University of California School System Application Requirements:
Important note: The University of California admissions folks would like me (and you!) to refer to these prompts as “personal insight questions” instead of “essays” or "UC personal statement". Why? Sometimes students associate the word “essay” with an academic assignment and that is not (as you’ll see below) what the UCs are looking for. That said, I sometimes used the phrase “UC essay” below because people search for “US essay example” or "UC personal statement" ten times more than “UC personal insight questions examples”, and such a search may very well be what brought you here.
The University of California school system covers 10+ of some of the best schools in the country. UC does things a little differently - they have a separate application and (you guessed it) a separate list of essays to write.
Below is a collection of some of the best UC essay examples/UC personal insight question examples I’ve seen.
But first, here are all the essay prompts for 2018.
The UC Personal Insight Question Prompts
Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
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.
What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
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?
Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 1: Leadership Experience
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 2: Creative Side
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 3: Greatest Talent or Skill
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 4: Significant Opportunity or Barrier
- UC Example Essay #8
- UC Example Essay #9
- UC Example Essay #10: “Two Truths, One Lie”
- UC Example Essay #11: “AP Chinese”
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 5: Overcoming a Challenge
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 6: Inspiring Academic Subject
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 7: Community Service
- UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 8: Standing Out
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 1: Leadership Experience
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.
UC Example Essay #1
“CAPITALISM CAUSES EXTINCTION! NUCLEAR WAR IS IMMINENT!”
Initially, debate seemed nonsensical: lambasting opponents while arguing improbable scenarios. But over time I’ve learned that it’s more than competition that drives me to stay up all night looking for evidence: I love learning about the political and ideological underpinnings of our society and the way they shape us.
On an easy debate tournament weekend, I research foreign diplomatic agendas and synthesize the information into coherent debate evidence. When tournaments become more hectic, however, I delve deeper into the works of philosophers and social critics and translate the knowledge into debate argumentation. While researching foreign policy, critical theory like Heideggerian phenomenology and constitutional details, I’ve developed an ability to critically analyze argumentation, make sense of the world around me and creatively express myself in an academic setting.
My hard work has paid off. In the past four tournaments, I’ve received a Top 10 speaker award for the varsity division consisting of about 50 debaters. This trend has increased my credibility in my debate league to such a level that my partner and I were invited to participate in a series of public debates at LA City Hall to defend the water policy for the drought. The opportunity allowed me to actually impact the public’s awareness and accept a larger responsibility in the workings of my community.
More importantly, however, debate has taught me to strategically choose my battles. When I prepare my arguments, I know that I can’t use all of them in the end of a round. I have to focus. I’ve learned to maximize my strengths and not try to conquer everything. Moreover, I’ve learned to be responsible with my choices. A wrong argument can mean losing if we can’t defend well. Not only do I now know how to zoom in from a bigger picture, but I also know how to pick the right place to zoom in to so I can achieve my goal.
Debate has turned me into an responsible optimizing, scrutinizing and strategizing orator.
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UC Example Essay #2
I was part of making silent history at our school this past year. As a part of the Community Outreach Committee of Leadership Class, I contacted the local Food Bank and together with the help of the student body, donated over 600 pounds of canned food for Thanksgiving. Noticing a bulk of unused VHS tapes in our school’s basement, I did some research and discovered that discarding these are harmful for the environment. I found an organization that employs people with disabilities to recycle these tapes, and soon our school shipped over 400 VHS tapes to their warehouse in Missouri. We received overwhelming gratification from them as no other school, even in their own community, had done something like that. Watching a small grassroots initiative in our community benefit people I was unlikely to ever meet made me feel connected to the world at large and showed me the power of putting actions to your words.
As a member of Leadership, I have also spent countless hours preparing for and facilitating New Student Orientation, Homecoming, and Grad Night, among many other programs. Seeing a gap in our care of the student body, I also expanded the New Student Lunches Program to include not just freshman, but all new transfers, regardless of grade level.
Leadership is my own personal critic. It forces me to constantly weigh the pros and cons of how I carry myself, how I speak, and how I listen at every single event we put on for the student body. It has taught me to look objectively and weigh the wants and needs of every student. It has shown me the importance of listening, not just hearing.
Leadership is the ability to make each student a part of something so much bigger than themselves. It holds me accountable and keeps me engaged with my fellow humans even when I’m exhausted. It has allowed me to leave a legacy of purpose. Through vulnerability in times of stress and joy in times of celebration, grooming myself into a better leader has also made me a better student, friend, and daughter.
UC Example Essay #3
I am twenty years old and I already have kids. Well, 30 actually, and they’re all around my age, some even older.
After a brief few months of training I was posted to Officer Cadet School as an instructor. It was my job to shape and mold them; I was ready to attempt everything I’d learned about being a leader and serve my new cadets to the best of my abilities. I trained my cadets by encouraging teamwork and learning, trying to somehow make the harsh military training fun. I became very close to them in the process.
Leadership was enjoyable until I discovered one of my cadets had cheated on a test. In the military, cheating is resolved with an immediate trip to the detention barracks. Considered worse than jail, the record leaves a permanent mark. If I pressed charges, that’s where my cadet would end up.
My heart sank. He was also my friend.
After much deliberation, I decided there was only one resolution. I could not, with good conscience, let this go. It would set precedence for the rest of my cadets. It was painful and brought a few tears, but I could not show any wavering or doubt, at least not in front of them. I charged him, and he went to the detention barracks and eventually was discharged. The acceptance I had felt from my cadets was replaced with fear.
I found leadership is not all about making friends and having others listen to orders. The rest of my platoon learned, and didn’t repeat the mistake. While I was never again “one of the guys,” I found pride in the growth of my team. A few weeks later I ran into my old cadet. Despite his hardship, he acknowledged his responsibility and the experience had motivated him as he struggled to recreate his life.
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UC Example Essay #4
As president of the Robotics Club, I find building the robots and creatively solving technical problems to be the easy tasks. What’s difficult and brings more meaning to my work is steering the club itself.
After three years of battling the geeky-male stereotype our club was labelled with, I evolved our small club of 5 techies into a thriving interdisciplinary hub of 80 distinct personalities. Because our club lacks a professional instructor, I not only teach members about STEM related jargons that I learned from hundreds of Google searches, but also encourage constructive debates ranging from topics like Proportional-Integral-Derivative Error Correction Algorithm to how someone should fix her mom’s vacuum cleaner. In this way, I provide beginners with an atmosphere that reflects my own mentality: proactive listening without moralization or judgement.
I also like sharing insights outside the club. In my mathematics class, for example, I sometimes incite intense discussions during lectures on abstruse topics like vectors or calculus by offering examples from my experiences in the lab. In this manner, I not only become an integral part of the intellectual vitality of STEM-related classes at school, but also show people with all kinds of interests and backgrounds how to employ technical intuition when solving problems and, in some cases, I even inspire students to join the Robotics Club.
As an introverted leader, I try to listen first, and use my soft-spoken attentiveness to invite dialogue that improves team chemistry. With this ability, I have learnt to control the momentum of official debates and basketball matches. Thus, whether my team wins or loses, the external pressure of either suffering a setback or enjoying an achievement rarely affects my team's composure, which helps us maintain our consistency and resolve.
As I visualize myself building projects with a group of coders in the future, I believe that my discreteness, experience in robotics, practical tenacity and absolute love for innovating technology will be vital for all my endeavors.
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 2: Creative Side
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.
UC Example Essay #5
Some people speak Chinese, others Spanish; I speak HTML. Language is intricately beautiful, with sentences flowing all within grammar constraints creating masterpiece bound by rules. If poetry in English can be considered art, so too can programming. Just as every sentence in English has a meaning and purpose, every line of code invokes a function.
Instead of communicating with people, coding is essentially having a conversation with computers, directing them onto what is desired. Unlike people, however, computers don’t have imagination, and therefore require users to be precise in every word and sentence they depict. Just as an artist expresses imagination with a pen, a programmer uses a keyboard.
Aside from being just a program, websites bring people closer together. Because Singapore is incredibly small, in order for my school to challenge its athletes, we have to go overseas to play against other schools. Forming a league called IASAS, schools visit each other and compete. The only issue with this is how expensive it is to travel, resulting in the teams flying without family or friends. Competitors often feel alone and unwelcome in the foreign school.
A website was the perfect solution for this: after much planning and deliberation, I formed a team to make a site where parents and friends could encourage their athletes! We started with brainstorming how to avoid cluttering the website and how best to keep it simple whilst connecting people together. Using flowcharts and diagrams, I used design principles to make it visually pleasing whilst maintaining structure and foundation. Focusing on supporting the athletes, guests were able to leave comments, get live scoring, and videos of the games.
The site allows parents and friends to encourage their students during some of the most significant tournaments of their high school careers. Creativity serves many functions, and mine intends to bring people closer together.
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UC Example Essay #6
As the preceding caucus wraps up, young delegates dressed in their most chic outfits (hey, it's not called MODEL United Nations for nothing) scurry to get one more signatory to support their resolution.
For my first conference, I signed up to represent Russia in the General Assembly. Being the naive yet ambitious freshman that I was, I thought it a great honor to represent one of the Permanent Five. According to feedback from my chair, I was overly democratic and too accommodating (and with due cause, I sponsored a resolution with Ukraine), to an extent that it hurt my performance.
Three months later, I accepted the Distinguished Delegate Award in ECOSOC for The Bahamas, a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). I broke away from the connotation of another tourist destination to voice some of this country's biggest challenges as well as successes, particularly towards climate change.
I had not blatantly followed the 'power delegate', but stood my ground and made a powerful coalition with numerous other SIDS to become a resolution bloc, embodying the primary value my mentor, Senator Steve Glazer, impressed upon us as interns: "Represent the people of your district, not political parties or special interests".
Creativity is finding the peripheral introverted delegates and persuading them to add numbers to your cause. Creativity is navigating around the complexities of a capitalistic society designed to benefit only the top percentile in industrialized countries. Creativity is diplomacy, an art of itself. The ability to build bridges and forge new alliances in the wake of greed and power (believe me, the high school MUN circuit is equally, if not more, cutthroat than the real political arena) is a skill needed for the ever-complicated future.
MUN has taught me the practice of rhetoric and the relevance of ethos, pathos, and logos. I have learnt to listen to opposing viewpoints, a rare skill in my primarily liberal high school.
I see MUN as a theatre production, where success is determined by how well you, in essence, become and portray your country to an audience of the world i.e., the United Nations.
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 3: Greatest Talent or Skill
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
UC Essay Example #7: “The Art Girl”
With a blackened Q-tip, I gave him eyelids and pupils and smoothed the rough edges of his face. I used an eraser to shave down the sharpness of his jaw and add highlights to his skin. After scrutinizing the proportions, I smiled at the finished pencil portrait. Kim Jong-dae was now ready to be wrapped as the perfect present for my friend.
Aside from Korean pop singers, I’ve drawn a variety of other characters. From the gritty roughness of Marvel comics to the soft, cuteness of Sanrio animals, I’ve drawn them all as a creative touch to top off birthday presents. It’s simply the way I choose to express myself when words cannot suffice.
But being an artist comes with its own social expectations. At school, it’s made me the “art girl” who is expected to design the banners and posters. At home, it’s prompted long distant relatives -- regardless of how much I actually know them -- to ask me to draw their portraits. In addition, whenever my parents invite coworkers to my house, I’ve had to deal with the embarrassment of showing my whole portfolio to complete strangers.
On the bright side, being an artist has taught me to take risks and experiment with new techniques and media. It’s taught me to draw meaning and intent with minimal words and text. It’s taught me to organize and focus, by simplifying subjects and filtering out the insignificant details.
Most of all, art has made me a more empathetic human. In drawing a person, I live in their shoes for a moment and try to understand them. I take note of the little idiosyncrasies. I let the details--a hijab, a piercing on a nose, a scar on the chin--tell me their personality, their thoughts, their worldview. I recognize the shared features that make us human and appreciate the differences in culture and values that make us unique. And it’s from this that I am able to embrace the diversity and complexity of people beyond a superficial surface and approach the world with an open heart and an open mind. (347)
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 4: Significant Opportunity or Barrier
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
UC Essay Example #8
Freshman year, I fell in love with the smell of formaldehyde for its promise of an especially exciting day in Biology. Although my school’s STEM education excelled in theory and concepts, career-focused hands-on experience was lacking and I grew nostalgic for dissections. By junior year, I still had almost no idea what I would do in the future. When asked, I’d mumble a response about biochemistry or technology without daring to specify a job.
Then, I discovered MIT’s Women’s Technology Program and its mission to allow high school girls with little experience in engineering and CS to explore the fields. Naturally, I applied in a blink, and somehow even got accepted.
When I started the program, I never expected to become so enamored with computer science. Every day, I took pages of notes during the class lecture, then enthusiastically attacked the homework problems during the evening. In fact, most nights I stayed late in the computer lab trying to finish just one more (optional) challenge problem or add more features to already completed programs. The assignments themselves ranged from simply printing “hello world” to completing a functional version of Tetris. One of my favorite programs was a Hangman game that made sarcastic remarks at invalid inputs.
However, some programs were notoriously difficult, sparking countless frustrated jokes among the candidates: a version of the card game War overly prone to infinite loops, a queue class apparently comprised entirely of index errors. The sign-up list for TA help overflowed with increasing frequency as the curriculum grew more difficult. So, after I finished a program, I often helped my peers with debugging by pointing out syntax errors and logical missteps. In the final week, I was chosen to be a presenter for CS at the Final Dinner, speaking about the subject I loved to program donors and peers alike.
In that amazing month, I discovered a field that blends creativity with logic and a renewed passion for learning and exploration. Now, imagining my no-longer-nebulous future brings excitement.
And somehow, that excitement always smells faintly of formaldehyde.
UC Essay Example #9
If given an eye test with the standard Snellen Eye chart (y’know, the one with all the letters on it) you will be asked to stand 20 ft away, cover one eye and read off the letters from the chart as they get increasingly smaller. If you can read up to the lines marked “20” at 20 feet away, you have normal 20/20 vision and your eyes can separate contours that are 1.75 mm apart. Knowing visual acuity is important because it helps diagnose vision problems.
But the challenge? Usually people have to go into eye doctors and get an eye test to determine their acuity. However, since more than 40% of Americans don't go to an eye doctor on a regular basis and access to eye care is extremely rare and usually unavailable in third world countries, many people who need glasses don't know it and live with blurred vision.
To tackle this problem, I’ve spent the last four months at the Wyss Institute at Yale University working on an individual project supervised by Yale Medical School professor Maureen Shore. I’m coding a program that measures visual acuity and can determine what glasses prescription someone would need. My goal is to configure this into a mobile app so that it's easy for someone to determine if he or she needs glasses. I hope to continue using my programming skills to make the benefits of research more accessible.
If this technology isn't accessible to society, we’re doing a disservice to humanity. The skills, experience, and network I will build at the computer science department will help me devise solutions to problems and bring the benefits of research to the public.
UC Essay Example #10: "Two Truths, One Lie"
On the first day of school, when a teacher plays “Two Truths, One Lie” I always state living in three different continents. Nine times out of ten, this is picked as the lie.
I spent my primary education years in Bangalore, India. The Indian education system emphasizes skills like handwriting and mental math. I learnt how to memorize and understand masses of information in one sitting. This method is rote in comparison to critical thinking, but has encouraged me to look beyond classroom walls, learning about the rivers of Eastern Europe and the history of mathematics.
During seventh grade, I traded India’s Silicon Valley for the suburban Welwyn Garden City, UK. Aside from using Oxford Dictionary spellings and the metric system, I found little to no similarities between British and Indian curricula. I was exposed to “Religious Studies” for the first time, as well as constructional activities like textiles and baking. I found these elements to be an enhancing supplement to textbooks and notes. Nevertheless, the elementary level of study frustrated me. I was prevented from advancing in areas I showed aptitude for, leading to a lack of enthusiasm. I was ashamed and tired of being the only one to raise my hand. Suddenly, striving for success had negative connotations.
Three years later, I began high school in Oakland, California. US education seemed to have the perfect balance between creative thinking, core subjects and achievement. However, it does have its share of fallacies in comparison to my experience in other systems. I find that my classmates rarely learn details about cultures outside of these borders until very late in their career. The emphasis on multiple choice testing and the weight of letter grades has deterred curiosity.
In only seventeen years, I have had the opportunity to experience three very different educational systems. Each has shaped me into a global citizen and prepared me for a world whose borders are growing extremely defined. My perspective in living amongst different cultures has provided me with insight on how to understand various opinions and thus form a comprehensive plan to reach resolution.
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UC Essay Example #11: “AP Chinese”
In 10th and 11th grade, I explored the world of China with my classmates through feasts of mapo tofu, folk games and calligraphy. As I developed a familial bond with my classmates and teacher, the class became a chance to discover myself. As a result, I was inspired to take AP Chinese.
But there was a problem: my small school didn’t offer AP Chinese.
So I took matters into my own hands. I asked my AP advisor for a list of other advisors at schools near me, but he didn’t have one. I emailed the College Board, who told me they couldn’t help, so I visited the websites of twenty other high schools and used the information available to find an advisor willing to let me test at his or her school. I emailed all the advisors I could find within a fifty-mile radius.
But all I got back were no’s.
I asked myself: Why was I trying so hard to take an AP test?
After some thought, I realized the driving force behind my decision wasn’t academic. I’d traveled to Taiwan in the past, but at times I felt like an outsider because I could not properly communicate with my family. I wanted to be able to hear my grandpa’s stories in his own tongue about escaping from China during the revolution. I wanted to buy vegetables from the lady at the market and not be known as a visitor. I wanted to gossip with my cousins about things that didn’t just occur during my visit. I wanted to connect.
Despite the lack of support I received from both my school and the College Board, I realized that if I truly wanted this, I’d have to depend on myself. So I emailed ten more advisors and, after weeks, I finally received a ‘maybe’ telling me to wait until midnight to register as a late tester. At 12:10 am on April 19, I got my yes.
Language is not just a form of communication for me. Through, Chinese I connect with my heritage, my people, and my country.
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 5: Overcoming a Challenge
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?
UC Essay Example #12: “Breaking Up With Mom”
When I was fifteen years old I broke up with my mother. We could still be friends, I told her, but I needed my space, and she couldn’t give me that.
She and I both knew that I was the only person that she had in America. Her family was in Russia, she only spoke to her estranged ex-husband in court, her oldest son avoided her at all costs. And yet, at fifteen years old, I wasn’t equipped to effectively calm her down from her nightly anxiety attacks. At forty-three, she wasn’t willing to believe that I did love her, but that I couldn’t be responsible for stabilizing her life.
Moving in with my dad full time felt like I was abandoning her after tying a noose around her neck. But as my Drama teacher (and guardian angel) pointed out, my mother wasn’t going to get better if I kept enabling her, and that I wasn’t going to be able to grow if I was constrained by her dependence on me.
For the first time, I had taken action. I was never again going to passively let life happen to me.
During four long months of separation, I filled the space that my mom previously dominated with learning: everything and anything. I taught myself French through online programs, built websites, and began began editing my drawings on Photoshop to sell them online. When my dad lost his third job in five years, I learned to sew my own clothes and applied my new knowledge to costume design in the Drama Department.
On stage, I learned to empathize. Backstage, I worked with teams of dedicated and mutually supportive students. In our improv group, I gained the confidence to act on my instincts. With the help of my Drama teacher, I learned to humble myself enough to ask for help.
On my sixteenth birthday, I picked up the phone and dialed my mom. I waited through three agonizingly long pauses between rings.
“Hi mom, it’s me.”
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 6: Inspiring Academic Subject
6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
UC Essay Example #13
When I was 10, my dad told me that in and on my body, bacteria outnumbered human cells. For a 10 year old, this was a horrifying idea. I squeezed my forearms tightly in attempts to squish the foreigners to death. I showered in way-too-hot-for-ten-year-olds water. I poured lemon juice all over my body.
Today, however, I’m no longer terrified of hosting miniscule pals; instead, I embrace them as a way to be surrounded daily by microbiology. Ever since my sixth grade teacher showed my class a video on Typhoid Mary and taught us about pathogens, I’ve been fascinated by and with cells. I decided then that I wanted to be a doctor and study microbiology.
Over the summer, I shadowed Dr. Wong Mei Ling, a General Practitioner. I observed case after case of bacterial interactions on the human body: an inflamed crimson esophagus suffering from streptococcus, bulging flesh from a staph infection, food poisoning from e.coli-laden dishes. I was her researcher, looking up new drugs or potential illnesses that cause particular symptoms.
Intrigued by the sensitive balance between the good and bad bacteria on our bodies, I changed my lifestyle after researching more about our biological processes. I viewed my cheek cells through a microscope in AP Bio, and I realized that each cell needs to be given the right nutrients. Learning about foods enhancing my organ functions and immune system, I now eat yogurt regularly for the daily intake of probiotics to facilitate my digestion.
As a future pediatrician, I hope to teach children how to live symbiotically with bacteria instead of fearing them. I will stress the importance of achieving the right balance of good and bad microbes through healthy habits.
Rather than attempting to extinguish the microbes on me, today I dream of working in an environment loaded with bacteria, whether it’s finding cures for diseases or curing kids from illnesses. Like a daily reminder, the minute microbes in and on me serve as a reminder of my passion for the complex but tiny foundation of life. (342 words)
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 7: Community Service
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
UC Essay Example #14: “House of Pain”
So many of my friends had eating disorders. Scrolling through poems written by students at my school on a poetry publishing site, I was shocked by the number of girls starving or purging in attempts to love themselves. Before finding out about their struggles, I thought I was the only girl hating my reflection. Almost all the girls I knew at SAS were hiding their insecurity behind a facade of “health choices”.
Knowing I wasn’t alone in my fears, I found courage to take my own first steps. I joined House of Pain (HOP), an exercise club my PE teacher recommended. Although I initially despised working out, I left the gym feeling strong and proud of my body. Over the first weeks, I even developed a finger-shaped bruise on my bicep as I checked it daily. I began to love exercise and wanted to share my hope with my friends.
Since my friends hadn’t directly acknowledged their eating disorders, I had to engage them indirectly. I intentionally talked about the benefits of working out. I regularly invited them to come to the HOP sessions after school. I talked about how fun it was, while at the same time mentioning the healthy body change process. I was only their coach, but felt their struggles personally as I watched girls who couldn’t run 10 meters without gasping for air slowly transform. Their language changed from obsessing with size to pride in their strength.
I was asked to lead classes and scoured the web for effective circuit reps. I researched modifications for injuries and the best warmups and cooldowns for workouts. I continue to lead discussions focusing on finding confidence in our bodies and defining worth through determination and strength rather than our waists.
Although today my weight is almost identical to what it was before HOP, my perspective and, perhaps more importantly, my community is different. There are fewer poems of despair, and more about identity. From dreaming of buttoning size zero shorts to pushing ourselves to get “just one more push up”, it is not just our words that have changed.
UC Essay Example #15
I have lived in the Middle East for the last 11 years of my life. I’ve seen cranes, trucks, cement-mixers, bulldozers and road-rollers build all kinds of architectural monoliths on my way to school. But what really catches my attention are the men who wear blue jumpsuits striped with fluorescent colors, who cover their faces with scarves and sunglasses, and who look so small next to the machines they use and the skyscrapers they build.
These men are the immigrant laborers from South-Asian countries who work for 72 hours a week in the scorching heat of the Middle East and sleep through freezing winter nights without heaters in small unhygienic rooms with 6-12 other men. Sometimes workers are denied their own passports, having become victims of exploitation. International NGOs have recognized this as a violation of basic human rights and classified it as bonded labour.
As fellow immigrants from similar ethnicities, my friends and I decided to help the laborers constructing stadiums for the 2022 FIFA world cup.
Since freedom of speech was limited, we educated ourselves on the legal system of Qatar and carried out our activities within its constraints. After surveying labor camps and collecting testimonials, we spread awareness about the laborer’s plight at our local community gatherings and asked for donations to our cause. With this money, we bought ACs, heaters and hygienic amenities for the laborers. We then educated laborers about their basic rights. In the process, I became a fluent Nepalese speaker.
As an experienced debater, I gave speeches about the exploitation of laborers at the gatherings. Also, I became the percussionist of the small rock band we created to perform songs that might evoke empathy in well-off migrants. As an experienced website-developer, I also reached out to other people in the Middle East who were against bonded labor and helped them develop the migrant-rights.org website.
Although we could only help 64 of the millions of laborers in the Middle East, we hope that our efforts to spread awareness will inspire more people to reach out to the laborers who built their homes.
UC Personal Insight Question Prompt 8: Standing Out
8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?
UC Essay Example #16: “Jungle Confidence Course”
Hunger. Flames licking my face. Thirst. Unknown creatures circling me restlessly. Aching. The darkness threatening to swallow me. Desperation. I asked for this.
Nine long days in the jungle with only a day's worth of rations, the Jungle Confidence Course was designed to test our survival capabilities. To make matters worse, I had to carry a bunch of heavy military equipment that had no use to me for the purpose of the test. Dropped in the middle of Brunei, no matter which way you walked the terrain always went up. So why on earth would anyone volunteer this?
I was hungry. Not in the physical sense, even though I was starving for those nine days, but rather due to an incurable thirst. Every Singaporean male citizen is required to serve two years in service to the country essentially delaying our education and subsequent entrance into the workforce. Most people, including my friends, see this as something terrible and try to avoid it altogether by flying overseas. Others look for the easiest and most cushiony job to serve during the two long years rather than be another military grunt.
As for myself, since I had to do it why not do the best I can and hope to benefit from it? I’ve been hungry, cold, exhausted beyond the point of belief, yet I’m still standing. I sacrificed lots of free time, lost friends, ended up missing lots of key family moments due to training but I don’t regret a thing. Helicopter rides, urban warfare, assaulting beaches, all in a day’s work. Movies became reality accomplishing tasks once impossible.
Aspiration drove me then, and still continues to pilot me now. All these experiences and memories creates a lasting impact, creating pride and the motivation to continue forward. I could have given up at any point during those long nine days, but with every pang of hunger I made myself focus on what I wanted.
To be the best version of myself possible, and come out of this challenge stronger than ever before. What’s the point of living life if you have nothing to be proud of?
UC Essay Example #17”
What’s the most logical thing an electrical engineer and his computer science obsessed son can do in the deserts of Qatar? Gardening.
My dad and I built a garden in our small rocky backyard to remind us of our village in India, 3,419 km away from our compact metropolitan household in Qatar. Growing plants in a desert, especially outdoors without any type of climate control system, can seem to be a daunting task. But by sowing seeds at the beginning of winter, using manure instead of chemical fertilizers, and choosing the breed of plants that can survive severe cold, we overcame the harsh climate conditions.
Sitting in the garden with my family reminds me of the rain, the green fields, the forests, the rhythmic sound of the train wheels hitting joints between rails (to which I play beats on any rigid surface), and most of all, the spicy food of India. The garden is my tranquil abode of departure from all forms of technology, regrets about the past, and apprehensions about the future. It contrasts my love for innovating technology and thus maintains balance between my heritage, beliefs, busy lifestyle and ambitions.
Unfortunately, my family and I enjoy the garden for fewer months each year. The harsh climate is becoming dangerously extreme: summers are increasingly becoming hotter, reaching record-breaking temperatures of about 50॰C, and winters are becoming colder, the rains flooding areas that only anticipate mild drizzles. Climate change has reduced our season for growing plants from six months to four.
But we’ve agreed to keep our agricultural practices organic to improve the longevity of the garden’s annual lifespan. I’ve also strived to extend the privilege of a garden to all families in our Indian community, giving space for those who, like us, long for something green and organic in the artificial concrete jungle where we reside. We share harvests, seeds and experiences, and innovate organic agricultural methods, in the gardens we’ve all grown.
So, what makes the Computer Science obsessed applicant from India unique? Balance.
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