UC Personal Statement Prompt Examples

UC Prompt Examples

How to Respond to the UC Essay Prompts

UC Prompt ExamplesMany students are quite interested in applying to one or many of the campuses within the University of California system (or the “UC system” for short).  That’s not too surprising as 6 of the 9 campuses (UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, & UC Irvine) are ranked in the top 40 of the US News & World Report’s “Best National Universities.”  The UC system has always had one main application that all the campuses share.  Incoming freshmen must respond to two essay prompts on the UC application in order to apply for undergraduate admission.  Each applicant must respond to both essay questions within a maximum of 1000 words total.  These words may be allocated as the student wishes as long as the shorter one is greater than 250 words.

Assuming this makes sense to you, I’d like to discuss the two prompts, what they’re asking the student, and how best to respond to them.  Here are the two questions:

  1. 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.
  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?

When my students read these prompts, they usually look dumbfounded and then start to slowly ask all the questions that come into their heads.  Because these questions tend to be repeated each year with my new set of students, I thought you might benefit from some of the answers.

“There are too many words in this essay question.”

Anytime an essay question confuses you, break it down into parts so that you understand everything it’s asking.  The writers of these essay questions usually add words and ideas that they think will help the student start brainstorming.

“What’s a prompt?”

A prompt is an essay question.

“What is #1 really asking?”  “Describe my world?”

To summarize, #1 is really asking WHO WILL YOU BECOME?  It wants to know how your surroundings—the people or the environment–have helped shape who you want to become.  Often students can relate to this one by thinking about why they have chosen a certain path—Why have they decided to study a certain major and want to become an engineer, a doctor, a psychologist, a social worker, a business executive, an English teacher, a politician or a church leader?  What/Who made them want to become an athlete, an artist, a singer, a cook, a journalist?

What is #2 really asking?”

To summarize, #2 is really asking WHO ARE YOU NOW?  It wants to know how some experience or quality or characteristic really describes who you are.  Here you want to show a personality trait through an anecdote.  This one will be more related to your personal statement on other applications.

 “Tell us about a talent?”  “I thought I’m not supposed to TELL anything Danielle—You say to SHOW it.”

You’re right.  You don’t want to spend time in an essay TELLing anyone who you are.  That is why they followed up that question with “…how does [this quality, talent, accomplishment] relate to the person you are?”  They want you to describe the type of person you are by through SHOWING them through example.

“This sounds like they want a laundry list of things.”

No, the UC (or any college for that matter) does not want a laundry list of all your extracurricular activities.  Save those for the right section on the application.

“How am I supposed to choose which one is longer and which is shorter?”

Generally, one essay can become your personal statement for other applications.  Since almost all personal statements on other applications give you a 500-600 word count limit, make this one your longer one. Your other one would be around 300-400 words.

“Should I write two 500 word essays or one long and one short?”

You can allocate the words as you wish.  In my experience, students have chosen one to be 500-600 words and one to be 300-400 words.

“If I’ve already written my personal statement, can I use it for one of these answers?”

Yes see above.

UC Prompt Tips

In the past, the UC application has been very difficult to navigate and even more difficult to locate the essay questions.  In recent years, however, they have really turned this around and students can read a page about the prompts, review tips for writing, and watch a YouTube video.  Here is the website: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions/how-to-apply/personal-statement/index.html


Danielle Bianchi, author of the Personal Statement Blueprint

Danielle Bianchi, author of the Personal Statement Blueprint

Danielle Bianchi has been helping students write their best personal statements for their college applications for over 10 years. She tutors students in person and via Skype to prepare them for the entire college admission process.

Learn how to write your personal statement quickly and easily with the Personal Statement Blueprint.

Written by Danielle Bianchi

Danielle Bianchi

Danielle Bianchi is a 15 year veteran of the college admisisons profession. She works one-on-one with students around the world to help them achieve their college admisison goals. She is the author of the Personal Statement Blueprint, a step-by-step system to help students create their own perfect personal statement and application essays.

Last Updated: August 16, 2011

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Leave A Reply (40 comments so far)

  1. Ranbir
    3 years ago

    This information actually helped me a lot. I’ve been pulling my hair out just wondering how the heck I’m going to write my essays but this page has actually got some ideas going in my head. THANX SO MUCH.

    • Danielle Bianchi
      2 years ago

      So glad to hear it helped you! Good luck on college responses!

  2. Elizabeth
    2 years ago

    Hi, how do we get tutored from you?
    I need to practice writing a personal statement for my AP English class but I don’t really know how to start and where to begin.

  3. Lou
    2 years ago

    I am currently writing a personal statement for my AP English class and i am really stuck. Can you write one without giving out too much personal information?

    • Danielle Bianchi
      2 years ago

      Not quite sure what you mean about too much personal information, but may I presume you have an experience that was significant but one that perhaps is too private to discuss in a paper? Your personal statement is a time to reflect your personality, not just a description of an experience. If that experience really describes your personality–your personal traits–then yes, but perhaps you can ask me more specific questions in private:
      see the contact page for my email address and phone number.




  4. Marisa
    2 years ago

    Holy crap. This helped me out SO MUCH. I had to rewrite my personal statements from scratch (for reasons I won’t care to explain) and now I’m thinking, “I got this!”

    • Danielle Bianchi
      2 years ago

      Wonderful news, Marisa! Glad to hear you gained your needed confidence. I wish you luck on your responses from colleges!

  5. Heather
    1 year ago

    For prompt #1, is it very important to link your aspiration to your intended course of study?

    • Danielle Bianchi
      1 year ago

      Hi Heather,
      It is not pertinent, but it is usually a good idea. Do you have an idea of a potential career path you might like? That could be a good response too. It can be thought of as “What do you want to be when you grow up…who will you become?”

  6. Gabriela
    11 months ago

    i would like to major in Sociology but i dont know what to write for prompt one. Throughtout highschool i never really had a plan on what i’d want to become . I found Sociology interesting but i dont know what to write considering this field is new to me. HELP ?!

    • Danielle Bianchi
      11 months ago

      Hi Gabriela,
      Do you like working with people? Do you like a Psych class you took? Do you like studying people’s behavior? Do you have an interest in Advertising? Do you have an interest in film/video/screenwriting/acting? All of these have foundations in Sociology. Let me know if that helps

  7. Anthony
    11 months ago

    Can you write about the person you will become in general for Prompt #1 or does have to be about the type of person youll become for your specific study?

    • Danielle Bianchi
      11 months ago

      Hi Anthony,
      Yes, writing about the person you want to become is a good answer. If you can show how a potential major(s) might aid in that career path or path to success/happiness…that would be a bonus.

    • Danielle Bianchi
      11 months ago

      Also, have you written an essay already for the Common App or Apply Texas app by chance? Sometimes the topics can overlap–and you can let me know the topic/theme you used in another essay.

  8. Ray
    11 months ago


  9. yolanda
    11 months ago

    your web page has been a great resource to start my personl statement (: i was wondering where can i contact you to ask ou some private questions?

  10. Muhammad Raza
    10 months ago

    I was looking up ways tow write my personal statement and came upon this website. Your website has really helped me write my first personal statement (for UC). Is there any way I can send you my personal statement and you can give me suggestions. Thank You.

    • Danielle Bianchi
      10 months ago

      Hi Muhammad Raza,
      I can no longer take essays with the Nov 30th deadline. Try talking to your school counselor and/or English teacher for help. Thanks for writing, Danielle

  11. Malik Sajwani
    10 months ago

    Hi Danielle it really helped me out. Im working hard on prompt 1. Can you tell me what my approach should be. I reall want to be an Economist in the future. how should i link this inspiration with my school or my WORLD.
    Thanks again!!

    • Danielle Bianchi
      10 months ago

      Have you taken any classes during high school that relate to economics? Did you shadow/intern with an economist? Is there someone in the family/teacher who helped you decide this path? Are you a member of a club that discusses issues related to the economy? What inspired you to want to be an economist?

  12. Andrew
    10 months ago

    Hi, I have a question concerning the essay. As of now I have made my essay 750/250 for the prompts. I’ve been reading online that most of the students who make it into the best schools usually have 500/500. The 750 words for my prompt number one requires every word to make it whole and itll be hard to start from scratch. I really need help deciding

    • Danielle Bianchi
      10 months ago

      Hi Andrew,
      I think 750 for Prompt #1 is good–that seems to be more the norm. If you can edit more words, however, I think the 2nd prompt would be better with at least a 300 word response…so shoot to make it more 700/300. Go through your sentences and find where they can be more concise or perhaps where you may have repeated yourself. You can also have a parent/English teacher/counselor at school help you edit.

  13. Emily
    10 months ago

    This was really helpful! However, I have a quesiton about the second prompt. Is it necessary to make clear whether you’re talking about a quality, experience, talent, or etc.? Or can your essay kind of blur a couple together? The one I have written can work for accomplishment and quality, and I haven’t exactly emphasized either…

    • Danielle Bianchi
      10 months ago

      That all depends, Emily, what is your accomplishment and what quality are you trying to portray?

  14. Alondra Galvan
    10 months ago

    Thank you so much this has really help me with writing my prompt #1. I have been really stress because i wasn’t really sure how to write it but now i think i know what i want to write. Thank you so mcuh

  15. camille
    10 months ago

    This helped so much with my essay for prompt #1. Do you have any advice on how to make prompt #2 sound humbling rather than arrogant for how a talent or personal quality made me proud? Thank you so much!

    • Danielle Bianchi
      10 months ago

      Hi Camille,
      First off, the UC does say that these prompts are a chance to brag about yourself as they don’t know anything about you otherwise.
      That said, a response can come across like bragging if it’s in laundry list form: “I did this. Then I did this. I was good at this.”
      Instead, talk about how you were surprised how much you learned, how happy you were to understand a new perspective after accomplishing your feat, or why you look back on the person you were and how far you’ve come and how proud you are of yourself now. You can also SHOW how proud you were/are by describing a parent, friend, teacher, or coach congratulating you…and how you smile and nod your head. The reader can then understand that you’re proud too.

  16. Giovanni
    10 months ago

    Hi i was wondering if anybody could give me ideas or examples on what to write my second personal statement on. Its for my college applications and today’s the last day that i have to write it because the dead line is tomorrow please help me!!!!

  17. christina
    4 months ago

    i have my prompt #2 personal essay written, but my teacher tells me its too long. can i send it to you in an email and tell me how to shorten it?

    • Danielle Bianchi
      4 months ago

      Hi Christina,
      I am happy to read your essay, but would have to charge you for my time editing. I will write you directly.

  18. Angie
    2 months ago

    Thanks for the article! It was very helpful during my writing process. Do you offer personal editing resources? That would be even more helpful. Thanks again!

    • Danielle Bianchi
      1 month ago

      Hi Angie,
      I remember exchanging emails with you last month. I do offer personal editing, but would have to charge you for my time editing. I will write you directly. Thanks, Danielle

  19. adriana lomeli
    2 weeks ago

    I am working on my uc davis prompt application and i am confused and would like your help.

    • Danielle Bianchi
      1 week ago

      Hi Adriana,
      Thanks so much for writing. What is the confusion? What to write about? What the prompt is asking? Let me know some specifics and I can help you more effectively.

  20. Elizabeth Alcantara
    7 days ago

    Hey I just wrote my personal statement prompt 1. It’s my first draft, but I’m not to sure if it’s good. Can you help me in any way? Bty, amazing website! It’s because of this website I was able to write something down.

    • Danielle Bianchi
      6 days ago

      Hi Elizabeth,
      I’m so glad you liked the website and I am glad it helped you.
      I do read students’ essays and would just charge for my time editing. I will email you directly.

  21. Emily Aguirre
    5 days ago

    Your information is really helpful. But I was wondering if for prompt 1, since we have to talk about the world we come from I can talk about how I am an undocumented student & how at some points in my life I find myself having everything so much harder than the people surrounding me?