If you’re the middle of applying to colleges, you should know by now that the UC applications have undergone a drastic change. Eliminating the 2 required UC prompts, the UC application now consists of four 350 word essay, chosen from 8 new UC prompts.
The change might seem a little drastic, but don’t freak out just yet. This doesn’t mean you can’t still learn from previous UC application essay examples. In fact, we’ve put together all the UC prompts that are available and examples from our database to help with your essay writing:
UC Prompt #1
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.
UCBerkeley2019, UC Berkeley ‘19
“As a high school student, I wondered how I can make a difference on this suburban dullness. Rather than just looking at the high school that I attended, I decided to impact something bigger, my community. More specifically, I became motivated to reach out to my entire city by hosting a carnival-themed festival called Sharkfest.”
UC Prompt #2
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.
ClaireL, UC Los Angeles ‘20
“Suddenly, a glimmer of inspiration. My gaze settled on my viola, sitting patiently in its gleaming silver case. Why not try Pythagoras’ experiment for myself? I plucked the C-string, holding my finger down at exactly ½ of its length. Almost miraculously, the sound of a C—one octave higher, exactly twice the frequency—rang out. Moving my finger to 1/3 its length, this time it was the G with a frequency three times the original C, one octave and a perfect 5th higher.”
UC Prompt #3
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
Sydney_hack, UC Davis ‘20
“Then high school happened. I started taking theatre classes and film classes and I saw my friends go to college as musical theatre majors and film production majors. I saw people following their dreams. I’d entered a whole new world. I began to think of all the things that made me happy. Filmmaking stood out to me and I began to pursue any opportunity I could-I took the filmmaking class at school, I offered to help film video series for the San Diego County Bar Association and the Enright Chapter of the American Inns of Court. I’d run into this new, creative world full force, with no guide or notion of what I was to expect.”
UC Prompt #4
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
G.carrascou4, UC Berkeley ‘19
“This was initially a problem for me, however, as I attended three different schools within the short period of my first six months in the country. The first school only saw me for one week; the second school saw me for a semester; the third school saw me finally settling in what would become my home school from elementary all through high school. This transition from a nomadic lifestyle to a more sedentary one provided me with an idea of what my goals were, where I was going to achieve them, and how I was going to accomplish them. In a sense, it was my transition from a helpless, extinct Cro-Magnon to a Homo Sapiens with a future ahead.”
UC Prompt #5
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?
Stellaaa, UC Santa Barbara ‘19
“School became difficult for me emotionally and academically. Rumors about my brother spread like a wildfire. A majority of my friends heard about these rumors and no longer wanted to associate with me. It was not soon before I felt isolated at school. I tried my best to cope with the loneliness, repeatedly telling myself that it was a phase. It became difficult for me to focus in school without thinking about my brother or that people were afraid to be around me. This did not discourage me from making new friends; however, it made me develop trust issues. I began to take more caution of who to trust, which served to be an advantage for me because during this time I become more self-aware of myself. At that moment of self realization, I had a clear perception of what was best for me, as well as the two options I had - to allow the emotional and academic stress to eat me away, or to see it as a challenge to overcome.”
UC Prompt #6
6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
AndyDC, UC Berkeley ‘19
“Another factor that I consider a major contributor to my personal identity is, oddly enough, a computer program that I was introduced to at age 12. RCT3, as it is called, is a 3D physics simulation game that allows users to essentially build and manage anything users dream up. For me, it offered a refreshing creative outlet for my imagination to flourish. But what enthralled me most was not the game itself, but the flowering community of users behind it. Making our home on internet forums, we were a thriving community of real-life architects, engineers, and programmers all bound by love of the game. Political and geographical barriers had never seemed so trivial to me. We discussed and collaborated on projects and even edited the source code of the game. I was enamored by the hardware and simple code that gave rise to such a versatile platform.”
UC Prompt #7
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
Lord of the Lords, UC Berkeley ‘19
I have always been someone who takes initiative. I pick up trash during trips to the beach, I spend my winter break raising money for hurricane relief, and I make anti-bullying videos in my spare time. And I always want to do more. So when I noticed all the trash that seemed to be accumulating at my high school, I decided to start a campus-wide recycling and composting program. I presented my idea to my AP Environmental Science teacher who shared my concern. She suggested starting a club to get more people involved, an idea which I loved. Thus, the AP Environmental Science (or APES, for short) Club was born.
UC Prompt #8
8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?
Want to know what set you apart? Check out these two packages that were curated by 2 UC admission experts:
Ms. Sun focused on finding UC applications with strong, competitive GPA and test scores that was accompanied by strong essays. After all, numbers are important, but they don’t tell the full story
Suzanne Dougherty curated her package with a different approach. She specifically wanted to highlight UC applicants who were accepted by Ivy League universities, but still chose to attend UC schools. This not only demonstrates each profile’s strong application, but also reveals the appeal and opportunity that UC schools offer.
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Are you looking to apply to UC Schools? or just starting to build out your college list? Make sure to search through profiles of students accepted to see essays, stats, and advice. See how they got in, and how you can too!
Given that the new UC Personal Insight Questions came out just last year, there are very few (if any) UC essay examples online. Well, let me help you out — I have a ton of solid UC essay examples to show you! Here’s one from a student who got into Berkeley’s EECS program in Engineering. That’s like a less than 9% acceptance rate!
Oh, and here’s a link to my definitive guide with tips for the new UC essays and personal insight questions!
UC Essay Example – Leadership Essay
Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words)
I passionately believe in TED’s mission of bringing people together with ideas worth sharing. It should come as no surprise, then, that I seized the opportunity to help organize my school’s TEDx event.
We enthusiastically started contacting potential speakers who could talk about their interesting research, perspectives on societal issues, or personal experiences.
Five months later, covered in fine sheets of sweat, heads bowed to the audience, we stood victorious. Five whole months of hard work, of arguments, of frenzied emails and phone calls had culminated in this event. We had rehearsed—rehearsed until every attendee was furiously clapping.
It wasn’t an easy process, though. For the first few months, our team couldn’t even come to a consensus on the final speakers. Debates on the event theme spanned weeks—some fervently advocated for robotics, while others wanted psychology. Discouraged by the lack of agreement and progress, our team began to disintegrate.
With less than two months before the event, a sense of urgency set in. I decided to take a little initiative and help push the group forward, to ensure the event was the grand success I envisioned. I needed to unite my team, to help them realize why we were organizing a TED event.
I started to establish a culture—one that didn’t just focus on teamwork and active listening, but one that was lighthearted and wholesome. Shared injokes and laconic humor brought the team together—we began to listen to and support each other. I strove to display confidence and authority without stifling the group’s opinions. Argument by argument, responsibility by responsibility, we grew as a team. I spent many long nights working with co-organizers, helping them with their responsibilities or discussing Dr. Hayes’ work on psychological flexibility.
Leadership, I realized, wasn’t just about having a title—it was about bringing a team together to transform a vision into reality, to tap into the innately human desire to be part of something greater. I learned to work with people as equals, to unleash their energy and empower them to do their best. I hope to inspire people in the same way in college.
Source: One of my students that got into UC Berkeley for EECS.
Analysis of UC Essay Example Strengths:
1. Clear conflict and student’s role as a leader in resolving it
This is a fantastic UC essay example, no? The student is a very talented writer.
Usually, with this essay prompt, it’s most interesting to showcase a conflict or an obstacle and how you, as a leader, helped to resolve it. This is important because it allows you to show your leadership style and ability to solve problems in a team setting — this kind of attribute will show admissions officers your strengths and what you’ll bring to the college campus.
2. Showcases student’s learnings and growth as a leader
Intellectual and personal growth after an event (especially one with conflicts and obstacles) are important learnings to write about for UC and college application essays. More specifically, take this student’s UC essay as an example: He does a fantastic job explaining how he evolved as a leader throughout his TED talk obstacles. Specifically, he was able to redefine what leadership meant to him after his experiences and this is the type of learning experience that colleges love to read about.
Remember, admissions officers jobs are to create the best incoming freshman year class they can. In this UC essay example, the student does a fantastic job shedding light on his strengths as a leader and his learnings from the experiences that would easily positively influence the campus at a place like UC Berkeley.