It turns out, Brown favors essays about volunteer and public interest work, while these topics rank low among successful Yale essays. In addition to Harvard, successful Princeton essays often tackle experiences with failure. Meanwhile, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania tend to accept students who write about their career aspirations. Essays about diversity—race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation—tend to be more popular at Stanford, Yale, and Brown. This means that essays on many subjects were seen favorably by the admissions departments at those schools.
One general insight is that students who take risks with the content and the structure of their college essays tend to be more successful across the board. Weird formats also tend to do well. The most compelling essays are those that touch on surprising personal topics. Of course, one caveat here is that taking a risk only makes sense if the essay is well-executed.
Shyu says that the content and structure of the story must make a larger point about the applicant, otherwise it does not serve a purpose. And it goes without saying that the essay must be well-written, with careful attention paid to flow and style.
The first is that it is very valuable for applicants to tailor their essays for different schools, rather than perfecting one essay and using it to apply to every single school. The second is that these essays can offer insight into the culture of the school. By Elizabeth Segran 5 minute Read. Ideas Ideas Where we are in the global fight against extreme poverty Ideas Facebook is learning how to boost online giving Ideas These maps show the low-income communities that Florence will hit hardest.
Design Why you should redesign your portfolio every year Co. Describe how you express your creative side. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. 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?
Think about an academic subject that inspires you. 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? Of course, it's true that many of the stories you think of can be shaped to fit each of these prompts. Still, think about what the experience most reveals about you. For more help, check out our article on coming up with great ideas for your essay topic. Want to write the perfect college application essay?
Get professional help from PrepScholar. Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges. Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now: We analyze all eight UC prompts in this guide, and for each one we give the following information:.
A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or taking a lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about your accomplishments and what you learned from the experience. What were your responsibilities?
Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church in your community or an organization? For example, do you help out or take care of your family? The prompt wants you to describe how you handled a specific kind of relationship with a group of people - a time when you took the reigns and the initiative. Your answer to this prompt will consist of two parts: Before you can tell your story of leading, brokering peace, or having a lasting impact on other people, you have to give your reader a frame of reference and a context for your actions.
First, describe the group of people you interacted with. Who were and what was their relationship to you? Second, explain the issue you eventually solved. What was going on before you stepped in? What was the immediate problem? Were there potential long-term repercussions? Discuss what thought process led you to your course of action. Was it a last-ditch effort or a long-planned strategy? Did you have to choose between several courses of action? Explain how you took the bull by the horns.
Did you step into the lead role willingly or were you pushed despite some doubts? Did you replace or supercede a more obvious leader? Describe your solution to the problem, or your contribution to resolving the ongoing issue. What did you do? How did you do it? Did your plan succeed immediately or did it take some time? Consider how this experience has shaped the person you have now become.
Do you think back on this time fondly as being the origin of some personal quality or skill? Did it make you more likely to lead in other situations? Sure, you will have a framework for your curriculum, and you will have advisers available to help—but for the most part, you will be on your own to deal with the situations that will inevitably arise when you mix with your diverse peers.
UC wants to make sure:. The prompt very specifically wants you to talk about an interaction with a group of people. Think of the way movies ratchet up the tension of the impending catastrophe before the hero swoops in and saves the day. Keeping an audience on tenterhooks is important—and makes the hero look awesome for the inevitable job well done. Similarly, in your essay the reader has to fundamentally understand exactly what you and the group you ended up leading were facing.
Why was this an important problem to solve? Personal statements need to showcase you above all things. Because this essay will necessarily have to spend some time on other people, you need to find a good proportion of them-time and me-time. In general, the first, setup, section of the essay should be shorter, since it will not be focused on what you were doing.
The second section should take the rest of the space. So, in a word essay, maybe words go to setup, while words to your leadership and solution. Not only do you need to show how your leadership met the challenge you faced, but you also have to show how the experience changed you. In other words, the outcome was double-sided: What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem? How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom?
Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career? This question is trying to probe the way you express yourself. What this essay question is really asking you to do is to examine the role your brand of creativity plays in your sense of yourself. The essay will have three parts.
What exactly do you produce, make, craft, create, or generate? Of course, the most obvious answer would be a visual art, a performance art, or music. But in reality, there is creativity in all fields. So, your job is to explain what you spend time creating. Why do you do what you do? Are you doing it for external reasons - to perform for others, to demonstrate your skill, to fulfill some need in the world? Or is your creativity private and for your own use - to unwind, to distract yourself from other parts of your life, to have personal satisfaction in learning a skill?
Are you good at your creative thing or do you struggle with it? If you struggle with it, why is it important to you to keep doing it? The most basic way to do this is if you envision yourself actually doing your creative pursuit professionally. How has it changed how you interact with other objects or with people?
Does it change your appreciation for the work of others or motivate you to improve upon it? Nothing characterizes higher education like the need for creative thinking, unorthodox ideas to old topics, and the ability to synthesize something new. That is what you are going to college to learn how to do better. This essay wants to know whether this mindset of out-of-the-box-ness is something you are already comfortable with.
They want to see:. Instead, give a detailed and lively description of a specific thing or idea that you have created. The question wants a little narrative of your relationship to your creative outlet. How long have you been doing it? Did someone teach you or mentor you? Have you taught it to others?
Where and when do you create? Anything worth doing is worth doing despite setbacks, this question argues - and it wants you to narrate one such setback. So first, figure out something that interfered with your creative expression. A lack of skill, time, or resources? Too much or not enough ambition in a project? Then, make sure this story has a happy ending that shows you off as the solver of your own problems.
What did you do to fix the situation? Your essay should include some thoughtful consideration of how this creative pursuit has shaped you, your thoughts, your opinions, your relationships with others, your understanding of creativity in general, or your dreams about your future. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies.
We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in. Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you?
Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule? Whatever you write about, picture yourself talking about it with a glowing smile on your face. The first part of the question really comes down to this: Have you done an outstanding thing?
Do you have a mindblowing ability? Describe a place, a time, or a situation in which you were a star. A contribution could be anything from physically helping put something together, to providing moral or emotional support at a critical moment. The second part of the last essay asked you to look to the future. The second part of this essay wants you to look at the present instead. The general task is similar, however.
Once again you're being asked to make connections— how do you fit this quality you have or this achievement you accomplished into the story of who you are? In other words, this is probably not the time to write about getting arrested for vandalism, unless you can spin that experience into a story about how you been on the straight and narrow path ever since.
Even if your vandalism was really, really, cool, don't write about it. Admissions officers have a very straightforward interest in learning about your accomplishments. They want to know what makes you proud of yourself. It is something that relates to performance, to overcoming a difficult obstacle, to keeping a cool head in a crisis, to your ability to help others in need? At the same time, they are looking for a sense of maturity.
This is your chance to show that you truly get the qualities and experiences that make you into a responsible and grown-up person, someone who will thrive in the independence of college life. Unless you were hired to paint the overpasses. Then definitely brag about it. The trick with this prompt is how to show a lot about yourself without listing accomplishments or devolving into cliche platitudes.
Let's take it step by step. Make sure that somewhere in your narrative preferably closer to the beginning you let the reader know what makes your achievement an achievement. Keep in mind that for some things the explanation might be obvious. For example, do you really need to explain why finishing a marathon is a hard task?
The challenge can be a wide-reaching problem in your educational environment or something that happened specifically to you. Admissions officers have a very straightforward interest in learning about your accomplishments. Where and when do you create? Our specialists with years of experience have crafted hundreds of essays on A-grade. If you stick to giving examples that paint a picture, your focus will also become narrower and more specific.
The first question asked for a description, but this one wants a story — a narrative of how you do your special talent, or how you accomplished the thing you were so great at. The main thing about stories is that they have to have:. An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today? Cue the swelling music, because this essay is going to be all about your inspirational journey.
You will either tell your story of overcoming adversity against all or some odds, or of pursuing the chance of a lifetime. A description of the setback that befell you: The prompt wants to know what you consider a challenge in your school life - and definitely note that this challenge should have in some significant way impacted your academics rather than your life overall. The challenge can be a wide-reaching problem in your educational environment or something that happened specifically to you.
An explanation of your success: How are you defined by this thing that happened? You could discuss the emotional fallout of having dramatically succeeded, or how your maturity level, concrete skills, or understanding of the situation has increased, now that you have dealt with it personally. Or, you could talk about any beliefs or personal philosophy that you have had to reevaluate as a result of either the challenge itself, or of the way that you had to go about solving it.
A short, clear description of exactly what you got the chance to do: Also explain why you specifically got the chance to do it. Was it the culmination of years of study? An academic contest prize? An unexpected encounter that led to you seizing an unlooked-for opportunity?
How you made the best of it: Were you very challenged by this opportunity? Did your skills develop? How does this impact your future academic ambitions or interests? Will you study this area further? Does this help you find your academic focus? Of course, whatever you write about in this essay is probably already reflected on your resume or in your transcript in some small way. Instead, you will be responsible for seizing whatever chances will further your studies, interests, or skills.
Conversely, college will necessarily be more challenging, harder, and potentially much more full of academic obstacles than your academic experiences so far. UC wants to see that you are up to handling whatever setbacks may come your way with aplomb rather than panic. Not every challenge is automatically obvious. Sure, everyone can understand the drawbacks of having to miss a significant amount of school due to illness, but what if the obstacle you tackled is something a little more obscure? Likewise, winning the chance travel to Italy to paint landscapes with a master is clearly rare and amazing, but some opportunities are more specialized and less obviously impressive.
Make sure your essay explains everything the reader will need to know to understand what you were facing. An essay describing problems can easily slip into finger-pointing and self-pity. Make sure to avoid this by speaking positively or at least neutrally about what was wrong and what you faced.
This goes double if you decide to explain who or what was at fault for creating this problem. Likewise, an essay describing amazing opportunities can quickly become an exercise in unpleasant bragging and self-centeredness. Make sure you stay grounded - rather than dwelling at length on your accomplishments, describe the specifics of what you learned and how.
A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone? The first part of this essay is about problem-solving. The prompt asks you to point at something that could have derailed you, if not for your strength and skill. The second part of Topic B asks you to consider how this challenge has echoed through your life - and more specifically, how your education has been affected by what happened to you.
And colleges want to make sure that you can handle these upsetting events without losing your overall sense of self, without being totally demoralized, and without getting completely overwhelmed. In other words, they are looking for someone who is mature enough to do well on a college campus, where disappointing results and hard challenges will be par for the course. They are also looking for your creativity and problem-solving skills. Are you good at tackling something that needs to be fixed?
Can you keep a cool head in a crisis? Do you look for solutions outside the box? Even more than knowing that you were able to fix the problem, colleges want to see how you approached the situation. This is why your essay needs to explain your problem-solving methodology. Basically, we need to see you in action. What did you think would work? What did you think would not work?