College applications can be tricky at the best of times. The UC application takes things to a whole new level. Applicants have eight prompts to choose from and have to write four essays based on those prompts. The prompts themselves are all different, but the premise is easy enough to understand; tell the admission office something they might not know four times.
Applicants should choose topics that are the most relevant to them and best reflect their individual circumstances. Don’t get caught up on trying to answer the questions how the admissions officer “wants” them to be answered and instead use the topics as a way to express who you really are. The UC essay prompts 2018-19, and UC essay prompts 2019-20 produced some interesting results. Here is a look at the UC college essay prompts in 2020-21 and how you should approach them.
Prompt 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.
Don’t feel the need to list off every time you were in a leadership role. Think o a time when you had to work particularly hard as a leader. Perhaps you always helped siblings with their homework and had to work hard because one of them had a learning disability. Maybe you worked as a camp counselor and had to get a group of kids to work together in harmony for a song or dance.
The point of the question is to isolate a single moment of leadership and bring that moment to life. Describe the situation in detail and set the scene. Don’t be afraid to reflect on moments of failure during the time, either. It all went together as a character-building experience that made you who you are today.
Prompt 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.
This question appears to be aimed at creatives, but a closer look reveals the truth. The question could apply to anyone. It doesn’t stick to a single definition of creativity and even asks applicants what the word means to them. Creativity could include things like approaching a problem from a unique view, seizing an opportunity to bring old talents to new situations, and other such things.
Prompt 3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
Everyone has a talent that sets them apart – something they’ve honed throughout their lifetime. It shouldn’t be challenging to think of something you can do that makes you proud. Think about things other people say about you and times when you’ve put in a lot of effort, and things have gone well. What did that experience teach you? What challenges did you face? How has it affected your growth? How will you continue to develop that talent in college?
Prompt 4: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
There are two ways to approach this question. The first is to write about attending an afterschool program, special class, or something similar that inspired you and helped you overcome a challenge. Discussing how you participated in a course for aspiring lawyers, for example, showcases your ambition and how much you enjoy a challenge.
The other option is to discuss how you overcame disabilities or struggled in the face of challenges and financial hardships that other students didn’t have to deal with. Discuss your struggles and how you overcame them. Highlight the qualities that helped you succeed and how overcoming the challenge improved you as a person.
Prompt 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?
Questions like this – questions that let you go into failures and struggles you have faced – are giving you the chance to talk about success. Discuss the steps you took to address the problem. Don’t worry if things didn’t go perfectly, as you can still talk about the lessons you learned from the situation. Did the experience teach you something important about yourself or those around you? Focus on the positives of what happened. Discuss how the challenge changed you as a person and how you plan to apply those lessons to college life.
Prompt 6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
These kinds of UC transfer essay prompts are for people who consider themselves nerdy or geeky. This is another topic you can approach from two different directions; talk about an academic subject you love inspired you to pursue extracurricular activities or discuss how a hobby you have came from the classroom. Perhaps school taught you a love of language, so you decided to work in a coffee shop and meet people talking different languages. Maybe you did a research project on historical currency, and it inspired you to start a coin collection. The prompt is asking you to bridge the gap between your academic and personal life.
Prompt 7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
Writing about community service is good, but it’s easy to get caught up in clichés. Make yourself the center of the answer and write about your life in particular. Focus on the motivations that caused you to take action instead of the act itself and what you learned from it. If you fought for increased minimum wage, for example, then what prompted you to take that action? What did you learn about wage inequality and the overall state of your community during the process? Maybe you weren’t even looking forward to doing it, but really enjoyed it. Why were you apprehensive about it? How did you make things more fun and beneficial for you and the people involved? Don’t feel the need to talk about the most impressive thing, either. Talk about the thing that mattered most to you. Chairing the Honors Society is impressive, but if you didn’t like it, then it’s better to talk about something else.
Prompt 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?
The prompt speaks for itself. If you feel there is something that the UC admissions people should know then this is your chance to say it. Make sure that you go into detail and use descriptive language to bring the topic to life for readers. Be sure to include some thoughtful reflections about the subject and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to mention why the topic at hand makes you a great candidate for UC admission!