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Learn what topic you should pick for the UC Personal Insight Questions Guide & Tips. A Deep Dive Into Each UC PIQ and how it can effects you
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UC Personal Insight Questions Guide and Tips. A Deep Dive Into Each UC PIQ

UC Personal Insight Questions Guide and Tips. A Deep Dive Into Each UC PIQ

Topic -The UC Personal Insight Questions.  (UC PIQ) The University of California applications have opened up and it is CRUNCH TIME. There are a whopping 8 different topics for the UC Personal Insight Questions (UC PIQ). In this article, we will go through each of the topics and list the reasons you should choose the prompt, avoid the prompt as well the components that make it a strong or weak response. and if you are still unsire you plan on taking, start with finding your passion

EDIT: Added link to live YouTube video on the topic

#1 Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

This prompt really excels if you have had a leadership role. Either formal or informal, that was challenging and involved other people. When choosing this prompt, make sure that your role was significant. Without that, it will be difficult to come up with the nuances that are required in order to add the substance to the story, while being honest.

A strong response in this category includes a challenging experience. One that you can really describe as putting in your “blood, sweat, and tears”. (Yes, I know that is cliche, but it has that reputation for a reason). Your essay needs to define your definition of leadership throughout your essay. It should be through your actions, trials, tribulations, and ultimately the results, that make fill this essay.

#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.

To all you artist types, this prompt should really stand out. It allows you to use the creativity that you have spent so long nurturing. Even if you are not applying as an art major, if you feel like some form of creativity really defines you, this is an excellent opportunity. Obviously, the topic you choose to write about should be about an activity that has occurred multiple times. You want to really show here your persistence to the craft.

Remember, your UC Personal Insight Questions are your opportunity to reveal yourself. Don’t force yourself to write about something you don’t feel positive about.

A strong response for this UC PIQ can be achieved by describing in detail what about the activity makes it creative to you. You want to dive into the details about the process.  That makes it art to you and not necessarily the results.

You want to avoid writing the activity without commenting and discussing the importance of creativity. This is not another place to list your awards and activities. Instead, emphasize the meaning of this activity to you.

#3 What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

This prompt is great if you have a non-academic skill that you have developed or honed in during high school. What will help you even more with this prompt is if this skill has more use than only personal. Admissions officers love to see a good deed done. Here would be a great place to showcase your service and developed skill.

Some topics to avoid include athletic based skills that revolve around the persistence or overcoming narrative. This is an overused plot that typically does not stand out. If you are committed to using athletics, try to dig deeper and find another key narrative that you can write. The great thing about sports is that they teach numerous skills that can be applied to many scenarios. Next, make sure you have at least 2 separate examples that support your narrative. This shows that this skill is something that you have developed. And applied to multiple scenarios and situations and that this growth is holistic.

Remember — greatness should be defined as something greater than self-service.

“Greatness should be defined as something greater than self-service.”

#4 Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

High School is the time for many experiences. Hopefully, some of those experiences can apply to this prompt. Think of summer programs, clubs, athletics, and work experiences. You should note that the educational opportunity does not necessarily have to be academic in nature. As long as you gained something valuable from the experience. It definitely can be an educational opportunity. Especially if you were able to overcome a barrier to your educational experience in high school.

Obviously, avoid this prompt if you do not have meaningful experiences outside of school. A common misconception with this sort of prompt is that people use it as a place to include death, depression, or suicide. While these topics are most definitely important and should be noted on your application, this is NOT the place for it. List these things under the “Additional Comments” either in the “Academic History” section or after the UC Personal Insight Questions.

A strong response for the people writing about an educational opportunity includes the clear takeaways from the opportunity and why they are important to your future. For the people discussing the educational barrier, a great essay is made by a clear solution to the problem. Moreover, explaining how you overcame the barrier, and what you learned about yourself from that experience. Avoid writing a what based article without a clear conclusion to sum up your learning.

#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?

This prompt is perfect if you encountered a non-academic challenge that ended positively or taught you something about yourself. Once again, avoid writing about death, depression, and DRAMA. They typically need many supporting characters and take up a lot more space. Remember, the essays are all about YOU, YOU, and YOU.

A strong response you make here is made by the challenge. It needs to be personally significant. Without the significance, your conclusion will be viewed as weak and therefore not significant either.

Avoid a challenge that was about grades or was academic in nature. Again, this story is played out and makes you seem superficial with not much experience to talk about. Also, please avoid any challenge that reeks of privilege. You have to keep the issues you discuss in perspective.

#6 Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

This is a good prompt for you. If you haven’t addressed the reason for pursuing your major in any other prompt. It is also a great choice if you have a wide array of learning experiences, including classes and extracurricular activities. Especially ones that demonstrate consistent interest in an academic subject. This is best if the topic pertains directly to your major.

If you have not really furthered your interest in any subject outside of class, this topic is not for you. Furthermore, avoid this topic if the academic subject that you pick has nothing to do with the major you are applying to.

Strong response comes from explanation of what specific parts of the subject inspire you. Make sure to include concrete examples of how you’ve furthered this interest outside class. Ideally through additional studies, readings, and experiences.

Weak responses generally include discussion of class experience but limited to no exposure outside of class. Furthermore, lacking specifics about what subject parts inspire you also derail an effective response.

#7 What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Have you truly had a meaningful service experience? Then, this prompt is for you. Really, that’s all you need to make an effective use of this prompt, and is one that we recommend often. A strong response here just requires you to be vulnerable. Often, starting as a new volunteer is a daunting experience. Therefore describing how you felt when you started. Then comparing that with how you ended feeling (and impacting others) is the best. Don’t forget to clearly define how your contribution “made your community a better place”.

Remember to avoid listing volunteer experiences that are unrelated. You don’t want to detract from your story. Staying focused is key for this prompt. Defining how your work made the community a better place is a must. Without it, your impact doesn’t show, and your essay is less memorable.

#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?

This can be construed as a wildcard prompt. One where you can tell almost any story. This is powerful but also dangerous. You need to be able to communicate the story with an arc that highlights the positive experiences you have. You should use this prompt if you believe there is a character attribute that is extremely important to you. Just because others may be the same doesn’t mean they hold that attribute as importantly as you do.

Skip this prompt if you have no meaningful examples to back up your statement. Also, skip this if you have too many small examples to back up your statement, rather than 1-2 hallmark examples. Once again, this prompt is not about perseverance. It is rather cliche and this prompt just isn’t the one for that.

UC Personal Insight Questions Conclusion:

Alright… that’s the total of the 8 prompts summed up with our best tips and tricks. In order to help you out in our week of UC PIQ Applications.

I hope that this has helped you start, edit, or even polish your essays. Stay tuned with our live event that you can catch on LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube.

We specialize in youth mentorship and college counseling. From 8th grade to 12th, we have you covered for any stage in your high school career. Schedule a free consultation with us here.

We are always posting more helpful tips and tricks to help reduce the stress of college application season. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and LinkedIn.

See you soon!

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Liz Robles

Major Advisor - Art, Multimedia, Design

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love to motivate students to find their true passion. It’s so rewarding to see students succeed in a field they enjoy.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I enjoy arts and crafts, doing outdoorsy things such as hiking or picnics and the nightlife with friends.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Time management is key. Have a healthy balance between your work/school and social life.

Justin Siu

Major Advisor - Premed

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 3 years.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Every student is so unique, with their own story, skills, strengths, and personality. I love embarking on that journey with them, albeit temporarily, in helping them envision and execute their own vision for their life.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love spending the little free time I have exploring new foods with friends and family. If I'm lucky, I spend it trying to build my sketching/design/sewing skills in hopes of building my second dream career as a runway couture designer.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: When envisioning a life career, utilize the Japanese philosophy of ikigai (translated as 'reason for being'). An ideal career meets at the intersection of passion, mission, profession, and vocation. Evaluate each of these components when envisioning yourself in a life path/career.

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Pranshul Goel

Major Advisor - Premed, Biology, Chemistry

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 1

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: The ability to help students find their passion for their lifelong careers.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I am an avid hiker/backpacker, musician, and love to learn about medical breakthroughs

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Take time for yourself and enjoy life, so that when you are in school, it does not feel like a chore.

Xenia Bremseth

Major Advisor - Business

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 14

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: When they have the lightbulb moment and everything clicks into place for them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Travel, yoga, run, hike, eat lots of good food

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Enjoy life as it today; don’t be in such a rush to be an adult because most of life is being an adult.

Bridgette Well

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: In writing, editing, tutoring, and college support, I have a combined 9.5 years of experience

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I like getting to know students as individuals, holding space to help them connect more deeply with themselves, witnessing “green light” moments when new ideas or perspectives create a positive shift, and learning what feels important to them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I enjoy spending time with friends, meditation and yoga, listening to music, being in nature, making/consuming art (painting, singing, poetry, performance), and learning about the world and universe we live in.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Be kind to yourself.

Ariana Lee

Admissions Advisor, Apps Advisor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 12

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing their stories. There's so much to discover about a person. It's very rewarding when my students get comfortable and know that I'm there for them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Swim, read, write, sing, enjoy nature, and play with my two crazy boys.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do what you love, and everything else will fall into place.

Tam Minton

Apps Advisor, Major Advisor - Social Sciences

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 16

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love getting to know them and helping them know themselves!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Scuba dive, write, travel.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't worry about everyone else's opinion, be your authentic self!

Julian Hoffman

Admissions Advisor, Apps Advisor, Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 5

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Hearing each student's unique stories, guiding them in discovering their passions, and helping find their voice!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I am a figure skater, world traveler, dessert aficionado, and devotee of the Pioneer Woman, the Barefoot Contessa, and Maneet Chauhan!

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Work hard now -- procrastinate later!

Sarah Gooch

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: I have five years' experience in coaching student writing, but this is my first year with ReadyEdgeGo.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love helping students find depth and meaning in their own stories—but I also just love it when they make me laugh!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In theory, I enjoy painting and writing poetry, but these days I actually spend most of my free time socializing or watching movies with my husband.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't just focus on achieving top grades and credentials because they look good on applications, or your education will be meaningless. The numbers and awards have their place, but stay connected to your sense of curiosity, discovery, excitement, and wonder so that the content you're learning is constantly transforming you—it's something you care about, something you remember after the final exam. Work on the aspects of yourself no one can measure, like integrity, wisdom, kindness, and compassion, so that you're not only developing your academic and career potential but also investing in the type of adult you're going to be, the person you'll have to live with after you clock out every day for the rest of your life. Doing the hard inner work of building your character and learning deeply instead of just earning grades will set you up for a satisfying, well-rounded life. Strange as it sounds, it will also put you ahead in your academic and career goals, because colleges and hiring managers aren't looking for an empty set of data on a spreadsheet; they want a fully fleshed-out person marked by passion, creativity, and a story no one else has lived. So go on studying hard for tests, but also spend some time asking yourself what matters in life and who your role models are. Read up on topics that amaze you, and build something incredible just for fun. Cultivate that spark of joy you feel when you're immersed in a subject that fascinates you. If you can hit that balancing act of doing your homework and meeting deadlines but also investing in the kind of person you want to be, then trust that all the rest will follow: schools will recognize you as a dynamic, all-star person, and you will also build a life of happiness, close relationships, and peace.

Sherrie Malleis

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: I have more than 15 years experience teaching writing to all ages.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love assisting students to achieve their educational goals.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love to go hiking on the trails around the dunes of Lake Michigan.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Use a calendar to help you meet your deadlines and to stay stay organized.

Bernie Nguyen

Major Advisor - STEM

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 5 years high school mentoring experience. I was heavily involved in it all throughout college and after graduating.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing about their passions and what they genuinely love to do. It also makes me extremely happy to.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I recently picked up the electric guitar! I also have multiple aquariums, and founded a company that built body armor.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't go down a path just because you think that's "what you're supposed to do." Life is more diverse and unexpected than any of us could ever know.

Maxx Mueller

Major Advisor - Engineering

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 1

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Getting to know student's interests and seeing their growth as students and people.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Ice Hockey, Snowboarding.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: You are more than your list of accomplishments. The growth and learning about yourself and others, and the hard work, failures, and lessons that lead to those accomplishments make you who you are.

Joanna Yang Yowler

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 15

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing students' stories and seeing their faces light up when they talk about their passions and dreams.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Cook, write, draw, save Azeroth .

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Pursue dreams that matter to you and don't be afraid of forging your own path to where you want to go.

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Aaron Togelang

Major Advisor - Engineering

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: It's amazing getting to know the unique and diverse passions that drive each student

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Sleep, but also video games, climb, scuba dive, and ride my motorcycle

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do things. Just get out there and try as many cool new things you can! You never know what you'll love until you give it a shot.

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Tylar Pendgraft

Senior Essay Editor

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 9

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love how open students are to learning and trying new things. As mentors, we get to see so much growth simply because our students are so open to new experiences and are looking forward to applying their learning and other skills.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In my free time I like to read and write. I also spend a lot of time just watching--my dogs, birds, trees. I also enjoy baking and cooking (even though I'm terrible at baking).

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: It's never too early or late to start practicing self-care. Build moments of joy and celebration into your week. Give yourself a treat for working hard. It's important to have things to look forward to. If you can get into the habit now, you'll have a much more balanced college experience.

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Miguel Barranco

Major Advisor - Premed, Biology, Chemistry

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: Three years

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I enjoy getting to know them on a personal level and helping them see that their life story/experiences are unique and matter.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I coach wrestling at the high school level. Enjoy spending time with my husky, Lucy, on runs or hikes. Dancing mainly bachata and salsa. Collecting retro video games and playing them from time to time.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Make time to do things you love outside of academics. Whether that is clubs, music, art, sports, etc.

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Anika Sherma

Major Advisor - Health Sciences, Social Sciences

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: As a major advisor for students interested in the humanities, I’ve found it immensely rewarding to offer an outlet for students to explore ideas that they often don’t get to delve into at school. Watching a student light up when they realize that there is in fact a community around their specific interests is easily the best part of the job.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In my free time, I love to be outdoors - I've been hiking around the Bay Area and recently started biking again. I also volunteer at community gardens and trail restoration projects in San Francisco. When I'm not outside, you can find me reading visionary fiction, practicing yoga and qigong, or cooking.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: My advice for high school students is to focus on the present! Use this time to learn more about yourself and the world around you. Solid values and a sense of self will allow you to make challenging decisions for the future and create the life you want.

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Tushar Singla

Chief Technology Officer

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 4

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Watching them accomplish great things.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Watch Formula 1, play ice hockey, and watch TV.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Spend time exploring different things -- you have a long time to become an expert.

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Dan Zhou

Chief Executive Officer

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 16

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Inspiring a student towards self discovery, and wanting to learn about everything there is in the world. Reaching this moment can take time, but it's what makes it worth it every time.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Outdoors hiking, photography, gardening, and reading.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do the thing that moves you, or be moved by forces not your own. The choice is yours.

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