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UC’s Change Application Essay Prompts

Uploaded: Mar 26, 2016
(written by John Raftrey)

The University of California announced this week it is eliminating the two essay prompts in their current application and replacing them with eight short answer questions of which undergraduate will have to pick four and transfer students will have to pick three. Transfer students also have to answer a specific question on how they are prepared for their major.

The change will affect students who are applying to the UC’s this fall. The previous prompts had a maximum word count of 1,000 total words between them. The new prompts allow for a 350-word limit on each of the four prompts.

My thoughts:
• I’m glad they got rid of the poorly worded prompts they had been using.
• Students will now feel compelled to write 1400 words compared to the 1000 words maximum of the old prompts
• Student should not try to figure out which are the four “best” prompts.
• In an era when colleges are looking to make it easier to apply to college, the UC’s just made it harder. It’s not because of the word count, it is because instead of having to brainstorm two essays, students will now have to brainstorm four essays. Picking a theme and figuring out what to say is the hard part, not the actual writing.
• This will lead to some wild admission decisions, making it even harder for students to figure out if they have a shot at a particular UC.

Here are the eight new prompts:

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.  
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.  
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
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?
6.  Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  
8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the

More information can be found at the UC website
Freshmen Prompts

Transfer Prompts
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Comments

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Janine Robinson, a resident of another community,
on Mar 27, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Great update! As a writing coach who has been working with UC applicants on their essays for the last 8 years, it's exciting to see fresh prompts.
However, I agree with you: Even though these are shorter essays, it will be more difficult because students need to come up with 4 topics instead of two.
With good writing, shorter is usually harder.
If it helps, here's what I sent out to my followers on my popular blog, Essay Hell:Web Link
Hope this helps!


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Observer, a resident of Portola Valley: other,
on Mar 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm

In these times of extreme competition for admission to the UC's (and many other colleges), whatever essays are submitted by an applicant really should be written in a controlled environment.

I think it is fair to presume that some applicants are getting much more "help" than others with their essays.

There are solid reasons for not administering the SAT/ACT tests as "take home" exams. Essays critical to admissions assessment should be administered in a similar manner.


 +   26 people like this
Posted by everyone is a critic, a resident of another community,
on Mar 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm

So let me get this straight...This year's juniors have 9 months to write 4 essays from a choice of 8 already given topic, with the UCs being kind enough to give hints on each topic and worksheets with suggestions. So with 9 months notice kids are kids incapable of writing 4 short essays? Do they need the help of someone like Janine Robinson, advertising her business here, a business that preys on the fear of parents and their children?

If your kid can't write 4 interesting, short essays on their own in 9 months, they shouldn't be going to college.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Observer, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 28, 2016 at 8:43 pm

@everyone is a critic

I agree! The prompts posted are asking an opinion, not asking kids to do some serious writing that uses more sophisticated skills like critical thinking.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Christopher Hunt, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2016 at 12:00 pm

As a writer who helps college-bould students with their essays, I can see pluses and minuses to the new UC prompts.

One of the pluses is that the questions should take some of the mystery out of what the admission office "wants." The questions are straightforward, which makes it easier to come up with direct answers. The need for an artful personal essay, a form not taught in most high schools, is reduced.

On the other hand, the prompts mean more work for many. Students who are applying to UC schools and other colleges will need to write these four essays and the longer personal essay required for the Common Application and the new Coalition application.

Not that students have much choice. The only choice is to make sure to accept that in the college application process the essays can make a big difference, a topic I take up at greater length here:

Web Link


 +   3 people like this
Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Please fix the headline to this: UC's ChangED Application Essay Prompts. This is an educational blog and should be avoiding obvious grammatical errors.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Richard Tollbrook, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Jun 20, 2016 at 10:19 pm

The UC System has been overwhelmed for some time now. 200,000 applications and now 4 essays, that is 800,000 for a few readers. It's just too much. The competition is fierce out there, my son and daughter even used an online admission essay coaching service that caters only to UC applicants and they really helped them a lot. I paid both bills and they seemed to be a very helpful company.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by dwes, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 21, 2016 at 6:14 am

I agree! The prompts posted are asking an opinion, not asking kids to do some serious writing that uses more sophisticated skills like critical thinking.
Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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