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09/04/2019

Should I make my UC personal statement creative?

QUESTION
Should I make my UC personal statement creative?
I’ve always been known as a “creative writer”. All my essays have interesting hooks and twists. By that I mean they’re really unusual, but in a good way. However, my english teacher advised me not to write this way for UC personal statements. He said that I should save the creative writing when writing personal statements for private schools like NYU. Is this true? What do you think?

ANSWER
The high volume of applications the UCs receive means that application evaluators are spending less than 10 minutes reviewing each application. For UC personal statement, you really need to address all aspects of the prompts and few students can pull off being creative or funny, address the prompts fully, and meet the word-limit (1,000 words total for both prompts) at the same time. It will make the evaluators happy if you are straightforward and get to the point. It doesn’t hurt to be a little creative or funny, but remember that you must address the prompts fully.

Prompt 1 for Freshman Applicants

The way Prompt 1 is worded can be a bit misleading. According to what I heard from Berkeley admissions, application evaluators (or at the very least, Berkeley and Irvine – confirmed by a student who attended a seminar at Irvine) want you to discuss your dreams and aspirations, and what you have done so far to achieve those dreams and aspirations. While it is important for you to define your environment, you should NOT use your personal statement to describe your family, school or community.

I recommend approaching the first prompt by figuring out what your environment is, what your dreams/aspirations are, and what you have done in the context of your environment to achieve those dreams/aspirations.

Your environment can have physical boundaries (for example, your bedroom, the church prayer room, or the community center) or mental boundaries (for example, your upbringing or cultural tradition). Another way to think about your environment is by imagining yourself as a fish; are you in a fishbowl, a stream, a pond, or an ocean?

Your dreams and aspirations can be broad or specific; perhaps you aspire to help people (broad) or maybe your dream is to be a TB specialist serving with Doctor Without Borders in Somalia (specific). Either way, you should discuss how your achievements (academic and/or extracurricular, within the context of your environment) have helped you move toward achieving that dream/aspiration. You also want to consider talking about how you plan to continue these achievements in college.

Whatever you choose to discuss in this prompt, remember the main focus should be on YOU; what you have accomplished, what your goals are for the future, and why you will succeed (in life and/or in college).

Prompt 2 for All Applicants

Prompt 2 is a way for you to showcase something about yourself that makes you stand out from your peers. You can do that by discussing a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience (pq/t/a/c/e for short). Make sure you cover 1) why this pq/t/a/c/e is important to you, 2) why you are proud of this pq/t/a/c/e, and 3) what the pq/t/a/c/e says about you as an individual. You may also consider discussing how this pq/t/a/c/e will help you succeed in college. Again, the main focus of your essay should be on YOU; what makes you different from other applicants, who you are as a person (beyond your grades and test scores), and what interests you have. You can also think of Prompt 2 as a commercial spot for yourself. What would be the theme of the commercial? What clips from your life would be featured in the commercial?