Personal Insight Questions 101

I feel very fortunate that my high school offers the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) hosted by faculty members from the University of California, Santa Barbara. This summer, incoming seniors at my high school have the opportunity to attend a College Readiness Academy hosted by UCSB EAOP.

Throughout the next two weeks, I will be sharing all my notes – in full detail – from this academic program in hopes of educating all of you and helping you learn more about the college admissions process!

Whether you’re a high school senior who doesn’t have the same resources as I do or an underclassman interested in learning more about college applications, here are my notes from today’s presentation on the UC Application’s Personal Insight Questions:


  • Personal insight questions are like the UC system’s way of interviewing you
  • Do NOT approach them like you would textbook questions!
  • Your academics, entrance exam scores, activities, and Personal Insight responses are all taken into consideration when UC admissions staff are reviewing your application

Comprehensive Review

  • Your application is reviewed holistically/comprehensively
    • No single factor determines admission
  • Academics and context are important when reviewing your application
    • Academics: grades, test scores, and course preparation
    • Context: involvement, resources, opportunities, and educational environment
  • Overall, there are 14 factors that the UC system weighs:
    1. GPA
    2. Test scores
    3. Performance in and number of courses beyond minimum a-g requirements
    4. UC-approved honors courses and advanced courses
    5. Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) – CA residents only
    6. Quality of senior-year program of study
    7. Academic opportunities in the California high schools
    8. Outstanding performance in one or more academic subject areas
    9. Achievements in special projects
    10. Improvement in academic performance
    11. Special talents, achievements, and awards
    12. Participation in educational preparation programs
    13. Academic accomplishment in light of life experiences
    14. Geographic location

How to Answer the Questions

  • Your answers should be new information only
  • Paint a clear picture of yourself that is not seen in other parts of your application
  • Give concrete examples of your life experiences to demonstrate your personality
  • Avoid merely summarizing; write everything in detail

Personal Insight Basics

  • Short response questions; your answers must be up to 350 words
  • You must answer 4 out of the 8 Personal Insight questions
  • All questions have equal value

Your responses should include the following:

  • Details
    • Who? What? When? Where? Why?
  • Reflection
    • Why is this significant to you?
    • How did this impact your life?

Potential Topics to Include

  • Leadership
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Diversity
  • Commitment
  • Goals

How to Select the Questions to Answer

  • Select 4 questions that relate to you the most
  • Do not merely select the easiest questions the answer

Things to Consider/Analysis on Potential Topics

  • Leadership
    • Show how you demonstrated leadership at school, home, or community
    • Must answer the question, “How are you a leader?”
    • Think of both traditional and non-traditional ways to be a leader
      • Ex. President of a club vs. older sibling at home
  • Overcoming Obstacles
    • Was there a hard time in your life? How did you overcome it?
    • Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have a “sob story” to increase your chances of admissions
      • How you overcame the obstacle is more important than the obstacle itself
    • Do not normalize your hardships; different people experience different difficulties in life
    • Ex. How you and your family overcame culture shock from immigrating to the United States from Mexico
  • Diversity of Perspective
    • Think about your culture, experiences, worldviews, religion, and/or philosophy
    • How did it impact your life?
    • Ex. Being raised in a very liberal town, growing up Catholic, etc.
  • Commitment
    • What are you passionate about?
    • How did you work on it?
    • Why is this passion significant to you?
    • Ex. Being passionate about engineering and how you participated in the MESA program
  • Goals
    • What are your goals? Why?
    • What did you do to reach these goals?
    • Ex. Goal is to be a newspaper reporter; to achieve this, I am currently the Editor-in-Chief of my school’s newspaper and an anchor on my school’s morning announcements

Additional Tips on Responses

  • Use “I” and “My” statements (1st person POV only)
  • Show, don’t tell!
  • Stick to 1-2 important topics per question
  • Always tie back your past experiences to your current self
  • Do not be campus-specific!
    • You are applying to several UCs at once, so avoid showing preference to one specific university!
  • Avoid using clichés, philosophical quotations, and extraneous “fluff” in your responses
    • The readers of your application want to hear your voice; not someone else’s!
  • Don’t use acronyms – spell it out!
  • Do not restate the prompt; admissions officers already know them by heart
  • Avoid repetition, slang, inappropriate humor, abbreviations, and hashtags
  • Do not include a title in your responses – save your word count!
  • Remember: your responses are NOT essays; the structure of your responses is not graded

Those are all the notes I took about the UC Application’s Personal Insight Questions at today’s session of the College Readiness Academy! If you ever have anything to contribute, please feel free to let me know so we can all educate one another and help each other out.

As always, I will write again soon! ♡

Love, Roselyn

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