University of California Personal Insight Question 5:
Your Chance to Get Real and Personal
If You Have Faced Hardships, Share Them!
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?
If you are a high school student who has had to deal with some tough issues in your life or background, you should seriously consider writing about at least one of them in UC Essay Prompt 5 (also known as Personal Insight Question 5)
This is not whining or complaining.
In fact, students who have had to overcome or deal with obstacles in their life and managed to succeed in school despite those issues are highly desirable to almost all college and universities. And the UCs are no exception.
The beauty of having to write four shorter essays for the UC application is that you can share an intense personal issue in one of them (This one!), and still have three other essays where you can write about other more uplifting parts of your life, including your academic goals, your passions and other experiences.
Do not be ashamed if your family is poor, or is from a different culture, or has endured personal challenges, such as death, illness or disability.
There’s a strong chance that these very issues have helped shape and define who you are—in a positive way.
Sharing one of these personal challenges in this UC Essay Prompt 5 is your opportunity to showcase how you handled or managed it, and how it shaped or changed you somehow.
When you describe the challenge you faced, it might feel like a downer.
But don’t hold back. We need to understand what it was like for you to face that challenge, and feel what you felt even at your lowest point.
The key to writing about an intense, personal challenge is to describe it at the start of your essay, and then quickly shift into the steps you took to deal with it, how you felt, what you thought about it, and what your learned in the process—about yourself and life in general.
For those of you who come from relatively “average” or even privileged socio economic backgrounds, I know that you also can have faced intense, personal issues in as well.
Money often doesn’t shield us from challenges at home, at school, with friends or family. Sometimes, it can even make things worse.
You could have a mom addicted to painkillers, or a sibling who was autistic, or a stepfather who was abusive.
These can all be very real challenges in your life, and you could write about any of them for UC essay prompt 5.
I believe it’s important to share these stories with colleges and universities when possible so they can understand what you have been up against to get to where you are now: A young student with lots of real-life experience and grit (raw determination.)
Writing about a challenge from your background or family life also allows you to open up and share some of your feelings.
I believe this type of personal expression is one of the most powerful ways to connect with your reader, and in this case, those making the admissions decisions at the UC.
Since these UC essays are relatively short—under 350 words each—it’s critical to leave room for the positive side of whatever challenge you write about.
Note that this prompt asks for two things: to describe the challenge AND to explain how it “affected you academic achievement.”
Your challenge may have hurt your academic achievement at first, but there’s a good chance you used what you learned by dealing with that issue actually ended up helping your academic achievement somehow. If this is the case, include that!
Here’s a Sample Outline for UC Essay Prompt 5
- Describe the challenge. Ideally, start with a specific example of that issue so the reader can get a glimpse of what it’s like to be you. Give background on the challenge—briefly explain how it started, what it was, how you felt about it. (One to two paragraphs)
- Explain the steps you took to deal with it, and include how you thought about it. Share what you learned about yourself and the world in dealing with this challenge. Describe how this challenge affected your schoolwork and academic performance and goals. End with how you plan to use what you learned about yourself—a personal quality or core value—to help you in your future goals. (One to two paragraphs)
Red Flag for UC Essay Prompt 5: When you start describing the challenge, it’s easy to get caught up in describing everything about it and use all your space on that story. Make sure that at least half of your essay is about what you learned about that story! Otherwise, it’s just a story with no meaning.
When you are brainstorming your past to see what challenges you have faced, here are some other words for a challenge.
It doesn’t always have to be dramatic, tragic or sensational to be interesting enough to write about.
Types of challenges for UC Essay Prompt 5:
An obstacle: Something got in the way of something you wanted or a goal. It could an outside issue or influence, or something within you, such as a hang-up, flaw, disorder, disability, phobia, etc.
A life change: Something changed in your life, whether it was physical, such as a move from another country, or a change in your family life or structure, or an internal shift or change within yourself.
A hardship: Something in your background that made it difficult to feel “normal,” such as financial hardship, or physical or psychological security. A dad loses a job, a sibling has mental illness, or you experienced something that tried to hold you back.
To me, a challenge is anything that tried to make it harder for you to do what you wanted or needed.
Remember, you don’t need to have solved it or overcome it completely to write about.
It’s all about what you did to handle it.
And how you grew up a little in the process.
Here are some additional suggestions that the UC shared along with this UC Essay Prompt 5:
A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to talk about any obstacles you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone?
If you’re currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, “How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends, or with my family?
The UC admissions office also shared this advice to help students brainstorm for UC Essay Prompt 5 in its Personal Insight Questions Guide for Freshman Applicants:
Have you had a difficult experience in your life? How did you get through it? What did you learn going through this experience? If you’re currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, “How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends, or with my family?
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Answering Questions for Your UC Personal Statement
When applying to the Berkeley personal statement or UC, you’ll be asked to answer 4 personal insight questions. Below is the list of the questions you have to prepare :
- Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. It is important to let the committee know what you have achieved throughout the years. You can write about the project or event you organized or helped with. The most important tip here is – don’t lie. This can ruin the whole impression of you and not gonna do you any credit.
- 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. Explain your vision of creativity and what it means to you. How do you express it? Does it ever come in handy when facing challenges? In what way?
- What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? Highlight all the skills you are proud of. Why are you proud of hem? Did they help you to achieve something? Tell about how you discovered this talent or skill of yours and what you’re going to develop it.
- Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. Ever had difficulties with getting to the advanced course or educational program you were really interested? Write about this experience and how you overcame those difficulties. Who or what helped you?
- 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? Describe the challenge you faced. How you coped with it? Did this experience influence you in any way? If yes, then write about it.
- Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you. Talk about your interest in this subject and why you prefer this particular subject. Does this interest have anything to do with choosing your future career?
- What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? Discuss the problems you faced and how you helped to solve them? Did you cope with this on your own or someone helped you? How your actions changed the situation?
- What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California? Here you are free to brag a little bit. But don’t go too far. Just tell about your distinctive qualities that make you the person you are.
- Please describe how you have prepared for your intended major, including your readiness to succeed in your upper-division courses once you enroll at the university. Describe how you organize your preparation process. Do you have any special techniques? Talk about your ambitions and how you are planning to achieve the set goal.
Tips to Answer Personal Insight Questions
UC personal insight questions examples will help you learn how to answer the essay prompts of the University of California. Now if you’re looking for tips on how to answer those questions, keep reading the following.
- You must start early. This is the most important tip to bear in mind. By starting early, you will have more opportunities to revise and make several copies of the answers. From such answers, you will determine which ones are best to use for the submission.
- You must write convincingly. In answering the UC application personal insight questions, you must use specific examples, which will support your points in the answers.
- You must use “I” statements. Remember that they want to know your accomplishments, talents, and personality. They want to know your potential for success. Thus, you should know how to use “my statements” when answering the questions given.
- You should edit and proofread. Check your writing for spelling and grammar mistakes, which can distract the readers. These errors will also get in the way of the message you’re trying to convey.
- You must get feedback. Get feedback from friends, teachers and family members in your answers to the UC personal insight questions. They can offer you with advice and suggestions. However, you should not plagiarize or use anyone’s work as your own.
- Save your work in plain text. Copy and paste the answers in the space provided in the application form. You must proofread and edit again to ensure there are no mistakes.
- Give yourself time to relax. When done submitting the answers to the questions, you should give yourself some time to rest and relax. Remember that the admissions will not base their decision in this part only.
5 Common Mistakes in Personal Insight Questions
- Not following instructions
- Not answering the questions sufficiently
- Not getting feedback
- Not proofreading and editing their essays
- Starting too late
Additional Comments Section
When done answering the personal insight questions UC, you need to complete this section, but optionally. It must not be a place to continue the responses you had in the personal questions.
- This is only a section where to write about additional clarification about your application, including activities, awards, and honors.
- Here is your chance to describe any relevant point but you did not include in the application.
- You may include about nontraditional or unusual school environment or circumstances.
- Write only up to 550 words in this section.
- Choose the right