7 Tips for Standout Answers: How to Shine Bright On Your UC Application
#1 Approach with Openness
- Calendar one hour to thoughtfully move through each of the eight prompts.
- Read the prompts carefully and jot down any immediate thoughts. Don’t worry about sounding cliche or brilliant. Instead, try to outrace your internal censor because it’s possible your most random thought could become a gold mine for creating an authentic essay.
- Place a star next to the questions where you feel a connection. Using emotion to select a topic is an important way to ensure you actually care about your answer. Too many students write for what they think the audience wants, but college is a place where you get to stand on your own two feet and original thought is valued. Emotion alone will not help you craft your answer, but it will at least help you determine if you have something to say. Likewise, the reverse is true. If you resist a question or feel you have nothing to say, move on. Fortunately, there are eight options so you can find something else you like.
#2 Counter Your Intuition
It’s tempting to use these answers to highlight your GPA, test scores, or other amazing accomplishments. However, don’t base your answer off an award or accomplishment. For example, instead of saying you’re the top biology student in your school, focus on your love of the strep bacteria and your experience interning at a lab. Then, casually mention how it was icing on the cake to be awarded the Top Biology Student Award in the state of Oregon last year. See the difference? In sum, awards and accomplishments are a tremendous asset to your overall application but first address the value of this subject in your life. Then you can claim your awards not as trophies but as evidence that the world has validated your biggest passions.
#3 Make a Match
#4 Recycle the Good Stuff.
#5 Show Yourself through Story.
Although you have only 300 words, don’t forget you’re writing for admissions counselors who are using these questions to get to know you. In fact, on the UC webpage they compare your responses to interview answers. A great way to illustrate who you are and what you care about is to tell a brief story about an experience and make two points about its overall meaning. Make sure to show vs tell the experience because this recreation of the story provides important detail for your later points and analysis.
#6 Complete the Circle.
- Begin with story
- Move to background information
- Illustrate 2 main ideas
- Circle back to story
Even though it’s tight in a 650 design, it’s possible to create 5-6 paragraphs using this method in the college application essay. However, for these shorter answers we can abbreviate this template by blending paragraphs together. For example, you might have a story paragraph, then background + main idea, then main idea + return to story. This format works almost like a circle, giving your reader the experience of a whole answer, even with a short word count.