How important are the Personal Insight Questions to a UC?


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Nothing tells it to admissions offices more clearly than answers to Personal Insight Questions.

Ms. Sandy Anderson, College & Career adviser

Truth be told, one of my favorite things to do this time of year is to read my students Personal Insight Questions.  I enjoy taking the knowledge that I have learned from years of UC conferences and talking to other colleagues and advising students how to write effective essays and Personal Insight questions. Every year, I get asked the question, how important are the PIQ’s, really? No matter what UC you are applying to, the essays are often very important. For example, many of the students applying to “hard to get into school,” such as Berkeley and UCLA are extremely qualified. The average acceptance rate at Berkeley in 2019 was 16.8% and at UCLA, it was 12%. UC’s use a Comprehensive Review and view students more than their test scores and GPA’s. 

My observations over the years are that students spend more time on the application, than on the PIQ’s. I cannot tell you how many times a student did not get into their “dream school,” and wanted me to look over their applications and PIQ’s to see if that may be the cause of them being denied admission. As I asked them questions, they often say that they did not have their essay proofread, or they did not take the reader’s editing suggestions, and even more astoundingly, only did one draft. 

Since the UC’s do not conduct interviews, the PIQ’s enables the UC to get to know you as an individual through experiences and accomplishments. According to the University of Merced, here are some steps that you can take to ensure you have a well written essay:

  1. Start early on your essay and do not wait until the last minute.
  2. Remember your audience. If you are applying to more than one campus, evaluators from each school will read your responses, so do not make them campus specific. 
  3. Plain text is best. Although you can submit responses online, it is better to write them using Word or Google documents. 
  4. Your first draft does not need to be perfect. Your readers expect that you will have revisions.
  5. Keep the focus on yourself. Many students write about family members and friends, and although they might be huge supporters, this essay is about you, not them. Make sure you use “I” and “my” statements. 
  6. Say it in fewer words. Often time students use “filler words” such as “very” and “that.”  Be brief and to the point and avoid clichés.
  7. Keep it professional. Watch your grammar carefully and do not use slang or do not abbreviate words.
  8. Print it out and proofread it. Make sure you run the spell check and proofread what you wrote. 
  9. Get a second opinion. Have someone that you trust and are familiar with the PIQ’s to critique your essay and take their suggestions to do a revision.

If you take these suggestions, I feel that you have a better chance of getting admitted to your dream school. 

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