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Tips for answering the Personal Insight Questions  

Your responses to four personal insight questions are an important component of your freshman or transfer application for admission and scholarships. Your test scores and grades show us what you have achieved academically; your responses to the prompts allow us to get to know you as an individual through your experiences and accomplishments.

Note: The information and advice on this page address what the UC Davis campus looks for from your responses. Other UC campuses may review responses differently. This information is a supplement, not a substitute, for the application instructions.

What We Are Looking For

The personal insight questions offer you an opportunity to provide a context for the rest of the information in your application and to discuss your personal commitment to learning; any special talent, creativity, leadership experience, accomplishment, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the university; and other information that is important for us to consider, including your tenacity and/or response to life challenges. We are looking for qualities that we know will help you succeed at UC Davis and also enrich our learning community.

Our application process involves comparing your application to those of other highly qualified and competitive students. Other applicants may have similar accomplishments to yours, such as serving in student governance, playing on sports teams, chairing committees or traveling abroad. Providing details and examples of your personal experience can help you stand out from the crowd. Your responses can also be very successful if they elaborate upon the insights you gained, or on the way your outlook, activities, commitment or goals have been shaped and influenced.

Writing a Successful Response

We encourage you to begin drafting your responses well before the deadline in order to take pressure off yourself and improve the quality of the final draft. Read the application instructions carefully. Make a list of ideas. Then 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. When you prepare your final draft, review it for grammar and spelling. We recommend saving your responses on a computer as a plain text document, then pasting them into the UC application.

Read the Instructions

Read the instructions for the application carefully. The most common mistake applicants make is to skim the written instructions or to rely on misinformation received from others.

Common Pitfalls

  • Not reading the instructions in the application.
  • Not writing about recent events.
  • Reiterating information listed elsewhere in the application.
  • Listing accomplishments without explanation or detail.
  • Using gimmicky writing techniques, such as poems.
  • Using clichés.
  • Writing more about an inspirational person than yourself (e.g. your mother, favorite uncle, etc).
  • Rambling, unfocused thoughts.
  • Being overly humorous, self-deprecating or glorifying.

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.

  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.
  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.
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  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?
  6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  7. 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 stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Transfer Personal Insight Questions
 


Transfer applicants must respond to four short-answer prompts—one mandatory prompt and their choice of three from 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.

Required Personal Insight Question: 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.

  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.
  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.
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  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?
  6. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  7. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

 

Instructions for Scholarship Applicants

Some scholarship committees review your responses to the personal insight questions. Effectively written responses will aid you in the scholarship and admission processes. Please note that some 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. Once again, read all instructions carefully.

Getting More Information

Learn more about personal insight questions from the University of California website. Download the worksheets:

Freshman applicants: 
English | Spanish

Transfer applicants: 
English | Spanish 

Writing tips (Spanish only) 

Teachers and counselors in your high school or college are good sources of information about drafting your personal insight responses. You may also want to consult various online resources, books or multimedia available in your counseling office, career center, transfer center or local library.

Ready to Apply?

You can view the UC online application for admission and scholarships and start preparing your application as early as August 1—submit your completed application beginning November 1, and no later than November 30. Visit our Apply page today for final tips and to get started!