university of california

The Free 1-Hour Guide to the UC Personal Insight Questions

The Free 1-Hour Guide to the UC Personal Insight Questions

Remember that free 1-Hour Guide to the Personal Statement with the step-by-step process with the Essence Objects, Values Exercise, and example essays?

Well, I messed around and did a version for the New UC Application. Why?

Because I’m the College Essay Guy. It’s what I do.

So here’s the deal: the UCs are looking for some very particular information (14 pieces of information, in fact), and the 8 new personal insight questions are intimately connected to these 14 points.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Lesson 1.1 starts off with a Brief Guide to the UC Application so you get the big picture and answers to questions like:

  • What are UC admission officers looking for in these new prompts?

  • How do the new Personal Insight Questions fit into the 14 points of comprehensive review?

  • Also, what ARE the 14 points of comprehensive review?

Glad you asked.

Lesson 1.2 dives deep into each one. For example, when the UC schools say they like to see that you’ve completed “special projects”, what does that even mean?

Lesson 1.3 shows you how to write an awesome UC Activities List and provides some great examples.

In Lesson 1.4, you’ll get inspired as I walk you through the Values Exercise (via video) and help you come up with the topics and content for your responses to the UC prompts.

Lesson 2.1 helps you turn your topics into real actual essays through two different structures: Montage or Narrative.

Then, we get down to business and I walk you through the following:

Lesson 2.2 - How do I answer the PIQ (Personal Insight Questions) by writing about personal challenges through the Narrative Structure?

Lesson 2.3 - Example Narrative Structure and Analysis

Lesson 2.4 - How do I use the Montage Structure to answer the PIQ?

Lesson 2.5 - Example Montage Structure and Analysis

Finally, if you’re looking to really take your essay to the next level, you can take my in-depth How to Answer the UC Application Prompts course or if you’re ready to tackle your Common App essay, take a look at either my Free 1-Hour Guide to Writing the Personal Statement or the more in-depth How to Write a Personal Statement course.

Happy writing!

P.S. What do you think of the new UC prompts? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Tell me why below.



An Open Love Letter to the Authors of UC Personal Statement Prompt #1

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Dear person(s) who wrote University of California Personal Statement Prompt #1:

I love you.

By inviting students to dig deep into their personal histories and to make important connections, you have enriched both their lives and mine. Responding to the prompt has helped more than a few of my students discover important truths about themselves.

There was my student who grew up as an introvert, with parents who worked late. Because he was so often alone, he “retreated to fantasy books,” he wrote in his essay, “filling the void of loneliness with spaceships exploring distant galaxies, enchanted forests of knights and dragons.” During a family trip to Hawaii he looked out a submarine porthole to “the vast blue canvas of the sea” and saw the turtles and sharks as “life processes” and became convinced that “one could only come closer to understanding the world at the intersection between the real and the imaginary: only when one had feet planted in both worlds could one fully appreciate the ordered beauty of nature and life” and he ultimately realized that Biology offered “objectivity and a science with which [he] could apply [his] imagination to real world mechanics.”

Another great read: 17 uc essay examples 2018

And then there was my student whose interest in the human body was sparked when, at six, she inadvertently opened up an adult film on her computer. She was confused at first, then curious, then ashamed, when her parents walked in and told her what she was looking at was wrong. As she grew up she worked through the shame, the curiosity stayed, and she ended up wanting to become a doctor.

Could these students have discovered these things on their own? Perhaps. But I remember being present for the lightbulb moments during which they made these connections. And I can’t but think the prompt helped.

My wife is a wonderful Asker of Questions. Her questions turn me inward, inviting me to discover my own truths, and I’ve always thought of her questions as gifts. This prompt is no different. And it’s such a simple, eloquent little thing:

I love how open the word “world” is. But it’s not open in an impossible, abstract way. It conjures images, colors and differences. And it actually affirms that students come from a “world” that is different from other students’ worlds–something that many students don’t consider until they begin to write for this prompt. Then it invites the writer to describe those differences. Not explain or itemize, but describe. What a simple, beautiful request: describe your world.

The second part invites students to not only describe their dreams and aspirations, but to make connections between how who they’ve been will inform who they will become. Granted, many students don’t at 17 years old know what career they want to pursue or (like me) will change their major in college, perhaps more than once. “Dreams and aspirations” is open enough to allow for a variety of answers.

And here’s my favorite thing about it: by asking the student to make connections, to search for causes and effects, the prompt invites a meaning-making process that can at its best be therapeutic.

Can writing provide therapeutic benefits? Absolutely. Can personal statement writing? You tell me. Try writing this prompt for yourself, whether you’re a student, parent or not. See what happens.