Note: There is only one application for all the UC schools. Therefore, your responses will be sent to every single University of California school that you apply to. Hence, avoid making essays school-specific (unless you are applying to only one school).
To choose which questions to answer, first browse the eight prompts as a list, and sort them into one of three categories: “definites,”“possibilities,” and “avoid at all costs.” With “definites,” after reading the prompt, you immediately know what you will say and how you will say it. With “possibilities,” a few vague ideas swirl in your head, which you think can be sorted out and possibly develop into a great essay. With “avoid at all costs,” you want to have nothing to do with these essays.
Afterwards, jot down bullet point ideas for the questions you for sure want to write about. Then, select out of the “possibility” questions that would, in combination with your “definites,” produce the most well-rounded essay profile, which would both highlight your few key strengths as well as reveal your complexities and breadth of character. While doing so, it is important to base your decision on not only your immediate liking for the topic, but also on the available substance (anecdotes). Repeat this process until you are faced with only four questions.
This is just one way to approach choosing prompts. Since for some, the process happens organically, do not feel constrained to the method above. Just remember:
- Do not rush into prompts at first glance. Make sure that you have jotted down potential ideas for all but the ones you want to avoid, and ultimately write about the one with the most substance.
- Your answers should be able to highlight what is most important to you.
Personal Insight Questions
The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations.
Think of it as your interview with the Admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.
Learn more about Personal Insight questions in the video below:
- Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
- Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you, but you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.
Freshman Personal Insight Questions (link is external)
- You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions.
Transfer Personal Insight Questions (link is external)
- There is one required question you must answer.
- You must also answer 3 out of 7 additional questions.
As a vital part of your application, the personal insight questions—short-answer questions you will choose from—are reviewed by both the Admissions and Scholarship offices.
At Berkeley we use personal insight questions to:
- Discover and evaluate distinctions among applicants whose academic records are often very similar
- Gain insight into your level of academic, personal and extracurricular achievement
- Provide us with information that may not be evident in other parts of the application
What we look for:
- Initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service to others, special potential and substantial experience with other cultures
- All achievement in light of the opportunities available to you
- Any unusual circumstances or hardships you have faced and the ways in which you have overcome or responded to them. Having a hardship is no guarantee of admission. If you choose to write about difficulties you have experienced, you should describe:
- How you confronted and overcame your challenges, rather than describing a hardship just for the sake of including it in your application
- What you learned from or achieved in spite of these circumstances
For freshman applicants:
- Academic accomplishments, beyond those shown in your transcript
For transfer students:
- Include interest in your intended major, explain the way in which your academic interests developed, and describe any related work or volunteer experience.
- Explain your reason for transferring if you are applying from a four-year institution or a community college outside of California. For example, you may substantiate your choice of a particular major or your interest in studying with certain faculty on our campus.
How to answer your personal insight questions
- Thoughtfully describe not only what you’ve done, but also the choices you have made and what you have gained as a result.
- Allow sufficient time for preparation, revisions, and careful composition. Your answers are not evaluated on correct grammar, spelling, or sentence structure, but these qualities will enhance overall presentation and readability.
If you are applying...
- to a professional college (such as the College of Engineering or Chemistry), it is important that you discuss:
- Your intended field of study
- Your interest in your specific major
- Any school or work-related experience
- for a scholarship, we recommend that you elaborate on the academic and extracurricular information in the application that demonstrates your motivation, achievement, leadership, and commitmen (link is external)t.
- to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)—the support program for students from low-income families in which neither parent is a college graduate:
- Discuss how the program might benefit you
- Tell us about your determination to succeed even though you may have lacked academic or financial support
Keep in mind
You can use the Additional Comments box to convey any information that will help us understand the context of your achievement; to list any additional honors awards, activities, leadership elements, volunteer activities, etc.; to share information regarding a nontraditional school environment or unusual circumstances that has not been included in any other area of the application. And, finally, after we read your personal insight questions, we will ask the question, “What do we know about this individual?” If we have learned very little about you, your answers were not successful.