UC Berkeley Transfer Essays That Worked


This year, we’ve just received great news about one of four latest clients and their UC transfer application. They got in! The school? UC Berkeley.

*Cue streamers*

Now, they actually got into other schools like UCLA, UC San Diego, and a few other transfer schools of their choice. This article, though, is just focused on our client’s admission to Berkeley, particularly what it took for him to get in.

So, here are their stats :

  • School transferring from: Pasadena City College
  • Major: Computer Science
  • Club Activities: None
  • Notable Achievements / Awards: None
  • Internship / Work Experience: Computer Science Intern

UC Berkeley

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The most important thing to consider about these stats is that the student was able to get away with rather average marks and a lack of notable awards and activities. This was pretty great surprise. What really made the difference in this essay, however, was that the client was able to make their paper shine through their internship work. It’s not everything, but it was one of the primary attributes that made this into one of our list of UC Berkeley Transfer essays that work.

The internship work that our client had completed was what allowed his college essay and transfer application to demonstrate his proclivity to go above and beyond to actualize his career dreams.

That’s all college admissions officers are really looking for: proof from applicants that they will go beyond their comfort zones to actualize their dreams.

transfer essays uc

Of course, not everyone has put in the effort to win awards, achieve great accomplishments in clubs, or find time out of school to work in internships for their professors. That’s why colleges provide a little bit of leeway for students who can show their determination and passion through writing the college essay section.

Unfortunately, the client was unable to meet with us on time to allow for a whole two weeks of editing and essay optimization. As such, we had to settle with a few mistakes and less than optimal writing capabilities on our part due to time constraints. (which was rather nerve-wracking, considering this was an admissions essay aimed for UCB) Had they arrived earlier for a consultation, we may have had enough time to make more severe changes to better optimize his chances for some of the higher schools that he placed his targets on.

Without further ado, here are the transfer essays that were completed and revised by our client and our team.

UC Transfer Essay Prompt 1

Yup, they’re getting right to that topic. Your UC Berkeley transfer essays are going to have to show that you weren’t just studying for the high marks and the grades. They are going to want to see that you planned for your future here!

“ 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. “

transfer essays uc

The essence of mathematics is the simplification of complex problems into a combination of smaller, simpler problems. As an avid mathematics enthusiast, and a computer science major, I understand this principle firsthand. My rigorous study of mathematics and computer science has given me the opportunity to model and solve real-world problems mathematically. In turn, my exploration of mathematics and computer science has given me a solid academic foundation to build upon. One day, I hope to contribute to the advancements of mathematics and computer science as a doctorate student. My thorough study of mathematics in conjunction with computer science classes has enlightened me to the problem-solving power of mathematics. By augmenting mathematical structures, we can model real world problems on a computer. Currently, I am working with my computer science professor to publish an innovative syllable counting algorithm which model characters as vertices in a directed graph. Modeling words as graphs allows computers skip numerous special syllable cases. Working on this algorithm has given me more insight to how mathematics can optimize current computer science ideas. As expected, I have opted to take as many math courses as realistically possible. This means that, because I also work part-time, I have a 55-hour work week; a work week similar to the average modern computer scientist. That being said, I have been able to persevere and maintain excellent academic standards. I will continue to work, in order to simulate the work week of a computer scientist. Overall, I believe I am thoroughly prepared to face upper division courses. I am used to the workload, and I am more than eager to learn. If my stressful life has given me anything, it has granted me a love of theoretical mathematics and computer science. My adventures in these fascinating subjects has taught me the power of problem division. All complex problems can be divided into simpler sub-problems. Likewise, we can model upper division course as a problem. I am eager to engage and excel in these courses, one small step at a time.

UC Transfer Essay Prompt 2

The UC Berkeley transfer essays aren’t all about grades and brutal studying! If you’re the type to write poems under a rainbow or sing emotional songs when you’re having a bad day, this one might be for you.

“ 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.

transfer essays uc

Personally, creativity is an alternate method of expression. When I play piano, I describe my emotions and favorite memories using various tones instead of words. By manipulating techniques that I play on the piano, I can make a piece reflect ineffable aspects of my life. In a way, my music becomes my medium of communication. However, not all music is created equal. Classical music is elegant, but fragile. Jazz music is abstract and expressive but fails to reflect the deeper aspects of my life. In the end, my exploration of various forms of music have taught me a lot about life. I have been playing classical music for almost 12 years. In classical music, it is essential to play as close to the score as possible. Consequently, interpretations come from small improvisations, dynamics, and tempo. Improvisations allow me to add color to the song. Changing the key alters the mood, whereas slowing down the tempo emphasizes a particular moment. At the end of any song, every variation in technique contributes to the portrait of my soul. On the other hand, I have only been playing jazz for 6 months. The abstract and boisterous nature of jazz allows for large sections of improvisation and drastic changes to dynamics and tempo. With this much control over the color of the composition, a wide range of images can be encoded into the music. In jazz, improvisations change the direction of the song; variations in tempo and dynamics adds to the complexity of the image. Playing around with jazz shows my love for music. Whether I choose to play classical or jazz music, music allows me to express indescribable feelings. The fragility of classical music reflects the deeper aspects of my life. Contrarily, jazz allows me to play with the fundamental structure of a piece. My journey with music has taught me one irrevocable fact: life is extremely complicated and diverse. We should follow our dreams before it is too late to do so. That being said, I know that my dream is to add to the theory of mathematics and computer science.

UC Transfer Essay Prompt 3

UC Berkeley’s transfer prompt 3 is actually quite similar to prompt 4 in that they concern development over time. This one is just more concerned about the quality of your talent. Remember: it’s okay to brag about this one, but it’s not just about how talented or skilled you are. This is also about how the admissions officers can have a good idea of what kind of person you are.

“ What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? “

transfer essays uc

One of my closest friends is trying to become a realtor. In his quest for success, he has faced numerous difficulties. Yet, without fail, he still gives life his best effort. Watching his struggle has bestowed upon me a crucial fact of life; we cannot expect the best results without giving our best effort. As a consequence, we cannot give our fullest effort without first understanding ourselves. This has led me to believe that time management is my greatest skill. With good time management, I maximize my performance in different segments of my life. In turn, I maximize my growth as student. Like many others, my time management skill was not always up to par. After high school, I was unprepared to make my own schedule. Consequently, I was hindered by my poorly planned schedule. During my first Summer semester at PCC, I had requested for more working hours than I could handle. Without enough time to focus on my studies, I was unable to perform as well as I could. That semester gave me the encouragement to look deeper into myself. I analyzed my educational needs and scheduled around inconveniences. I took more time to analyze my workload and request reasonable working hours. I gave time to myself, to revive myself from the strenuous, studious life. The more I understood myself, the better I was able to manage my time. In turn, I was able to perform better overall. Now, I maintain an excellent academic record, a part time job, and a social life. To this day, I continue to push my own limits. This semester, I opted to take more units and more ambitious classes than I have ever taken before. My extraordinary time management is helping me excel in these classes. Analyzing myself helped me understand that my interest in mathematics and computer science is set in stone. In turn, recognizing my own basic needs helps me optimize my schedule. Like my friend, I have come to understand myself on a deeper level; I am fully prepared to fully devote myself to computer science and mathematics.

UC Transfer Essay Prompt 4

The UC Berkeley transfer essay prompt 4 follows the typical obstacle structure of many other college admissions essays.

“ 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? “

transfer essays uc

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”. My current interpretation of President Roosevelt’s words is that improvement comes from boldness. If we hesitate in the face of difficulty, we would not achieve anything. That being said, I had terrible social anxiety. In high school, I went above and beyond in avoiding others. However, I knew that without adequate communication skills, I would have significantly less opportunities to succeed when I grew older. Now that I am much older, I have significantly enhanced my social skills. I was able to improve my communication abilities by accepting a job offer as a waiter. In fact, I had gotten an exceptional recommendation from a close friend (which is how I got the job). By accepting this job, I was forcing myself into a foreign, continuously social environment. Although I did not perform well in the beginning, I was able to improve to an excellent standard with hard work. Working as a server motivated me to learn and practice social skills I had previously lacked. Additionally, the working environment gave me the opportunity to demonstrate the skills that I had practiced. For over half a year, I struggled to improve. However, my struggle paid off, as now my regular customers praise me for my rapid development. After working for a year, my excellent work had caught the eye of my boss, who assigned me yet another task. Now, I also manage the boss’s schedule and provide suggestions during marketing meetings as one of her personal assistants. Presently, I work approximately twenty-five hours a week, in conjunction with my studies. By forcing myself into social territories, I was able to motivate myself to learn and practice the communication skills that I needed. From this experience, I gained more than just social ability; I also gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone, in the pursuit of self-improvement. Which is why I know I will succeed after transferring. Upper division classes are difficult and daunting; regardless, I will face them without fear.

What may be most daunting is the fact that this applicant had actually had help from their professor to get internship experience to work with. What makes this so effective is not just the fact that they had work experience to show their determination and perseverance to their career.

They also can practically guarantee a great letter of recommendation from said professor.

transfer essays uc

The letters of recommendation play a major role in the admissions process. They are another layer of proof that the student was able to work on their career enough that they have the approval of other authority figures. This holds a lot of weight. So if you can find a good opportunity to get an internship with your professor before transferring, your admissions essay might be added to our “UC Berkeley transfer essays that worked” list! (if you don’t mind us showing you off!)

If you can’t get an internship with a professor in your school, you’ll have to suffice with writing the transfer admissions essay. But remember, you’ll be facing off against a lot of other very qualified and very intelligent students. One of the only other factors that can make a severe difference in your UC application is the personal insight questions. If you can show through your writing that you have the determination and have put in the effort to actualize your dreams, you will have a much better chance of getting accepted.  

You might also want to consider appealing to the desire of the admissions officers and what the school is looking for. We covered that schools want to see people who actually manifest their dreams, but there’s a reason. Why? Because those people are the most likely candidates to make genuine change in the world, and who wouldn’t want people like that in their universities?

Berkeley even says so themselves on their admissions selection page.

transfer essays uc

If you’re likely to manifest your dreams into reality and actualize it to a certain degree, then you’ve already got the mindset needed to make genuine change in the world. That’s what great schools like Berkeley want! People who are great because they can make differences in the world with their accomplishments due to their right mindset. You don’t have to be Obama’s son, and you don’t have to win wars overseas; you just have to have the attributes of world-changers, and demonstrate them in your paper!

Have any questions about the UC Berkeley transfer admissions essays? Haven’t won any awards or gained any internship experience? That’s why we’re here to help. Contact us for a free consultation and learn how we can map and optimize your UC transfer admissions essay to give you the competitive edge you need.

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If you are considering transferring, but not attending a California Community College, review the Transfer Reading and Composition Information to ensure you have the required classes for that requirement.

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How to answer the personal insight questions

Your responses to the personal insight questions are an important component of your freshman or transfer application. Your responses allow us to get to know you through your experiences and accomplishments.

Freshman Personal Insight Questions

Freshman applicants must respond to four short-answer prompts chosen from  eight options . There is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain prompts over others, and each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.

Transfer Personal Insight Questions

Transfer applicants must respond to four short-answer prompts—one mandatory prompt and their choice of three from the other  seven options . There is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain prompts over others, and each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.

Writing a Successful Response

Your responses should elaborate upon any insights you gained or how your outlook, activities, commitment or goals have been influenced.

  • Provide specific examples of experiences, accomplishments, etc. that occurred during or after high school that weren’t captured in your application.
  • Keep your responses focused on conveying your strengths and positive qualities.
  • Write a first draft, leave it for a day or two, and return to make revisions. Read each draft aloud to catch misspellings or awkward or inappropriate wording.
  • Review your responses as if you were making the final decision. Is this the application of a future leader?
  • Have your responses checked by a teacher, counselor or other advisor for clarity.

Common Pitfalls

  • Writing about events that are long past
  • Reiterating information listed elsewhere in the application
  • Listing accomplishments without explanation or detail
  • Rambling, unfocused thoughts
  • Being overly humorous, self-deprecating or glorifying

Instructions for Scholarship Applicants

Some scholarship committees review your responses to the personal insight questions while other scholarships, such as the  Cal Aggie Alumni Association scholarships , may require separate applications and essays. Please visit our  scholarships  page to learn more about scholarships available at UC Davis.

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Personal Insight Questions

As a vital part of your application, the personal insight questions—short-answer questions you will choose from—are reviewed by both the admissions and scholarship offices., at berkeley we use personal insight questions to:.

  • Discover and evaluate distinctions among applicants whose academic records are often very similar
  • Gain insight into your level of academic, personal and extracurricular achievement
  • Provide us with information that may not be evident in other parts of the application

What we look for:

  • Initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service to others, special potential and substantial experience with other cultures
  • All achievement in light of the opportunities available to you
  • How you confronted and overcame your challenges, rather than describing a hardship just for the sake of including it in your application
  • What you learned from or achieved in spite of these circumstances

Academic achievement

For first-year applicants:

  • Academic accomplishments, beyond those shown in your transcript

For transfer students:

  • Include interest in your intended major, explain the way in which your academic interests developed, and describe any related work or volunteer experience.
  • Explain your reason for transferring if you are applying from a four-year institution or a community college outside of California. For example, you may substantiate your choice of a particular major or your interest in studying with certain faculty on our campus.

How to answer your personal insight questions

  • Thoughtfully describe not only what you’ve done, but also the choices you have made and what you have gained as a result.
  • Allow sufficient time for preparation, revisions, and careful composition. Your answers are not evaluated on correct grammar, spelling, or sentence structure, but these qualities will enhance overall presentation and readability.

If you are applying…

  • Your intended field of study
  • Your interest in your specific major
  • Any school or work-related experience
  • for a scholarship, we recommend that you elaborate on the academic and extracurricular information in the application that demonstrates your motivation, achievement, leadership, and commitment .
  • Discuss how the program might benefit you
  • Tell us about your determination to succeed even though you may have lacked academic or financial support

Keep in mind

You can use the Additional Comments box to convey any information that will help us understand the context of your achievement; to list any additional honors awards, activities, leadership elements, volunteer activities, etc.; to share information regarding a nontraditional school environment or unusual circumstances that has not been included in any other area of the application. And, finally, after we read your personal insight questions, we will ask the question, “What do we know about this individual?” If we have learned very little about you, your answers were not successful.

  • Personal Insight Questions (University of California)
  • Personal Insight Question Writing Tips
  • Leadership (video)
  • What Leadership Looks Like


How to Answer the Required UC Transfer Application Essay in a Memorable Way

Ivy Divider

Now, on to the Required Question for UC Transfer Applicants. The prompt reads:

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.

Then the admissions department provides these considerations to keep in mind:.

How did your interest in your major develop? Do you have any experience related to your major outside the classroom; such as volunteer work, internships and employment, or participation in student organizations and activities? If you haven’t had experience in the field, consider including experience in the classroom. This may include working with faculty or doing research projects.

If you’re applying to multiple campuses with a different major at each campus, think about approaching the topic from a broader perspective, or find a common thread among the majors you’ve chosen.

While freshman applicants have the option to submit their UC applications without addressing their academic interests in their essays, transfer applicants do not have that freedom since you have most likely completed your general education and will be enrolling mainly in major courses. Admissions wants to know how you have prepared for your intended major, so it’s incredibly important that applicants are able to build a bridge between their past experiences in their field of interest and UC’s academic offerings.

Think about the experiences you have had—classes, extracurricular activities, work experience, research, personal relationships, or hobbies—that have enabled you to further develop your interest and knowledge of your chosen field. Once you have some ideas at hand, do a little research on the particular majors or programs at the UC campuses you’re applying to so you can connect the dots.

Finally, admissions wants to assess how ready you are to succeed in upper-division courses, so don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and reference experiences that have instilled confidence in you, even if those experiences are outside of your chosen field (think: research papers, end-of-year projects, or independent studies that show you can handle the major-focused workload expected of juniors and seniors). You’ll want to avoid general statements (e.g. I am hard-working, I am ambitious), and instead give concrete examples (a.k.a. the first rule of writing: show, don’t tell!). 

Remember that admissions will expect your writing to be at a higher level than freshman applicants, so this is not the assignment to rush through or leave to the last minute. Our advice? Write this essay (and the other three UC Transfer essays) in advance, then proofread, and finally, share them with someone you trust to get a second opinion.

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Our UC Essay Guide can help with that!

Written by Kat Stubing

Category: Admissions , Essay Tips , Essay Writing , Uncategorized

Tags: uc transfer , uc transfer essay , university of california , university of California transfer application


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Last updated February 9, 2024

Every piece we write is researched and vetted by a former admissions officer. Read about our mission to pull back the admissions curtain.

Blog > Essay Examples , UC Essays > 8 Outstanding UC Essay Examples (Graded by Former Admissions Officers)

8 Outstanding UC Essay Examples (Graded by Former Admissions Officers)

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

We talk a lot about essays in the college application process. And for good reason. Essays are one of the most critical parts of your application, and the University of California Personal Insight Questions are no different. Even though they’re quite different from personal statements or supplemental essays, UC essays serve a similar purpose: to help admissions officers get to know you and envision you on their campus.

But the tricky thing about UC essays is that they have a very particular style and form. If you don’t write your UC essays in the right way, you risk tanking your application.

Writing them the right way, however, can land you in the admit pile.

So how do you write your own outstanding UC essays? We recommend you start by reading outstanding examples.

As writing coaches, we know that the best way to become a better writer is to read. More specifically, if there’s a type of writing you want to improve on, then you should read more in that genre.

For you, that means reading UC essays to help prepare you to write your own.

And in this post, you won’t just be reading example UC essays. You’ll also see commentary from former admissions officers that will help guide you through why each essay works.

Let’s get started.

The UC Personal Insight Question Prompts

The University of California system, which consists of nine campuses across the state, requires students to apply directly via their institutional application portal. That means that you won’t be submitting your Common Application to them or writing school-specific supplemental essays. Instead, you’ll choose four of the following eight prompts to respond to.

Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

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.

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

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?

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Once you have your prompts chosen, the essays themselves should be no greater than 350 words. Together, your essays should be different but cohesive enough to tell a fairly complete story of who you are.

Before we get to the examples, we have a few tips to keep you on track.

How to Write the UC Personal Insight Questions

Okay, so we actually have a whole other comprehensive guide to the UC essays that breaks down the process in extreme detail.

So for now, we’ll just go over the essentials.

What’s helpful about the UC PIQs is that we don’t have to guess what admissions officers are looking for—the UCs tell us directly in the Points of Comprehensive Review . Read through all thirteen points, but pay special attention to #10. That’s where your essays will be doing the heaviest lifting.

With that in mind, there are four rules for writing UC essays that you should stick to like glue:

Answer the prompt.

We’ll say it again for the people in the back. Answer the prompt. The UC essay prompts ask very specific questions and contain multiple parts. If you misinterpret the prompt, you may end up writing the completely wrong essay.

You might find that diagramming or annotating the prompts helps you pull out the important pieces. Break down what each of your chosen prompts asks you to do, and list out all the questions in order. That way, you’ll make sure you’re not missing anything.

Skip the fluff.

Your personal statement likely has some creative descriptions or metaphors. You may have even incorporated figurative or poetic language into your supplementals. And that’s great. In fact, that’s encouraged (within reason, of course).

But UC essays are different. They’re all business.

Whereas your personal statement might open with an attention-catching hook that describes a scene in vivid detail, your UC essays should jump straight in. In general, your essay should be organized in a clear way that tells a straightforward story.

Focus on action steps.

As we saw in the Points of Comprehensive Review, admissions officers want to learn about how your concrete experiences have shaped you. That means that your essays should revolve around action steps rather than, say, 350 words of intense personal reflection. What those action steps should look like will depend on the prompts you’ve chosen, but by the end of your essay, your admissions officers should know what you’ve done and why.

Show a strength.

In the UC essays, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the prompt and style of the essay. But don’t lose sight of the purpose of any college essay in the process: to showcase a strength to your admissions officers.

Every UC essay you write should correspond with a specific strength. That might be wisdom, artistry, good judgement, entrepreneurship, leadership—you get the idea.

Let’s say you want one of your essays to demonstrate leadership. The idea isn’t that you come out and say, “This shows that I am a leader.” Instead, by the end of the essay, after reading about everything you’ve done and reflected on, your admissions officers should sit back in their chair and say, “Wow, that student is a leader.” You’ll see what we mean in the examples.

Because of all these golden rules, your UC essays will look quite different than your Common Application essay or supplementals. They’ll probably look quite different from any essay you’ve written.

That’s where examples come in handy. Ready to dive in?

UC Prompt 1: Leadership

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

Prompt 1 Example Essay

When we moved to a new neighborhood, my dad always complained about the house next to us. Full of weeds and random objects, it had clearly been neglected(( Notice how, at least compared with common application personal essays, the tone of this essay is much more staid?)) .

I didn’t pay much attention to his complaints until one day when I saw that our neighbor was an elderly man. He was struggling to bring his trash to the bins outside. Suddenly, it all clicked. If taking out the garbage was a challenge, then surely he wasn’t able to do yard work. That’s why it looked neglected.

My dad always taught me that leadership isn’t about giving orders. It’s about doing what needs to be done(( A direct, succinct definition of leadership.)) . With this advice in mind, I decided that I would help our neighbor.

After my realization, I went and knocked on our neighbor’s door. I introduced myself and learned that his name was Hank. When the time was right, I informed him that I’d be cutting our grass the following weekend and would love to cut his as well. Hank initially refused.

Speaking with Hank, I learned that leadership is also about listening to people’s needs(( Showing a lesson from the experience.)) . In that moment, Hank needed to be reassured that I wanted to help. I told him it would be easy for me to cross over to his yard while I had the equipment out. He finally agreed.

The next Saturday, I got to work. The job would be bigger than I expected. All the objects needed to be picked up before I could mow. I decided to enlist the help of my two younger siblings. At first, they said no. But a good leader knows how to inspire, so I told them about Hank and explained why it was important to help. Together, we cleaned up the yard. Now, each time I mow our lawn, I mow Hank’s afterward.

Through this experience, I learned that leadership is about seeing problems and finding solutions. Most importantly, it’s about attitude and kindness(( The author of this essay does a good job staying focused on a clear definition.)) . The neighborhood is grateful that the eyesore is gone, Hank is grateful for the help, and I am grateful for my new friend.

Word Count: 343

UC Essay Checklist

Does the writer convey a strength?

Yes. The writer shows initiative in seeking out the neighbor and willingness to help in all the hard work they did.

Is every part of the prompt answered?

Yes. Since this prompt has an “or,” we know that the writer doesn’t have to meet every single criterion listed. They respond to the “positively influenced others” part of the prompt, which we can see through their interactions with their neighbor.

Does the writer adhere to UC conventions?

Yes. The essay is straightforward and clearly organized. The writer lists action steps in chronological order.

UC Prompt 2: Creativity

2. 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.

Prompt 2 Example Essay

As a cellist, I express my creativity through music(( Directly answering the prompt up front. )) . Whether I’m playing in a symphony, chamber orchestra, quartet, or solo performance, I bring my art to the world with my instrument. My creativity has transformed me from a small child playing out of tune to a solo artist featured in my state’s youth symphony.

I’ve loved music from a young age, and I began playing the cello when I was six years old. What began as a hobby to keep an energetic child engaged has become my life’s purpose.

At first, I only played along with my private lesson teacher, Ms. Smith. I loved dancing my fingers across the fingerboard, plucking the strings, and making screeching noises with my bow. Ms. Smith told my parents that I had promise but needed to develop discipline. Despite my young age, I listened. By the time I reached middle school, I had made principal cellist in my school’s orchestra. Leading a section of fellow cellists brought my creativity to a whole new level. Not only was I expressing myself through my own music, but I also expressed myself through my leadership. With a subtle nod or an expressive sway, I learned to shape the music those behind me played. I felt most comfortable and free when I was playing my cello.

That feeling only grew as I moved into high school. In ninth grade, I landed my first solo. With it came a new creative sensation: stage fright(( This part of the essay distracts a bit from the main theme.)) . Until then, I’d only experienced positive emotions while playing. I needed to make solo performance more positive. With endless practice and exercises like playing for the public on the sidewalk, I learned that solo performance is simply a way to share my love of music with those around me.

Now, as principal cellist of my state’s youth orchestra, I jump at the chance to perform any solo I can get. Getting to this point has taken me countless late nights practicing in my bedroom and weekends spent in rehearsals. But without my cello to express my creative side, I wouldn’t be me.

Word Count: 347

Yes. The writer is an artist—a musician specifically. Their creativity shines through.

Yes. This prompt is pretty straightforward: “Describe how you express your creative side,” which the writer does by describing their love of the cello. Notice how the writer doesn’t just say they’re creative because they play the cello. They describe that creativity in detail.

Mostly. The short paragraph about stage fright takes us on a slight detour from the prompt. To make this essay even better, the writer could have eliminated that anecdote or reframed it to be more about creative expression.

UC Prompt 3: Talent or Skill

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Prompt 3 Example Essay

How many toes does an armadillo have? What were the main causes of the Crimean War? Who discovered atoms? When my friends or family have questions, they come to me for answers. I am an expert researcher. Although my passion for research began as a fun hobby, it has evolved into one of my greatest skills(( The writer opens with an interesting but not too out-there hook and then gets straight to answering the prompt.)) .

My first real mystery came when I was in ninth grade. My mom wanted to track down an old friend from high school but hadn’t had any luck searching on her own. Having grown up with the internet, I was my mom’s best chance. Not sure where to begin, I took to YouTube tutorials. Using the few family details my mom remembered, I tracked down the friend’s brother then found the friend’s married name(( Here’s a great example of what the skill looks like.)) . Alas–we found her on social media. I felt triumphant as I saw the happiness wash over my mom’s face.

Since then, my skill has grown exponentially(( And here the writer gets at the “developed and demonstrated the talent over time” part of the prompt.)) . Combining my natural curiosity with my love of history, I’ve advanced my research skills by volunteering with my local library for the past two years. I have learned about how keywords and search engines work, practiced cataloging and archiving, and waded my way through the intricacies of the library’s database technology. Suddenly, researching wasn’t just about finding people’s Facebook profiles. It was about having any information I wanted to find at my fingertips.

Access to information is more important now than ever. That’s why I decided to put my research knowledge to work. Part of being a good researcher is teaching others how to access information too, so I founded the SOHS Research Club. We begin each meeting by raising the hardest question we can think of, and I use the projector in the library to walk club members through my research process. Members have all gone on to share their knowledge with their friends and family. The SOHS Research Club has spread information literacy to my whole community(( Gesturing to the greater significance of the skill)) .

Looking ahead to all the ways my research skills will improve in college, I know that I’ll be ready to find an answer for anything.

Word Count: 350

Yes. We see that they’re not only skilled at research but also that they want to support their community.

Yes—but. The prompt asks about your greatest talent or skill. It also asks how you have developed and demonstrated that talent over time. The writer does answer these questions, but I’d like to see more about when the SOHS Research Club took place as part of this development.

Yes. The essay is clear, organized, and to-the-point.

UC Prompt 4: Educational Opportunity or Barrier

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

Prompt 4 Example Essay

I jump at any chance to get my hands dirty. I am an aspiring ecologist. I’m lucky enough to live in a college town, so I was elated last semester when a postdoctoral fellow invited me to join her research team(( Okay, looks like this writer is addressing the “how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity” part of the prompt.)) .

Although at first(( Good signposting and transitions. UC essays should be clear and straightforward. This writer easily walks us through the step-by-step of what happened.)) I was intimidated by the prospect of working alongside college students and faculty, I decided to embrace the opportunity to learn what being an ecologist is really like.

The project involved studying Asclepias syriaca populations in my local park. More commonly known as Milkweed, this flower species has a long and important history in North America, particularly for Indigenous people. After learning about its history as a food source, medicine, and critical part of ecological function, I couldn’t wait to be part of the research.

As a research assistant, I helped with data collection. We began by using twine to section off population groups in the park. Then, every week I returned to the populations to collect information about population growth. I counted the number of flowers in the population, and, with a clear ruler, I measured and recorded the height of every individual flower.

The work was tedious. On my hands and knees, I squinted at the millimeter markings, trying to obtain the most accurate measurements possible. Each week, I’d return home with muddy jeans and a smile on my face.

Participating in this research project taught me that being an ecologist is about much more than looking at plants(( Going beyond the research to reflect on lessons learned—nice!)) . It’s also about learning from mentors and engaging with and having respect for the historical context of the plants we study. Being a scientist is also not as glamorous as movies like Jurassic Park lead on. Instead, science requires careful planning, patience, and hard work.

But what I learned the most from this educational opportunity is that science doesn’t exist in some nebulous place. It exists right here in front of me. I look forward to continuing to use science to serve my community.

Word count: 328

Yes. We see their intellectual curiosity and willingness to learn through their research journey.

Yes. We have another “or” prompt! This time they’ve chosen to focus on an “educational opportunity,” which is the research project. They certainly explain how they “took advantage” of it.

Yes. There’s no fluff, just a coherent narrative focused on actions the writer took.

UC Prompt 5: Challenge

5. 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?

Prompt 5 Example Essay

While most kids fear monsters, my greatest fear has always been tests. Since elementary school, I’ve dealt with incapacitating test anxiety. I’d sit down for a spelling test and faint from anxiety(( Straight into answering the prompt)) . Math tests in middle school would make me run to the bathroom ill. By the time I reached high school, where the testing stakes became even higher, my test anxiety increased exponentially.

More than normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, it is a diagnosis I wrestle with daily. Test anxiety caused me to miss a number of tests that I had no option to re-take. It’s caused me to receive abysmal scores on standardized and state tests, which has had repercussions in the classes I’m allowed to take(( Strategically, this was a good prompt for this student to answer because it gives them a way to contextualize any poor grades they earned early in high school. It also gets at the “academic achievement” part of the prompt.)) . My test anxiety has been the greatest challenge of my life. In a school system so reliant on testing, it has completely affected my ability to achieve academically.

By the time I took the PSATs, I couldn’t even move my hand to write my name. I knew something had to change. I reached out for help. My mom knew I had been struggling but didn’t understand the extent of my illness. Together, we contacted my school counselor, who told us how to find a therapist.

With my doctors, I worked to mitigate the effects of my test anxiety on a medical and psychological level(( Action steps! This prompt requires you to talk about the specific steps you took to overcome the challenge. The writer does exactly that in this paragraph.)) . I began taking beta-blockers that helped slow my heart rate, thus tricking my body into being less anxious. Alongside that, I spent months working through the reasons my brain interpreted testing as such a threat. I learned to appreciate my intrinsic value instead of relying on external factors like test scores. And rather than viewing tests as chances to fail, I began to understand them as opportunities to showcase my growth.

Now, after two long years of effort, I can take any test with ease. Since learning how to manage my disorder, I’ve successfully taken my driver’s test, SATs and ACTs, and all seven of my AP exams. I’m looking forward to all the tests I’ll take in college(( And we end on a very positive note that shows lots of growth)) .

Yes—which is difficult with this prompt. The writer doesn’t get bogged down in the challenge of having test anxiety. Instead, they use this prompt as an opportunity to show a strength: resilience to overcome such a difficult problem.

Yes. And this prompt has multiple parts, too. It wants you to describe 1) a challenge, 2) the steps you’ve taken to overcome the challenge, and 3) how the challenge affected your academic achievement. This writer does all three.

Yes. The writer doesn’t provide any poetic descriptions or metaphors. They say what they mean.

UC Prompt 6: Academic Interest

6.  Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Prompt 6 Example Essay

Sitting in front of my baby cousin, I held my hands in front of my face. I quickly snapped them down and exclaimed, “Peek-a-boo!” Delighted, he erupted into laughter. From the perspective of my more developed brain, this game is quite boring. It’s overly repetitive, and the outcome—my face reveal—is basic and consistent. But to a brain that hasn’t yet gone through the sensorimotor phase of development, the game is a downright hoot. What I perceive as boring is actually magic to a baby’s mind. Without the concept of object permanence, my cousin thinks that I disappear completely behind my hands. When my face returns, he marvels as I inexplicably materialize in front of him. It’s no wonder he can play peek-a-boo for hours.

Since I took IB Psychology my sophomore year, I have been fascinated with child psychology(( It takes a paragraph before we get to the prompt (a bit too long), but I like the nerdiness the writer shows in the intro)) . No matter when or where we are born, we all undergo similar stages of development that help us understand the world around us. Imagine Albert Einstein chewing on a rock or Genghis Khan taking his first steps. Researching child development unlocks something universal and equalizing about the human experience.

Because of my interest in child psychology, I decided to get more involved with my community. I began by volunteering in a psychology lab at my local university. While there, I get our child participants settled before sessions. Occasionally I get to help with data collection. I also landed a job as a teacher’s aide at a nearby Head Start, where I feed lunches, play, and read. In both of these activities, I’ve learned so much about how to interact with toddlers, to think like they think, and to help them grow into kind and happy children(( This paragraph shows exactly how they’ve furthered their interest.)) .

My school doesn’t offer any additional psychology courses, so I took a community college class this summer. I’m looking forward to taking more advanced psychology classes as a psychology major, and I’m eager to bring the research skills I’ve been developing to one of the UC’s many child development labs. One day, I hope to use all these skills as a child therapist.

Word Count: 348

Yes. The student is very intellectually curious about child development—a perfect strength for this prompt.

Yes. The writer talks about an academic subject, child development, and describes how they advanced that interest through a research lab, classes, and a job at Head Start.

Yes—but. Overall, the essay does a great job adhering to UC essay conventions. But the first paragraph almost doesn’t. As it is, the writer stays focused on telling the story. However, it takes up quite a bit of space in the essay without really conveying much about the writer’s journey. If there were a metaphor or any poetic language in there, it would have been too far. Same goes for the snippet about Einstein and Genghis Khan—it adds personality but is close to overdoing it.

UC Prompt 7: School or Community

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Prompt 7 Example Essay

Nourishing loved ones by cooking for them is one of my biggest passions. But my hobby has become more difficult since moving to a food desert. Food deserts are areas without easy access to grocery stores or healthy foods. These disparities are clear in the school cafeteria, with the majority of students eating processed school lunches or packaged foods brought from home. I decided to do something about it.

The idea came to me one day as I made my way from AP Biology to my cooking elective. We needed a school community garden(( The writer sets up the stakes in the introduction so we truly understand the situation here)) . If we couldn’t access fresh foods in our neighborhood, then we would grow our own. We just needed a space to grow them and money to buy supplies.

I began by finding a spot to plant our garden. My friends and I walked around the entire school and decided that the courtyard would be the perfect place. After explaining my idea to the Assistant Principal, I got permission to proceed.

Next(( This paragraph is full of good action steps)) I raised money for the supplies. With $20 in seed money from my parents, which I promptly paid back, I drew and printed stickers to sell at lunch. The stickers were anthropomorphized vegetables. They cost $0.10 per sticker to make, and I sold them for $1.00 each. Soon enough, I had not only raised enough money to set up the garden, but I had rallied the whole school around my cause. Thirty of my classmates showed up, vegetable stickers on their water bottles, to help me plant the garden.

For the last year, we’ve maintained a spread of seasonal vegetables in the garden. We bring a basket to the cooking elective teacher each week so students can practice cooking with fresh vegetables, and we hold a daily farm stand at lunch(( And we see that they are legitimately improving their community)) . At the stand, students can grab whatever fresh produce they want to add to their lunch.

My school’s garden nourishes my community, and I am nourished every day by the fact that my efforts have made a true difference to those around me.

Word Count: 341

Yes. The writer shows really great initiative and community understanding in their willingness to start a community garden from scratch.

Yes. With only one question, this prompt is pretty straightforward. And the writer’s answer is simple: to make their school community a better place, they made a community garden.

Yes. The writer goes into detail about every step they took to make the community garden come to life. I especially like how the writer goes beyond these details to emphasize how much the community garden impacted the school community.

UC Prompt 8: Additional Information

Prompt 8 example essay.

When I posted a TikTok video of myself studying, I didn’t expect anyone but my friends to see it. But within hours, my video had gone viral— tens of thousands of people(( That’s a lot of people. This shows the magnitude and impact of the video.)) saw the carefully-crafted shots I’d taken of my desk setup and homework timelapse. The comment section flooded. People appreciated the work I’d put into curating the perfect desk. They thanked me for inspiring them to get started on their own homework. I was overwhelmed by the response.

At first I felt really shy. What if people from school saw it and made fun of me? I kept questioning myself so much that I completely froze. Finally, one comment caught my attention. It read, “I’ve been having a hard semester and can barely get myself out of bed, let alone to do my homework. But this is so calming! Maybe I’ll try.” That comment made me realize that it didn’t matter what people at my school thought. What mattered was that I loved making that video and it had made an actual difference in the lives of the people who saw it.

And that’s when I decided to make my mark on #StudyTok(( This is a pretty unique topic that wouldn’t have necessarily fit into the other prompt categories, which makes it a good candidate for prompt #8.)) . Since that first video, I’ve posted 318 others and accumulated over 35,000 followers(( More numbers to show impact)) . I’ve had more videos go viral and reach hundreds of thousands of people looking for work inspiration. Even the videos that some would see as “fails” still reach a couple hundred people. That may not be a big deal in the Internet world, but those same people would fill up my high school’s auditorium. My goal for every video is to make my viewers feel relaxed and able to take on whatever work they have to do. It helps me and my viewers complete our work.

These videos have made me more confident and organized, and I can’t wait to continue them in college. When I get an extra assignment or have to stay up late to finish a paper, I become excited instead of frustrated because I know that the little StudyTok community I’ve created will be there right alongside me.(( This conclusion drives home the what “makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the UC” part of the prompt.))

Yes. They show creativity through their video production and leadership through their huge community impact.

Mostly. This prompt is a tricky one to answer because its components aren’t as straightforward as the others. Through such a huge impact, the writer makes it implicitly clear why this story demonstrates that they are a good candidate for admissions to the UC, but the message could be more explicit.

Yes. The writer conveys the sequence of events in a clear and organized way, and they use good metrics to show the impact of their videos.

Key Takeaways

Did you catch our golden rules throughout? Yep. That’s what makes these essays stand out, and that’s what’ll make your essays stand out, too.

And even though these essays come from different students, hopefully you also got a sense of how an admissions officer reads a portfolio of essays for a single student.

Remember: just like your other applications, your overall goal for your UC application is to create a cohesive application narrative that shows your core strengths.

Having read all these essays, you’re now well on your way to writing your own. Try jumping into the Essay Academy or our UC essay writing guide  for help getting started.

Liked that? Try this next.

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20 College Essay Examples (Graded by Former Admissions Officers)

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How A Selective Admissions Office Reads 50k Applications In A Season

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How to Write Supplemental Essays that Will Impress Admissions Officers

"the only actually useful chance calculator i’ve seen—plus a crash course on the application review process.".

Irena Smith, Former Stanford Admissions Officer

We built the best admissions chancer in the world . How is it the best? It draws from our experience in top-10 admissions offices to show you how selective admissions actually works.

Transfer Student Application Requirements

As a transfer applicant, you must meet specific coursework, unit, and grade point average requirements as outlined below. For some areas of study, major preparation is also required and must be completed by the end of spring term prior to fall admission. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Competitive applicants to UC San Diego exceed the minimum requirements.

Major Preparation

  • Grade Point Average

Personal Insight Questions

  • Portfolio Review (optional for majors in the Arts)

College Ranking

Selective majors, complete the following 7-course pattern:.

  • 2 English composition
  • 1 mathematical concepts and quantitative reasoning
  • Arts and humanities
  • Physical and biological sciences
  • Social and behavioral sciences
  • Each course must be 3 semester (4-5 quarter) units and you must complete all units by the end of spring term, prior to fall admission.
  • You need to earn a grade of C or better in each course or a Pass (P) grade if pass is equivalent to a C (2.00)

Applicants to departments and majors listed here must complete minimum preparation coursework to be admitted to the major.

  • Biological Anthropology
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry & Biochemistry
  • Data Science
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Systems
  • Geosciences
  • Marine Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Oceanic & Atmospheric Sciences
  • Public Health
  • Real Estate & Development
  • Urban Studies & Planning

You will be screened for the number of courses completed, the grades earned in those courses and your cumulative GPA. View the  major preparation courses required .

We have established major preparation articulation agreements with many California community colleges. Visit the ASSIST website  to find out how your coursework will transfer to UC San Diego.

See the General Catalog for detailed information on UC San Diego majors.

GPA (Grade-Point Average) 

admitted to UC San Diego often have GPAs that exceed the minimum. We are unable to evaluate your coursework prior to admission due to the high volume of applications, so it's important that you  confirm that your courses are transferable by visiting assist.org . UC San Diego does not have articulation agreements outside of the California Community College system.

To be eligible for transfer admission, you must complete a minimum of 60 UC-transferable semester (90 quarter) units by the end of spring term prior to fall admission.

Exam Credit

UC offers college credit to students who have taken and scored well on Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and A-level exams. Learn more about exam credit opportunities.

Additional Courses in ESL or Physical Education

California Community College courses must appear on your community college's Transferable Course Agreement . Some limitations apply.

  • A maximum of 8 semester (12 quarter) units of English as a Second Language (ESL) may be applied toward the 60 semester (90 quarter) unit requirement to transfer. 
  • A maximum of 4 semester (6 quarter) units of Physical Education may be applied toward the 60 semester (90 quarter) unit requirement to transfer. (Note: at matriculation, no more than 2 semester (3 quarter) units of Physical Education may be transferred in and counted toward graduation.)

On your application, there is one required question you must answer. You must also answer 3 out of 7 additional questions. Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words. Which three questions you choose to answer are up to you, but you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances. This is your opportunity to show us your unique take on the world. Just be yourself.

Personal insight questions

UC students and admissions staff share their best tips for writing application essays

Personal insight questions brochure

Tips and tricks for acing this important part of the UC Application

The UC Application is open . The application is available for submission November 1-30.


Portfolio Review

Applicants to majors in the Arts (Music, Theatre & Dance, Visual Arts) have the option to submit a portfolio or audition. Visit The School of Arts and Humanities and click on Portfolio for more information.

UC San Diego’s unique college system creates an opportunity to make the university experience more personal and approachable by providing support and a smaller community within the larger university. Students are free to pursue their chosen major no matter which college they are affiliated with. You will be asked to rank UC San Diego’s Colleges on the UC Application. Visit our Colleges page and review the general education requirements to learn more.

Seventh college logo

A selective major is one with limited enrollment, due to capacity. UC San Diego’s most selective majors include Business Economics as well as all majors in the schools listed below:

  • Business Economics in the School of Social Sciences

If you are applying to a selective major you will be required to complete the minimum lower-division major preparation courses prior to transferring. We strongly recommend that you also indicate an alternate non-selective major on your UC application. If you are not admitted to your first-choice selective major, you may be admitted to your alternate major if space is available.

Lower Division GEs

When you complete lower-division general education (GE) requirements before transferring, you enjoy more flexibility in selecting courses once you enroll at UC San Diego and reduce your time to graduation. Each of UC San Diego's six Colleges has its own GE requirements, so keep that in mind when choosing your community college courses.

Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC)

IGETC is a series of California community college courses that meet UC San Diego lower-division general education (GE) requirements at UC San Diego's Muir, Marshall, Roosevelt, Sixth, Warren and Seventh Colleges. Revelle College requires students with IGETC to complete these additional requirements before transfer, or while enrolled at UC San Diego: 3 courses in mathematics and 5 courses in natural science.

If you plan to follow the IGETC, consider:

partial IGETC is also possible.

following IGETC can make your path to graduation easier – once you transfer, you can concentrate on your major field of study.

To find out what courses are in the IGETC, contact the transfer center at your community college and check the ASSIST website for details on IGETC course agreements.

First-Year applicants completing California Community College coursework, please note: Neither IGETC certification nor partial-IGETC completion may apply toward the fulfillment of UC San Diego college general education requirements for incoming first-year students.


Limits on transfer units.

You will be granted up to 70 semester (105 quarter) units of credit for lower-division coursework completed at any institution (or combination of institutions).

For units beyond the maximum, subject credit for appropriate coursework will be granted and may be used to satisfy requirements:

  • Units earned through AP, IB, and/or A-Level examinations are not included in the limitation. These units will not put you at risk of being denied admission.
  • Units earned at any UC campus in Extension, summer, cross/concurrent and regular academic year enrollment are not included in the limitation but are added to the maximum transfer credit allowed. These units may put you at risk of being denied admission due to excessive units.

UC San Diego accepts transfer students at the junior level only.

If an applicant has only completed lower-division coursework, and all community college coursework is considered lower-division, there is no danger of being in senior-standing.

A transfer applicant may be considered in senior standing if he or she has completed:

  • 70 semester units (or more) of lower-division coursework; and
  • 20 semester units (or more) of upper-division coursework.

Learn more about Statement of Transfer Credit Practices .

If you have questions about the number of transferable units, please call the Office of Admissions 858-534-4831.

U.S. Military Service Courses

UC may award lower-division (freshman/sophomore level) units for military courses completed if the courses are consistent with University policy on awarding transfer credit when there is an equivalent course taught at a UC campus. UC will consult the ACE recommendations for information regarding course content and as a guide to the awarding of credit. Credit for military courses is determined after matriculation at UC. To learn more, view the Statement of Transfer Credit Practices .

Other UC Campus Students

All courses completed at a UC campus during a regular or summer session (excluding UC Extension) are transferable. UC Extension courses numbering 1–199 are also transferable. Completion of the 7-course pattern is not required for applicants from other UC campuses.

All Other Transfer Applicants

Though more than 90% of UC San Diego transfer students are from California community colleges, we also accept transfer students from other UC campuses and from four-year institutions.

UC San Diego accepts transfer courses from accredited post-secondary institutions similar in content to those offered in the UC system.

Transfer from Semester to Quarter System

To avoid duplicating coursework, we recommend completing all courses within a sequence before transfer (i.e. Chemistry 1A-1B).

Track Your Progress

Track your progress toward meeting UC's minimum requirements using the Transfer Admission Planner (UC TAP) .

Admissions Information

We're looking for your insatiable curiosity and drive to build a better world. Many of our transfer students come from community colleges across California. Others arrive from colleges and universities across the country and around the world, ready to join a student body that thrives on challenging assumptions and overturning the status quo.


UC San Diego Admissions on Youtube

Explore our admisions youtube channel

Transfer roadmap

University of California Roadmap for California Community College Students

Triton Admission Guide

Your guide to UC San Diego’s academics, research and resources

Transfer Requirements

Transfer Requirements

Minimum requirements for applying to UC San Diego

College System

Get details on each college’s unique general education requirements for transfers

View More Resources & Publications

College Application Essays and Admissions Consulting

2023 Ultimate Guide: 20 UC Essay Examples

by Winning Ivy Prep Team | Mar 8, 2023 | UC Admissions , UC Personal Insight Essay Examples

20 UC Essay Examples

Additional UC essay resources:

  • Official UC Personal Insight Question prompts are here.
  • Read our UC Essay / UC Personal Insight Essay Tips

Table of Contents

UC Personal Insight #1 Examples

transfer essays uc

UC Essay Example 2: Volunteer Club Director

Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump. My heart hastily beat in panic.

Realizing there were only five days left before the charity diner, my thoughts scrambled, overwhelmed by the surmounting of tasks. As the Area Director in charge of five [town]-based Interact clubs and raising funds for anti-trafficking, it was duty to make ends meet; asking for help would only be a sign of weakness. Thus, I willingly endured the consequences and sleep deprivation, eventually losing balance of my schedule…

Ding. A message reads from my phone: “You’re not alone, how can I help?”

Two opposing arguments then battled in my mind. If I delegate, quality work would not be guaranteed. Yet, if I didn’t delegate, deadlines would be missed. I swallowed my ego, knowing there was really one choice, and replied:

“Yes, can you find a venue to fit 75 attendees? Try community centers, and mention we’re a non-profit organization to negotiate the price down, and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!”

For months, I had rejected the support of my officers. I struggled to accept help because it meant relinquishing control, so I surrendered to self-isolation in belief that it was the easiest way out. But, it wasn’t; I worked alone, trusted only myself, and suffered alone.

UC Essay Example 3: Founder of Non-profit

Shipped away from the faraway land of [state name], I moved to India in 8th grade. My parents wanted me to be more globally exposed, but what would I gain from moving 8,000-miles away, anyways?

To engage me in the community, my mom took me to visit the outskirts of Hyderabad where we happened upon a rusty house, home to 35 orphaned children.

We began conversing with their only caretaker and learned the children had never seen life outside these 4 broken walls; additionally, each kid had built their own emotional wall, created from trauma from being abandoned by their parents. From behind the caretaker, I saw vivid brown eyes stare at me, eyes belonging to a little girl who was taking solace, hiding.

“Hi there…” I said, but that was all she wanted to hear before hurtling away.

I later learned her name was [name].

Over the next few days, [name] occupied my mind.  How could I help? Eventually, I came up with the idea for [organization name], an organization that would help those kids by raising funds from students at my high school. Breaking through their emotional walls became my goal.

For a year, I visited the kids daily. With every dance class and tutoring session, I sensed their walls slowly crumbling. [Name] however allowed her barrier to block her off completely; her progress became my mission.

One morning, she smiled meekly, ushering me into her room, where she showed me her beloved doll. At that moment, I realized it wasn’t just a doll, but a symbol of her willingness to reciprocate friendship.

[Name] was so deep in her emotional abyss that showing her I cared wasn’t enough. Working relentlessly to prove that I wasn’t going to give up was crucial, and her growth through [organization name] created an internal transformation, allowing her to let love in. As a leader, I learned that bestowing hope onto others can show them that making a difference stems from within.

UC Essay Example 4: Basketball Coach

Shoes stomping on concrete in an awkward rhythm and sweat dripping from my jaw, I labored across the finish line. I stood tall, sticking my chest out only to realize that I was the last finisher. Just as men drive Ferraris to flaunt their power, being the fastest runner in middle school meant respect from boys and giggles from girls. Belly jiggling, I ran away from taunts being hurled in my direction.

At the nadir of my physical strength and confidence, I joined my school’s basketball team in hopes of winning my middle school crush’s heart. Although I initially set out with love in mind, I quickly realized that the basketball court wasn’t a simple concrete ground; it was a harbor where I could train my body and prove my budding athleticism, boosting my self-confidence.

As a former player returning to serve as basketball coach 2 years later, I had a unique perspective compared to my colleagues, giving me a unique leadership advantage: unlike older coaches, I was close in age to my players, allowing me to better connect with them. I understood that young boys thrived on competition, so I focused on team scrimmages, which encouraged my players to play fiercely against each other. While other coaches relaxed on the sidelines, I stood in the center, shouting words of encouragement. Instead of telling my players to run one measly lap, I personally led them on half-mile runs, insisting that running was important because it teaches mental perseverance alongside physical fitness. As a leader, I practiced what I preached, doing pushups as punishment on the rare occasions I was tardy.

UC Personal Insight #2 Examples

transfer essays uc

Getty Images

Though it isn't a golden ticket, a strong transfer essay may boost an applicant's odds of admission.

There are as many reasons to transfer colleges as there are transfer students. But regardless of why someone wants to move to a new institution, the process for doing so usually requires an admissions essay.

Colleges With the Most Transfer Students

Josh Moody Jan. 28, 2020

transfer essays uc

In a 2018 National Association for College Admission Counseling survey , 41.5% of colleges polled said a transfer applicant's essay or writing sample is of either considerable or moderate importance in the admission decision.

A compelling, well-written transfer essay doesn't guarantee acceptance – many other factors are at play, such as an applicant's GPA. However, a strong essay can be a factor that helps move the odds in the applicant's favor, says Kathy Phillips, associate dean of undergraduate admissions at Duke University in North Carolina.

Know What Colleges Are Looking For In a Transfer Essay

Some schools have prospective transfer students use the Common App or the Coalition Application to apply. In addition to the main essay, students may be required to submit a second writing sample or respond to short-answer questions, though this isn't always the case. Prospective students can check a college's website for specific guidance regarding how to apply.

Whatever application method they use, prospective students should be aware that writing a transfer essay is not the same as writing a first-year college application essay, experts advise. First-year essays are more open-ended, says Niki Barron, associate dean of admission at Hamilton College in New York. When applying as first-years, prospective students can generally write about any experience, relationship or goal that has shaped who they are as people, she says.

This contrasts with transfer essays, where the focus is typically narrower. Barron says she thinks of transfer essays as more of a statement of purpose. "We're really looking to see students' reasons for wanting to transfer," she says.

Katie Fretwell, the recently retired dean of admission and financial aid at Amherst College in Massachusetts, says prospective transfer students are in a position to be a bit more reflective about their educational goals because of their additional year or years of experience post-high school. The essay helps admissions officers get a sense of whether an applicant has done "an appropriate level of soul-searching about the match," she says.

Transfer Essay Examples

Below are two transfer essays that helped students get into Duke and Amherst, respectively. Both institutions are very selective in transfer admissions. For fall 2018, Duke had a transfer acceptance rate of 8% and Amherst accepted 4% of its transfer applicants, according to U.S. News data.

Hover over the circles to read what made these essays stand out to admissions experts.

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