Credit: University of California

You may have heard UC is changing its personal statement. Now instead of answering two long questions, you’ll need to answer four short ones. And the best part is you get to pick which questions you want to answer. These are called the personal insight questions.

Key points

  • Freshman applicants choose four out of eight personal insight questions to answer.
  • Transfer applicants answer one required question and choose three others from seven additional questions.
  • Answers to each question are limited to 350 words.
  • This isn’t a writing test, but do take time composing your answers and be sure to check for typos, grammar and spelling errors.

When the University of California application opens Aug. 1, some students may notice a change: UC has done away with the two personal statement essays that it used to require.

Applicants will now be asked to give short answers to four personal insight questions. It’s the biggest change to the UC application in nearly a decade, but don’t get rattled – the change puts students in the driver’s seat.

Instead of having to answer the same generic essay questions as every other applicant, freshman applicants now choose which four questions they want to answer out of eight options. Transfer applicants answer one required question and choose three others out of a field of seven.

UC made the change to give students more say in the kinds of information they share. Applicants can choose which personal stories they want to tell, and provide answers to the questions that are most relevant to their experience.

“That means admissions officers will get a better sense of each applicant,” said Stephen Handel, associate vice president for undergraduate admissions.

“We want students to treat these questions with the same kind of thought and care they would give to answers during an in-person interview,” Handel said. “There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s about helping us get to know you better.”
Also, don’t stress about which questions to choose. There is no advantage to picking certain questions over others. So choose the ones that let you best express who you are. UC wants to know about your life experiences, interests, ambitions and inspirations.

“These questions are meant to let a student’s unique voice and personality shine through,” Handel said.

See the personal insight questions and find tips on writing: