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Bringing Your Best To The UC Prompts

Bringing Your Best Game to the UC Personal Insight Prompts

I feel obligated to address this issue because this is the first year I’ve been running into students that really are not putting much effort into the prompts.

I will say, luckily, most of my students are high-achieving and ambitious and dedicated to mastering these prompts and bringing their personal best.  And while I may indeed be biased I feel I can say with full honesty these students usually kill the essays by the time we’re finished. That’s one reason I have a high success rate. Of course, the main talent is always reserved for the students’ themselves — their dedication and hard work — but that also means they corral a do or die mindset in terms of essay content, sometimes with a fair degree of tough love on my part, as as we work diligently toward content beyond the ordinary.

Is my relentless pursuit of perfection part of the reason a student with a 3.39 gets into UCLA or a student with a 3.53 gets into Berkeley (both examples from last year)? I can’t say, but one thing I will guarantee is they’ve elevated themselves above the competition.

However, this is the first year in my six-odd years of doing this that I’ve run into so many  lackluster responses from a collection of students.  They are coming at me with average GPAs, which means they’re borderline applicants. Borderline is when the essays matter more than ever, and yet… and yet… these same students are content to merely float and are putting so little effort into idea generation and writing, it’s almost self-defeating.

I’m usually top-notch at bringing out a topic when a student can’t think of one, but time and again this year, I’ve been stymied:

Any hobbies?  NO
What about painting, music, video games, surfing, skateboarding, photography, dancing, sports, jogging, makeup, fashion, cooking?   NO, NONE.
Racking my brain for a half dozen more:   NO

Any skills?  I DON’T HAVE ANY
What about math, being a good listener, perseverance, idealism, grit, determination, writing?   NO, I DON’T HAVE ANY.
Racking my brain for a half dozen more:   NO

Any leadership?  NO
What about helping with the family, a job, tutoring, a project?   NO, I DON’T HAVE ANY.

The list goes on and on. I’m pulling teeth trying do to come up with anything and all I get are monosyllabic NOs.  It makes me wonder — do you even want to transfer?

And for the record, an essay on hardship because you got a C in Calc 1 is not going to cut it.

All in all it has made me assess a lot of things and who I should take on as clients. This has not been a good year. Sure, I get it, you’re not sure what to write. You can’t think of a topic. That’s not uncommon, and that’s why I’m here to help. But bland unenthusiastic responses with zero attempt at insight is not doing you any favors.  And I’m sure this will come through loud and clear to UC admissions. Aiming for the solid middle is your prerogative, but I’ve found myself thinking more than once this year — good luck getting in because I don’t see it happening (unless maybe through a TAG).

Needless to say, it’s been depressing.  You all have it in yourselves to make it happen.  Be that change.

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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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