Personal Insight Questions
The following are tips to help applicants find appropriate topics, styles, and tones for their answers to the personal insight questions. Please also see the University of California’s instructions.
In your application—including your answers to the personal insight questions—we are looking for evidence of your intellectual curiosity and your interest in personal development. UCLA is a dynamic and exciting place—due largely to our creative, ambitious, and diverse student body. We anticipate that the applicants we admit will contribute to the intellectual vitality, cultural life, and diversity of UCLA.
Your Answers to the Personal Insight Questions
- These questions are about getting to know you better, so be open, reflective, find your individual voice and express it.
- Freshman Applicants: You will have 8 questions to choose from, you must respond to any 4 of the 8 questions. The questions you choose to answer are entirely up to you.
- Transfer Applicants: There is one required question you must answer; then you answer 3 out of 7 additional questions. Which 3 of the 7 you choose to answer are entirely up to you.
- All applicants: We recommend you select questions that are most relevant to your experience and best reflect your individual circumstances.
- All questions will be given equal consideration in the application review process, which means there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.
- Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
Tips for Success
Give yourself time to think about your topics, and carefully consider the rationale behind each question.
Be clear. Be focused. Be organized.
Make sure your answers to the personal insight questions follow a logical structure. Try to think about how it may seem to an audience who doesn’t know you. Input from people you trust—teachers, friends, relatives—can help you get different perspectives on how your answers to the questions affect those who are reading them.
Be careful with humor and clichés.
What might seem funny or bitingly ironic to you might not seem that way to someone who doesn’t know you. Remember that these questions are an opportunity for you to give us a complete picture of yourself. Don’t allow clichés to speak for you.
Don’t manufacture hardship.
Your answer to a personal insight question isn’t effective simply because it chronicles difficult circumstances. Rather, an effective answer to any question gives us a clear sense of your personal qualities and how you have used and developed them in response to your opportunities and challenges.
Use specific examples to illustrate your ideas.
Most students will answer some of these questions discussing initiative. A much smaller number will show us initiative with concrete examples of demonstrated motivation and leadership. But examples are only one part of the equation: we need you to prove to us with written examples that you have a sense of who you are, where you are going, and how you are going to use your education and your experiences to accomplish your goals. Although some events have long-term or even lifetime ramifications, it is usually better to focus on recent events because they shed more light on who you are right now.
Finally, give yourself plenty of time for revisions.
Read your writing to others, and revise for clarity in content and in style. Pay attention to rules of correct grammar and punctuation, and don’t forget to spell check.
We hope these tips will help you get organized and will inspire you. Your accomplishments, your opinions…you are important! Your answers to these questions are the best tool you have to show us the individual gifts you have to offer to the UCLA community.
Please visit the University of California site for more help with your personal insight questions, including the text of the questions you will be asked to answer.
Special Instructions for Veterans
The University is interested in knowing about your military service. Therefore, you may wish to use the personal insight questions 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 to 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.
The UC Personal Insight Guides are also available in Spanish.
Are you considering applying to one of the UC schools? UC schools are known for being one of the best state school systems available, regardless if you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. To apply, here are the UC essay prompts you can expect.
Students choose 4 out of the 8 total UC essay prompts and respond with 350-word answers. The prompts were updated as recently as last year, so we can anticipate no change for the 2017-2018 application season. UPDATE: No major changes to the essay prompts this year! Just more details in essay prompt 6 & 8.
Here are the UC Essay Prompts for 2017-2018:
Leadership experienceDescribe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
Creative expressionEvery 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.
Talent or special skill
What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
Overcoming educational barrier
Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
Overcoming significant challenge
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.
Bettering the community
What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
What makes you special?
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?
Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.LEARN MORE
Are you planning to apply to University of California schools? Or you must just be starting the process of building your college list. Make sure to search through profiles of students accepted. Read full essays, stats, and student advice. See how our students got in, and how you can too!
About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.