UC Personal Statement Guide and Sample
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Great news! the UC personal statement questions have been updated and are available below on this page. While your personal statement is only one of many factors to be considered when reviewing your application, it is an opportunity to paint a portrait of yourself that highlights your past experiences, desire for your major and your goals after graduation. Your essay will provide the admissions reader with context as they review your complete application.
Having access to the UC application and specifically the UC Personal Statement essay questions this early is intended to give students plenty of time to look through the application and begin formulating their personal statements. I can not emphasize enough how important it is to start the essay as soon as possible so that you have time to edit, have others proof read it, and solicit feedback from counselors and instructors.
UC Personal Statement Essay – 5 Steps to Consider
There are important steps that students must take and consider when sitting down to compose their personal statement essay for the University of California (UC) campus of choice. Below are the outlined steps that will help students create a successful UC personal statement.
All UC applicants must respond to two essay questions regardless if they are transferring from a community college, another four year university, or straight out of high school. The first essay question is a general that everyone has to answer. The second, either the freshman or transfers prompt will need to be completed depending on your current status.
Steps to consider before writing your essay:
- Follow Directions- Never before has following directions been so critical. The personal statement essay questions (or prompts) will ask you for specific information. You will want to answer every piece of the questions, not leaving one item out.
- Word Count- Responses to your two essay questions must be a maximum of 1,000 words total (i.e add the word count of both answers and that must not exceed 1,000 words)
- Content Distribution- You can decide how you want to split up the 1,000 words between the two questions. If you choose to respond to one question with more length, we recommend students shorten the answer for the second question, but not have it less than 250 words.
- Overall Length- Stay within the word limit as closely as you can. Going a little over is OK. For example, having a personal statement of 1,020 words is fine.
- Original and Unique- The personal statement that you submit should be about you and personal. This is not a time to be embarrassed or shy about what you have experienced or have accomplished. This is the platform to describe your hopes, ambitions, and life experiences. Applicants should complete the essay as if they were telling a story. Their own story about their life and college experience. Students should be expressive and honest.
The UC Personal Statement Essay Questions (prompts)
Here are the 2011 official essay questions for the UC personal statement. They are broken up into three categories, General question, Freshman Applicant question, and Transfer Applicant question. When you see the word “prompt” being used in a sentence or heading it’s another way of saying question.
The essay questions below come straight from the University of California and were updated as of Monday at noon.
General Question (prompt) to be answered by ALL applicants
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?
Freshman Applicant Question (prompt)
Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Transfer Applicant Question (prompt)
What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement.
Strategies to Ace Your UC Personal Statement
There are some simple strategies to ensure a successful UC personal statement. In addition to the steps mentioned above, you will want to consider the following:
- Start Now! – You have the essay questions, we listed them above. There is not reason not to start early on developing your personal statement. Give your self the opportunity to correct and grammatical or structural changes needed. Having time to prepare, revise, and get feedback will make for a great personal statement.
- Use Microsoft Word – If possible, use a program like Word to help you catch some of those silly spelling errors and to have it saved on your computer or flash drive. Students that struggle are those that attempt to do write their personal statements a week before the deadline (November 31st) straight into the UC application system itself. Those students can’t see misspellings, will most likely have grammatical errors, and will not be able to show a counselor their draft.
- Reflect On Your Application – You want to make sure your personal statement accurately reflects the information you have on your application. For example, if you had a 3 year absence from school to work full time, explain that break in school in your personal statement. Another example, if you had a semester where you had to Withdraw from classes and it was not indicative of your academic ability, you want to explain the situation in your personal statement.
- Original – I mentioned on Step 5 above that idea of having your personal statement be original and unique. You should never use portions of someone else’s personal statement nor copy anything from the internet. Not only will this not get you in on your experience, but it is illegal! Feel free to use people for suggestions and advice, but everything written should be unique with your own ideas and words.
- Proofread Your Essay – Do not let your first draft be the draft you turn in. You want to make sure it is error free. For that, you must start early and have others read it as well. Make sure it all makes sense to someone who doesn’t know you and it all flows together nicely.
- Notepad – Once you are happy with your responses to the essay questions, save a copy in Microsoft Word and another copy as plain text. Plain text is used by programs such as Notepad on Windows and Text Edit on Mac. You want this version in plain text because that is how the UC application wants it. You will cut and paste from this plain text document into the application itself. After you have pasted the information in the actual UC application space provided, make sure you review it one last time to catch any strange characters or line breaks that might have appeared from the copy and paste. You want to make it as easy to read for the admissions reviewers as possible
The Message in Your UC Personal Statement
Your personal statement is your opportunity to highlight your self, your experiences and your goals and ambitions. UC’s want to hear, not only that you do well in the classroom, but what you have done outside the classroom to help peek your interest in your major and the campus you are applying to. Be very clear about your points and use examples from your experiences as support. For example, if you want to transfer to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, talk about your internship experience and how that helped strengthen your desire to major in business, attend UC Berkeley and how it’s shaped your goals after graduating.
Special Instructions for Veterans from the UCOP:
Special instructions for veterans & their families
Because UC is interested in knowing about your or a family member’s military service, you may wish to use the personal statement to communicate the following:
* Describe how your military service has been instrumental in developing your educational plans.
* Indicate if you are entitled to educational benefits as a result of your own military service or the service-connected death or disability of a parent or spouse.
* Indicate if you are affiliated with the military, such as the spouse or dependent of someone who is on active duty or a current participant in an ROTC-type program.
*Important Update: UC Personal Statement for Transfer Students*
The UC Office of the President (UCOP) has updated the Transfer applicant writing prompt for the UC personal statement. If you began working on your personal statement before October 4, 2010 12:00pm, you will want to update the question you are answering with the Transfer prompt posted above on this page and also located on the UC website.
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UC Personal Statement Guide and Sample Video
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