Uc Prompt 1 Examples Essay About Divorce

Strategies for Each of 8 New University of California Essays 2016-17

by j9robinson | May 8, 2016

Quickly Find Ideas for Each of the
8 New Personal Insight Questions


I hope everyone applying to any of the University of California schools this fall got the big news: They have all new essay prompts for 2016-17!

Instead of writing two longer essays, incoming freshmen now are required to write four shorter essays—and have eight new prompts, called Personal Insight Questions, to choose from.

Since the big announcement this spring, I’ve written eight new posts on each of the new UC essays.

I’ve listed them all together here (below) in this post so you can find them easily. (more…)

UC Essay Prompt 1: Leadership Experience

by j9robinson | Mar 29, 2016

University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 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.

UC Essay Prompt 1 is the first of eight essay prompts for the University of California application that you can choose to answer if you are an incoming freshman.

Of the eight Personal Insight Questions, you only need to answer four.

If you consider leadership one of your defining qualities, or have had an interesting experience as a leader in some capacity, you might want to consider this essay. (more…)

NEW University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017!

by j9robinson | Mar 24, 2016

First New University of California Essay Prompts
for their College Application in 10 Years!

The University of California just listed brand new college application essay prompts—for the first time in a decade!

In the past, incoming freshman wrote two core essays answering two prompts.

The two essays had to be a total of no more than 1,000 words.

The UC is now calling its new essay prompts, “Personal insight questions,” and students must choose four out of eight to answer.

And they are each supposed to be under 350 words. (So, total under 1,400 words.)

That’s a huge shift. (more…)

UC College Application Essay Instant Boot Camp

by j9robinson | Nov 11, 2014

UPDATE: as of March 23, 2016 The University of California announced NEW essay prompts for 2016-17. Read about how to answer them HERE.


This post is now outdated. The information is no longer relevant!!

If you are working on your two college application essays for the University of California freshman application, I’ve put together a short list of my most helpful posts.

Prompt 1: Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

How to Describe the World You Come From

Sample College App Essay for UC Prompt 1

Brainstorm the World You Come From (more…)

Sample College App Essays for “Describe the World You Come From”

by j9robinson | Sep 9, 2014

UPDATE: as of March 23, 2016 The University of California announced NEW essay prompts for 2016-17. Read about how to answer them HERE.

This post is now outdated. The information is no longer relevant!!


Looking for your World to answer the University of California Prompt 1?


A high school English teacher contacted me this week asking if I had any sample essays for the University of California college application Prompt 1.

She was using my guides and Essay Hell blog posts to help teach her students how to write their college application essays.  (more…)

A Peek into the Many Worlds of Prompt 1 of the UC Essays

by j9robinson | Nov 3, 2013

UPDATE: The University of California announced NEW essay prompts for 2016-17. Read about how to answer them HERE.

The following content in this post is no longer relevant and is outdated!

About three years ago, I wrote a post to try to help students applying to the University of California find topics to answer Prompt 1 for their college application essay: Describe the World You Come From. Since I shared my advice in my Describe the World You Come From post, I have received more than a 100 comments from students. Most have specific questions, mainly trying to see if their idea of a “world” would make a great essay.

Since then, I tried to answer most of their questions. This year, I am so swamped with tutoring students, however, that I’m not able to answer all the questions right now. But I have noticed that many cover the same ground—even though the topics range from someone’s world of books, to playing tennis, to making cookies, to an ill family member, etc. So I pulled some of the questions that I thought are more common, along with my answers, in hopes they might answer questions still lingering out there. See below. (more…)


For more than five years now, I’ve encouraged students to write their college application essays using a narrative style.

Sharing true-life stories to reveal your personality, character, interests, dreams and goals is the best way to tell about yourself in a personal essay.

Until recently, many “college experts” directed students to write more formal, academic essays.

But now many  also are championing slice-of-life essays—which is great!

Like many pendulum shifts, however, this one is now in danger of swinging too far and potentially knocking some of the more bold essay writers out of the running.


Students share their gritty, real-life stories, but don’t know how to handle them, especially those that explore highly personal or emotionally charged terrain.

The temptation is to go for the shock value to “grab the reader.”

This can backfire, however, if the details come across as gimmicky or off-putting.

I was tipped off about this so-called “trend” by a recent editorial in The New York Times, which the writer called “Naked Confessions of the College-Bound: Oversharing in Admissions Essays.

“…an impulse in many essay writers to tug readers into the most intimate corners of their lives and to use unfiltered frankness as a way to grab attention. In some of the essays that students begin to draft and some of the essays that they actually wind up submitting, there are accounts of eating disorders, sexual abuse, self-mutilation, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug addiction,” wrote editorial writer Frank Bruni.

This should not stop you from finding and telling your own stories in your college essays.

I still think the larger risk is writing an essay that is predictable and dull. But in this ridiculously competitive atmosphere, you must remember that more of a good thing isn’t always the best.

What I’m talking about is TMI—too much information.

You don’t need to traumatize, appall or nauseate your reader to standout.

A gentle twist or surprise (the unexpected works great!) is much more effective.



If you don’t have good radar on when you have “overshared,” it’s best to have someone else review your essay.

Ask a reader directly: Is it too much?

Where exactly do you think I crossed the line? Are there parts that turned you off?

Here’s my advice: When you are writing about a topic that is sensational, it’s best to understate (tone down/generalize) your descriptions.

For example, if someone had their arm chopped off by a chain saw, you don’t need to describe all the gross details. Just say “their arm was chopped off.” We get it!

Keep in mind the point of your essay: To help colleges decide that they want you to attend their school. So if you come across as tasteless, awkward or insensitive–or unlikeable on any level–see if you can re-work your point to tone down the unsavory parts.

Chances are, if it’s strong material, it will still pack a punch.

The last thing you want to do is come across as some sort of freak. If you have faced weird, melodramatic or unbecoming issues, that’s fine, and feel free to write about them–just focus more on how you handled them and what you learned. Easy on the details.

I know this can be confusing. In general, I encourage students to share the parts of their lives that have been defining, and most of the times, those times have not been pretty (death, divorce, injury, etc…).

The challenge is to learn how to share them so the reader can get  clear sense of what you faced, but at the same time not be distracted or turned off by the sensational details.

My other advice when tackling tricky topics is to first go ahead and get out your stories, including all the details, gory and awkward and ugly, but then go back and tone it down.

Only leave enough so the readers get a sense of what you are talking about, and quickly move onto the most important part: How those experience affected you, changed you and helped make you who you are today.

In the New York Times editorial piece, the writer quotes “prominent admissions counselors” who spend hours and days helping students find the perfect balance in their essays.

(One counselor described in this article charged $14,000 for a 4-day application/essay writing camp. Per student! How did this editorial writer casually include that as though that was at all normal? $14,000??? That’s obscene!)

I know most students don’t have the luxury of professional guidance, and frankly, I don’t believe most need it to anything near that level. (This blog has plenty of free writing advice to help you craft a terrific essay!)

Part of writing is learning to trust your own instincts, and also find others who you can use as a sounding board if you think you have gone too far: English teachers, high school counselors, parents, friends, etc.

Of course, some might want to take all the good stuff out of your essay, so you have to watch for that as well.

Bottom line: If what you are describing is gross, crude or off-putting, that’s a red flag. A little goes a long way for the reader to “get it.”

When in doubt, take it out.





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