University of California Personal Statement Prompts: Instructions, Tips, Techniques

Looking to gain admission to the UC schools? Many of our students have asked for help with the University of California Personal Statement prompts. We thought we’d post  the actual prompts for those applying for Fall 2014, along with instructions, tips, and techniques. Remember, filling out the application early is crucial to avoiding errors and leaving yourself enough time to review, reflect, revise, and submit!

INSTRUCTIONS AND PROMPTS
Respond to both prompts, using a maximum of 1,000 words TOTAL.
You may allocate the word count as you wish. If you choose to respond to one prompt at greater length, we suggest your shorter answer (on the other essay) be no less than 250 words.
Stay within the word count limit as closely as you can. Slightly over – 1,011 words, for example – is fine.

Prompt #1 (transfer applicants)
What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field – such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities – and what you have gained from your involvement.

Prompt #2 (all applicants)
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?

TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
Begin Early.
Allow time for reflection, thoughtful preparation, and revision. This is paramount.

Choose a Topic for Each Essay (before writing)
Look critically at the information in your application: your grades, awards, activities, work experience, family, and income. Anticipate questions an admissions evaluator will have after reading your application. The personal statement is your opportunity to answer these questions!

Compose Your Personal Statement in a Word-Processing Program
Do not type your essay directly into the application. Using a word-processing program will give you the opportunity to make edits, save changes, and print copies for review.

Write in a Natural Style
Present your information and ideas in a focused, thoughtful, and meaningful manner. Support your ideas with specific examples and/or stories. A personal statement that is simply a list of qualities or accomplishment is not persuasive enough. Show, don’t tell. Explain through imagery.

Proofread and Edit 
In addition to checking your spelling, be sure your grammar is spot-on and that your essays read smoothly. Treat this as a “personal manifesto” you would be proud to have published in The New York Times.

Avoid Cliches and Trite Statements
“I want to be a doctor so I can help people” or “Going to college was a struggle for me” are examples of trite statements. Your desire to “help people” can be described in terms of a personal experience where you actually did help people. Telling this story is much more compelling. Your “struggle” can be described as the balancing act you’ve dealt with between work, family obligations, and/or other issues.

Solicit Feedback
Your personal statement should reflect your own ideas and should be written by you, but others – family, teachers, counselors – can offer valuable suggestions. Because admissions officers and staff do not know you, it is encouraged to have others who do not know you well reading your statement in order to offer suggestions. Family members can be helpful, but they’re often unable to be truly objective. Do not be afraid to seek outside assistance.

Copy and Paste 
Once you are completely satisfied with your essays, save them in plain text and paste them into the space provided in the application. Proofread once more to be sure that odd characters and/or line breaks have not appeared.
Note: If you submit a paper application, attach a copy of your personal statements. In the upper right hand corner of EACH page, write your name and date of birth, along with the words “Personal Statement.”

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Because the University is interested in knowing about your or a family member’s military service, you may wish to use the personal statement to communicate the following:

Describe how your military service has been instrumental in developing your educational plans.
Indicate if you are entitled to educational benefits as a result of your own military service or the service-connected death or disability of a parent or spouse.
Indicate if you are affiliated with the military, such as but not limited to the spouse or dependent of someone who is on active duty or a current participant in an ROTC-type program.

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