UC San Diego: 2018 Accepted Essays

Example Personal Insight Questions and Supplements
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Introduction

The University of California, San Diego is a large public research university with over 36,000 students. Situated in the idyllic La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, UC San Diego has a beach front campus that compliments its rigorous academic setting.

UCSD is one of the top public schools in the country and had an acceptance rate of 30.2% for the class of 2022. UCSD receives the second most applications per year, behind UCLA, with over 97,000 applications in 2018 alone. Due to the academic prestige and selectivity of UCSD, it is vital that your essays help you stand out among the tens of thousands of other applicants.

Below are some accepted UC Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) written by real students who got accepted into UC San Diego. The UC system does not use the Common App or Coalition App and instead has eight PIQs and students select four to respond to. Without further ado, let's get to the essays!

Essays and Supplements

Please note: all names, cities, and other personal information in essays and supplements are replaced so as to keep the author's privacy.

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UC San Diego Personal Insight Questions #1

Written by Anonymous Student

Verified Real Acceptance


Prompt

3. 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.

Prompt

7. 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.

Prompt

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? (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.

UC San Diego Personal Insight Questions #2

Written by Anonymous Student

Verified Real Acceptance


Prompt

4. 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.

Prompt

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? (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.

Prompt

7. 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.