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UC Personal Statement Tips
The Personal Statement should reflect who you are as a student and a person.
Relax and tell your story using these tips compiled from UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC
Santa Barbara, and UC San Diego.
Role and Use of the UC Personal Statement
The Personal Statement is a required component of your application for the University of
California. Since UC’s do not conduct interviews or accept letters of recommendation,
this response serves as your admission interview.
The Personal Statement provides you the opportunity to be more than just a name — it's
where you become an individual; where you can share your personality, your goals, and
your experiences; and where you can explain any opportunities or obstacles that have
affected your academic record.
Add information that you couldn't work into the other parts of the application. Also add
clarity, depth, and meaning to information collected in other parts of your UC application.
The Personal Statements are a critical element in the admission review process for UC
Berkeley and UCLA. It is not read in isolation but with all the information you provide in
All UC campuses use the Personal Statement responses for scholarship consideration.
The Personal Statement will never be the sole criteria for determining the admission
decision. Relax and tell your story.
Tips for Writing the Personal Statements
You are the main topic of the Personal Statements, not the universities, not
another person, not the political or economic situation the country is in. The
information that you write about always needs to be related back to you and help the
reader gain a fuller picture of who you are in the context of pursing your educational
Decide what you believe is the most important information the university needs to
know and understand about you in order to make the admission decision. Decide
what you need to tell the university, not what you think they want to hear. Be authentic
and chose experiences, skills, and/or accomplishments that provide the reader with the
most accurate picture of yourself as a student and as a person. The strongest Personal
Statements clearly demonstrate who you are as an individual. They are written from the
mind and the heart and focus on telling the truth of your life experiences.
Think about how you got to where you are today and what experiences and
individuals had the most impact on the development of your educational and
career goals. What are the significant experiences that brought you here? How are they
related? How did one experience lead to the next stage of your journey? By writing from
this perspective, you demonstrate self-awareness. Self-awareness is a key indicator of
Consider including the following information:
o personal triumphs or challenges
o leadership opportunities
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o outside-the-classroom experiences and their impact on your life, especially if you
can write about travels, youth groups, church/temple/religion experiences, work,
o culture and society
Tell about how you achieved academic success in spite of any obstacles you
faced. If you choose to write about difficulties you have experienced, you should describe
how you confronted and overcame your challenge as well as what you learned or
achieved in spite of these circumstances.
Do not manufacture hardship. The personal statement is about more than chronicling
difficult circumstances. If you have had no barriers to success in your life, describe how
you have taken advantage of the opportunities available to you. An effective personal
statement gives a clear sense of: your personal qualities, how you have used your
personal qualities, and how you have developed your personal qualities in response to
your opportunities and challenges.
Expressing Your Ideas
Don’t stop with just the facts – the why and how of the information is also
important. Use specific, concrete examples that show your personal strengths. Explain
how those examples represent who you are. Make sure to explain how the example can
be used to learn something about you that is not apparent in your application
Show how you have assigned meaning to your experiences and how you have
grown from them. Prove to the campuses that you have a sense of who you are, where
you are going, and how you are going to use your education and experiences to
accomplish your goals.
Make sure your response directly addresses the prompt. Avoid a collection of facts
or examples, and expand on information contained in your application.
Ensure that the responses complete the application. The personal statement
answers are an extension of your application. Avoid simply repeating what the
admissions officers would already know about you from the rest of your application.
Avoid these common mistakes:
o Using humor inappropriately – not everyone finds the same things funny
o Including creative writing forms (poems, clichés, scene setting, rhyming) – do not
bury the point of your essay under a complicated form
o Relying on quotations – tell about you without relying on what others have
already said about people and society
o Making lists of accomplishments – this is already included in your application
o Repeating yourself – emphasize your point by including a better example or a
better explanation of why you included the example, not by repeating your point
Mechanics for Writing the Essay
Adhere to word restrictions. Keep to the word count of 1,000 total as closely as you
can. A few words over or under the limit is okay, but be careful.
Don’t be campus specific. Your essay will be received by all the UC campuses.
Remember to put things in the words and language which you are comfortable
using. Don’t use big fancy words normally not used to communicate, especially if you are
not sure of the meaning of the words.
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A simple style is best. Good writing sounds like speech rather than a vocabulary review
Don’t summarize in your introduction. Use short summaries when you are providing
the specific examples that show more about who you are.
The body of each paragraph should focus on telling about a specific topic, and
each paragraph should support the thesis statement you have written about
Use transitions. Strong transitions will make your essay sound like a conversation
instead of a list of slightly related sentences.
Make corrections in sentence construction, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Read aloud what you have written to help you locate any rough spots you will need to
Put your draft aside for twenty-four hours before you read it again and revise your
Ask someone that knows you to read over your essay. This person may be able to
spot errors or awkward writing that you have not noticed.
Tips for Additional Comments
You can use the Additional Comment section to clarify or expand on important details. Do not feel
like you have to find something to put into this section. You should only address issues in your
application that would stand out to an admissions officer. Some possible information to include
Your family’s socio-economic, cultural, educational history
Explanations for poor academic performance or sub-standard grades
Explanation of taking transferable math course required to meet minimum UC eligibility in
the last term prior to transfer. Example: Student has not taken any college-level math and
will be taking transferable math course for UC eligibility in the last term prior to transfer
Explanations of personal information that you were not able to address in other parts of
the application because it was unavailable or was not applicable for the areas listed
Review your Essay/Personal Statement with the Checklist
You should be able to say that you have done these things in your Personal Statement:
Assist the reader in learning about you as an individual?
Assist the reader in gaining an understanding of the experiences, accomplishments, and
point of view that you would bring to the University’s undergraduate body?
Assist the reader in gaining an understanding of your attributes and experiences that are
not evident through a review of your application?
Describe any unusual circumstances or challenges you have faced?
Discuss how you responded to your unusual circumstances or challenges?
Have you saved a digital copy of your Personal Statement so that you can copy and
paste the text into the application?
Is it easy to figure out what you are trying to say about yourself?
Have you checked your grammar and spelling?
Once you have pasted the text onto your application, did you check to see that all
characters and spaces appear as they should?
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Resources and Works Cited
UC Berkeley’s Personal Statement Tips:
UC Irvine’s Personal Statement Worksheet:
UCLA’s Personal Statement Tips:
UC Santa Barbara’s Personal Statement Tips and Worksheet:
UC San Diego’s Personal Statement Tips and Worksheet:
“10 Tips for Writing the College Application Essay”:
“College Application Tips: Tackling the Personal Essay” with video and sample
personal essays with critiques: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/college-