The University of California just announced dramatic changes to the essay prompts for students applying for fall of 2017. Instead of two personal statements totaling no more than 1,000 words, students will now be required to answer four of eight shorter “personal insight” essay questions that are limited to a maximum of 350 words. Below is the official announcement that was published in the UC's Counselors and Advisors Bulletin:
“After almost 10 years, UC is changing the personal statement section of its undergraduate admissions application, replacing the current two personal statement prompts with short-answer questions that students can choose from. The new questions, now called personal insight questions, aim to give applicants a greater say in the kind of information they share with the University. Students can express who they are and what matters to them not only in how they respond to the questions, but also through the questions they choose to answer.
The new questions also provide students with better direction and focus on topics that are important to campuses. Each new question aligns to one or more of the14 comprehensive review criteria (nine criteria for transfer students) that campuses consider in their admissions decisions. “We hope this new format will not only provide us with additional insight into applicants, but also allow students to better choose the questions that speak to them most directly,” stated a UC admissions director.
Here are some important points about the personal insight questions:
The UCs appear to be following suit with many of the Common App colleges that require additional shorter supplemental essays. In the past, students applying to the UCs could often recycle some, if not all, of one of their UC prompts for their 650-word limit Common App essay. Starting next year, this most likely will no longer be possible with these shorter questions. Also, because of the brevity involved with the 350-word limit, students will need to be meticulous about word choice to truly convey who they are.