The University of California, Santa Barbara is a large public university located in Isla Vista, California. As the sixth largest UC school, UCSB has over 25,000 students and a picturesque campus located next to the ocean. UC Santa Barbara is one of the top public colleges in the country and has an arts and sciences focus.
Admission into UC Santa Barbara is increasingly difficult. In 2018, UCSB had an overall acceptance rate of 32.3% for its freshman class. With over 92,000 applicants every year, it is vital that your UC essays make you stand out from 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 Santa Barbara. 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 jump to the essays!
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?
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.
6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
Ever since I was little, I have possessed a unique fascination for nature and the way it interacts with itself. As I sat in the prickly seats of old tour buses and the bilingual tour guide has silenced himself for the dozens of passengers that have closed their curtains and fallen into deep slumber, I would keep my eyes glued to the window, waiting to catch a glimpse of wild animals and admiring the beautiful scenery that mother nature had pieced together.
At Outdoor Science Camp, while most of my friends were fixated on socializing and games, I was obsessed with finding every organism in the book. Nothing else caught my attention quite like ecology.
As high school dragged on and the relentless responsibilities, assignments, and tests washed away the thrill of learning, ecology was one interest that withstood the turmoil. At the end of a draining day, I would always enjoy relaxing to articles detailing newly discovered species or relationships between species.
This past summer, I was able to further this interest when a unique opportunity to volunteer abroad caught my eye. Flying over to the beautiful tropical shorelines of the Dominican Republic, I was able to dive into the frontlines of the battle against climate change, dwindling populations, and habitat destruction brought about by mankind, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
While everyone was obviously ecstatic about snorkeling in the crystal blue waters, only I was able to retain that same excitement about trekking through knee thick mud and mosquito infested forests to replant mangrove trees. While tracking animal populations, my heart leaped at the sight of every new species that swam right in front of my eyes. Even when it came to the dirty work of building structures to rebuild coral and picking up trash along the beach, I always found myself leading the pack, eager to start and do the most.
From this experience, I realized that pursuing the field of ecology was what I could picture myself doing far into the future, and this was how I was going to impact the world.
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?
At the start of high school, I saw nothing but success. From grades to extracurricular activities, everything seemed to be going smoothly. However, as my sophomore year progressed, this wave of success was soon swamped by a wave of disillusionment. I struggled to perform in Calculus and as a Vice-President, but instead of looking for a solution, I looked for excuses.
Ultimately, when I was forced to face my two F’s and my lost elections, the world came crashing down. The vision I had meticulously planned out for the future seemed to shatter before my eyes. My self-confidence plummeted to an all-time low. I thought my life was over.
However, my response to this failure was what would ultimately determine the direction my life would take. In the end, I made the right choice: instead of continuing to blind myself with a false narrative that cast all the blame off my own shoulders, I admitted to my own shortcomings and used this experience as a lesson to grow from.
In doing so, I learned to focus on the aspects of my life that I was truly passionate about instead of spreading myself too thin. I learned to face challenges head-on instead cowering at the first sign of difficulty, even if it meant asking others for help. I learned to accept and utilize my own differences to create my own unique leadership style.
Most importantly, rather than letting this mistake define me, I ignited a sense of determination that would guide me back on the right path no matter how many obstacles I encounter.
Looking back, this tragic mistake was a double-edged sword. While it definitely leaves a stain on my record, it is also likely that I wouldn’t have been able to find the same success a year later without the lessons I gained from this experience. At the end of the day, while I still grimace every time I contemplate my sophomore year, I understand now that this mistake is what has allowed me to develop into the person I am today.
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
Throughout my childhood, the phrases “get good grades” and “make money” constantly harassed my every waking moment. Life seemed pointless, a never-ending cycle of trying to make more money to create artificial happiness. However, through partaking in my middle school’s ASB, I discovered my love for helping others, and I realized that I wanted to make my life about changing the world and leaving behind a better future for the generations to come.
In an attempt to live up to this philosophy, I have performed hundreds of hours of community service. From volunteering at a senior home to distributing food to the homeless, there is no doubt that I have made a substantial impact on those around me.
Despite all this, my most significant contributions are the ones that take place every day and are often undocumented. Picking up trash, staying long after my job is complete to help other groups, or even saying, “Thank you. Have a nice day,” to anyone who has provided a service for me are just a few examples. While they seem insignificant, these small actions add up.
However, above all, my biggest contribution is building meaningful connections with the people around me and making sure they realize how special and important they are to me and everyone else. In nurturing those who are less experienced, assisting those who are struggling with their emotions or their studies, and inspiring those who have untapped potential, I am not merely applying a band-aid on a wound, but elevating a whole community around me to tackle and prevent ailments the next decades will bring.
Years from now, I will likely have forgotten about my modest academic achievements. However, the memories of seeing someone I had mentored blossom into a strong leader and the smiles and laughter of someone I’ve helped battle through depression will forever be ingrained in my mind.
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.
Video games have cultivated my creative thought process. When I was a toddler I invented a game I would play with my brothers. It was nothing along the lines of Hide-and-Seek or Tag, but rather, it was meant to mimic a role-playing video game.
It was called "Guy" and came with its own story, leveling system, and narrative story. While seemingly impossible to translate the mechanics of a video game into real life, the "Guy" trilogy provided hundreds of hours of fun to pass hot summer days and escape the harsh reality of our parents arguing and eventual divorce.
This thought process translated into my educational career. have always thought of a tough class or test as a video game. This mostly due to my excessive amounts of video games I played as a child through middle school (especially 7th grade).
Each year comes bigger and "stronger" challenges, bigger and stronger bosses to defeat. My senior year will have me face the most powerful boss yet; full AP course load on top of heavy club involvement and community college classes.
Many thought of this "secret boss" as an impossible challenge; something that could never be beaten. No one from my school has ever attempted to take on such a challenge, let alone defeat it. That is probably what excites me about it. In a game, messing around with lower level enemies is fun for a while, but gets boring when it is too easy. The thought of a challenge so great and difficult makes the victory even more rewarding.
Stormy skies, heavy rain, and epic boss battle music; I'll take that over a peaceful village any day. In the future, I seek to use this thinking to drive research. I think of abstract physics concepts like secret door and levels that need to be proven true or just a myth in the game.
One day, I can make my own discovery of a secret "cheat code" that can help everyone who plays a little game called life.