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UC's Application Deadline For Fall 2021 Is Looming. Here Are Some Tips For Your Essays

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November 30 is the deadline for prospective University of California students to submit applications for the Fall 2021 semester. That means tens of thousands of high school seniors are likely to spend their Thanksgiving vacation rushing to complete one of the most anxiety-producing sections of the application: the personal insight questions.

Prospective UC students have to answer four out of eight questions, in 350 words or less, about their leadership skills, creative talents and approaches to life's challenges.

College essays may be more important than ever this year, since standardized test scores aren't being considered and the pandemic has cancelled many extracurricular opportunities.

Many students will be writing those essays without much guidance. If that's you or someone you love, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Write in your own voice. "Don't use a bunch of language that isn't you because it comes across as incredibly ungenuine," says Dale Leaman, executive director of UC Irvine's Office of Undergraduate Admission.
  • Don't try overly hard to impress admissions officers. "The minute I see a John F. Kennedy quote and I see your dad's a lawyer, I'm like, uh, yeah, someone else got involved with this. That's just not how a typical 17- or 18-year-old talks," says Arun Ponnusamy, chief academic advisor at the for-profit counseling service Collegewise.
  • Write about what you're passionate about. "This should not be a brute force effort. If it doesn't feel elegant and enjoyable writing your personal statement, I think you picked the wrong topic," Ponnusamy says.
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