Ten Tips for Writing a 1337* UC Essay

10 Tips for Writing a 1337* UC Essay

In March 2016, the University of California released its new essay prompts:

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.  Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  

8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

Applicants are asked to choose four of these and write an essay of up to 350 words for each. Want some advice?


A. Decide on a topic

TIP #1: Don’t simply write about some abstract quality you possess. Why? The essay will probably wander all over the place and it may turn out horrible.

TIP #2: Choose a specific experience that shows several awesome qualities you possess. Why? Because writing about a specific experience will help you focus the essay, plus it’ll be more interesting to the reader.

TIP #3: Consider writing about the extracurricular activity that you've spent the most time doing or that you care about most. Why? Like it or not, UC readers want to know what you've accomplished. 

TIP #4: If you have to choose between a few activities, pick the one that’s the most impressive. Why? Like it or not, UC readers want to know what you've accomplished. Oh wait, I said that already. That must mean it’s important.

Maybe you designed a robot horse, for example.

Maybe you designed a robot horse, for example.

B. if writing on an extracurricular activity, first Make a bullet point list of your content


TIP #5: Jot down answers to these three questions:

1. What have you done? Literally, what were your actual tasks? How did you/have you spent your time?

2. What did you learn?

TIP #6: Save discussing this until almost the end of the essay.

3. How will you continue this work?

TIP #7: Discuss specifically who you’d like to help and how. 

C. Decide on a structure.  

TIP #8: Use the Narrative Structure (tell a story), OR

TIP #9: Use the Montage Structure (jump around to different moments).

TIP #10: Before you begin, look at other supplemental essays you're writing for other schools to see if there is another prompt you can also use this topic for and write your essay so that it answers BOTH prompts at the same time.

For example, one of the University of Texas essay prompts asks: 

Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?

It’s possible to write an essay that answers both this prompt AND UC prompt #5 at the same time, since they're basically the same. But guess what? You could double this with almost ANY of the prompts above (look at UC prompt #7 for example) and write an essay that both describes a conflict in your life AND involved you making your community a better place. And you know what? Both essays will be better for it.

For a complete guide on How to Write the ApplyTexas Essays, click here

D: Write a draft

That's right. Just begin.

Need some inspiration? Go here.

*1337 is old school hacker/internet slang for "Leet" or "Elite." The More You Know.