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Prepare the perfect first impression

  • The Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) are a vital part of your UC Application for admission and scholarships. The Universities use your responses to learn more about you as an individual-your talents, experiences, achievements, background, intellectual vitality and point of view. Your PIQs, when read along with your academic record, help the Universities gain insight into your overall level of achievement.

  • Think of it as your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions officers and faculty who will be evaluating your application. What would you like them to know about you that may not be evident from a review of the rest of your application?

  • After they have read your PIQs, they will ask themselves, "What have we learned about this individual?" If they have learned very little about you, then your efforts have not been successful.

How to prepare: 

  • Read the essay prompts carefully and follow the instructions.

  • Note that the topics are different for freshmen and transfer students.

  • Your PIQs should reflect your own ideas, and should be written by you alone.

  • You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to any 4 of the 8 questions.

  • Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words

  • Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you. But you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.

  • All questions are given equal consideration in the application review process, which means there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.

  • Stick to one topic per response.

  • Support your ideas with specific examples.

  • Present your information and ideas in a focused, in-depth, thoughtful, and meaningful manner.

  • Use "I" statements.

  • Present a clear picture of who you are and why you deserve to be accepted at the university.

How to write: 

How to finalize: 

  • Give yourself plenty of time to thoughtfully prepare for your essay, as well as time to refine and improve after writing it.

  • Have a teacher, counselor, friend, or family member give you feedback after you have written the narrative to see if you have given adequate insight into your essay.

  • Have an English teacher proofread your essay.

  • Follow the rules for format, length, and content.

  • Write PIQs in a Word document, then "cut and paste" into the online application.

  • After pasting the four responses into the application, click on the "Count" button to check the word count.

What to avoid:

  • Submitting hastily prepared responses. It will be very obvious when people read them.

  • Usage of inappropriate humor, quotations, clichés, or poems.

  • Repeating topics or information you have already disclosed on the admission application.

  • Experimenting with varied forms and formats. Reader must be able to easily read your narrative.

  • Listing your accomplishments and honors; a list tells the university what you have done, not who you are.

  • If you apply to UC, DO NOT address your response to a specific campus. You need to "talk" to all of the UC campuses in your essay.

  • Avoid creative writing. You are ANSWERING QUESTIONS. Creative writing might be appropriate for the Common App or essays for other colleges, but not for the UCs. Don't "set the scene." Answer the question.