General information regarding Personal Insight Questions



Ms. Sandy Anderson, College & Career adviser

The deadline for the UC application is fast approaching. Many students have shared their personal insight questions (PIQ’s) with Ms. Sandy Anderson in the College & Career office for review and suggestions. She has many years of experience reading PIQ’s and has attended UC conferences over the years. This article has been shared to assist students in writing effective personal insight questions and avoiding some pitfalls.

Purpose of PIQs

Remember the purpose of Personal Insight Questions is to allow you, the student, to express yourself. These responses provide information that you cannot put into your application. Your responses will be used to help determine whether or not you will be offered admission to any of the UC campuses. Remember that these are PERSONAL, so be genuine, honest, and go as deep as you’re willing to share. Make sure you include sentences with “I” throughout your PIQ’s.

Tips for Responding to PIQs

Please review the Personal Insight Question guide for Freshman Applicants on the University of California website.  In addition to the guide, the site has a video that can help you answer the UC’s personal insight questions.

General Tips

●     Avoid using slang, profanity, jokes, and sarcasm in your Personal Insight Questions.

●     Write your responses about experiences from high school. In general, middle school reflections are not appropriate, unless you experienced a major life event, such as a serious medical situation, the loss of a parent, or you were placed in foster care.

●     If you plan to use an acronym, make sure to explain it the first time you use it. Please do not assume that the reader will know what an acronym means.  For example, if you are writing about the IB program, spell out International Baccalaureate program initially and then you can you the acronym thereafter.

Personal Note: A student was explaining about writing his “EE.” Not everyone knows that this is the extended essay.

●     Be specific. Mention details and avoid being vague in your writing. Participating in summer programs and “specialty” programs are a big deal.   Write about it. If you attended any type of summer program or if are part of the Educational Talent Search program here at Armijo, UC readers like to hear about what you have gained from being in a program such as these.

●     Avoid the replay. This is not an essay; it is a response to a prompt. Answer the questions as if you are interviewing with someone. Use your 350 words carefully. UC application readers do not need to know about every drop of sweat that went into something, but they do need to read about exactly what you did, what you learned, and how you progressed.

●     Use I, me, & my. Remember the answers need to be personal, so the use of I, me and my are acceptable.

●     Don’t waste any of your 350 words on the following:

  • name dropping
  • quotes (we all love a good Maya Angelou quote, but it doesn’t belong in your PIQ)
  • flowery language & big words (use them sparingly)
  • story-telling & scene-setting
  • creative writing
  • jokes & sarcasm

I have been telling students to get to the point when answering the prompts and to realize that they will need to revise and rewrite their prompts several times. In addition, please use transitional phrases as they help connect paragraphs. Although the focus is not on writing perfect grammatically, spelling and grammatical errors can distract the reader. If you need guidance in writing your prompts or need me to read through them, please email at [email protected].

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