This lesson covers... how to approach an essay about a challenge or a set of challenges.
By the end you should... understand a basic three-part structure for writing a challenges-based essay.
Time 2 minutes

If you’ve read my book or my Free Guide to the Personal Statement, you’ll be familiar with this five-part structure: Status Quo, Inciting Incident, Raising the Stakes, Moment of Truth, New Status Quo.

This is not that.

Why? Simple: the UCs offer just 350 words, which I don’t think allows enough room for all five of those (so save that structure for the Common App).

For the UC personal insight questions, I recommend a much simpler structure:

  1. What challenge(s) did you face?

  2. What did you do about it?

  3. What did you learn?

I recommend devoting about ⅓ of the essay to each. This is not a strict rule, of course, but here’s a quick word of caution: many students spend too much time discussing the Challenge (especially if writing about it for the first time) and not enough time describing What [They] Did About It and What [They] Learned.

Remember: You don’t show you’re a great college candidate because you went through some hard times… you show you’re a great candidate based on how you metabolized the experience. So explain the challenge as succinctly as possible.

Check out the next lesson for an example.

Want help writing an amazing college essay? Check out my step-by-step video course HERE!



In 5 guided lessons, I'll bring you the inside scoop straight from UC admissions reps, and you'll learn all you need to know to write your answers to the UC personal insight questions.



Tons of awesome sample responses and the most effective brainstorming activities I've ever used to get you inspired.



Brainstorm, outline, and write awesome drafts of UC personal insight questions.



If you're not completely satisfied with the course, get a full refund within 30 days.