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What you should know about the University of California personal insight questions

Isabella Brown, Staff Writer

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The University of California has completely restructured its 2016 freshman application. Instead of the traditional long essay with two prompts to choose from, UC has implemented “personal insight questions.”

Applicants are now required to write four short essays using prompts that are more specific and streamlined. There are eight total prompts to choose from, with questions ranging from creative problem solving to community service. Each essay has a 350-word limit.

According to San Ramon Valley High School counselor Jennifer Levy-Wendt, the personal insight questions will provide a more holistic view of the applicants. They will allow applicants to discuss a variety of their accomplishments and activities, avoiding the constraint of a single essay.

Because the essays have a word limit, they must be concise and succinct, which will benefit the admissions officers as well because they won’t need to read through flowery language and unnecessary details to get to the main points. They don’t want to hear about how your sports team won a tournament; they want to hear about what makes you unique and why you belong at their school.

Seniors applying to the UC system have mixed feelings about the personal insight questions. Bailey Maxwell and Sarah Kobayashi said that they have put considerable time and effort into their essays. Maxwell said she wasn’t able to provide a complete view of herself because “the word limit makes the essays too short to go into detail, but too long to be easy.” She is confident, however: “Because it’s the first year the UC system is using the personal insight questions, they’ll have no one to compare us to.”

Senior Nina Kelly is excited about the insight questions.

“It’s been easy to answer the questions because they’re broad enough to find something to write about for each,” Kelly said. “For sure, I’ve been able to show more sides of myself through the personal insight questions. I think the essays are the right choice for the UC system because they give the reader a better insight of who the applicant is and what they will do to impact the school.”

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What you should know about the University of California personal insight questions