UC Office of Admissions releases new essay prompts for class of 2021

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Last month, the UC Office of Admissions announced that it would be modifying the undergraduate application for freshmen applying in the upcoming fall semester, replacing the two essay prompts with eight new questions.

The new questions are called “personal insight questions” because they attempt to reveal more about applicants’ lives. Potential students must choose four of the eight prompts to answer and are limited to 350 words for each response, as opposed to the 1,000 words divided between two essays required by the former process.

The goal of the change is to make it easier for students to tell the University of California about themselves,” said Kate Moser, a UC spokesperson. “We’re always refining our process, and we feel that these prompts will better reflect student voices and personalities.”

The UC Office of Admissions uses a comprehensive review process rather than only looking at grades and test scores, Moser said. Moser added that for this reason, the personal statement is very significant.

The transfer application will also change, according to Moser. Transfer applicants will now answer one required question and respond to three questions out of seven options.

UC Davis admissions public adviser Travis Candieas shared Moser’s perspective, adding that the new questions are more specific and better cover applicants’ lives.

Amy Jarich, the UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions, said in a statement that applicants will now have more space to express themselves, given the increase in total word count. Jarich added that the students will also have more freedom of choice, as they will be able to choose which four questions they wish to answer.

Admitted students, however, expressed more mixed feelings toward the change.

William Euerle, a Willow Glen High School senior who plans to attend UC Berkeley College of Engineering in the fall, said he was grateful that the new prompts would not be affecting him.

I understand that admissions officers like to see a lot more responses, but for me, it was easier to go more in-depth in two questions,” Euerle said. “I’m not sure if they’re going to be as deep or if they’re going to be more surface level on a variety of topics.

On the other hand, Jasmine Kennedy, a Berkeley High School senior who was also accepted to UC Berkeley but will be attending Yale University in the fall, believed that the change to the new prompts would be beneficial to applicants.

Kennedy said the increased number of questions would force students to convey multiple aspects of themselves to the admissions officers. She added that the new prompts would allow students the opportunity to be more original and creative.

The prompts are so old and they’ve been used for a very long time, a lot of people have a lot of preconceived notions about what to write about it,Kennedy said. “The fact that these are new will give students a new perspective and will really allow them to write from the heart.”

The new personal insight questions will be effective for high school students applying to UC schools for enrollment in the fall 2017 semester, which opens Aug. 1.

Contact Chantelle Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ChantelleHLee.