Essays & Personal Statements
The University of California system and most private colleges require some sort of personal writing, often called an essay or a personal statement. While grades and test scores give academic information, this is the student's best opportunity to really speak to the admissions officer who will be reading their application. Different colleges have different requirements. Below are some samples.
The University of California requires students to write 4 personal insight questions. Students can choose from 8 writing prompts and choose the questions that they feel are most important. These questions can be found on the University of California website. When choosing questions for your UC application, remember that every campus will see the same responses, so there is no way to tailor an answer to a specific campus. The UC application is the same for all UC schools.
The Common Application also has a list of questions, and a student can choose one question from a selection of five. The questions are located on the Common Application Website. A student must answer one (and only one) question and send the essay to all the schools that take use the common application (over 600 private colleges).
Supplemental questions are writing prompts that are required by specific colleges and are included in the common application for that school. Each school has different requirements. Some colleges allow a student to choose a topic and write an essay of any length, while others will request specific answers to specific questions and give word limits.
Out of state colleges have their own application procedures and may require additional or different essays. Don't be afraid to apply out of state, the cost of some colleges can be significantly lower and are worth a bit of extra effort.
(Note that the California State University system (CSU) does not require essays or personal statements.)
Writing essays for college, is not the same as writing for an English class. These essays require a different though process and voice. Do not use an essay written for an English assignment. For help with essay writing check out my College Admission Boot Camp course, where we spent a significant portion of time working on college essays.
Here are some sample essays:
Essays that worked (JHU)
The Costco essay
Great opening lines from Stanford essays
Use Google to search out more "essays that worked".