In my last email, I introduced and gave a few writing tips for the leadership personal insight question for the University of California application. At the end of the email, I promised some examples of actual responses.
First, please note that for a good reason, I have chosen not to write these essays to the required UC word count. Why? There is the very real possibility that someone will copy the writing entirely and use it as an actual response. Or more likely, use this writing as a template. Neither case is desirable.
Recap of the essay prompt:
- Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
(Note: The following writing is completely my original writing based on composites of the hundreds of application essays I’ve read in the past decades.)
In tenth grade, I was president of the Latino Culture Club. There were about 20 members in the club, but most of them didn’t come very often. We met to discuss the unique aspects of our culture in the United States, and my job was to get more members and figure out ways to show our culture to others.
In the first week of the club, I was overwhelmed by what to do. It seemed like I had so much responsibility, but not much time. But I decided that the best way to get ahead and reach our goals was to use: teamwork.
As a team, we were not only stronger, but we had more ideas. Suddenly, people who kept to themselves spoke up. They seemed more excited about coming to meetings. And we also had many more suggestions about what to do. After this, one of the best suggestions came up, we should put on a talent show to show the different kinds of culture we had amongst ourselves. We decided to include singing, dancing, music, and traditional costumes that each performer could pick.
The talent show was a great success, and it could never have happened without harnessing the power of the team. It’s like a bundle of sticks—alone, each one is breakable. But together, they are unstoppable.
In ninth grade, I set a goal for myself: I wanted to increase the presence of the Latino Culture Club at my school—I wanted it to be one of the clubs people talked about and actually wanted to join because they enjoyed it, not because they felt like they were required to.
I initially joined the club because I wanted to share the beauty of Latino culture with others, and hopefully, even improve race relations at my school. We have a fairly balanced mix of races at my school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our opinions of each other are as fairly balanced. I believe that to some extent we all represent others who look like us and come from similar backgrounds, and if we can create favorable impressions of our cultures with others, we can help reduce the racial tension that plagues some areas of the US.
Running for president, I gave some short speeches and presentations, and my fellow club members seemed impressed. And then I launched my big plan: Pull off an event that the whole school would talk about.
We had dozens of suggestions, from a talent show to a “Cultural Awareness Day” to a flash mob-style performance in the cafeteria of a fusion of hiphop and Latino music. But in the end, we decided on a food festival with music; after all, if there’s anything that brings people together, it’s delicious food.
For several months, we planned and marketed. To create excitement for the event, we announced that we’d be giving out prizes for students who arrived early and for those who visited every table at the festival. I believe that any good leader is also in the trenches, so in addition to overseeing preparations, I was also planning for my table, which would showcase the Brazilian snack “kibe” (a Middle East-inspired mixture of beef and bulgar wheat that is fried and served with hot sauce). I decided to play “baile funk,” a style of dance music popular in clubs in Rio de Janeiro.
We encountered a number of obstacles and disagreements along the way, but nothing that logical discussion and decision-making couldn’t overcome. In the end, I couldn’t have been happier with the result—for the four hours of the event, I heard the laughter of the attendees amid the various types of music being played. While I cannot state with 100% certainty that our club succeeded in creating a positive image of Latino culture at our school, I can say without any hesitation that everybody who attended had a good time and left with tummy full of delicious food, all homemade and provided by us.
See the difference between the two examples? Although nearly the same events happen in both essays, the student in the second essay sounds much more impressive. Many students believe that they must encounter some completely unique hardship or invent the cure for some disease in order to "have something interesting to write about," but really, the events themselves are only half of the puzzle. As these essay examples have shown, the other half of an interesting essay lies in how well the essay is written. Good writing can make a conventionally boring event come alive, just as bad writing can make a dramatically gripping event seem dull.
The takeaway from all of this:
If you think you have a "boring" story, don't worry! You'll do fine as long as you are descriptive and really show your passion.
If you think you have a good story, that's great! But make sure you don't get complacent! A stellar writer with an everyday story easily outshines a mediocre writer with a "good" story.
Best of luck with your college admissions!
UC applications went through an overhaul this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from old essay examples written by recent UC students.
UC applicants now have to write 4 short essays of the 8 prompts provided, but recent UC college students had to write 2 longer essays. One of which is:
PROMPT #1: Describe the world you come from—for example, your family, community or school—and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Here are 5 essay excerpts from UC Berkeley students from the Class of 2019:
Lord of the Lords
The flames flicker, vivacious and bright, growing taller and taller. My eyes watch them dance. They are beautiful and full of life. Fire can grow in the same way people can, absorbing some things while merely illuminating others. I watch the flames mount a moment more, before hurtling toward them, yelling my chant, “Zardi-ye man az toh, sorkhi-ye toh az man!” Keep reading.
I live in Corona, California; a small city that advertises itself as a bright landmark once notable for it’s exhilarating racetracks. However, there is neither much excitement in my town, nor is thee much to do. On rare occasions, the thrills and action occur at times of congestion on the 91 freeway, yet that still isn’t exciting. Continue reading.
Reflecting back on my childhood, I have come to appreciate the little things that have led me to where I am today. My family was underprivileged growing up, but I did not feel it was a hindrance to my growth. I made the best of my childhood by capitalizing on the opportunities afforded to me. I am grateful for my economical childhood, as I believe it was a character-building experience. Read more.
I attend the Developing Virtue Boys School (DVBS) on the grounds of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a large Buddhist monastery in rural Northern California, where rubbing elbows with monks, devoted laypeople and peacocks is the norm.
Yes, my next door neighbors are monks. View full profile.
It was my first day of first grade, the teacher spoke a different language, and strangers simply stared at me with their judging eyes. The kids tried talking to me, but since I didn’t understand English they just started laughing at me. My eyes filled with tears, my teacher immediately called home and moments later my mother came to take me home. As we walked to our small home in Modesto I couldn’t even look her in the eyes, I knew she was disappointed; I had failed. See profile.
Interested in reading these students’ full UC essays that got them into UC Berkeley? Unlock all of them in one go with our UC Berkeley Package!
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.