The University of California
CHANGED its prompts
for transfer students
this year (2106)!
Read Strategies for the New University of California
Transfer Essays for the updated information on the new prompts.
CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED POST
ON NEW UC TRANSFER ESSAYS!
(OUTDATED!!) Why You Chose Your Major: A Love Story
If you want to transfer into any of the University of California schools (UCLA, Berkeley, UCI, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, etc.), you need to write two college application essays. One is the same prompt that all students are required to write—which basically asks for a personal statement style essay. It’s known as Prompt 2, and I wrote “Personal Quality, Talent, Achievement…” as a guide on how to write this essay in a narrative style.
Now I want to offer some ideas on how to answer the second prompt required for transfer students:
Transfer Student Prompt 1: What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement.
Like all prompts, the first step is to break it down and understand what it’s asking, so you answer it. (Use this as a checklist after you have written it.) This has four main parts:
1. What you will major in at the U.C.
2. How and why you got interested in that field or subject.
3. Examples from your past that involved that field, and contributed to your growing interest or knowledge in it.
4. What you have learned up to this point about this field or subject, and any ways it has affected you (your goals, what you value, etc.)
In general, I believe this essay will be shorter than the other (personal statement.) You have 1,000 words total for these two essays. It’s up to you, but I would shoot for roughly 600-700 for the personal statement, and 300-400 for this one about your intended field of study.
Think about this essay as a type of love story: You will recount the story of how you first met or the initial attractions, and/or what sealed the deal between you (share some of the highlights of your developing relationship with examples), and why you are convinced you will stay together.
To grab your reader at the start, my best advice would be to start your essay with your most interesting example of either:
1. What first sparked your interest in this field or subject (A specific moment, experience or “time”).
2. An experience you had related to this field or subject where you learned something about yourself, others or the world that helped confirm or develop your interest in it. (Places to look: volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities…)
3. If you don’t have any remarkable direct experiences with this field or subject, find a core or defining quality that you have that has directed you toward it. Of course, try to include examples of real-life experiences where you developed this related core quality to illustrate your growing interest in this field or study. For example, if you want to study art. Maybe you don’t have a long list of specific art study programs yet, but you have had other experiences where you developed the arty qualities of being creative and expressive.
This is how you do not want to start your essay:
“My intended field of study at The University of California, Davis, is engineering. Over the years, I have developed a strong interest in this field and have participated in a variety of programs that have fueled my passion for engineering. Last summer, I worked at a company as an intern and learned many important skills related to computers and technology…”
Okay, this is an exaggeration, but you get the picture. Instead, pick one of those real-life experiences that either sparked your interest or helped you develop it, and start with that. This will engage the reader at the start, and also set you up to then explain the impact this experience had on you–what you learned about your field, how it challenged your thinking somehow, how you recognized that you were good at it (core qualities lined up nicely), how it made you feel about it in different ways, and that you enjoyed it.
Craft that moment into an anecdote, which is a way to relate a real-life moment using literary writing techniques. Anecdotes allow you to SHOW the reader your point as opposed to simply TELLING them about it. Put them in your shoes. Show yourself doing something related to your field or subject. Read these other previous posts to learn how to write an anecdote.
If you had an engineering-related internship or summer job, try to find a specific moment to share from that experience that illuminates your interest in this field. Start by sharing that moment, and how you felt about it, what you realized or learned, and go from there. Then you can work in other related experiences.
Basically, you are telling the story of how you fell in love with that field: How you first met, the moment you realized this was “the one,” other dating highlights, and how you have been changed and improved by this relationship, and your intentions for the future (Do we hear wedding bells? haha)
Sorry if that was an over-the-top metaphor, but maybe this will help you think about the order of your essay. Also, it is important to answer the fourth point about “what you have gained from your involvement” with this field. This is how I would wrap up the essay, and talk about how this field or subject matches who you are, what you care about, your passions, goals and dreams.
Check Out These Related Posts!
University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 2)
2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
If this prompt jumped out when you first read through the eight essay prompts for the University of California application, good chance you have a creative side.
And you should seriously consider writing about it.
Even if this prompt didn’t initially appeal to you, consider it anyway.
It’s not just intended for aspiring artists!
In fact, this could be perfect for future engineers, doctors, chemists, entreprenuers, writers, computer programmers, etc.—anyone who values original thinking and problem-solving.
Instead of your “creative side,” think about your “creative thinking side.”
As the prompt explains, creativity can be used in solving problems, as well in all types of thinking.
It’s all about ideas, and how you get them and use them.
I believe it’s a great essay to write for your UC application because you can show the admissions deciders how you think.
You can flash what is known as your “intellectual vitality,” a quality universities and colleges highly value among students.
Now, how do you write about your creativity as one of your four mini-essays, and make what you have to say interesting and memorable?
First, the UC has provided helpful sources for brainstorming each of their eight Personal Insight Questions (aka essay prompts.)
Here’s what they included with UC essay prompt 2:
Things to consider: What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem?
How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career?
Read through these questions carefully, because the UC is telling you exactly what they want to hear from you about your creative side.
To me, it sounds like they don’t just want you to tell them you are creative and use your imagination.
They want to see you and your creative side in action.
Start by brainstorming some specific examples of “times” you were creative.
The best way to root those out of your past is to think of moments or experiences when you have faced different problems. (Problems can be: challenges, obstacles, mistakes, set-backs, flaws, changes, losses, fears, etc.)
Try to identify one particularly interesting “time” you used your creativity to solve or handle a problem, or come up with three different examples of times you used your creativity in various areas.
Think about times in school, or with friends or family, or involving your culture, or during one of your jobs, or playing a sport or an instrument.
Remember, your examples do not need to be impressive to be effective. No one expects you to have won a Noble prize or discovered a new planet.
Often, real-life moments from everyday, ordinary, mundane problems work best.
Also, think a little more about why creativity has value to you and in the world.
This UC Essay Prompt 2 indicates the UC wants to know how you believe your creative side will help you in whatever you think you are going to study in college. Include this!
To make sure you cover what they want, the UC provided an additional Freshmen Worksheet with more questions to help you dig up examples of your creative side:
Can you think of a time your viewpoint was unique compared to others? What was the issue or problem from your perspective? Now think of the same situation from the perspective of another person who was there with you. How was your approach different from that other person’s?
Was there ever a problem where your imagination and intuition guided you to the solution? Do you have a passion for music, theater, visual art, dance, etc.? What have you gained from it that has affected other parts of your life?
Here’s a sample to help you structure your UC Prompt 2 essay:
Sample Outline I for UC Essay Prompt 2
(One main example)
- Start by describing a problem (or couple small ones) you faced
- Explain how you used your creativity to handle or solve it (steps you took)
- Expound on how you developed your ideas and their source or inspiration
- Reflect on why you believe your creative side has value beyond that one problem
- Talk about how you envision your innovative thinking will help you in your future academic and professional goals
If you use your creativity mainly artistically, and want to use an example of a time you created something as part of your artistic expression or passion, make sure to include how that reflected your creative thinking.
The last thing the UC intends with this essay, I believe, is for you to spend your 350 words only describing something that you created, no matter how out-there or “creative” it was.
UC essay prompt 2 is a terrific opportunity to express your passion for anything in the fine arts, from painting and ceramics, to playing an instrument or acting.
Just remember, this essay is mainly asking about how you handle problems and how you think.
So it’s a good one for almost any college bound student—whether you see art or technology or politics or business or almost anything in your future..