scores that was accompanied by strong essays. After all, numbers are important, but they don’t tell the full story
Suzanne Dougherty curated her package with a different approach. She specifically wanted to highlight UC applicants who were accepted by Ivy League universities, but still chose to attend UC schools. This not only demonstrates each profile’s strong application, but also reveals the appeal and opportunity that UC schools offer.
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