• Aaron Blumenthal

UC Personal Insight Guide



Struggling with the UCs? Check out this guide for the UC Personal Insight questions!





UC Personal Insight Questions: The Action Essay Part 2

In my last post, we talked about the action essay. Today, we’re going to go through how to apply the action essay to each of the UC personal insight questions. These can all be answered using the action essay formula! As you’ll see, our main focus for all of these is on showing a clear cause and effect, plus the impact on either you or a group.


You don’t have to read my previous post to understand this one, but if you want more detail about the action essay, you can find it here.

Things to know before we start:

  • You can pick any four of the eight topics that you like.

  • The word limit is 350—which is short compared to the Common App main essay.

  • The UCs encourage you to use “your own unique voice.” Check out my “Two You”s post for more on how to create a unique voice!

  • If a prompt asks a question, the answer to that question needs to be clear from your essay. For example: “What is your greatest skill?” If we can’t figure out the 1-2 word answer to this question by the end of the essay, you’ve messed up!

Feel free to skip ahead to the essays you're doing!

1. Leadership

Objective: show, using cause and effect how your action had a positive impact on a group.


The order for steps 2 and 3 depends on what makes more sense for your essay: was your action specifically meant to address an obstacle, or did an obstacle occur during your action?


Step 1: tell us the group’s goal/problem and your role in the group

Step 2 or 3: show what you specifically did (your action)

Step 2 or 3: explain the obstacle(s) you and/or your group encountered

Step 4: demonstrate how your action positively contributed to the goal/problem

2. Creativity

Objectives: 1) give info about yourself. 2) show the impact creativity has on your life.


Step 1: tell us your specific type of creativity

Step 2: provide a specific example of how you have used this creativity

Step 3: explain, using your example in Step 2 as proof, how this creativity positively impacts

your life OR is related to your major/career

3. Greatest Talent/Skill

Objective: use before/after (aka contrast) to show how you have improved over time.


Step 1: tell us your greatest talent/skill

Step 2: describe the Before when you were not very good at this skill. Before = the obstacle

you had to overcome.

Step 3: explain the process of overcoming this obstacle.

Step 4: describe the After when you are good at this skill (Maximize contrast between the

Before and After!)

Step 5: explain the specific significance of this improvement.


4. Educational opportunity/barrier

Objective: show a cause and effect (opportunity/barrier = cause, impact on your life = effect)


Step 1: tell us the specific educational opportunity/barrier

Step 2: explain the process of using this opportunity or overcoming this barrier

Step 3: demonstrate the specific impact this had on your life

5. Challenge

Objective: show a cause and effect (challenge = cause, impact on your life = effect)

This is very similar to #4!


Step 1: tell us the specific educational opportunity/barrier

Step 2: explain the process of using this opportunity or overcoming this barrier

Step 3: demonstrate the specific impact this had on your life

6. Pursuit of academic interest

Objective: show a cause and effect (pursuit = cause, impact on your life = effect)

This is very similar to the “educational opportunity” of #4!


Step 1: tell us the specific academic subject

Step 2: tell us the goal or opportunity related to this subject

Step 3: explain the process involved with this goal/opportunity

Step 4: demonstrate the specific impact this process had on your life. This can be related to your choice of major or career goals, but it doesn’t have to be.


7. Improve Community

Objective: show using cause and effect how your action had a positive impact on the community (group)

This is very similar to #1! As with 1, the order for steps 2 and 3 depends on what makes more sense for your essay: was your action specifically meant to address an obstacle, or did an obstacle occur during your action?


Step 1: tell us the community’s goal/problem (most likely a problem for this essay)

Step 2 or 3: show what you specifically did (your action)

Step 2 or 3: explain the obstacle(s) you encountered

Step 4: demonstrate how your action positively contributed to the goal/problem



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