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Saturday, October 23, 2021

UC personal statements to offer eight prompts as opposed to previous two

VENOOS MOSHAYEDI / AGGIE
VENOOS MOSHAYEDI / AGGIE

New application requires incoming applicants to respond to four of eight shorter questions

Beginning this fall, applicants to the University of California will have a new set of essay prompts to respond to for their applications.

The new essays deviate from the old essays by asking applicants to respond to four shorter prompts as opposed to two longer statements. Each essay has a 350 word limit, which means that there will be a new maximum total word count of 1,400 to replace the old limit of 1,000.

According to Claire Doan, a media specialist for the UC Office of the President, the new essays provide prospective students an opportunity to present a more holistic view of themselves to the university and will help move students away from the former rigid personal statement structure.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve received feedback from high school and community college counselors, and we felt that a new format would not only be helpful for new applicants but also instrumental in making admissions efficient,” Doan said. “We wanted to ensure that the personal statement prompts gave insight to the students’ strengths and background rather than just giving them a blank slate. This is a more focused platform for them to express themselves that wasn’t necessarily represented in the previous essays.”

The new prompts ask students to write about topics such as their leadership experiences, their creative sides, their greatest talents or skills, an educational barrier they have overcome, their most significant challenge and how it impacted their academic achievements, what they have done to make their school or community a better place and what sets them apart from other UC applicants.

Transfer applicants will be asked to respond to three of seven available prompts. However, they will have an additional required prompt which asks them to discuss how they have prepared for their major.

Freshmen applicants are also offered an eighth prompt of describing their favorite academic subject.

According to John Raftrey, a member of the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) and the Western Admission for College Admissions Counseling (WACAC), the new essay prompts are a mixed bag. He believes that there are some pros to the new essays, but there are also some serious cons.

“I’m glad they got rid of the poorly worded prompts they had been using,” Raftrey said in a blog post about the new essays. “[However,] in an era when colleges are looking to make it easier to apply to college, the UC’s just made it harder. It’s not because of the word count, it is because instead of having to brainstorm two essays, students will now have to brainstorm four essays. Picking a theme and figuring out what to say is the hard part, not the actual writing. This will lead to some wild admission decisions, making it even harder for students to figure out if they have a shot at a particular UC.”

However, Leilah Lockett, an incoming transfer student at UC Davis, believes that these new essays will provide students with a better opportunity to explain who they are to the admissions board.

“I’ve applied to UC Davis twice now, and even though I was successful the second time, I always felt like I had trouble expressing myself with the narrow prompts I was given before,” Lockett said. “I feel like it may be more difficult, but I also think it might give students who may have had a bad year in high school for whatever reason, a chance to explain themselves. In that way, I think it could lead to a more diverse campus, which is a good thing.”

Written by: Sangeetha Ramamurthy – campus@theaggie.org

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