UC Personal Statement Prompt Examples

UC Essay Prompt Examples

UPDATE: 2015 - The UC propmts have not changed since this article was originally posted in 2011.

How to Respond to the UC Essay Prompts

Many 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


About The Author

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.


  • Ranbir

    Reply Reply November 30, 2011

    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

      February 5, 2013

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

  • Elizabeth

    Reply Reply April 16, 2012

    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.

  • Lou

    Reply Reply September 19, 2012

    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

      February 5, 2013

      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.




  • Marisa

    Reply Reply November 20, 2012

    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

      February 5, 2013

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

  • Heather

    Reply Reply August 21, 2013

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

    • Danielle Bianchi

      August 21, 2013

      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?”

  • Gabriela

    Reply Reply October 22, 2013

    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

      October 23, 2013

      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

  • Anthony

    Reply Reply October 23, 2013

    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

      October 23, 2013

      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

      October 23, 2013

      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.

  • Ray

    Reply Reply October 31, 2013


  • yolanda

    Reply Reply November 3, 2013

    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?

  • Muhammad Raza

    Reply Reply November 15, 2013

    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

      November 15, 2013

      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

  • Malik Sajwani

    Reply Reply November 15, 2013

    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

      November 17, 2013

      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?

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply November 21, 2013

    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

      November 23, 2013

      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.

  • Emily

    Reply Reply November 26, 2013

    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

      November 26, 2013

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

  • Alondra Galvan

    Reply Reply November 26, 2013

    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

  • camille

    Reply Reply November 29, 2013

    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

      November 29, 2013

      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.

  • Giovanni

    Reply Reply November 29, 2013

    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!!!!

  • christina

    Reply Reply June 8, 2014

    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

      June 8, 2014

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

  • Angie

    Reply Reply July 20, 2014

    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

      August 13, 2014

      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

  • adriana lomeli

    Reply Reply September 5, 2014

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

    • Danielle Bianchi

      September 15, 2014

      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.

  • Elizabeth Alcantara

    Reply Reply September 16, 2014

    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

      September 16, 2014

      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.

  • Emily Aguirre

    Reply Reply September 17, 2014

    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 olpeoplr surrounding me?

  • Emily Aguirre

    Reply Reply September 17, 2014

    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?

  • Sofia Cervantes

    Reply Reply September 26, 2014

    Hello! My name is Sofia Cervantes and I am currently a senior in high school. In the summer of 2015 I will be graduating and hopefully continuing my studies elsewhere. For this reason being, it is of importance for me to begin my applications. However, I am having difficult beginning my personal essay. I was wondering if you could please be of aid. If so please contact me as soon as possible. My email : Sjcervantes11@gmail.com
    Thank you!

    • Danielle Bianchi

      September 28, 2014

      Hi Sofia,
      Did you go through the Personal Statement Blueprint? And did you think of ideas? Or did you write a draft of your essay(s)? I’ll also send you a personal email.
      thanks, Danielle

  • Josh

    Reply Reply October 13, 2014

    I would like to major in Computer Engineering and I do not know what to write about it for UC Prompt 1. Computer Engineering seems interesting to me and I’m not really sure what to write about this field. Please help. Thank You

    • Danielle Bianchi

      October 13, 2014

      Hi Josh,
      I would start to think about what made you decide that you would like/benefit from a Comp E style major. Have you shadowed a computer engineer before? Is someone in the family a computer engineer? Have you taken any classes at school that relate? Or joined any clubs/enrichment programs that led you down that path? Think about WHY you have chosen this field. It can also help to look up the Comp E programs at the UC’s that interest you–you can find descriptions of the majors, the classes, often even bios of teachers you can email to ask questions.

  • jhalaini byers

    Reply Reply October 20, 2014

    I really need help with writing a personal statement for college

    • Danielle Bianchi

      October 23, 2014

      Hi Jhalaini,
      I need you to be more specific…Common App #1-#5 essays? UC Prompts #1, #2? Undergraduate app? Graduate/Transfer app? public university app? Are you having trouble with what to write or how to write it?

  • Ashley

    Reply Reply November 11, 2014

    Hello Danielle,

    Thank you so much for the advice you have given through this post. I have made a few revisions after completing a draft of my Prompt 2 essay and was wondering if you could e-mail me to take a look at it and give feedback. I am also struggling to not restate “the world I come from” in Prompt 1 with the experience I wrote about in Prompt 2. Hope to hear from you soon.

    Most Sincerely,

    • Danielle Bianchi

      November 16, 2014

      HI Ashley,
      Per my email that I sent you privately, I do read students’ essays and just charge for my time editing. My current fee is $185/hour. Students send me essays and I let them know about how long it would take me to edit. Then they let me know how/when they would like to proceed. Thanks for your interest. –Danielle

  • Madison

    Reply Reply November 13, 2014

    Thank you so much for the tips! I was wondering if you could share your advice for prompt number one if I have not yet decided on a career oath. I’m really struggling to figure out what to write! Thank you!

    • Danielle Bianchi

      November 16, 2014

      Hi Supermaddy,
      I find UC Prompt #1 is really asking “Who will you become?” This can be the major you will choose or the career path you choose. Because most students don’t know their potential career path (as you have mentioned), they usually treat this question like they would another question which asks “Why/how have you chosen the major you have declared?” that we find so often on many university applications these days. Do you know what major you are choosing and why you are choosing it? Let’s start there.

  • James Massey

    Reply Reply November 13, 2014

    I would like you help on personal statement. How can I contact you.


  • Josh

    Reply Reply November 18, 2014

    Hello Danielle!
    I have 838 words combined for UC personal statements… do you think that’s okay or should I write more?

    • Danielle Bianchi

      November 18, 2014

      Hi Josh,
      That completely depends. As you know, one must be at least 250 words. My students tend to write one closer to 350-400 and one at 600-650, but that is by no means a rule. If you feel like the admissions readers can get a great feel (and great range) of who you are by reading the 2 prompts at the length you have them, then the essays could be fine.

  • Udoka

    Reply Reply September 15, 2015

    Samples would be nice please

  • Brittney Jimenez

    Reply Reply September 23, 2015

    Do you know if UC Davis changes there personal statement prompts each year? I am a college freshman and want to get a head start so I can perfect my personal statements.

    • Danielle Bianchi

      September 23, 2015

      Hi Brittney
      No the UC’s did not change their prompts this year, and in fact opened their app on Aug 1st–so you can definitely get started!

  • Joanna

    Reply Reply October 12, 2015

    My English teacher wants us to writing a personal statment. I want to be a psycholoist but I still don’t understand what are the prompt 1 really mean’s to me. I still don’t make any sense of it can you explaint specific for me ? Please.

    • Danielle Bianchi

      October 16, 2015

      Hi Joanna,
      Thanks for writing.
      Have you had any practice writing answers to any other prompts for college apps and you are struggling with the UC one? Or have you never started writing one before?
      If you have never written an essay, go through my Personal Statement Blueprint for only $5: https://www.personalstatementblueprint.com/

      If you’re struggling just with how to change another one you’ve written to work for the UC one…Read this:

      Things to know about your personal statement essay and how it can be used for multiple applications.
      I’ll suggest which essay prompts can have similar answers. (This obviously depends on your stories, but in general, you can use this guide).

      Common concerns I get this month:
      “I’ve filled out Essay A & Essay C for UT-Austin and now I want to know if they can be used for the Common App.”
      I’ve filled out my Apply Texas A & B. Can I use them for the UC’s or the Common App?
      “I want to apply to the UC’s and have written the Apply Texas essays. Do I have to write new essays or can I reuse any?”
      “I have written my Common App essay. Can I use it for Apply Texas or one of the UC prompts?”

      Apply Texas
      You have 3 essays to choose from depending where you will be applying (Essay A, Essay B, Essay C)
      Essay A: Describe a setting in which you have collaborated/interacted with people…how were your initial feelings changed/not by this experience? (Could work for: Common App #1, #4, #5, UC Prompt #1…however the experience needs to be with PEOPLE—not just one person)

      Essay B: Describe a circumstance/conflict and the skills and resources you used to resolve it…did it change you and how? (Could work for: UC Prompt #2, Common App #1, #2, #3, #5)
      Essay C: Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals. (Could work for: UC Prompt #1, Common App #1, #5)

      University of California
      You have 2 mandatory essay prompts
      PROMPT #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. (In short: WHO WILL YOU BECOME?) (Could work for: Texas Essay A (if you discuss people not one person) & definitely Texas Essay C, Common App #1, #4, #5)

      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? (In short: WHO ARE YOU NOW?) (Could work for: Common App #1, #4, #5, Texas Essay A—if you talk about people not just one person)

      Common Application
      You have 5 essays to choose from
      Which one should I use?
      #1 Some students have a background story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
      (Could work for: Texas Essay A, B, C, or UC Prompt #1, #2)
      #2 Recount and incident/time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
      (Could work for: Texas Essay B)
      #3 Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
      (Could work for: Texas Essay A (if people involved), B, and possibly C if it relates to your goals; possibly UC Prompt #1 or #2)
      #4 Describe a place/environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
      (Could work for: Texas Essay A (if people involved) and possibly C if it relates to your goals; possibly UC Prompt #1 or #2)
      #5 Discuss an accomplishment/event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
      (Could work for: Texas Essay A (if people involved), B, C and possibly C if it relates to your goals; possibly UC Prompt #1 or #2)

  • Olivia

    Reply Reply November 8, 2015

    I am having trouble trying to brainstorm ideas to write for UC prompt #1 because I am doubting myself on if the topic is good enough to write about.
    Ever since I was little I always loved animals so I wanted to write about how I accidentally killed my bird and how it has shaped me as a person and how it affected my dreams to go into the medical field to help people but I dont know if its focusing enough on the “world I came from” or focusing on family community or school.
    Could you please give me some advice on what I should do? It would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you!

    • Danielle Bianchi

      November 8, 2015

      Hi Olivia,
      How did you kill your bird? And I get the transition to medicine (esp if it were veterinary!)…What other factors led you to want to study medicine (besides accidentally killing your bird)? Classes at school? Doctor in the family? The way a teacher taught a bio/chem/physics class at school? YouTube videos you’ve watched on surgery? Outside/enrichment programs/classes? Opportunities you’ve taken to shadow someone in the field? Internships/jobs you’ve had that sparked an interest in science/medicine? These would all discuss the “world you come from” influencing your goals to pursue a degree/major in science/med.
      Hope that helps,

  • Brian

    Reply Reply November 16, 2015

    Hi Danielle,

    I have just finished writing my common application essay, which answers Prompt 3: Reflect a time when you challenged a belief.

    In my common app essay, I start off by describing ‘my world’ and later talk about how my volunteering in a foreign country and internship helped me consolidate my aspirations.

    So I was wandering how I could incorporate this essay to the UC essays? The common Application essay is just above 650 on word count and I believe the UCs ask for no more than 1000 words for both essays?

    Many thanks in advance,


    • Danielle Bianchi

      November 18, 2015

      So what was the time you challenged a belief?
      Yes if you write about your world and aspirations, then for sure it works with the UC prompt. You can even keep the word count at 650 if you can make the other one 350.

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