Your personal statement should be exactly that — personal. This is your opportunity to tell us about yourself — your hopes, ambitions, life experiences and inspirations. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it honestly.
Think of it as your interview with the admissions office. While your personal statement is only one of many factors we consider when making our admission decision, it helps provide context for the rest of your application.
All applicants must respond to two essay prompts — the general prompt and either the freshman or transfer prompt, depending on your status.
- Responses to your two prompts must not exceed 1,000 words total.
- Allocate the word count as you wish. If you choose to respond to one prompt at greater length, we suggest your shorter answer be no less than 250 words.
- Use a word processing program to write your responses – don’t type them directly into the application. This way, you can keep track of the word count and print copies for review.
The personal statement prompts
Freshman applicant prompt
Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Transfer applicant prompt
What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement.
Tip: If you haven’t had experience in the field, consider including experience in the classroom. This may include working with faculty or doing research projects.
Prompt for all applicants
Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
Tips and techniques
Give yourself plenty of time for preparation, careful composition and revisions.
When you're composing your personal statement, think about including:
- Personal triumphs or challenges: Tell us about your achievements in light of the opportunities available to you. If you choose to write about challenges you’ve faced, how did you overcome or strive to overcome them?
- Leadership opportunities: Define your leadership role, your accomplishments, and what you learned from the experience. Remember, a leader can mean more than being elected to a position. Consider describing a time when you had to be a leader in your family or community.
- Experiences outside the classroom: Consider experiences that have made an impact on your life (e.g., your family, youth groups, work, church/temple, or travels).
- Culture: Describe the influence culture has had on you. Don’t define the culture. Instead explain what you have learned because of that culture.
Once you’ve narrowed down your topics, start thinking about what you learned from your experiences and how they shaped other aspects of your life.
Making a list of accomplishments, activities, awards or work will lessen the impact of your words. Expand on a topic by using specific, concrete examples to support the points you want to make.
Use “I” statements.
Talk about yourself so that we can get to know your personality, talents, accomplishments and potential for success on a UC campus. Use “I” and “my” statements in your response.
Proofread and edit.
You will not be evaluated on grammar, spelling or sentence structure, but make sure your writing is clear. Review content and overall message. You may not have space to tell us everything so make your words count.
Your personal statement should reflect your own ideas and be written by you alone, but others — family, teachers and friends — can offer valuable suggestions. Ask advice of whomever you like, but do not plagiarize from sources in print or online and do not use anyone's published words but your own.
Copy and paste.
Once you are satisfied with your statements, save them in plain text (ASCII) and paste them into the space provided in the application. Proofread once more to make sure no odd characters or line breaks have appeared.
This is one of many pieces of information we consider in reviewing your application. Your response can only add value to the application. An admission decision will not be based on your personal statement alone.
Additional instructions for active military, veterans and dependants
Because UC is interested in knowing about your or a family member's military service, you may wish to use the personal statement to communicate the following:
- Describe how your military service has been instrumental in developing your educational plans.
- Indicate if you're affiliated with the military, such as the spouse or dependent of someone who is on active duty or a current participant in an ROTC-type program.
What about the “Additional comments” section?
After you complete the two prompts, you will see a third section called “Additional Comments.” This is an optional section and should not be used as a continuation of your personal statement. Instead, you should use this section to:
- Provide additional clarification on important details in your application, such as honors, awards, activities.
- Share information regarding a nontraditional school environment or unusual circumstances.
- Describe anything else that you HAVE NOT had the opportunity to include elsewhere in your application.
There is a 550 word limit to this section.
Tips on the personal statement
- Hear what UC students have to say about writing the personal statement. Watch the video »
- Download the personal statement worksheet for freshman applicants [PDF]
Avoid common mistakes:
- Talking about one campus: You’re talking to all UC campuses you apply to in your responses
- Inappropriate use of humor
- Creative writing (poems, clichés)
- Quotations: We want to know your thoughts & words, not someone else’s
- Generalities: Stick to facts and personal examples
- Repetition: Give us new info. we can’t find in other sections of the application
- Asking philosophical questions: Get to the point and tell us what you mean
- Acronyms: Spell it out for us!