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BREAKING: UC Replaces Personal Statements with Personal Insights, Fall 2017

From the UC Counselor’s Bulletin:

After almost 10 years, UC is changing the personal statement section of its undergraduate admissions application, replacing the current two personal statement prompts with short-answer questions that students can choose from. The new questions, now called personal insight questions, aim to give applicants a greater say in the kind of information they share with the University. Students can express who they are and what matters to them not only in how they respond to the questions, but also through the questions they choose to answer.

The new questions also provide students with better direction and focus on topics that are important to campuses. Each new question aligns to one or more of the14 comprehensive review criteria (nine criteria for transfer students) that campuses consider in their admissions decisions.

NOTE:  If you are a visual/audio learner, you might prefer viewing our YOUTUBE VIDEO on the new Personal Insight rules.

General requirements:

  • Transfer applicants will answer one required question, in addition to three out of seven additional questions.
  • Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
  • All questions will have equal value in the admissions selection process. For applicants, there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.
  • The new questions will be included in the fall 2017 application which will be available Aug. 1, 2016.

REQUIRED personal insight question for fall 2017 transfers:

“Please describe how you have prepared for your intended major, including your readiness to succeed in your upper-division courses once you enroll at the university.”

Choose three additional personal insight questions from these seven:

  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.
  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.
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  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?
  6. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  7. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?


For details on how to brainstorm these questions, the UC has provided a worksheet here and an overview here.
For brainstorming help, click here.

My quick observation: While it gives you, the student, more options, it definitely has its pros and cons in terms of amount of work. But I believe the positives outweigh the negatives.

These changes clearly indicate a move to break free of the continuing myth that an applicant needs a hardship in order to make the cut. All questions have equal weight, and many focus on talent, leadership and personality.  I have run into too many third-party UC admissions people focusing way too much on disabilities and hardships (manufactured or otherwise), so I’m glad to see this move to silence that particular strain.

More to come on this new development soon.

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Lindy King

Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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