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Tips for University of California Personal Statements

For some, fall is a quiet time built for reflection and season changes.  For us, as college advisors, it is a frantic time packed with students and reading of essays. During this time of year, for the past twenty years, I have been encouraging, badgering and pleading with students to work on their University of California personal statements.  The UC personal statements are a culminating step in the path to college each of my students’ embark upon.

As California is wont to do, they  have a unique approach to this holy grail of the college application process.  The University of California system:

  • Uses the term “personal statement” instead of college essay.  The connotation is that it is not an academic writing (think English class “essay”), but a personal reflection of a student’s inner soul, hence the term “personal statement”.
  • Provides ample room to express thoughts. Students can share their thoughts and feelings using a total of 1550 words in three essays.  This is unique for a public school system. (If you know of a system that includes more- let me know!)
  • Let’s students mix and match personal statement lengths.  UC #1 and UC #2 can total 1000 words; with each one being at least 250 words long.  So Johnny can write about baseball for 750 words, and academics for 250.  He can include his personal background in “Additional Comments” for up to 550 words.  That’s a lot of writing!

Helping Students Navigate the UC Personal Statements

As a third part of a 5 part series on 2014 University of California Tips, I have put together some material for you to use with your students when working on the UC personal statements.

  • The High School Student’s Nemesis:  The Dreaded College Essay: introduce the concept of personal statements (aka college essays) with this short powerpoint.  Write me if you want the powerpoint itself.
  • 2014 University of California Part 2 Tips: Personal Statement:  Step by step guide through all of the required and the optional personal statements.  Tips for brainstorming and organizing essay writing.
  • Common Application & University of California Graphic Organizers: Give this graphic organizer to students to kick start brainstorming on topics to write about for their personal statements. UC questions are mapped to 3 Common App questions.
  • Top 5 Rules for Great College Essays:  Use this as a guide for your students in the writing process.

Missed our webinars on Personal Statements?

Catch the recordings of these two webinars on writing personal statements (aka college essays).  The webinars cover information pertinent to Common Application, Universal College Application or any other essays.

  • Five College Essay Questions Every Counselor Should Be Able to Help Their Students Answer:  Ethan Sawyer,  The College Essay Guy   |View recording  |  View FAQ
  • How to Avoid Writer’s Block: Guided Students Through Writing College Essays:   Dr. Elizabeth Stone, author of new book, The Better College Essay    |  View Recording   | View slides

 Personal Statement Resources

Explore some of these resources on writing college essays:

  • UC Berkeley Admissions Website: insights on what makes a successful personal statement.
  • UC Los Angeles Admissions Website:  Videos and tips to guide you.
  • Presenting Yourself on the UC Application:  A treasure trove of counselor resources you can download, including a powerpoint with detailed information on completing the UC application, with mention of the Personal Statements.
  • The College Essay Guy:  online tips and tools for writing college essays for students and teachers, included in GuidedPath as well.
  • GuidedPath:  University of California, Common Application, Universal College Application and all other required essays are included.  Imagine having all essays  in one place!
To learn more, join us for a demo.

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