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18 UCLA Essays That Worked (and Why) for 2022

Ryan
by Ryan ChiangUpdated Sep. 1, 2022

Do you want to write strong essays that'll help get you into UCLA?

In this article, you'll read and learn from 18 essays written by students who got recently accepted into UCLA and see how they did it.

If you're trying to get into UCLA, these essays are a valuable resource and give you a peek into UCLA admissions.

Whether you're a student or parent of an applicant, you'll see what to do—and what not to do—when writing your UC essays.

Table of Contents

What is UCLA's acceptance rate?

UCLA is the most applied to school in the United States each year, which makes admission into UCLA highly competitive.

This past year, 139,490 students applied to UCLA and only 15,028 students were admitted. That gives UCLA an overall admit rate of 10.77%.

UCLA Acceptance Scattergram

And as of 2022, the UC system no longer uses your SAT and ACT scores to decide whether or not to admit students.

With no more test scores, that means your UC essays are even more important for your application. Besides your grades (GPA) and coursework, your essays are the most influential factor for your UC admissions.

Since your UC essays matter so much, it's important to get them right.

What are the UC Personal Insight Question Prompts for 2022-23?

It's a mistake to think of the UC Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) as typical essays you'd write for a class.

Rather, the PIQs are a set of eight open-ended questions asked by the UC app. You must choose exactly four questions to respond to, and each response should be no more than 350 words.

Let's go over the UC Personal Insight Question 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. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  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?

It can be helpful to see how other students responded to the UC Personal Insight Questions.

And since UCLA is one of the hardest UC's to get into, along with UC Berkeley, students that get accepted tend to write outstanding essay responses to the PIQs.

18 UCLA Personal Insight Question Examples

Here are the 18 best UCLA accepted essays that worked written by accepted students for each Personal Insight Question prompt #1-8.

UCLA Example Essay #1

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words max)

In my freshman year of high school, I had enrolled in the String Orchestra Advanced Class which was mixed in with the Beginning class. I was the only person with experience, seven years in the Violin at the time, while most of the students in the class were beginners. I got class elected, then re-elected as President my Freshman and Sophomore years, and was First Violin, then First Viola Chair.

My first year consisted of myself and the instructor teaching the basics of each instrument. Learning a new instrument is frustrating, and there were times where older students in the class would get frustrated and unhappy that a Freshman knew more than they did. As a leader I had to make sure I did not keep a separation between myself and my classmates. Therefore, my Sophomore year, I changed my instrument to the Viola. By showing my classmates that I too was a beginner, and that I too had to learn because I had a new instrument -inspired the class to learn as well. My classmates no longer saw me as someone who told people to practice and not give up, yet did not have to practice or struggle themselves, but instead, as someone who was there practicing, and struggling along with them.

The Orchestra program at my school started my Freshman year as an experimental class, but the school ended the class after my Sophomore year. Though unfortunate, in the two years of its existence, my classmates went from being novices, to performers, where in the last year of the program, we performed many times for school events and finally in an orchestra conference in my Sophomore year, where judges praised our Orchestra's technique and cohesiveness. After the class got cut, many of my classmates continued to pursue music independently, or in the District Orchestra. It is a wonderful feeling for me to see my former classmates -to this day- performing, and even teaching others, knowing that I was there when their journeys in music first began, and I look forward to seeing their musical pursuits in the future.

(350 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Tells a Story: Gives context and explains how you got this leadership position. By explaining a backstory, it reveals your motivations and what drives you.
  • Shows Takeaways and Lessons Learned: It's not enough to just talk about your achievements. Admissions officers are more interested in why they matter to you, and how you had an impact on others.
What They Might Change:
  • Fix Capitalization: It's not necessary to capitalize improper nouns like "violin", "viola", and "orchestra".
  • Sentence Flow: Make sure your sentences aren't too long and don't have unnecessary breaks, which can interrupt the flow.

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UCLA Example Essay #2

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words max)

My group and I spent a total of seven hours preparing five hundred bagged lunches for the extensive homeless community at Oakland. Out of all the obstacles that could have halted our progress, rain was the last thing on our minds. We were lucky enough to distribute three hundred lunches before the rain began to relentlessly pour down on us. There were a few hours left of daylight before we would be able to eat Iftar for Ramadan, so, an overwhelming majority of our group wanted to call it a day. However, there was still a large number of unsheltered and hungry homeless people throughout the city, and I could not bear to let all that food go to waste. So, I raced to one of our nearest vans, grabbed a bullhorn, and yelled to gather the attention of as many people as possible. I instructed them to form lines in front of our eleven vans in order to take everybody to the nearest homeless shelters with the promise of food and entertainment. We went to six other heavily concentrated areas to do the same thing, and within just five hours, nearly five hundred homeless individuals were transported.

This event is one of the dozens of community service projects I’ve performed in my role as vice-president of the youth faction of the Sudanese Association of Northern California (SANC). This Oakland food drive has left me with a sense of clarity of what it takes to get a project, event, or any other endeavor accomplished. The food drive was obviously a success, but what made this particularly memorable is the email the president of SANC sent me the following day: “You have a keen ability to synthesize and communicate anything quickly and effectively.” I realized the explicit connection between my forensics (speech and debate) career and my community service: the power that I carry in my voice can motivate others to do good. I have tried to apply this insight into each new endeavor since.

(334 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Specific with Numbers: Use exact numbers whenever you can to create authenticity and make it realistic. In this essay, saying "three hundred" lunches makes things concrete.
  • Connects to Academic Interests: Show how your past leadership achievements relate to what you want to do in college.
What They Might Change:
  • Stronger Conclusion: Make sure your conclusion isn't vague and has a concrete takeaway. Don't just use words like "this insight". Rather, rephrase that insight or draw a new idea from it.
  • Sentence Structure: Having too long of sentences is a common mistake students make. Instead, splitting up complex sentences can make it easier to read.

UCLA Example Essay #3: Violin

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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. (350 words max)

I express my creative side by playing the violin and other musical instruments. Ever since I was a younger child, music had always been a part of my life. The first instrument I remember playing is the piano when I was four years old. My school had a music program, so I went and learned how to read music and play the Recorder. Though it was a simple instrument, it was to prepare us students for the more complex instruments that we could choose to play after completing the Recorder lessons.

I took this class all of first grade, and in second grade I was ready to choose the instrument I wanted to specialize in. I chose the Violin, and now -ten years later- I am still playing it. Throughout the years I have learned to play other instruments as well, such as the Piano, Trumpet, Viola, and more. During that time I have also been able to play those instruments in different styles of music.

From second to seventh grade, I played the Violin and sung in my elementary school district's Mariachi and my middle school's Mariachi even when I did not know how to speak Spanish. I have been playing the Violin at my church's choir almost every Sunday since Seventh grade. I played the Violin and Viola in my high school's Orchestra class in Freshman and Sophomore year, and since my Junior year I have played the trumpet in my school's Jazz Band and Trumpet Choir.

My siblings have also been inspired to be creative musically, and together we perform at our church and other places, and music has become an important part in their lives as well.

Throughout my life I have been able to express my love for music in many different ways. Whether through playing with a group, doing a solo in front of an audience, composing my own music, or teaching my younger siblings how to read and play music the way I was taught many years ago, music has always been a large way that I could express my creative side.

(349 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Clearly Answers Prompt: For UC essays, being straightforward is not a bad thing. This essay starts off by clearly answering the prompt, before elaborating further.
What They Might Change:
  • Fix Capitalization: It's not necessary to capitalize improper nouns like "freshman" and "sophomore". An easy fix is to only capitalize proper nouns, like names of people and places.
  • Explain What's Meaningful: Admissions officers want to know more than just "what you did," but also why it was meaningful to you. Try to focus on the impact of your achievements more than just what you did.

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UCLA Example Essay #4

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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. (350 words max)

I was brought into this world with an overactive imagination and an absence of siblings. My abundance of boredom and lack of playmates was solved by creating multiple characters, drawing them, and pretending to be them. When I joined theater my freshman year, I quickly fell in love because it brought me back to that childhood innocence of carelessly being someone else It was an opportunity to evaluate how I could incorporate my personality, experiences, and charisma into a character and to turn my visual concepts into a reality through doing makeup.

I was also introduced to improvised comedy. where I presented my witty and quirky side. On the other hand, working with a cast and crew was something I was unaccustomed to. but I soon saw myself becoming inspired by the surrounding creativity of others. Whether we were doing a dramatic or comedic play, we worked together to evoke an emotional response from the audience. It’s an honor to see people laugh and cry during our performances because I've connected with hundreds of people by putting my heart on a stage. In contrast, painting has been a private indulgence. Every feeling and thought trapped inside becomes free on that canvas into a beautiful visual creation. Like my mood, my paintings aren't uniform and consistent; they range from iridescent beaches to scattered splotches, yet every stroke, color. and mistake had a reason.

As my only patron, my mom couldn't always afford painting supplies, so occasionally I had to improvise with tools like spoons, paper towels, and erasers. Regardless of the tools I was using, my paintings were reflection of myself. The progression of my work is an exhibit of my struggles, success, and how I became who I am today. Painting is not about the finished product; it's about the journey and the lessons I've learned to get there. My creativity is not limited to the arts, but is embedded my appearance, mindset, and career path in solving mental health issues. Creativity, to me, is putting bits and pieces of myself into doing what I love.

(346 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Strong First Sentence: Starting off with interesting ideas is the best way to get the reader hooked. It doesn't need to be complicated, but find your most interesting idea and start there.
  • Connects Multiple Extracurriculars: Finding multiple examples in your life to explain your answer can make your essay stronger. Rather than focusing on just one activity, how do your activites relate with a common theme?
  • Great Conclusion: A strong conclusion is often one that expands on your ideas or connects to something more universal. Try restating your main idea and add a twist or expand on it.
What They Might Change:
  • Make Each Paragraph Distinct: Each paragraph should have one central idea or topic. It's better to split up your essay into many paragraphs because it makes it easier for the reader and better organized.

UCLA Example Essay #5: Team Player

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (350 words max)

My greatest talent would be relating to and inspiring others. Throughout my time in school I have demonstrated that talent by becoming a leader where I was trusted by my teachers and peers. It began in 5th grade when I was voted to become Student Council for my class, where my peers knew that I related well with them and that I would do my best to use my position to fix their issues.

In middle school, I became the Knowledge Bowl team Captain. There was a new coach, so the program was small, about five students. There were many students who wanted to join the team but felt that they were not "smart enough" to join. I recognized this and encouraged those students to join and they succeeded. By the end of the year, our team was 3rd in the district overall statistically standing, our highest ranking in a while.

In high school I joined JROTC as a Freshman, and I became a Platoon Sergeant my Junior year. My job for the semester was to teach and motivate cadets in the program. Some cadets did not do well with authority, and felt attacked when other class leaders would be assertive. As a leader I took a different approach, and related to my cadets. My platoon was constantly noted as being a well-rounded platoon by our instructors, and I received the Non-Commisioned Officer Leadership Award.

In Academic League, motivation was key to our team's success. Sometimes personal problems would affect a member of the team, so I showed them I could relate to their struggles and still believe in their ability to help the team. In times when we would be losing in a match, I would inspire the team to keep pushing on, and to remain positive. That year our team placed 5th in the district -again a highest ranking in a while- and I was voted as "Most Inspirational" by the team.

Throughout the years, relating to and inspiring others has been a skill that has allowed me to make great connections with so many people.

(348 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Uses Multiple Examples: Backing up your answer with various examples from your life makes your case stronger.
  • Unique Take: Rather than thinking of a skill in the literal sense, this author uses a more abstract skill. Sharing your unique perspective is key to having interesting ideas.
What They Might Change:
  • Show Why It Matters: In addition to explaining your greatest skill or talent, you should tell why it is meaningful. What are the takeaways and how will you use this skill going forward in college?

UCLA Example Essay #6: Flute

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (350 words max)

Just when we think we figured things out, the universe throws us a curveball. So, we have to improvise. The universe is funny like that. Sometimes it just has a way of making sure we wind up exactly where we belong.

When I first started playing flute, I probably looked like a pufferfish choking on a clump of wasabi, but that didn't matter. Blasting deep breaths into my flute, I blew voraciously as I tried to produce a B-flat; but all I could muster was a raspy whistle.

6 years later, I was filled with pride knowing that I had worked hard enough to be selected as the concert soloist for the Youth Orchestra of Bucks County. My moment had arrived; I stand center-stage and begin Chaminade's Concertino Op. 107. Recognizing the minor scales and arpeggios, my fingers glide through the measures with absolute certainty; and with each successive measure, my breathing, tone, and articulation seemed to increasingly synchronize. Before long, the piece came to an end. Holding the D-natural farmada as long I could, I let the note fade into submission and lowered my flute. Taking a bow, I reveled in the magnitude of my hard work.

As I grew older, it became evident that I would need orthodontics and jaw reduction surgeries. With my face full of rubber and metal, I couldn't form a tight enough valve to sustain notes. I was officially back to square one. The following months were brutal, I had to put away Tchaikovsky and go back to the basics; but my effort was genuine and I gradually regained my ability to play.

Today, I consider playing flute my greatest skill. Not because I can play complex scales or win competitions, but, instead, because through the horrors of braces, learning how to double-tongue, and impossibly fast measures, I never gave up. Playing flute had crafted in me the relentless determination which I've exhibited over the past 8 years. I may not know what curveballs life will pitch to me next, but I have confidence knowing I will persevere regardless of the circumstances.

(348 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Strong Hook: Use your best idea at the start to immediately make the reader interested. First impressions matter, and by having a compelling first paragraph, the tone of your essay is immediately better.
  • Specific in Naming Things: Say the names of groups, places, and other things whenever you can. Being specific whenever possible makes you seem more relatable and makes your essay more interesting.

UCLA Example Essay #7: Optimism

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (350 words max)

Life can be an overwhelming obstacle course, but my ability to get over any bump with a smile on my face has been my greatest strength. Maintaining an optimistic outlook has introduced me to new opportunities, made me a better leader, and helped me get through everyday life. Although my determination to get back up was built by a couple scrapes and falls. I learned about the impact of a positive attitude on others through my experience on the tennis team.

The motivation and bond my team had because of the encouragement and support from our captains has influenced my approach to interacting with others. For instance, while working with my peers, I always praise them for the effort that they put in and patiently help them. When applying this to class projects and theater productions, I saw an improvement on our performance and our accomplishments felt more satisfying and meaningful. My positive attitude is also influential during my job at a convalescent home. As an activities assistant, my objective is to get residents to participate in activities and to make them fun.

At times, it’s difficult to convince residents that a macaroni necklace is worth getting out of bed for, but I am always that friendly face that cheers them on and picks them up. Knowing that my happiness is brightening someone else's day is extremely valuable and is the fuel to my enthusiasm.

Preserving my optimism is not always easy; however, my excitement for the future retains my drive to overcome any challenge. Every opportunity given to me is taken advantage of, and if something doesn't go as planned. I am confident another door will open. Even though I enjoy focusing on the bright side of life, I'm aware that some people feel like they cant overcome their challenges alone. I recognized that I can be a hand to help people up, someone to believe in them, and a friend to conquer obstacles with. Using this positive influence is the very reason why I am looking forward to a career in psychology.

(344 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Shows Impact of Your Skill: Whenever possible, try to show how your skill/talent has impacted others. Why is your skill important? And how will you use it going forward in life?
  • Uses Humor: Having small moments of natural humor, when appropriate, makes for a more enjoyable essay. Even a small remark like "it’s difficult to convince residents that a macaroni necklace is worth getting out of bed for" is powerful.
  • Recognizes Challenges: Nobody is perfect, and even with your greatest skill or talent there are likely still shortcomings. Recognizing your challenges is important to humanize yourself and shows self-awareness.

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UCLA Example Essay #8

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. (350 words max)

I was going to University of Southern California for three weeks, and that was all I could think about as the school year came to a close. After finding out that I had been accepted into the Bovard Scholars program, along with one of my best friends, I could not wait for the upcoming summer. As July 16th neared, I became more and more anxious,as I did not know what to expect, but I was looking forward to this new opportunity.

The program had just been launched this year and 49 of around 500 applicants were accepted. Over the course of three weeks, the 48 other people from all over the country would be my new friends. During my time there, I would be assigned a coach who would help with the college process, whether it be working on the college application as a group or having one-on-one sessions to work on personal statements. Outside of working on college applications and essays, we had guest speakers from admissions offices, student panels where we could ask questions, career panels, and workplace visits. We also had many presentations on financial aid, fields of major, jobs, and interviews which, most of it, I did not know beforehand.

Along with all this help, we also dormed at one of the residence halls, which allowed us to experience what college life might be like. I was amazed by the diversity of people that were attending the program, and I was shocked to find out that my roommate from New York was Egyptian. We even had Resident Assistants who planned evening activities for us to further stimulate college life. However, they were not just our Resident Assistants; as we grew closer we were able to gather information from them about college.

As the program came to its end, I did not want it to stop. I had such an incredible experience and learned so much about college. I knew that the program will never truly end, though, as our coaches will continue to work with us until Spring when we are accepted into colleges.

(348 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Specific in Achievements: Being specific and saying "49 of around 500 applicants were accepted" creates credibility. It also helps admissions officers have context about your achievements and be able to infer how significant they really were.
What They Might Change:
  • Stronger First Sentence: Try starting your essay with ideas, rather than retelling events. Starting off with interesting ideas helps hook your reader, and you can later support those ideas with your experiences and achievements.
  • Focus on Meaning: Emphasize what your takeaways were from this educational opportunity or barrier. Admissions officers are looking for what you learned, how it affected others, and how you'll use those lessons moving forward.

UCLA Example Essay #9

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. (350 words max)

I worked in a health clinic in the impoverished village of Amara in Sudan this summer, expecting to be assigned general administrative duties during my internship. However, those expectations were tossed out the window within the first week. I consider myself a pretty squeamish person, so the thought of blood oozing from any injury disgusts me in ways that I cannot describe in words. So naturally, I was shocked when I didn’t flinch or faint as I held the retractors of a ravaged knee during surgery. I can’t say that I confronted the daunting tasks I was given with complete confidence, but I learned from the experiences nonetheless. At times, I would question the challenging orders given to me by the faculty, but I later realized that it was due to the lack of qualified doctors and nurses at the village.

I observed eleven surgeries, ranging from liver disease to a gruesome foot infection. The clinic worked under severe pressure, as basic resources and equipment were scarce, which ended badly for some patients. There was one particular patient who did not survive a disastrous bus crash due to the unavailability of ambulances. He was laying on the floor in agonizing pain for a lingering six hours. As the viscous blood stained the white cloth that covered him when he was brought to the clinic, I felt a surge of sorrow, anger, and helplessness. It was difficult for me to come to grips with the reality that some things cannot be undone. The emotions I felt that day slowly faded, but never completely receded. I left this internship satisfied with the invaluable knowledge I obtained, but I still feel like I needed to do more. I live a relatively privileged life, and don’t have to spend each day worrying about a measly injury that could end my life. At the time, even though I thought I was worked too hard for a high school student, I now know I didn't do enough. I’m eager to return to the clinic soon, and have hopes of gaining more experience and knowledge.

(348 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Emphasizes the Impact: After talking about what opportunity you had or what barrier you overcame, focusing on the impact of that experience is what matters. Describing your emotions and lessons learned makes the significance of those events more clear.
What They Might Change:
  • Strong Hook: Focus on finding your best idea and using that as your first sentence. Often, starting off with a story or retelling what you did can come later and isn't as important.

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UCLA Example Essay #10

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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? (350 words max)

Education has always been important in my household, but never paramount. We were always taught to put familial needs first—even before our own. My parents always emphasized the lesson that selfishness leads to bitterness and loneliness. That value is why six new members were added to my family when my father’s brother died two years ago. I did what was expected and shifted my focus from school to helping my kin.

I remember feeling a mosaic of emotions—apprehension, prudence, and displacement—as I greeted them at the airport. The five-hour-long ride back home was awkward and somber, and the complete silence said so much more than words could. We were all just afraid of what the future had in store for us. My step aunt, my two older cousins and the three younger ones were all compassionate, loving people. Yet, I couldn't seem to shed this foreboding feeling the first time we all entered our house. Every passing week made our financial situation more tenuous. So, my brother and I volunteered to help our dad at his small pharmaceutical wholesale business after he laid off two employees. We worked after school three days a week and would return home around 8:30.

That year of juggling school with my new obligations at home and my father’s business was emotionally and physically wrenching. However, I don't pity myself and I wouldn't go back to change anything because I learned so much about my character in that year. I realized that my parent’s belief in selflessness had shaped me into a more capable person because I was able to sacrifice time from socializing and classes to contribute, in some way, to my family. And even though I was concerned that I would hurt my academic performance, I stuck to my promises. That inexplicable sense of uneasiness I felt at the airport was caused by anxiety in anticipating the new demands that could potentially exhaust me. Thankfully, the challenges prepared me for the academic rigor for my junior year, my senior year, and hopefully, for university.

(341 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Vulnerable and Authentic: Talking about personal stories can be difficult, but often your vulnerable experiences have a lot of meaning. Being vulnerable also makes you more personable and relatable.
  • Explains Realizations: Rather than focusing on what happened, focus on the impact of it and why it's meaningful. How will these past experiences and academic challenges affect you going forward?
What They Might Change:
  • Stronger Conclusion: Try to connect your ending back to the beginning while expanding on it or connecting it to a universal idea. Alternatively, leave your conclusion more open ended.

UCLA Example Essay #11

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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? (350 words max)

Growing up, I tackled the challenge of school without much guidance from anyone other than my older sister, who is one grade higher. When I was at the young age of just five, my parents divorced and my sister and I were left with our dad, who we did not see often. Because our time with him was limited to driving us to school and home and dinner, we could not ask him for much help with homework or projects. Most of the time, we did the work ourselves or asked our uncle and aunt for help when they came on Saturdays. By the time we reached middle school, I was in more advanced classes, and although my dad had received an Associate’s Degree, he did not take advanced classes like I did, so he was unable to provide much help. My dad only took math up to geometry, and his English was not as fluent as mine, preventing him from providing much help.

Once I enrolled in high school, I was able to get help from teachers, programs, and even my sister. With this newfound help, I overcame the struggle of not knowing what to do in school and life, and I learned that help is always there, but I just needed to ask. Throughout my time in high school, I became more motivated than I was before to do the best I can and overcome anything that comes my way. I was able to do this with help from others, and I will continue to strive for greatness, overcoming any obstacles. Without the help of others, I would not have had the success that I have had in school. My good grades are a testament to the help that I have received in order for me to be where I am now. Although I can say that I have overcome this challenge, there is still one last hurdle, which is to graduate from high school, attend college, and apply everything I have learned to the real world.

(339 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Honesty: Authenticity is most important for your essays. By revealing personal details such as your family life and struggles, you can bring admissions officers into your world.
  • Sense of Gratitude: Showing a sense of appreciation and self-awareness makes you immediately more likeable. Nobody succeeds alone, so how did others in your life help you overcome difficulties?
What They Might Change:
  • Provide Clarification: Some parts could be given more context, such as "why is your dad not as fluent in English?". You could use this as an opportunity to talk about your cultural background and create a more clear picture of yourself for the reader.

UCLA Example Essay #12

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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? (350 words max)

The saying "you can be your own worst enemy" was the embodiment of the time I hit lowest point. Finishing my 22-hour days, I expected to lay down in bed close my eyes, and smile: thinking about all my accomplishments. Instead, I was sleep deprived, rapidly losing and gaining weight, and unhappy.

As a result, I stopped being able to focus and my grades began to fall. I lost motivation and the only reason I did anything was because of my obsession with completion. In this vulnerable state, I would tell myself I was useless and shy away from taking opportunities. I started to question if could get out of the hole I dug. Ironically, I have always been an optimist. I thought about the many things I wanted to do and I wouldn't be able to do any of them from a hospital bed.

Seeing the bright light ahead of me, I moved forward to a journey of self-improvement. First, I isolated myself from things that were affecting my happiness through finding a place where I could peacefully think about why I was enduring so much pain, regularly eat, and get some sleep. When I came back from my retreat, I continued my routine which improved my health and performance in school. The greatest outcome was my realization that I was compensating for my lack of self-esteem, I've been trying to get validation from my parents and peers by trying to be perfect, but when my friends left me and my parents didn't notice my efforts I overworked myself.

It was hard to stop searching for approval, yet the support of close friends and acknowledging that I'm doing everything I'm capable of, revealed to me what its like to love yourself. From then on, I determined my self worth, no one else. Now that I found my own drive and am confident, I don't have to beg for friends. struggle to maintain grades, skip meals, or lose sleep. Presently, I can say I am no longer my worst enemy: we're like friends that get closer every day.

(348 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Vulnerability: Showing your shortcomings and difficulties is important to reveal how you've grown and changed. Revealing your perspective and emotions also shows that you have self-awareness.
What They Might Change:
  • Provide More Explanation: Don't assume that the reader will remember everything about you. For essays like this, give more context. Answer questions that will come up in the reader's mind, like "Why did you have 22-hour days?".

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UCLA Example Essay #13: Computer Science

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. (350 words max)

An academic subject that inspires me is Computer Science. Computers have fascinated me ever since a young age. I used my first computer when I was 4 years old- the Apple Macintosh Performa. I began learning about how computers worked in first grade, where I had my own Windows XP computer. I did not know what I was doing when I clicked through the thousands of files that made the computer run, but it was fascinating, and almost seemed like magic. I knew that a career with computers had to be in my future.

My fascination with computers took a new meaning in freshman year, when I decided to learn how to program. I did not know where to start, so I just typed in the search browser, "how to start programming". That day, I started with the Processing Language. It was a simple language to learn, but it built the foundation for my furthered interest in the computer programming aspect of Computer Science. After a couple months of using Processing, I learned HTML/CSS and JavaScript. These languages would allow me to program a wider range of applications. Soon enough, I became bilingual in the languages of computers. As time went on throughout my freshman and sophomore years I exposed myself to more languages like SQL, Batch Scripting, and in junior year, Java.

In my junior year I took AP Computer Science A, and finally after all the years of loving computers, I was able to take Computer Science as a class where I learned the Java language. I also furthered my interest in Computer Science by integrating it with the Engineering club on campus, using the Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

This year I am in Computer Integrated Manufacturing, where I can implement my knowledge of Computer Programming into Engineering, through the use of Corel Draw with the Laser Cutter Printer and AutoDesk Inventor and OpenGL C++ Code with the CAD 3-D Printing machine.

Computer Science has always been a part of my life inside and outside of the classroom, and I seek to continue pursuing it as my major.

(353 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Connects Interests to Extracurriculars: Showing how your activities relate to your passions reveals your motivations and what drives you. By connecting to extracurriculars, it also creates a more complete picture of your application.
  • Specific In Naming Things: Whenever you are able to, being specific is better than being vague. By naming programming languages and classes, the story becomes more compelling.
What They Might Change:
  • Explain Why These Things Interest You: What is the root aspect of your interests that intrigue you? Try explaining how you feel when doing these activities and what motivates you. Admissions officers want to know how these interests developed, and more importantly, why they developed.

UCLA Example Essay #14: Korean Big Toes

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words max)

I am "Korean big toes", "a water panda in disguise", and "Mr. Sweatface" - these are the nicknames I happily accepted over the years. My life was a buoyant bubble, full of gratification, funny nicknames, and simple pleasures; but that changed when I was confronted with the inhumane conditions of the LGBT centers around my town.

Stepping into the stone-house building, a few things immediately caught my attention. The rooms were small, full of broken furniture, smelled of mold, and had poor lighting; moreover, there was no privacy and extremely limited resources. It was obvious that the facility didn't have the funds to sustain itself, let alone help anyone trying to assimilate back into society. My heart ached as I realized the advantages I had been taking for granted; the idealistic mirage of reality I previously held, was now replaced by an overwhelming truth: Life isn't fair. Everyone in that facility had been criminalized for their sexuality, and I was going to do something about it!

Over the next few weeks, I brainstormed ideas and eventually decided on creating a blog where I would share the stories of anyone who was willing to speak up for change. The clickety-clack of my keyboard filled the common rooms of LGBT centers around my city. I slowly-but-surely interviewed the residents of these homes, recording stories of inequality and discrimination. As I uploaded each story to my blog, I felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that I was breaking down barriers and fulfilling my passions. Furthermore, reading the comments flooding my inbox, I realized that although the LGBT centers in my area still remain underfunded, I had made an impact on individuals through my blog and did something for a community I genuinely cared about. It was more than I could have ever hoped for.

In my quest to create change, I forged a new nickname for myself -- "advocate"; except, unlike the titles I was bestowed as a kid, this nickname represented my creativity, ingenuity, and passion, and for those reasons, it is more precious than anyone will ever know.

(347 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Vivid Descriptions: Painting a picture can make your stories immediately more interesting. By using descriptive language and word choice, your stories have more life to them.
  • Conclusion That Connects to Beginning: Try connecting your ending back to the beginning, but with a new perspective or take. By bringing your essay full circle, it creates a sense of cohesiveness.
What They Might Change:
  • Name Things Specifically: Rather than being general and saying "LGBT centers", the author could name one specifically. Since not everyone may be faimilar with the concept of "LGBT centers", it helps make your essay more concrete and easier to interpret.

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UCLA Example Essay #15

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words max)

I never thought that I would tutor other people after school, but that was what I did my junior year and now in my senior year. During my freshman and sophomore years, I was the one being tutored by upperclassmen who had taken my classes before. Receiving help from others inspired me to become a tutor my junior year so I could give back and share the opportunity that I had. At first, I was not sure if I would be up to the task, as I did not feel confident in my teaching abilities in various subjects. As time went on, however, I became at ease and comfortable tutoring anyone the more I tutored along with my peers.

Every day from Monday through Thursday, I went to library as much as I could to help tutor with others from 3 to 4 o’clock, and it slowly became a part of my daily schedule. To begin with, I was not the greatest teacher, but as I helped more and more, I gradually became better at it due to teaching the same concepts repeatedly. Not only was I helping the person I was tutoring understand the subject, but I also was becoming better at the subject by teaching it. Teaching a subject allowed me to relearn concepts and ideas that I had forgotten, as well as studying for a subject if I was tutoring a classmate.

Motivated by wanting to help other students, I was able to be at tutoring most days, and this led to me receiving a tutoring award at my school’s California Scholarship Federation banquet at the end of the year. It was a surprise to me as I was not expecting to be honored. To me, the best award was the satisfaction of helping others understand how to do homework questions and them being grateful for the help. Although this year tutoring is not being held in the library yet, I joined another club that tutors after school for the time being so I can continue helping others and spread my knowledge.

(345 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Shows Their Realizations: Realizations and new understanding are how people change. That's why its important to look for what lessons you learned, and what you took away from your activities.
What They Might Change:
  • Explain Why: Try to predict what questions will arise in the reader's mind, and answer those questions. For this essay, one question that is unanswered is "Why did you never think you would tutor other people?".

UCLA Example Essay #16: LGBT

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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? (350 words max)

This was the night. Clenching my fists, I called my dad over. Maybe it was the adrenaline coursing through my veins or maybe just suspense, but time seemed to freeze as anxiety washed over my consciousness. A million doubts flooded my mind as I dreaded what would come next. The pitter-patter of his feet hitting the tile floor brought me back to reality. My dad had always loved and supported me, I just had to trust that things would be alright.

In a quivering voice, my hands shaking, I explained to my dad that I was gay. After a brief moment of silence, my dad said ten words that completely changed my life: "I raised you completely wrong, get out of my house". I was devastated, but I wasn't surprised. This was the same person physically forced pork down my throat when I told him I wanted to become a vegetarian; who would hit me and my mom if either of us voiced dissenting opinions; and the same person who would come home drunk and threaten to kill us. With tears running down my cheeks, I packed my belongings and drove my 98' Nissan Pathfinder away from my home. From that night on I learned to be brave, to follow my dreams, and to fight for what I believe in.

The next few years were tough. In my community, being gay was unacceptable and embracing my identity meant enduring the consequences. I will never forget being dragged into a storage room and choked or hiding the bruises I got from being pelted by textbooks. But looking back, I realize that the lessons I learned drove me towards success. They inspired me to be relentless and graduate early, to surpass expectations by doing college-credit classes, and remain strong in the face of oppression and adversity. Moving forward, as I look to broaden my education horizons, I know that I have the emotional vitality to success wherever I go. So I want to dedicate this essay to my dad and to everyone who made me strong, thank you.

(346 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Honest and Vulnerable: Talking about personal stories can be impactful. Often the most difficult stories are the ones that need to be shared.
  • Explains Your Perspective and Emotions: Sharing how you felt in a certain moment can allow the reader to "be in your shoes." By telling your perspective, you allow admissions officers to better understand your experience.
What They Might Change:
  • Focus On Takeaways: Although stories are important, what matters more is the lessons and takeaways from those stories. The majority of your essay should be focused on those ideas, with a smaller portion where you talk about what actually happened.

UCLA Example Essay #17

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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? (350 words max)

All around us, the world is dominated by big voices, people who can present themselves positively and effectively elaborate on their opinions. Many of our most successful politicians carve their paths to the top through their charisma and articulate language. Unfortunately, while many of them possess a strong voice, many of them don’t possess that same strength in listening. While their job is to represent the people, there is a large disconnect between their perspective and the perspectives of their citizens. Even in Congress, civilized debate has transformed into a shouting battle, where both parties attempt to push their ideas, but neither side is willing to listen.

In contrast, a leader with an open ear, an open mind, and an open heart is exactly what I bring to the table. I believe that everyone has a unique story to share. From the most flamboyant billionaires to the people living on the streets, every single person possesses their own unique set of skills, perspective, and knowledge that can be useful to learn from. Because of this, I make it my priority to listen to and understand the human behind each team member I work with. In recognizing each person’s strengths and weaknesses, I’m able to build a positive environment in which every person is able to reach their maximum potential.

For example, when it comes to group projects, I always make sure to know the personalities of those I’m working with and create a transparent and inclusive environment that is conducive to productivity. Rather than dishing out assignments and deadlines, I make sure everyone is able to contribute in a way that matches their strengths and skills. Furthermore, by creating such a transparent atmosphere, group members are able to understand each other’s situations and help each other out like an actual team, allowing everyone to be both productive and pleased.

With all the divisiveness that is taking place in the country today, it is more necessary than ever to have open-minded leaders such as myself to help bring this campus and this nation together.

(343 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Strong Hook Sentence: Using a thought-provoking idea to start your sentence immediately draws the reader in. By having a unique take on the world, people want to read more and are interested by your thoughts.
  • Using Examples to Explain: For abstract ideas and concepts, try using a real life example to make things more clear. Capture the essence of your ideas and find what is at the core of them.

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UCLA Example Essay #18: Being Short

UC Personal Insight Question

Prompt: 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? (350 words max)

Stepping foot in public has been like opening a floodgate to questions and comments about the one thing that I've been looked down upon my entire life for - my height. Standing out because I was 4'9" wasn't something I was proud of; I was picked last for sports, not taken seriously, and often used as a human arm rest. My mom warned me life was going to be hard if I didn't drink my milk. However, people aren't aware that my appearance is a deception and what makes me extraordinary is that I've outgrown myself. People should be asking me how a person so "big" can fit into a girl so tiny. I have a huge personality, dreams, goals, and a plethora of talent. My achievements earned me such a high standing that I do know what the weather is like up there, yet, my head is never in the clouds because my distance from the ground makes me down to earth.

My only oddity is that my anatomy has grown out of proportion. It's hard to believe that with such short arms, I can extend them long enough to touch hearts with my art and performances. I have been devoted to helping people and educating myself ever since I was young, but who knew that my brain and heart would become so gigantic? Despite my how big my brain is, I keep my head as small as my body because I value letting others know that I'll never overlook them.

Although I haven't hit as many significant growth spurts as the average person. I grow with ambition every day, considering every moment a step closer to success. Being able to pursue my passions at a university will allow me to continue maturing into a person who will one day be looked up to by many. The reader of my response cannot see the facade that has been the subject of many peoples first impressions of me. instead, they will observe that even though I can't reach the top shelf, I can still reach my goals in life.

(349 / 350 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Using Metaphors: Explaining something ordinary (like being short) in an unusual or not-so-common way can show your unique take on it. By using metaphors, you can connect seemingly unrelated ideas together.

What can you learn from these UCLA essays?

These UC essays are not perfect—nor should they be—but each has interesting ideas and a unique perspective.

Compared to some private university essays, UC essays are relatively straightforward.

So focus on making each UC essay express one interesting idea as your answer.

Here's my top 4 lessons for UCLA essays:

  • Avoid too much storytelling and descriptions. You only have 350 words, so focus on ideas.
  • Answer every part of the prompt, clearly. Avoid implying your answer. Make sure your idea is crystal clear and relevant.
  • Showcase a different aspect of yourself with each essay. Avoid re-using topics, unless you're taking a very different angle.
  • Show your thinking. As with all successful essays, your thinking is most important.
Also applying to UC Berkeley?

I've collected additional essays from admitted Cal students that are completely unique from these UCLA essays.

If you're interested, check out these our essays that worked for UC Berkeley.

Which UCLA essay that worked was your favorite? Let me know!

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