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UC Essay Example: Personal Insight Question #7

by Winning Ivy Prep Team | Feb 3, 2023 | UC Personal Insight Essay Examples

UC Essay Examples

This UC Prompt is one that students seem to gravitate towards. So, we have tons of UC Personal Insight Essay examples for this one. 

So, what have you done to make your school or community a better place?

A lot, I’m sure. But how do you put all this passion and hard-work into 350 words? That’s what makes answering the UC Personal Insight Questions so tricky. But don’t fret! In this post, we’ve got a successful, creative UC essay prompt 7 example for you. 

And if you’re looking for more UC Personal Insight Questions examples, checkout this blogpost: 2020 Ultimate Guide: 20 UC essay examples .

UC Personal Insight Example: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Within six months, four students from my school district committed suicide, shocking the community.  These were our classmates and neighbors—why did they do it?  As a good friend to one of the students, I knew he suffered from insomnia—and I wondered about the correlation between unhealthy sleep habits and depression.   

My sorrow and yearning for clarity directed me towards sleep research—I walked into Dr. _____ leading sleep research lab at the VA Hospital, seeking to join their mission to better understand sleep.  I was blessed when she took me on as an intern during my sophomore year.  Dr. _____’s lab focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i).  CBT-i tackles insomnia on two fronts: cognitive therapy helps patients overcome mental sleeping blocks, and behavioral therapy ensures that the patients’ behaviors enhance sleep.  We investigate individual effects of the cognitive and behavioral parts.

This was my chance to learn about the science behind insomnia—especially about its effects on our overall wellness—to better understand my friend’s tragic situation.  My first duty was patient recruitment through marketing our clinical study to the community, but soon transitioned to data analysis and treatment.  Statistical programs such as R and SAS became my best friends, and tests for cognitive ability and neuropsychological status like MOCA and RBANS were my favorite patient evaluations.  I’ve always enjoyed science, but my time with Dr. _____ helped me gain a deeper appreciation for research.

Research and medicine are integral parts of my future—there is still ways to go in finding an effective long-term solution to teenage sleep issues and well-being.   I have ideas such as marketing CBT-i sleep therapy to increase its accessibility and prevent more tragedies like the ones at my school, and the guidance of UC professors as well as the tight-knit student body gives me the best chances of pursuing my goals and contribute back to the community.  An education in the University of California system would provide me with plentiful resources to continue making strides towards solving this problem.

Source: One of my students that was admitted to Berkeley & UCLA.

UC Personal Insight Prompt #7 Pro Tips

Hold on! Before you go off and write your UC Essays, take a moment and analyze the strengths of this UC Personal Insight example. We’re giving you highly successful UC essay examples here — in fact, this student got into all the UCs he applied to, including UCLA and Berkeley. So, here are some best practices and tips. 

UC Essay Example: Personal Insight Questions

UC Prompt 7 Tip #1: Consider a unique angle

Most essays I read that attempt to answer this UC Personal Insight Question prompt 7 usually delve deeply into volunteering and community service. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s always nice to read a fresh take on a prompt that gets almost monotonous. This UC essay example does a fantastic job of creating a unique take on this prompt!

UC Essay Example Tip #2: Discuss goals for the future

Many UC essays I read do a good job of telling the story of the past/present. For instance, this UC essay example does just that — it talks in great detail about the student’s research and the motivation behind his research project. This UC Personal Insight example however, goes one step further than most others: The student ends the essay by giving a concrete idea of how he wants to take his current research and delve deeper into it at a UC. 

This idea is important because UC admissions officers love to see that students aren’t doing activities for the sake of doing it — admissions officers love it when students are passionate about the extracurricular activity, and have ideas to continue pursuing it throughout college to contribute to the academic environment!

UC Essay Example Tip #3. Show your curiosity

A common pitfall that students have when writing UC essays (and college essays in general) is throwing around words like “passion” with nothing to back it up. 

Remember: you’ve got to show , not tell. 

This particular UC essay example does a great job doing that. This student makes it abundantly clear: He has a genuine, deep love for learning. He has a personal WHY he is invested in tackling the issue of sleep, which compels him to follow his curiosities into a research setting. 

This motivation to seek opportunities to deepen your interests in an academic setting is absolutely critical to be a successful UC applicant (at least, for UCLA and UC Berkeley). 

Alright, now that we’ve gone through this successful UC essay prompt 7 example, you’re probably wondering: how are you going to write a stellar UC essay yourself? Well, we’ve got you covered! Take a look at this UC Personal Insight essay guide . 

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How to Make Your School a Better Place

Last Updated: April 13, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Alicia Oglesby . Alicia Oglesby is a Professional School Counselor and the Director of School and College Counseling at Bishop McNamara High School outside of Washington DC. With over ten years of experience in counseling, Alicia specializes in academic advising, social-emotional skills, and career counseling. Alicia holds a BS in Psychology from Howard University and a Master’s in Clinical Counseling and Applied Psychology from Chestnut Hill College. She also studied Race and Mental Health at Virginia Tech. Alicia holds Professional School Counseling Certifications in both Washington DC and Pennsylvania. She has created a college counseling program in its entirety and developed five programs focused on application workshops, parent information workshops, essay writing collaborative, peer-reviewed application activities, and financial aid literacy events. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 240,531 times.

Making your school a better place will make everyone around you happier and will get you more pumped to go every day. In addition, a better atmosphere will also make you more productive. As a student, you can help other students and maintain a positive attitude and take the lead when it comes to promoting improvements in the school. As a faculty member or teacher, there are other strategies that you can use to create a better working environment. Whether you're a student, faculty member, or teacher, you should always be thinking of ways to make your school a better place.

Helping Other Students

Step 1 Stand up to bullies.

  • When you see someone getting bullied you can say something like “Hey, that's not funny at all. Stop bullying her.”
  • Or you could say, “Cut it out. They didn't do anything to you, stop being mean to them.”
  • You can also ask the bully something like, "How would you like it if someone did that to you? Do you think it's fun to be humiliated?"

Step 2 Try to resolve conflicts between other kids.

  • For example, if someone was spreading rumors about someone else, you could say something like, "The only reason Jessica is yelling is because of the rumor you spread, Jack. I think instead of fighting you both should talk about it. Why did you start the rumor, Jack?"

Step 3 Spread a positive attitude.

  • For example, if someone is complaining about how hard physics is, you can say something like “Sure, it's hard, but just imagine how much this is going to prepare us for college. It's better to learn it now than to struggle with it later.”

Step 4 Tutor other students if you can.

  • When students struggle in school, there's a chance that they can lash out and disrupt learning for everyone. [4] X Trustworthy Source American Psychological Association Leading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologists Go to source

Step 5 Make friends with students that are lonely.

  • If you notice that a student that's sitting alone at lunch, walk up to them and say something like, "Hey, you're in my math class. Mind if I sit with you for lunch?"
  • If you notice a student who doesn't have many friends, walk up to them and ask them "What are you doing this Saturday? I'm going to play basketball. Want to come along?"

Step 6 Communicate serious issues with teachers and administration.

  • For example, if your friend is struggling with getting bullied and the bullies won't stop, report it to the principal before something more serious occurs.

Participating at School

Step 1 Run for student...

  • Once you become a member of student government, you can raise money for better school facilities or start new clubs that promote positivity.

Step 2 Become a leader at school.

  • You can become a team captain, a club leader, or just be a person that other students look up to.
  • To be a good leader, you need to be responsible, reliable, and willing to collaborate. The best leaders are also fun, know how to have a good time, and don't take themselves too seriously.

Step 3 Support a sport at school.

  • You can go up to students and say something like "Hey, you going to the game this Friday? We are facing our rivals, you should definitely go."

Step 4 Participate in the arts.

  • If there is ever a performance or art show, you should let other students know by saying something like, "You gotta make it out to the art show this Thursday. Everyone from Ms. Kenney's class is going to be displaying their best works."

Step 5 Pick up trash...

Making the School Better as Faculty or Staff

Step 1 Encourage a collaborative atmosphere.

  • You can say something like "Hey a couple of teachers and I are planning on going to Joe's Crab Shack this Friday. Are you interested in coming with us?"

Joseph Meyer

Joseph Meyer

Build strong connections with your fellow teachers. A supportive network of colleagues is essential. They can provide valuable insights, offer encouragement during tough times, and create a sense of community – all crucial for a fulfilling teaching career.

Step 3 Speak positively about what's going on at your school.

  • For instance, if there is construction happening in the school you can say something like, "Well at least we'll have a bigger and better school once it's done!"

Step 4 Give the students the ability to make meaningful change.

  • You can inspire students by saying something like, "I want the students to have control over where the Poet Society goes. I want to give you the power to dictate what the club will do in the future, and I have full confidence in you."

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About This Article

Alicia Oglesby

You can make your school a better place by getting more involved and helping out your fellow students. Try running for student government if your school has one so you can make changes to improve your school, such as raising money to improve facilities or starting up a new club. You could also get involved with a sports program by playing on the team or promoting them at school. For example, you could raise the school spirit by putting on face paint and cheering loudly at the games. To help out your classmates, try to resolve conflicts that you see arise between them and stand up to any kids you see bullying other kids. You’ll create a more positive environment, which will make your school a better place for you, your teachers, and your peers. For tips about how to make friends with students that are lonely, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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18 UC Berkeley Essay Examples that Worked (2023)

UC Berkeley Essay Examples

If you want to get into the University of California, Berkeley in 2022, you need to write strong Personal Insight Question essays.

In this article I've gathered 18 of the best University of California essays that worked in recent years for you to learn from and get inspired.

What is UC Berkeley's Acceptance Rate?

UC Berkeley is one of the top public universities and therefore highly competitive to get admitted into.

This past year 112,854 students applied to Berkeley and only 16,412 got accepted. Which gives UC Berkeley an overall admit rate of 14.5%.

And as of 2022, the University of California no longer uses your SAT and ACT when deciding which students to admit.

UC Berkeley Acceptance Scattergram

This means that your Personal Insight Questions are even more important to stand out in the admissions process. That is, your essays are more heavily weighed.

If you're trying to get accepted to UC Berkeley, here are 18 of the best examples of Personal Insight Questions that got into Berkeley.

What are the UC Personal Insight Question Prompts for 2022-23?

The Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) are a set of eight questions asked by the UC application, of which students must answer four of those questions in 350 words or less.

Here are the Personal Insight Question prompts for this year:

  • Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
  • 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.
  • What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  • Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  • Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  • Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  • What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  • Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

18 UC Berkeley Personal Insight Question Examples

Here are the 18 best Berkeley essays that worked for each Personal Insight Question prompt #1-8.

If you're also applying to UCLA, check out more unique UCLA essays from admitted students.

UC Berkeley Example Essay #1

Uc berkeley example essay #2, uc berkeley example essay #3: clammy hands, uc berkeley example essay #4: memory, uc berkeley example essay #5: chemistry class, uc berkeley example essay #6, uc berkeley example essay #7: debate, uc berkeley example essay #8, uc berkeley example essay #9, uc berkeley example essay #10, uc berkeley example essay #11, uc berkeley example essay #12, uc berkeley example essay #13, uc berkeley example essay #14, uc berkeley example essay #15, uc berkeley example essay #16, uc berkeley example essay #17, uc berkeley example essay #18.

UC PIQ #1: Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words max)

From an early age I became a translator for my mother anytime we went out in public. This experience forced me to have conversations with adults from a young age. It made me become a great communicator, while helping my parents overcome their language barrier.

Being a communicator has allowed me to lead. When I joined my school’s National Honor Society I was given the opportunity to lead. Applying the skills I used from being my mother’s translator I was able to do what no one else could, make the calls and start the club’s most successful event to date an annual Food Drive at a local Albertson’s, which collects over one ton of food every November. Also developing events like an egg hunt at the local elementary school, a goods drive for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and stabilizing a volunteer partnership with a local park. I have been able to grow as a leader, who actively communicates and brings parties together, planning events and having them run smoothly with minor issues. For instance, last year there was an issue with the homeless shelter not picking up the food for the food drive. In a spur of the moment solution I managed for club member’s parents to collectively deliver the food. My ability to communicate benefited me allowing me to find a solution to an unanticipated problem.

Throughout the four years I have been in journalism I have led; mentoring younger writers and improving the way the paper operates. Staying after hours, skyping with writers about their articles all helped establish my role as a leader, who is always supporting his team. I have done this while writing over 100 articles, editing tons of pages, and managing deadlines. I learned that while being a leader requires effort, it is the passion like I have for journalism that motivates me to lead in my community.

Being a leader so far in my life has taught me that I need to communicate, be passionate, and pass on my knowledge helping cultivate future leaders, who can expand and supersede my work.

UC PIQ #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. (350 words max)

Video games have cultivated my creative thought process. When I was a toddler I invented a game I would play with my brothers. It was nothing along the lines of Hide-and-Seek or Tag, but rather, it was meant to mimic a role-playing video game. It was called "Guy" and came with its own story, leveling system, and narrative story. While seemingly impossible to translate the mechanics of a video game into real life, the "Guy" trilogy provided hundreds of hours of fun to pass hot summer days and escape the harsh reality of our parents arguing and eventual divorce.

This thought process translated into my educational career. have always thought of a tough class or test as a video game. This mostly due to my excessive amounts of video games I played as a child through middle school (especially 7th grade). Each year comes bigger and "stronger" challenges, bigger and stronger bosses to defeat. My senior year will have me face the most powerful boss yet; full AP course load on top of heavy club involvement and community college classes.

Many thought of this "secret boss" as an impossible challenge; something that could never be beaten. No one from my school has ever attempted to take on such a challenge, let alone defeat it. That is probably what excites me about it. In a game, messing around with lower level enemies is fun for a while, but gets boring when it is too easy. The thought of a challenge so great and difficult makes the victory even more rewarding. Stormy skies, heavy rain, and epic boss battle music; I'll take that over a peaceful village any day. In the future, I seek to use this thinking to drive research. I think of abstract physics concepts like secret door and levels that need to be proven true or just a myth in the game. One day, I can make my own discovery of a secret "cheat code' that can help everyone who plays a little game called life.

UC PIQ #3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? (350 words max)

I’ve always hated the feeling of clammy hands, the needless overflow of adrenaline rushing through my veins, and the piercing eyes that can see through my façade—the eyes that judge me. I felt like this debilitating anxiety that I suffered through was something I could not avoid when doing the thing I was most afraid of—public speaking. I still felt every sweat droplet run down my skin before each speech, and this anguish never completely dissipated. Fortunately, I learned to moderate my fear in high school when I decided to join the speech and debate program. My anxiety has slowly faded in intensity as I’ve gained certitude and poise with every tournament, and every chance I’m given to speak on behalf of others; this talent has allowed me to be a voice for the voiceless.

Out of all the national tournaments that I’ve competed in, the MLK invitational holds a distinct place in my heart. It was my first invitational tournament in which I competed exclusively in Lincoln Douglas debate. I only had two weeks to prepare myself since it was finals week, while my competitors had upwards of two months to prepare. I was fortunate to break into the final round, as my years of experience helped me to articulate and explain my few arguments more effectively, while also refuting my opponent’s.

I realized that the extent of one’s knowledge is useless if it cannot be made known in a way that is clear to others. I learned that preparation is necessary, but one can be so focused on what they are going to say that they don’t hear the arguments presented. I kept an open and ready mind for various claims and strategies which left me free to adapt to the opponent’s argumentative style each round. This ability to think on my feet has served me well in countless debates, speeches, and presentations. I continuously use these skills to become a better and more active listener in my daily interactions as well.

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My greatest skill is my ability to remember things really well, whether they be minute details or important information that should not be forgotten. Over time, I’ve had a knack for remembering details most people would not even bother to remember, such as old test scores, atomic masses, and other details involving numbers. My friends have always marveled at my ability to remember all these numbers. When I was in chemistry class, we used the periodic table so much that I soon began to remember the atomic mass of the more common elements, and even the molecular mass of common compounds like glucose or water. One of my best friends, who is undoubtedly the smartest person in our class, even finds it crazy that I can remember all these numbers and always tells me that my memory of numbers is amazing. I also used my memory to learn and remember how to solve the Rubik's cube, which amazes my friends, as they find it to be complex with many different, possible combinations.

This skill that I have developed, however, isn’t completely under my control, as sometimes I just remember random and irrelevant facts without really trying to do so. I recall one weekend when my eight-year-old cousin was attempting to memorize the digits of pi: I remembered them along with him, learning up to forty digits in just one day. The skill is seemingly natural and not something I have worked hard to develop, as I may be able to use my memory to my advantage, or it can be a disadvantage. It helps when I have multiple tests in one day, or a test with many questions where I have to remember a lot of information, such as finals. Sometimes, however, it is a disadvantage when I remember information during a test that is not relevant to the topic, such as random dates, names, or song lyrics, to name a few. This skill is very important to nonetheless, as it has assisted me all throughout my life in many tests and challenges involving memory.

UC PIQ #4: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. (350 words max)

At 10:30 pm on a hot, summer, Wednesday night, you would expect my friends and me to be having the time of our lives and going out on crazy high school adventures— but instead, we were actually stuck in a chemistry laboratory trying to map out the Lewis structure of sulfuric acid.

Over the summer of my sophomore year, my friends and I enrolled into ‘Introduction to Chemistry’, an evening course at our local community college. As a six-week summer course, I spent two hours in lecture, two hours in the laboratory, and another two hours studying on my own for four days a week for six weeks. It was evident that I struggled with adjusting to the pace of college when I received 19% on a quiz. I felt left behind, exhausted, and overall pathetic. No matter how many hours I spent studying, I couldn’t keep up. But instead of giving up, I picked up certain strategies like reading the material the night before, rewriting my notes, and joining a study group; eventually working my way up to a B.

At the end of that summer, I learned so much more than just chemistry. On top of having the raw experience of what college is like, my chemistry experience taught me that it is okay to fail. I discovered that failure is an essential part of learning. Coming to this realization inspired me to take more college courses and rigorous courses in high school. I transformed into a hungry learner, eager to fail, learn, and improve. By seizing the opportunity to take this course, I pushed myself beyond my limits. This experience and realization changed how I wanted to pursue the rest of high school, college, and life in general.

I walked into my first day of the chemistry class expecting to walk out with an A; but thankfully, I didn’t. Instead, I walked out of that class with a taste of the college experience and a principle that I now live by-- that it is okay to fail, as long as you get back up.

The relationship I cultivated with my school's college center, by simply being inquisitive, has been most significant. Over my years in high school the college center became my 2nd home, where I learned about extra opportunities and triumphed with help from counselors.

For instance, with help from my school’s college center I applied and was accepted as an LAUSD Superintendent Summer Scholar this past summer. The program selected 15 juniors out of over 450 applicants to work in one of 15 departments, and I was chosen to work for the communications department, which received over 70 applications – making me 1 of 70. Interning for LAUSD at their 29 floor high rise was very eye-opening and exposed me to working in communications alongside seasoned professionals. The opportunity gave me the chance to meet the Superintendent and school board members, who are politically in charge of my education. As part of the communications department I learned how the district operates a network of over 1,300 schools and saw how the 2nd largest school district shares info with stakeholders through universal press releases, phone calls, and the district homepage.

I wrote several articles for the district publication and worked with public information officers who taught me the principles of professionalism and how to communicate to over 1 million people. Recently, I was called from the district to become a part of their Media Advisory Council working alongside district heads, representing the students of LAUSD.

Working for LAUSD furthered my passion to pursue careers in both communication and education. I have always had a desire to be a journalist and the internship assured me of that. I want to write stories bringing student issues from areas like mine to light. Being exposed to the movers and shakers that control education in Los Angeles has heavily motivated me to become an educator and at some point become a school board member influencing the education students like me receive.

Support from the college center has spawned opportunities like a life-changing internship and set me on course for a future full of opportunity.

“Give me liberty, or give me death!”, I proudly exclaimed, finishing up a speech during my first Individual Event competition for Speech and Debate, also known as Forensics Workshop. Public speaking was always one of my shortcomings. During countless in-class presentations, I suffered from stage-fright and anxiety, and my voice always turned nervous and silent. I saw Speech and Debate as a solution to this barrier that hindered my ability to teach and learn. With excessive practice, I passed the tryout and found myself in the zero-period class. All of my teammates, however, joined because they loved chattering and arguing. I had the opposite reason: I despised public speaking.

I was definitely one of the least competitive members of the team, probably because I didn’t take the tournaments very seriously and mainly worried about being a better speaker for the future. Throughout the daily class, I engaged in impromptu competitions, speech interpretations, spontaneous arguments, etc... Throughout my two years on the team, my communication, reciting, writing, and arguing skills overall improved through participation in events such as Impromptu, Original Oratory, Oratorical Interpretation, Lincoln Douglas Debate, and Congress. I even achieved a Certificate of Excellence in my first competition for Oratorical Interpretation -- where we had to recite a historical or current speech -- for Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death.”

I decided to quit Speech and Debate because I felt as if it has completed its purpose. After this educational experience, my communications skilled soared, so I could perform better in school, especially on essays and presentations. Leaving this activity after two years gave me more time to focus on other activities, and apply communications skills to them. In fact, I even did better in interviews (which is how I got into the Torrance Youth Development Program) and even obtained leadership positions in clubs such as Math Club and Science Olympiad Through my two years in Speech and Debate, I believe I became a much better thinker, speaker, and leader. Taking advantage of this opportunity boosted my self-esteem and overall made high school a better experience.

UC PIQ #5: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement? (350 words max)

Although many would say that hardships are the greatest hindrance on a person, my hardships are my greatest assets. The hardships I have overcome are what push and drive me forward. If I had not gone through the failures of my 7th grade year I may have been satisfied as a B or C student. It is easy for us to use our hardships as excuses for not doing work, however, this is a mistake that many people make.

Through my struggles and failure, I have realized an important truth: I am not special. The world will continue to go on and expect me to contribute no matter what I have gone through. Everyone endures some type of obstacle in their life; what makes people different is how they handle them. Some sit around and cry "boo-hoo" waiting for people to feel sorry for them. Others actually take action to improve their situation.

Through hard work, I have been able to outperform my peers, yet I know there is still room for improvement. The thought of actual geniuses in top universities excited me; I long to learn from them and eventually surpass them, or perhaps enter a never ending race for knowledge with them. I used to live an hour away from school. I would have to wake up and be dropped off at a donut shop at 4 in the morning and then walk to school at 6:30 am. After school, I would have to walk to the public library and stay for as long as it was open then wait outside and get picked up around 9:30 pm. I am reluctant to retell this story; not because I am ashamed, but because it is not important. It doesn't matter what hardships I have endured, they do not determine who I am. What matters is what I have done.

At the start of high school, I saw nothing but success. From grades to extracurricular activities, everything seemed to be going smoothly. However, as my sophomore year progressed, this wave of success was soon swamped by a wave of disillusionment. I struggled to perform in Calculus and as a Vice-President, but instead of looking for a solution, I looked for excuses. Ultimately, when I was forced to face my two F’s and my lost elections, the world came crashing down. The vision I had meticulously planned out for the future seemed to shatter before my eyes. My self-confidence plummeted to an all-time low. I thought my life was over.

However, my response to this failure was what would ultimately determine the direction my life would take. In the end, I made the right choice: instead of continuing to blind myself with a false narrative that cast all the blame off my own shoulders, I admitted to my own shortcomings and used this experience as a lesson to grow from.

In doing so, I learned to focus on the aspects of my life that I was truly passionate about instead of spreading myself too thin. I learned to face challenges head-on instead cowering at the first sign of difficulty, even if it meant asking others for help. I learned to accept and utilize my own differences to create my own unique leadership style. Most importantly, rather than letting this mistake define me, I ignited a sense of determination that would guide me back on the right path no matter how many obstacles I encounter.

Looking back, this tragic mistake was a double-edged sword. While it definitely leaves a stain on my record, it is also likely that I wouldn’t have been able to find the same success a year later without the lessons I gained from this experience. At the end of the day, while I still grimace every time I contemplate my sophomore year, I understand now that this mistake is what has allowed me to develop into the person I am today.

Throughout my childhood, I grew up in a nine-person household where the channels of our TV never left the Filipino drama station and the air always smelled of Filipino food. But the moment I left home, I would go to a typical suburban elementary school as an average American kid at the playground. I grew up in a unique position which I both love and hate: being a second-generation Filipino American.

I love being a second-generation immigrant. I have the best of both worlds. But I also hate it. It chains me to this ongoing struggle of living under the high expectations of immigrant parents. How could I hate the part of me that I loved the most?

Growing up, I lived under the constant academic stress that my parents placed on me. Their expectations were through the roof, demanding that I only bring home A’s on my report card. My entire academic career was based on my parent’s expectations. Their eyes beat down on every test score I received. I loved them so much, but I could only handle so much. The stress ate me alive, but I silently continued to work hard.

Living under this stress is the biggest ongoing challenge of my life thus far. Until last year, I never understood why my parents expected so much from me. Finally being old enough to understand my parent’s point of view, I realize that they set these high expectations in the hopes that one day, all of the pain and struggles it took to get to America will pay off. Since then, I’ve overcome the high expectations of my parents by converting their pressure into a fireball of ambition and motivation, deeply ingrained in my mentality.

This intense desire to succeed in America as a second-generation immigrant is something that has and always will fuel my academic drive. As the first person in my family to go to college in America, I’ve made it my life aspiration to succeed in academics in the honor of my family-- a decision made by me.

UC PIQ #6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. (350 words max)

Understanding the past helps us make better choices in today’s society. History provides us with the views of people and politics, the ethnic origin of people, and much more. At the base of all history, there is an intensive culmination of research which hopes to address or bring light to a story.

My passion for history began while digging deep into own family’s story, researching the history of Latin America, and the origins of the city I was raised in.

For example, when I first saw my favorite show Avatar The Last Airbender, I spent hours researching the mythology of the show which in the process made me learn about the philosophy of China: daoism, Confucius, and the mandate of heaven. Anything can be put within a historical framework to understand the context; every decision, tv show, and law has a history and that is exactly what I love. History forces us to take into account the voices of the past before we can attempt to plan for the future.

History has helped me become a more effective writer for the school paper. It has made me think like a attorney, revisiting old cases, and writing up a winning argument in a mock trial. Thinking like a historian has helped me make sense of the current political climate and motivated me to help start Students For Liberty, at my school’s campus where political ideologies are shared respectfully.

Learning, about history drives my inquisitive nature — I demonstrated this desire by volunteering at a local museum to learn more about the origins of my community in Carson. Ultimately, learning about the Dominguez family who established the Harbor Area of LA.

In terms of academics and performance, I have passed both of my history AP exams in World and U.S. history — being the 2nd person in my school’s history to do so. Studying history in highschool has nurtured my love for social science, which I hope to continue in college and throughout my life.

Ever since I was little, I have possessed a unique fascination for nature and the way it interacts with itself. As I sat in the prickly seats of old tour buses and the bilingual tour guide has silenced himself for the dozens of passengers that have closed their curtains and fallen into deep slumber, I would keep my eyes glued to the window, waiting to catch a glimpse of wild animals and admiring the beautiful scenery that mother nature had pieced together. At Outdoor Science Camp, while most of my friends were fixated on socializing and games, I was obsessed with finding every organism in the book. Nothing else caught my attention quite like ecology.

As high school dragged on and the relentless responsibilities, assignments, and tests washed away the thrill of learning, ecology was one interest that withstood the turmoil. At the end of a draining day, I would always enjoy relaxing to articles detailing newly discovered species or relationships between species.

This past summer, I was able to further this interest when a unique opportunity to volunteer abroad caught my eye. Flying over to the beautiful tropical shorelines of the Dominican Republic, I was able to dive into the frontlines of the battle against climate change, dwindling populations, and habitat destruction brought about by mankind, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

While everyone was obviously ecstatic about snorkeling in the crystal blue waters, only I was able to retain that same excitement about trekking through knee thick mud and mosquito infested forests to replant mangrove trees. While tracking animal populations, my heart leaped at the sight of every new species that swam right in front of my eyes. Even when it came to the dirty work of building structures to rebuild coral and picking up trash along the beach, I always found myself leading the pack, eager to start and do the most.

From this experience, I realized that pursuing the field of ecology was what I could picture myself doing far into the future, and this was how I was going to impact the world.

UC PIQ #7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words max)

Originally I saw volunteer work as a nuisance. I felt that it was an unnecessary "requirement" for college. I felt that someone decided to do volunteer work while in high school and now it has become the norm and is essentially required for college. Once I began to get involved, however, I found a true appreciation for the work I was doing.

I loved helping people and, as always, wanted to challenge myself. I worked at the Bellflower Volunteer center and tutored kids every day available, as well as helping out with large special events put on by the city. I then joined Key Club and made it my mission to attend every single event no matter what; even going to the lengths to walk for 4 hours starting at 5 in the morning (it was still dark outside) for a 2-hour beach clean up. I then became Service Event Coordinator and also made it my mission to have an event every week, while attending all of them, while still working at the Volunteer Center. I also started a tutoring program in math at my school as I really enjoy helping my peers academically.

It always warmed my heart to see fellow ninjas( our division mascot) at events I had planned, friends and neighbors at Bellflower events, and CSF members at tutoring.I am always willing to help people with anything. If someone needs my help I will stop whatever I am doing to help in any way that I can. Lending a helping hand is an important part of our society; however, a helping hand cannot do anything if the other hand does not reach for it as well. We need to be able to help ourselves first before others can help us. I tried to create a community where I could help people, but also people could help themselves so that there is no reason for anyone to not be able to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Throughout my childhood, the phrases “get good grades” and “make money” constantly harassed my every waking moment. Life seemed pointless, a never-ending cycle of trying to make more money to create artificial happiness. However, through partaking in my middle school’s ASB, I discovered my love for helping others, and I realized that I wanted to make my life about changing the world and leaving behind a better future for the generations to come.

In an attempt to live up to this philosophy, I have performed hundreds of hours of community service. From volunteering at a senior home to distributing food to the homeless, there is no doubt that I have made a substantial impact on those around me.

Despite all this, my most significant contributions are the ones that take place every day and are often undocumented. Picking up trash, staying long after my job is complete to help other groups, or even saying, “Thank you. Have a nice day,” to anyone who has provided a service for me are just a few examples. While they seem insignificant, these small actions add up.

However, above all, my biggest contribution is building meaningful connections with the people around me and making sure they realize how special and important they are to me and everyone else. In nurturing those who are less experienced, assisting those who are struggling with their emotions or their studies, and inspiring those who have untapped potential, I am not merely applying a band-aid on a wound, but elevating a whole community around me to tackle and prevent ailments the next decades will bring.

Years from now, I will likely have forgotten about my modest academic achievements. However, the memories of seeing someone I had mentored blossom into a strong leader and the smiles and laughter of someone I’ve helped battle through depression will forever be ingrained in my mind.

Serving food at school carnivals, embellishing the local marsh, tutoring students after school, and discharging patients at my local hospital were some of the ways I actively supported my city. However, a distinct way of being engaged in my community involved being selected for the Youth Development Program last summer. This organization works with the Torrance Refinery and selects thirty out of hundreds of applicants. The first week of this program involved activities that trained students for college and eventually their careers by making them adept in communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. For the next four weeks, students were assigned a specific job around the City of Torrance and Torrance Unified School District (TUSD).

I was placed in the TUSD Information Technology Department, along with six other students, and we essentially helped deal with technology-based issues around the district. Even though my professional desire incorporates biology and chemistry, I had a compelling interest and math and technology. I gave back to my community by utilizing the technological skills I gained at work. My colleagues and I traveled daily to several schools around the district and assisted in technological advancements: testing network ports and preparing schools for newer phones, imaging and updating new laptops and desktops, and arranging and setting up new computer labs and Chrome book carts.

Today, many people globally use technological and visual aids to assist their education. My summer job also allowed me to make a difference in the education of others. With the faster internet, newer telephones and computers, teachers could instruct more efficiently and students can be educated more effectively, thus improving their academic performance in the future. This program helped me a lot by boosting my teamwork and leadership skills, which will be extremely valuable as I will be pursuing many president/vice-president positions in my senior year. However, this program has allowed me to make a stronger impact on other people rather than myself; I feel delighted that my work in summer will be beneficial to twenty-thousand students across Torrance.

UC PIQ #8: Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California? (350 words max)

In 2011, I started at a newly built school spanning sixth to twelfth grade. The school’s inception was not the greatest with gang culture and issues plaguing the school and nearby community. From this moment I knew wanted to make a change, improving the school and local community.

For example, two years ago a bicyclist was crushed by a container truck across the street from my school, several peers of mine and I advocated for a bike lane to get installed on the street to protect cyclists from the busy traffic. I worked day and night for three weeks using my connection with the city’s public works director to meet with city officials and make a change. I looked for solutions and ways to improve my community and lead the charge to better our street. When we met with city officials they agreed and ultimately approved our bike lane proposal. This civic action started with a group of three concerned high school students, in which I helped facilitate the conversations resulting into a bike lane project, that will be built the summer of 2018 after I graduate high school. Ultimately helping solve an issue in my community.

Using my influence as part of the Associated Student Body I advocated for a new medical academy on my school’s campus to address the growing interest in medicine and health careers of many students at my school. While I am not personally interested in a health related field, I recognized that many students at my school did and teachers agreed. I came in as an intermediary, who because of my position in ASB was also a member of my School’s Shared Leadership Council (SLC), through these means I motivated other ASB officers to support the academy’s inception and after a grueling amount of meetings in which we went through logistics the academy was approved for the benefit of students.

I am a student who will attend a UC pursuing my passions in journalism, education, and history; while being an involved student making the campus a better place than when I first arrived.

Rather than relying on pure intellect, I choose to excel through continual self-improvement, my ability to overpower obstacles, and an unrelenting force of determination. There are thousands of students smarter than me, students with better test scores, students with more volunteer hours, and quite possibly, a more socially acceptable sense of humor. I can assert, however, that my determination and ambition is hard to match.

I am willing to look in the face of the impossible without fear; in fact, the only emotion flowing through my body would be excitement. There are thousands of intelligent students, however many are unable or are unwilling to utilize their full potential. Although not a genius, I have shown my ability to improve drastically in capability over time.

At some point in my middle school career I was not technically supposed to still be enrolled because my grades were too low; now I'm on track to be valedictorian of my class. I am willing to do whatever it takes to meet my goal; if there were a service event across the country I would be willing to walk the entire way; if I could take a million AP's I would. I understand that it is a big jump to go from Bellflower High School to a UC in terms of academic difficulty; however, that is part of the excitement. I am not afraid of failure, it does nothing but make me stronger. Am I capable of making a jump of such a magnitude? It is not my judgment to make; I am only here to try.

The spin-the-wheel slows down and eventually stops at ‘try again next time’. That is, until I secretly push it one slot over to ‘princess tiara’. As the child hurries away to the next carnival game with the tiara in her hair, her mom turns back at me with a warm smile and mouths the words “thank you”. Seeing genuine happiness in the people of my community while volunteering at events such as my school carnival always remind me why I love my community so much.

I hold a lot of pride in how I’ve become a prominent figure in my community. From volunteering at festivals for my local elementary school to becoming employed by the City of American Canyon Parks and Recreation Department, I relish being in the hub of the community. I love our annual Fourth of July parades and Easter egg hunts, where I am stopped every 15 minutes to catch up with the crazy kids I worked with at summer camp or even just with the staff I’ve met from school. Growing up and connecting with such a diverse community is and will always be a large part of who I am. From kindergarten up until my senior year of high school, both my small community and I as an individual have grown immensely. By volunteering at local events, connecting with the people of my community, and finally getting employed by my city, I know that I have contributed to the successful growth of my community.

Although I really love my community here in the small town of American Canyon, I cannot help but think of the other great communities that I can potentially be a part of as well. I believe that by going to the University of California, I will be able to thrive in the liveliness of the communities that the campuses are well-known for. A major contribution I believe that I can bring to the University of California is integrating, being involved in, and building the school’s community so that both I and the school can grow together for each other.

What can you learn from these UC Berkeley essays?

If you want to get into UC Berkeley in 2022, you need to write great essays that help make you stand out. From these 18 Berkeley essays that worked, here are some takeaways:

  • Use specific examples of places and events (name them) ( #8 , #17 )
  • Tell a story ( #6 , #18 , #7 )
  • Demonstrate your background, identity, or culture ( #3 , #15 , #4 )

If you enjoyed these UC Berkeley essays, you'll also like reading our top UCLA essays that worked. They answer the same PIQ prompts, but quite differently.

Applying to other public universities? Check out these awesome University of Michigan essays.

Let me know, which UC Berkeley essay was your favorite and why?

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People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

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How To Answer UC Personal Insight Prompt 7: Community

Understanding the uc admissions essay prompt.

The UC admissions essay prompt, "What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?" requires a thorough understanding in order to craft a successful essay. In this section, we will explore how to interpret the prompt, discuss why it is important, and highlight what admissions officers are looking for in your response.

Interpreting the Prompt

To effectively answer the essay prompt, it is crucial to interpret it correctly. Take the time to analyze the wording and understand the key components of the question. Consider the following points:

1- Scope: The prompt asks about your contributions to either your school or your community. You may choose to focus on one or discuss both, depending on the depth of your involvement and impact.

2- Action: The prompt specifically asks about what you have done. This means admissions officers are interested in your tangible efforts and initiatives rather than just ideas or intentions.

3- Better Place: The prompt requires you to demonstrate how your actions have made a positive difference. Consider the various ways in which you have brought about positive change, whether it is through leadership, collaboration, advocacy, or other means.

Why This Prompt is Important

The UC system places great importance on community engagement and social responsibility. By asking this prompt, the admissions committee aims to understand your commitment to making a positive impact beyond your academic achievements. They want to evaluate your character, leadership skills, and ability to contribute to the greater good.

What Admissions Officers are Looking For

When reviewing your response to this prompt, admissions officers will be looking for several key qualities and attributes:

1- Initiative: They want to see that you have taken the initiative to identify issues or needs in your school or community and have actively worked towards addressing them.

2- Impact: Admissions officers are interested in the actual impact of your actions. They want to know how your efforts have made a tangible difference and improved the lives of others.

3- Leadership and Collaboration: Demonstrating your ability to lead and collaborate with others is essential. Admissions officers want to see that you can work effectively as part of a team, inspire others, and create meaningful change together.

4- Passion and Commitment: Your essay should reflect your genuine passion and commitment to making a difference. Admissions officers want to see that you are dedicated to your cause and have a long-term vision for creating positive change.

By understanding the prompt's interpretation, recognizing its importance, and aligning your response with what admissions officers are looking for, you will be better equipped to craft a compelling and impactful essay.

How to Begin Your Essay

Crafting a strong and engaging introduction is crucial to capturing the attention of the admissions officers. In this section, we will guide you through the process of starting your essay effectively by choosing a relevant topic, creating an outline, and writing a powerful introduction.

Choosing a Relevant Topic

When selecting a topic for your essay, consider experiences or initiatives that align closely with the prompt. Reflect on your involvement in activities that have made a significant impact on your school or community. Choose a topic that allows you to showcase your passion, leadership skills, and dedication to creating positive change.

Consider the following questions to help you narrow down your topic:

  • 1. What specific projects or initiatives have you been involved in that have made a difference in your school or community?
  • 2. Have you taken on leadership roles in clubs, organizations, or community groups?
  • 3. Are there any challenges or obstacles you have faced while trying to make a positive impact? How did you overcome them?
  • 4. Have you collaborated with others to address specific issues or bring about change?

By selecting a relevant topic that highlights your unique experiences and contributions, you will be able to craft a more compelling and authentic essay.

Creating an Outline

Before diving into writing the introduction, it is essential to create a clear and structured outline. An outline will serve as a roadmap for your essay, ensuring that your thoughts and ideas flow logically and cohesively.

Consider the following components when creating your outline:

1- Introduction: Include a captivating opening sentence or hook to grab the reader's attention and provide a brief overview of your topic and its significance.

2- Background: Provide context for your involvement in making your school or community a better place. Discuss the specific issue or need you identified and explain why it is important to you.

3- Actions and Initiatives: Detail the actions you took to address the issue or contribute to positive change. Be specific and provide examples of your involvement, such as organizing events, implementing programs, or advocating for a cause.

4- Impact and Results: Discuss the tangible impact of your actions and initiatives. Highlight the positive changes that occurred as a result of your efforts and provide evidence or testimonials if available.

5- Personal Growth: Reflect on how your experiences have influenced your personal growth and development. Discuss the skills, values, or lessons you have gained from your involvement and how they have shaped your character.

6- Future Goals: Connect your contributions to your future goals and aspirations. Explain how your experiences have inspired you to continue making a difference in college and beyond.

By creating a comprehensive outline, you will have a solid foundation for your essay, making it easier to write a strong and coherent introduction.

Writing a Strong Introduction

The introduction sets the tone for your essay and should captivate the reader's attention from the very beginning. Consider the following strategies to write a powerful introduction:

1- Start with a compelling hook: Begin your essay with an attention-grabbing statement, anecdote, or question that immediately engages the reader.

2- Provide context: Briefly explain the background and significance of your topic. Help the reader understand why your involvement in making your school or community a better place is important.

3- State your thesis statement: Clearly and concisely state the main point or purpose of your essay. This will guide your reader and provide a clear focus for your essay.

4- Preview the main points: Give a brief overview of the main points you will discuss in your essay. This will provide a roadmap for the reader and set their expectations for what is to come.

Remember to revise and refine your introduction as you progress with your essay. A strong and compelling introduction will hook the reader and make them eager to continue reading your essay.

How to Elaborate on Your Contributions

Once you have established a strong introduction, it's time to delve deeper into your contributions and showcase the impact you have made in your school or community. In this section, we will guide you on how to provide specific examples, discuss the impact of your actions, and connect your contributions to your personal growth.

Providing Specific Examples

To make your essay more compelling and authentic, it is essential to provide specific examples of your contributions. Avoid general statements and instead focus on highlighting tangible actions and initiatives you have undertaken. Consider the following tips:

1- Be specific: Provide details about the projects, events, or programs you have been involved in. Describe your role, responsibilities, and the specific tasks you undertook.

2- Include numbers and data: Quantify your impact whenever possible. For example, mention the number of people you reached, the funds you raised, or the measurable improvements you achieved.

3- Share personal anecdotes: Incorporate personal stories or experiences that illustrate the significance of your contributions. This will add depth and authenticity to your essay.

4- Highlight leadership roles: If you held leadership positions, emphasize the leadership skills you utilized and the impact you had on your team or community.

By providing specific examples, you will paint a vivid picture of your involvement and demonstrate the concrete steps you have taken to make a positive difference.

Discussing the Impact of Your Actions

In addition to describing your contributions, it is crucial to discuss the impact your actions have had on your school or community. Admissions officers want to understand the tangible results of your efforts. Potential look at the following points:

1- Describe the positive changes: Explain how your actions have improved the lives of individuals or the overall well-being of your school or community. Discuss any measurable outcomes or changes you have witnessed.

2- Include testimonials or feedback: If available, incorporate testimonials from individuals who have benefited from your contributions. This will lend credibility to your achievements and showcase the real impact you have made.

3- Address challenges or obstacles: Discuss any challenges you encountered during your initiatives and how you overcame them. Admissions officers appreciate resilience and problem-solving skills, so highlighting these aspects will strengthen your essay.

Connecting Your Actions to Your Personal Growth

Beyond the impact you have had on your school or community, it is important to reflect on how your experiences have contributed to your personal growth and development. Admissions officers want to see how your involvement has shaped your character and values. Consider the following suggestions:

1- Discuss skills and qualities developed: Reflect on the skills, qualities, or values you have cultivated through your contributions. Did you develop leadership, communication, or teamwork skills? How have these experiences influenced your perspective on community engagement?

2- Highlight lessons learned: Share any valuable lessons or insights you have gained from your involvement. Discuss how these experiences have expanded your knowledge, empathy, or understanding of social issues.

3- Showcase personal growth: Explain how your contributions have transformed you as an individual. Discuss how you have become more socially aware, responsible, or committed to creating positive change.

By connecting your actions to your personal growth, you demonstrate to the admissions officers that your contributions have not only impacted the community but have also shaped you into a more compassionate and socially conscious individual.

How to Conclude Your Essay

As you approach the conclusion of your essay, it's important to leave a lasting impression on the admissions officers. In this section, we will guide you on how to effectively conclude your essay by reiterating your impact, connecting your contributions to future goals, and leaving the readers with a memorable final thought.

Reiterating Your Impact

In the conclusion, you should summarize and reiterate the impact of your contributions. Remind the readers of the positive changes you have made in your school or community. Emphasize the significance of your actions and the lasting effects they have had.

Highlight key accomplishments. Recap the most significant achievements or milestones you have reached through your initiatives. Remind the readers of the magnitude of your impact.

Revisit the numbers. If you have quantifiable data or statistics, remind the readers of the numbers to reinforce the scale of your contributions.

Reinforce the impact by sharing a personal anecdote or testimonial that illustrates the positive changes you have witnessed. This will add a human element to your conclusion.

Connecting Your Contributions to Future Goals

In addition to highlighting your past accomplishments, it is important to connect your contributions to your future goals and aspirations. Admissions officers want to see that your commitment to making a positive impact will continue in college and beyond.

Establish continuity and explain how your experiences and the lessons learned will shape your future endeavors in college. Discuss how you plan to continue making a difference and contributing to the community. For extra points, if applicable, demonstrate how your contributions align with your intended field of study. Show how your involvement has influenced your academic and career goals.

Share your vision for creating positive change in the future. Discuss how you hope to address larger societal issues or make a lasting impact in your chosen field.

Leaving a Lasting Impression

Leave a memorable final thought- end with a powerful statement. Craft a closing sentence or paragraph that leaves a lasting impact on the readers. It could be a thought-provoking question, a memorable quote, or a call to action.

Maintain a positive tone and conclude your essay on an optimistic and hopeful note. Leave the readers with a sense of inspiration and motivation to make their own contributions.

Circle back to the themes or ideas introduced in your introduction. This will create a sense of cohesion and completeness in your essay. By reiterating your impact, connecting your contributions to future goals, and leaving a memorable final thought, you will conclude your essay on a strong note, leaving a lasting impression on the admissions officers.

Revise and Edit Your Essay

Once you have completed your initial draft, it's essential to take the time to revise and edit your essay. This section will guide you through the process of reviewing for clarity and consistency, seeking feedback, and finalizing your essay to ensure it is polished and ready to make a strong impression on the admissions committee.

Reviewing for Clarity and Consistency

During the revision process, focus on enhancing the clarity and coherence of your essay. Consider the following steps:

1- Check for logical flow: Ensure that your ideas and arguments flow smoothly from one paragraph to the next. Use transitional words and phrases to create a cohesive narrative.

2- Eliminate repetition: Remove any redundant information or repetitive statements. Streamline your essay to ensure that every sentence contributes to the overall message.

3- Clarify your language: Ensure that your ideas are expressed clearly and concisely. Avoid jargon or overly complex language that may confuse the reader.

4- Check for coherence: Ensure that each paragraph and section of your essay aligns with the overall theme and purpose. Remove any tangents or unrelated information.

Getting Feedback

Seeking feedback from others can provide valuable insights and perspectives on your essay:

1- Ask for input from teachers or mentors: Share your essay with trusted teachers or mentors who can provide constructive feedback on the content, structure, and overall effectiveness.

2- Seek peer review: Share your essay with peers who can provide fresh perspectives and identify areas for improvement. Consider joining a writing group or seeking feedback from classmates.

3- Utilize online resources: Take advantage of online writing communities or platforms where you can share your essay and receive feedback from a wider audience.

Finalizing Your Essay

After receiving feedback and making necessary revisions, it's time to finalize your essay:

1- Proofread for grammar and spelling: Carefully review your essay for any grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, or spelling errors. Use grammar-checking tools or enlist a proofreader to ensure accuracy.

2- Check formatting and word count: Ensure that your essay adheres to the required formatting guidelines and word count limits. Make any necessary adjustments to meet the requirements.

3- Read aloud: Read your essay aloud to identify any awkward phrasing, unclear sentences, or areas that need further revision. This will help you catch any lingering issues and improve the overall flow of your writing.

4- Take a break: Before submitting your essay, take a short break to gain some distance. Return to your essay with fresh eyes to make final adjustments or improvements.

By carefully revising, seeking feedback, and finalizing your essay, you will ensure that it is polished and ready to make a strong impact on the admissions committee. Remember to allocate ample time for this process to ensure that your essay is the best representation of your abilities and contributions.

Final Thoughts

The UC admissions essay is your canvas to paint a narrative of commitment, impact, and personal growth. This specific prompt seeks a genuine reflection of your contributions to the community. As we've discussed, understanding the prompt and delivering a heartfelt account of your actions is key. It's not just about the deeds but the drive and passion behind them. Authenticity remains paramount. As you finalize your essay, let your genuine voice shine through. This essay is a snapshot of your journey—make it resonate. Best of luck!

I hope you found this guide useful. Navigating campus life can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. Once you're accepted into college, hop onto MeetYourClass – your go-to platform to find roommates, friends, and your community. Connect with like-minded students, find your perfect roommate, and immerse yourself in campus culture. As you embark on your application journey, remember: your next chapter of friendships and experiences is just a click away. Best of luck, and we hope to see you soon on MeetYourClass!


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Keep reading, how to answer uc piq essay prompt 1: positive leadership.

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[This article is part of a new series where we will be dissecting each of the UC essay prompts in depth, providing examples and tips on how you can make your application stand out.]

Click here to read yesterday’s post about UC Prompt #6.

Prompt #7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Struggling with writing your college application essay?

Read our Ultimate Guide to Stand Out College Essays to learn the tips and techniques on writing a winning essay and maximize your college admission chances!  

This prompt gives you an opportunity to show UCs the type of role you have in your current communities, and how you plan on carrying that to their campus communities.

But what exactly defines a community? This prompt is actually a lot broader than many might think, because the word “community” encompasses so many different groups. Every single student belongs in some sort of community, including but not limited to your:


The list goes on! This would be the essay to talk about all those hours you spent volunteering at the library or that time you motivated your school to donate to a cause you care deeply about. An important thing to remember is that the experience or community doesn’t necessarily have to be a super unique and impressive opportunity. What matters is the individual contribution and impact you were able to make on this group. 

For example, UC admissions officers would rather see that you helped implement a summer reading program for kids at your local library than read about how you just filed papers at your senator’s office. In the same vein, focus on specificity rather than being broad about your contributions.

Moreover, I think it’s important to also explain how your impact on this community affected you . What did you learn from the experience, and how will you apply that to the future? Admissions officers are trying to figure out how your past experiences will translate into future contributions to their campus community.

Here’s how you might structure this essay:

Describe your community and how it was like before you stepped into it

Explain your thought process in determining the necessary impact that you wanted to make

Detail the steps you took to implement the specific impact you made

Reflect on how the experience affected or changed you

Think about how you might bring the lessons you learned from this experience to college or the future

7EDU has helped hundreds of students connect their experiences to a compelling story. Get started early with a free consultation with our experts.

If you found this article helpful, check out the rest of our deconstructed UC Prompts below:

UC Essay Prompts Explained Writing UC Prompt 1 Tips: Leadership Experience Writing UC Prompt 2 Tips: Your Creative Side Writing UC Prompt 3 Tips:  Greatest Talent Writing UC Prompt 4 Tips:  Educational Experiences Writing UC Prompt 5 Tips:  Significant Challenge Writing UC Prompt 6 Tips:  Favorite Subject Writing UC Prompt 7 Tips:  Improving your Community Writing UC Prompt 8 Tips:  How do you Stand Out?

essay on how to make your school a better place

The UC essay prompt 7 requires the applicant to write about their positive contributions to their community or school. If you’re attending a high school, you probably already met this requirement though through your community service requirements.

If you attend a school that does not require community service to graduate, you’ll have to pick another topic then. If you’re not sure about what topic to choose, feel free to ask us for help by signing up for a consultation below!

If not, let’s get right to it.

Table of Contents

  • Writing About Community Service.
  • Avoid Common Writing.
  • Show Don’t Tell.
  • How Did You Help Your Community?
  • What Does This Say About Your Character?

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Contact us. we'll get to you within 24 hours. , university of california piq 7.

“What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? Things to consider: Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place — like your high school, hometown or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community? Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community?” University of California Website

Before we get to a list of advice on how to approach the UC essay prompt 7, we thought it would be useful for you to know this: Personal Insight Question Freshman Guide . This is an official guide by the University of California themselves, so be sure to give that a good read!

Alright, here’s how to write the UC essay prompt 7!

How To Write The UC Essay Prompt 7

1. writing your college essay about community service.

essay on how to make your school a better place

This is probably one of the only times in the admissions process when talking about community service hours is NOT cliché. The only reason we say this is because most people tend to have such special experiences about their community service hours that they become unique anyway.

So remember: it’s about how your story was interesting and fulfilling.

2. Avoid “Common” Writing

essay on how to make your school a better place

Alright. Try this exercise right now. Imagine a college applicant getting back from a depressive nap and a few rounds of scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. They’ve just avoided writing their college essay until the last minute. When they start writing, what do you see?

“I volunteered at a pet shelter.” “It feels good to give back.” “The greatest reward is helping others.”

You’re probably going to be able to hear that in your head. Don’t do that. Don’t write the words above. You can do this easily just by imagining what everyone else will probably sound like and avoiding that.

3. Show Don’t Tell

essay on how to make your school a better place

Yeah yeah, show don’t tell is common knowledge. But, do you know how to actually do it?

Show and tell is a bit like cooking a steak perfectly: the directions are simple but mastering it is quite the headache. We’ll show you how it works.

  • Write the idea you want to convey in literal terms first .
  • Underline said literal terms .
  • Change the terms to suggestive explanations that hint toward the desired conclusion.

So, why both with 1 and 2? It’s mostly just for organizational purposes. We’ve found that students who “told” before “showing” achieved better results.

Now, here’s a secret recipe. It’s called imagination. No, not your imagination, but the reader’s imagination. You must rely on the reader being smart enough to deduce what you mean through your hints and their imagination –and come on, they’re college admissions officers. Of course, they are!

Here’s an example:

  • I’m considerate and compassionate of the things that matter and will do what it takes to achieve my desires  
  • I’m considerate and compassionate of the things that matter and will do what it takes to achieve my desires
  • It bugged me that despite the many renovations in pointless new architecture and gentrified city constructs, our city never bothered to replace the already dying verdure. It left the city lacking in beauty; we yearned for the old town we used to have. So, we set out to bringing back the old traditions.

4. “How” Did You Help Your School Or Community

essay on how to make your school a better place

This one is simple, but it’s important. Don’t forget!

You have to make sure you actually answered the question. Remember, the UC essay prompt 7 specifically asked how you made your school or community a better place, so you’ll have to have a focus on the “how”.

Contributed to the community animal shelter? Helped serve food for the homeless in the greater Los Angeles Area? Helped struggling students get back on track? These are all actions and events, but they don’t HOW you’ve made your school or community better. We know that a reader should be able to deduce the “how” regardless, but college admissions officers still expect you to describe the “how” in full detail.

We find that this one and the next one, “what does this say about your character” tend to be the most difficult aspects of the UC essay prompt 7. If you think that’s the case for you too, you may want to consider UC admissions essay help and reviewing through our free consultation.

5. What Does This Say About Your Character?

essay on how to make your school a better place

This tends to be the most difficult concept to implement. Fortunately for you, this is also the most effective way to resonate with the UC admissions committee.

When proofreading your UC admissions essay, think to yourself, “what does this reveal about me?” If the words that come to mind are something that you’d see on a stereotypical tinder profile about “being a nice guy” and “being chill”, your essay probably hasn’t fully developed a good character trait yet.

You want the admissions officer’s overall impression of you to resonate with an implied character trait you exhibit in your essay.

For example, the UC schools know that there are a lot of students who help the needy or help repaint the local church. Your experience is unique to YOU though and your personality comes forth from taking on these tasks. One applicant may be a leader and a coordinator in terms of helping the community because their collaborative skills make them a great person to follow. Another applicant may realize they have a strong sense of empathy and compassion for other people and is, therefore, a reliable and forthright person.

6. UC Essay Prompt 7 Sample Outline

The best way to structure the essay for the UC essay prompt 7 is to look at things from a bird’s eye view.

That means you’re going to have to zone in on specifics if you want to write something that gets you accepted. It’ll also help you meet those points we mentioned earlier such as “show don’t tell” and “showing your character”

Below we’ve provided an outline for how you would want to format your essay.

Note: it doesn’t have to adhere strictly to our format. This is only one of many examples of how to structure your essay properly.

  • Hooks: You need one. Don’t know how to make one? In short, the formula we recommend is something like, “take the climax of your string of events and make it vague enough for readers to be curious.” You can find out more in our introductions guide . (1 very short paragraph)
  • Imagery and descriptions: Talk about the project you undertook that made the school or community a better place. You can leave out extraneous information but remember to stick to the main meat of the story. There’s something unique about your story that you want to tell the admissions officers. Make sure that this section is dedicated to stronger imagery and description. (About 1-2 paragraphs)
  • Cool Down + Reflect: This is the last part of your essay and the part where you need to ease down on the imagery and descriptive writing. This is more reflective and meditative of the events in #2 and should focus on answering the prompt. How did you make the school or community a better place and what does it say about how you’re unique compared to the rest who also contributed to society? Oh, and don’t forget the unspoken rule of storytelling in college admissions: you have to show that you changed over time or will change and apply new knowledge to the future. (1 paragraph)

Are you still struggling to come up with what to write? Already finished with the UC essay prompt 7 but just need feedback? We’re here to help! When you schedule a free consultation with us, we’ll look at your essays and give some constructive criticism on how to improve them!

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to the UC Essay Prompt 7”

Hi! I’ve been told that PIQs are supposed to “get to the point” without all the fluf and extra stuff that comes along with a hook. Thoughts?

Hi Lark! That’s a good question.

The PIQs are brutally short. Most applicants struggle fitting any sort of color into their essays and intros because of the severe limitations. The problem with this is that it’s not unusual for students to write curtly in response. This can give the essay much less impact. What I would suggest is to “get to the point” just enough that the readers know what you’re going on about without knowing the full story.

Remember: the hook should be interesting and compelling enough to reel readers in. You’re right that you shouldn’t have any “fluff”, but don’t make it dull either!

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  • How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Questions

Bonus Material:  Download 25 UC Essays That Worked

Preparing to apply to any of the University of California schools? If so, you may have already heard about the UC Personal Insight Questions or PIQs, which are just their version of the college admissions essay. 

Students who earn admission to the UC schools–especially the more selective ones like UCLA or UC Berkeley–spend countless hours perfecting their UC PIQ essays, which are a crucial factor in the admissions committee’s decisions. 

Over years of helping students gain admission to the UC schools, we’ve developed an approach designed to help you respond to these unique essays and maximize your chances of admission. This post will cover everything you need to know about the UC Personal Insight Questions, including a detailed analysis of 8 real sample essays. 

Download 25 UC Essays That Worked

Jump to section: What are the UC Personal Insight Questions? How to approach each of the 8 UC Personal Insight Questions Analysis of 8 Real Sample UC Essays Final considerations for UC essays as a whole Next steps

What are the UC Personal Insight Questions?

While many other colleges simply use the Common App as their application portal, the University of California schools have a completely different system. The primary difference is that instead of writing one long essay, you’ll choose to answer 4 out of 8 “Personal Insight Questions,” with each response between 250 and 350 words. 

The good news is that these same four essays can go to all of the UC schools: it takes no more work to apply to all the UCs than to apply to just one. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

The bad news is that even if you’ve already written your Common App essay, you’ll have to do a lot of additional work to prepare your UC application. In this post, we’ll walk you through tips for answering each prompt, discuss how to ensure all of your application essays work together, and then do an in-depth analysis of 8 real sample essays. 

You can also jump ahead to the analysis of the sample essays here Analysis of 8 Real PIQs or download our collection of real, successful responses to the UC Personal Insight Questions below. 

How to approach each of the 8 UC Personal Insight Questions

Uc personal insight question 1: describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.  .

essay on how to make your school a better place

The first UC essay prompt is straightforward enough: you’re expected to tell a story exemplifying your leadership experience. If you can think of a concrete instance that demonstrates your leadership ability, this is a great prompt for you to answer. In particular, it can let you expand on one of your extracurricular or resume activities and really highlight what made that experience unique. 

A few suggestions and warnings before you start drafting, however. As with the majority of college admissions essays, the key here is to tell an evocative narrative story and really get the admissions committee’s attention and interest. With that in mind, here is a quick list of do s and don’t s specifically for the first prompt: 

  • Do begin this particular essay with a detailed story, as if you were writing a chapter of a novel. The number one thing college essay counselors have to tell students is: “Show, don’t tell!” and that’s especially true for this personal insight question.
  • Do interpret the prompt broadly. Leadership isn’t just being president of a club or captain of a sports team, and you don’t need to have an official “position” to write about a moment you influenced others. 
  • Do pick an example that involves you contributing to the community or the greater good.
  • Do , above all, stay self-aware and humble.

On that note, some important things to avoid: 

  • Don’t brag or self-aggrandize! This is much tougher than it may seem, and is where a second set of eyes from one of our college essay experts would come in handy. Almost nothing is worse than an application essay that makes it seem like you’re full of yourself, and it’s tricky to avoid that when you’re meant to write about your own abilities. 
  • Don’t pick an example of leadership without any positive social effects. This goes hand in hand with the previous Don’t. Let’s say you were part of a school club where you became president–if you can’t point to any positive outcomes for the organization or other people, it’s not worth writing about. 
  • Don’t rehash your resume. This is meant to be a story of a particular moment, with a little bit of reflection on what you learned. Don’t make this a run-down of your roles and responsibilities–or you might have the admissions committee yawning. 

The following are things to consider when writing this essay, according to the UC schools themselves: 

A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or taking the lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about what you accomplished and what you learned from the experience. What were your responsibilities? 

Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church, in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to school activities. For example, do you help out or take care of your family?

UC Personal Insight Question 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.  

essay on how to make your school a better place

The second UC Personal Insight Question lets you talk about almost anything. Do you make art, music, or literature of any kind? Do you have a unique way of looking at the world and making decisions? Do you organize your life in an unusual way? Any and all of these would make good topics for this essay prompt. 

As before, take a look at a handful of quick do s and don’t s below. Later in this blog post Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 2 , we’ll do an in-depth analysis of a response to this prompt. 

  • Do interpret the prompt, well, creatively! You get to decide what counts as “creativity,” so long as you can tell a convincing story about it. 
  • This is, of course a risk, but a necessary one. We often recommend reaching out to a trusted college essay expert (like, say, one of our very own here) to make sure you’re not being a bit too risky. 
  • Do use specific examples of this creative practice, as opposed to just generalities. 

Below are specific things to avoid with the second UC PIQ essay prompt:

  • Don’t shoehorn something impressive from your resume into this essay if it doesn’t fit. Students too often try to cram every impressive achievement from their lives into their college admissions essays, but that won’t come off the right way here. 
  • Don’t choose anything that would be a red flag for colleges. Weird is perfectly okay (even good!), but anything illegal or antisocial is a big no. They want you to be creative, but they also want you to be a good member of their college community. 

There aren’t many absolute don’t s for this essay–it’s designed to be flexible and fun. For a thorough analysis of a successful example, see the end of this post  Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 2 . 

Here are some more drafting tips from the UC schools: 

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?

UC Personal Insight Question 3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  

Here’s another great essay prompt for those of you with strange or unique skills: the more unusual, the more unexpected, the better! As with the first two prompts, see below for some advice based on the mistakes we’ve seen students make with this essay prompt. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

  • Do interpret “talent or skill” as broadly as you like. Sure, if you’re a world-class pianist, you can write about that. But we’ve also seen stellar responses to this prompt that talk about students’ empathy, or their ability to speak up for others, or their ability to recite obscure facts. 
  • Do show your talent or skill in action, with one or more specific stories. 
  • Do connect those stories with what it actually says about you. Why should a college admissions officer care that you’re an expert woodworker or yodeler? How has it shaped how you view the world?

Like any essay prompt that asks you to talk about what you’re good at, this one can bait you into coming off as cocky. Here’s what to avoid: 

  • Don’t spend the whole essay talking about how good you are at this skill or talent. It’s fine to brag a tiny bit, but you don’t want to cross the line into cockiness or egoism. 
  • Don’t present the talent or skill, whatever it is, as inherently valuable or impressive. Let’s say you bench 300 pounds or are a chess grandmaster (or both): don’t just toss that fact at the admissions committee and expect them to be impressed. Explain why it matters. 
  • Don’t write about something that’s only in the past unless you can connect it with your future. If you achieved something great years ago, you need to explain how it affects you now .

Here are the UC schools’ pointers: 

If there’s a talent or skill that you’re proud of, this is the time to share it. You don’t necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about it, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you?

Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule?

UC Personal Insight Question 4: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

This looks like one question, but is really two very different questions bound together. 

The first asks what important or unusual educational opportunity you’ve made use of–this can be a summer class you voluntarily enrolled in, an independent research project you conducted, or some sort of international service learning experience. In other words, it should be something that goes beyond your regular schoolwork. 

The second is quite different: has there ever been something stopping you from learning or attending school? This could be trouble at home, health problems, or learning challenges. In other words, this is a “hardship” question, and the ideal place to tell the UC schools’ admissions officers what challenges you overcame to get the grades and test scores you did.

The advice below varies depending on which aspect of this prompt you’re planning to address. 

For the opportunity:

essay on how to make your school a better place

  • Do convey excitement about the educational opportunity, whatever it may be. The more passionate you are about what you learned or achieved, the better. 
  • Do highlight how it changed you and your perspective on learning/academics in general. 
  • Do note any concrete outcomes from this experience: did you publish a paper, learn a new skill you still use, etc.? If so, here’s the place to tell the admissions committee about it. 
  • Don’t just write about something you were forced to do as part of your schoolwork.
  • This is a tricky one, as it’s hard to know what comes off this way to admissions officers. The best advice we can give here is to talk this over with a college admissions counselor or essay expert . 
  • Don’t try to undermine or downplay the experience by saying you weren’t interested in it or didn’t get much out of it. If that’s how you feel, you should answer a different prompt. 

For the educational barrier:

  • Do go into an appropriate level of detail about the barrier. It may be difficult to write about, but if there was real hardship preventing you from attending school, completing assignments, or testing well, you need to convey the severity to the admissions committee.
  • Do focus more on “overcoming” than on the hardship itself. While you want to make the severity of what you faced clear, you want to highlight what you did to overcome it. 
  • Don’t write about something that could be considered minor, or something that most students face. Struggling to get up early, procrastination, or problems with “bad” teachers are almost never worth discussing in an essay like this. 
  • Don’t try too hard to explain away grades or other academic problems. It’s fine to touch on how the obstacles affected your academic performance, but you don’t need to make excuses. Let your story speak for itself. 

Here’s what the UC schools have to say about this prompt: 

An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. For example, participation in an honors or academic enrichment program, or enrollment in an academy that’s geared toward an occupation or a major, or taking advanced courses that interest you — just to name a few. 

If you choose to write about educational barriers you’ve faced, how did you overcome or strive to overcome them? What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who you are today?

UC Personal Insight Question 5: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

essay on how to make your school a better place

This prompt is very similar to the “obstacles” element of the fourth PIQ. For that reason, it’s quite rare to see a student answer both prompt 4 and 5: there’s generally a bit too much overlap.

 What sets this prompt apart from the previous one is that the “challenge” is a bit broader. It’s not just asking for an educational barrier, but for the most significant challenge of any sort you’ve had to overcome. 

That being said, our advice for this one is generally the same as for the second half of prompt number four, and there aren’t any special rules for this one in particular. If you have a story that fits both this prompt and prompt number 4, the deciding factor should be the nature of the obstacle. 

If the hardship is more personal, choose prompt number 5; if it’s more logistical/educational, choose prompt number 4. In either case, the choice of prompt doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you tell the story. 

Here’s what the UC website advises for this prompt: 

A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to talk about any obstacles you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone?

If you’re currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, “How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends or with my family?”

UC Personal Insight Question 6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

If you already know what major you want to pursue, PIQ 6 is a great prompt to respond to–especially because you can largely reuse any “Why Major?” essays you may have written for other schools.

If not, you can still answer this question, so long as you’ve got some sort of academic interest or passion. But don’t forget the second part of the prompt: they don’t just want to hear what interests you, they want to hear what you’ve done about it. 

Great avenues for exploration here: research projects or papers, particularly interesting school projects, and any kind of self-directed learning. You don’t have to have published something or anything like that. So long as you’ve seriously engaged with an intellectual interest by reading and thinking, you’ll have plenty to write about. 

In general, most students would be wise to select this prompt. It lets you seriously discuss something that is otherwise unlikely to be represented in your application, and your intellectual passions are something every college admissions officer wants to hear about. 

For this essay: 

  • Do think about a specific moment that exemplifies this interest, perhaps telling the story of when you first fell in love with a subject or idea. 
  • Do highlight your passion and interest with evocative, almost over-the-top language–you want your love for this topic to really come across in this college essay. 
  • Do feel free to go a bit into the nitty-gritty of your research or reading. Even if the UC admissions committee isn’t familiar with the terms or authors, they’ll appreciate the fact that you are. 
  • Don’t just write about a class or subject in which you perform well, grades-wise. Here, passion matters more than performance. 
  • Don’t forget the second part of the prompt: convey your passion, but prove that you actually pursued that passion beyond what is simply required by school. 
  • Please don’t try to play this one too cool and write about how nothing taught in school is interesting/engaging/etc. If that is how you feel, pick a different prompt. 

The UC schools’ website suggests you bear this in mind: 

Many students have a passion for one specific academic subject area, something that they just can’t get enough of. If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, internships, employment, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or clubs — and what you have gained from your involvement.

Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or future career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)? Are you inspired to pursue this subject further at UC, and how might you do that?

UC Personal Insight Question 7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  

essay on how to make your school a better place

Like the previous essay prompt, this question is one that you should easily be able to recycle from one of your supplemental essays for another school, which often ask a similar question. 

This one is totally straightforward: simply give the UC admissions officers detailed information about some sort of community-oriented project you’ve been involved in. It’s also a great place for you to explore what community means to you. 

The ideal way to answer this question is with a mix of narrative and big-picture overview. Start with a scene of you in the action, actually contributing to these service efforts. Then, zoom out and talk more broadly about your involvement and what service to your community means to you. 

Specific pointers for this essay prompt include: 

  • Do use at least one specific, detailed anecdote of you engaged in this community or service work. 
  • Do stress your commitment to this work and talk about its importance. 
  • Do , if applicable, talk about this work’s broader implications for you as a student and community member: has it changed how you view your role in the community? Will it affect how you contribute to the UC community?
  • Don’t pick something that you were only involved with in the past or a handful of times. For example, if you just volunteered at a soup kitchen twice to get your NHS hours, it’ll be clear to admissions officers that this doesn’t represent a serious commitment to service. 
  • Don’t pick an activity that solely involved you raising money for charitable causes. You need to have been actively involved in whatever this work was. 
  • Don’t use this as an opportunity to highlight your accomplishments. It’s fine to talk about how successful (or not) you were in your efforts, but you want the focus to be on the importance of service work and how it benefited others. 

Other things to bear in mind, courtesy of the UC schools themselves: 

Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place — like your high school, hometown or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community?

Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community?

UC Personal Insight Question 8: Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Like the very last prompt of the Common App personal statement, this is the catch-all question designed to let you write more or less anything. This is a real double-edged sword. 

On the one hand, with UC PIQ 8, you have tons of freedom: you can write about whatever you think is an important part of your UC admissions application. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

On the other, this prompt often baits students into trying to cram in a highlight reel of what makes them a “strong candidate,” which is not the way to go. 

If you have compelling answers to four of the other UC prompts, you should simply answer those. The only reason to tackle this prompt is if there is something fundamental to your story and who you are that cannot be made to fit one of those other prompts. In that case, this is your chance to tell that story. 

Because responses to this prompt can go so wrong so easily, we especially recommend running any ideas by one of our college essay advisors, who can ensure you don’t jeopardize your UC application by picking the wrong approach to this prompt. 

Since this one is a freeform prompt, we just have a couple things to definitely avoid:

  • Don’t use this as a place to brag about achievements, grades, test scores, or broadly about how great you are. 
  • Don’t use this prompt to double down on something that’s already sufficiently explored in other areas of your application (like in the other essay responses, for example). 

Analysis of 8 Real Sample UC Essays

In this section, we’ll present you with a successful sample response to each of the first 8 UC Personal Insight Questions, then explain what about each one works. Using these examples and our guide above, you should have most of what you need to start your own UC application essays. 

For more sample essays like the one below, you can check out the collection we put together of 25 real UC application essays that worked, getting students into schools like UCLA and UC Berkeley. 

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 1

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.  

Tck. Tck. Tck. The sound of my pen streaking across my notebook — marking every concern, inquiry, and supporting point in the meeting. My nonprofit was considering partnering with a local organization, and our board was meeting to discuss the ramifications of such a decision. Opposing board members were concerned that partnering with New Jersey organizations would disadvantage members in other parts of the world, but supporting members believed the partnership would grow our impact by creating more direct service opportunities.

As the meeting ended, I stared at my notes. Both “sides” had made valid points, and I knew I needed to come up with a solution that incorporated both to ensure none of our members were at a disadvantage. As I paced around my room, thinking of possible solutions —it hit me. We don’t need to limit our impact to solely New Jersians: we can offer all our members the opportunity to introduce us to local nonprofit organizations and offer virtual opportunities to support those groups, like phone-banking.

essay on how to make your school a better place

 As the leader of our organization, it’s my job to listen to the ideas of each board and community member to come up with a way forward. In the time since that board meeting, I have made it more of a priority to work with our members to figure out which issues mean most to them and tackle those head on. The outcome of this team-oriented approach has not only allowed us to create more direct-service opportunities, but it’s also allowed me to foster a collaborative and tight-knit community where everyone feels valued and heard. People work harder and are more engaged when they are fighting for issues they specifically care about, so fostering this collaborative planning environment has made our impact even stronger. 

By learning to encompass various viewpoints—even ones different from my own—I have taken a more balanced approach to leadership as I learn to meld multiple opinions into a cohesive whole. The sum of our varied perspectives is more potent than any one could be alone.


So, what makes this essay work? 

Beginning: First, it starts creatively, putting us directly into the middle of a narrative. The first words are slightly disorienting, but that’s a good thing–it means we want to read to find out what’s going on. Note that even though the narrative scene isn’t all that exciting (it’s a meeting, after all), the author uses strong storytelling to make it compelling anyway. 

Middle: After dropping us into the story, the essay quickly and efficiently moves on to giving us the background and setting up the stakes: there’s a problem this organization faces, and the writer, as the organization’s leader, needs to find the solution. 

End: Without giving us too many bureaucratic details (which would probably lose the admissions officers’ interest), the writer quickly conveys that they found a solution. Far more importantly, they move on to discussing why this matters and how it affected their understanding of leadership. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

The last two paragraphs are the real heart of this essay: admissions officers at elite universities want to see that you’re someone who thinks critically about what “leadership” means, and how you see yourself as a member of a larger community or project. 

The situation this essay describes isn’t life or death; it is, in fact, a pretty classic problem faced by many students holding any kind of leadership role in a school club or local organization. But what’s crucial is that the writer of this essay always frames leadership in terms of doing good for others. The writer never brags, never comes off as cocky. Instead, they focus on what positives they’ve been able to accomplish for others. 

The key elements of this essay that allow it to work: story, stakes, self-awareness. 

For more examples of responses to this and other UC Personal Insight Questions, download our collection of real sample essays below. 

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 2

Prompt: Describe how you express your creative side.  

essay on how to make your school a better place

When photography was first invented in 1837, most people didn’t consider it a form of art. Photography was truth, they claimed. Even now, some still see photography as the least “artsy” of the arts. I started challenging that idea when I first picked up a digital camera two years ago. My camera has taught me to use technical skills in a creative way. Not only do I have to master lighting, composition, and Photoshop, I have to envision the work that I want to produce and move towards that goal at every moment. 

For me, the artistic process is far from linear, especially when things don’t quite work out the way I’d originally wanted. The lighting is too harsh, the digital noise gets overwhelming, or the highlights are blown out. But I never give up on a photo just because something’s off about it. Although those cases are hard to work with, sometimes they’re the most interesting, because that’s when I start using my most creative post-processing techniques. With some smoke and mirrors — and a few brush strokes in Photoshop — I can transform a seemingly boring photo into something that makes my friends go, “Wow, how did you do that?” The end result often qualifies more as digital art than photography. 

I’ve found that creativity in photography is not so different from creativity in science. Humans are visual learners, so it’s much easier to deliver a message through an image than through words alone, even when that message is about math or biology. In past years, I’ve served as a tutor to students in various environments, be it debate camp or frenzied lunchtime cram sessions, and when I need to explain something abstract, I gravitate towards diagrams rather than long-winded explanations. When my initial attempts don’t get through, I think of analogies or stories to help my hardworking classmates access their abilities to learn visually. 

At college, I would expect to engage in equally challenging conversations with fellow scholars, during which we will have to use every creative resource at our disposal to truly see what we’re learning.

This is a great example of a straightforward response to the “Creative side” prompt. The writer doesn’t do any formal tricks, instead directly conveying their passion for a particular art form in detail. 

Beginning: The essay starts off with an interesting take on its subject, and very clearly articulates why it’s important to the student: photography is art, and has taught them to view the world more creatively. 

Middle: This essay really shines in its body paragraphs, precisely because of the level of detail (“The lighting is too harsh, the digital noise gets overwhelming, or the highlights are blown out”) it manages to convey about the process of photography. It doesn’t matter whether we know exactly what that all means; what matters is that the author clearly does. 

End: The writer successfully connects this creative passion with other aspects of their life (science, tutoring) and even ends by suggesting how this passion will make them a better and more capable classmate and student. 

Key elements: passion+detail+connection to academics.

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 3

Prompt: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

The stall horn blares, and the plane sways under the control of my feet. Shoulders tense, I look outside to maintain balance: even a small tap of a foot or shift of the stick could throw the plane into a downwards roll. The plane begins to shake- my cue to recover. I pitch the nose down and push the throttle full forwards. Despite high-stress situations, piloting is my dream career. Whether airliners or navy jets, I know I will be happiest in the air.

essay on how to make your school a better place

I started out building model airplanes out of paper and pencils at Civil Air Patrol meetings, which first introduced me to basic aviation principles: pitch, roll, and yaw. From there, a presentation in my computer science class taught me about Joby Aviation, a local startup working on electric gyrocopters for everyday travel. Already knowing I wanted to fly, I felt inspired to work with aircraft as an engineer as well. I decided to enroll in flight lessons and subsequently took a job as a receptionist at my flight school.

When flying, time passes by as fast as the air around me. As warnings blare, pilots chatter over the radio and the plane’s glass bubble gets swelteringly hot. There’s a lot to be aware of, but I’ve learned to multitask and focus amidst distractions. Similarly, being at the airport quickly thrust me into the world of aviation. I found myself fascinated not only by aerodynamics but also by fuel chemistry, avionics, and materials. Sumping fuel from the fuel tanks, I wondered, how do different fuel textures affect planes’ engines? Running my hand along the propeller, I pondered: how would the aircraft fly if this were wood? Plastic? I became fascinated by the specificity and variability of aerospace materials and eager to learn more about them.

My love for aerospace is part of why I am eager to study engineering. I imagine myself designing new aircraft and optimizing the ones I fly. Whether I become a pilot or an engineer, the lessons I learn flying will be beneficial in any future paths I take.

Beginning: Like many (though not all) of the best essays, this one starts by dropping us directly into the story. It’s far less appealing or interesting to read someone say “my greatest strength is…” and far more enjoyable to see that strength in action. The story here is told with precise details, highlighting the stakes of what’s going on. 

Middle: Details, details, details–look at all those details! You should, by now, be seeing a trend in these essays. What makes this background about the students passions work are the specific details they provide about it: the models, the aviation principles, the gyrocopters. As with the example essay for the second prompt, these details serve to convey the student’s passion and their knowledge. 

End: As with the previous essay, the importance–the “so what?”–of this essay appear here. Why should we (and all those admissions committees) care that this student can fly planes? Well, because it’s taught them to “multitask and focus amidst distractions,” plus lead them to learn more about all sorts of related fields. 

Key elements: story+detail+connection to academics.

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 4

Prompt: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

essay on how to make your school a better place

Last summer, I volunteered with a global NGO called the Paper Carton Alliance. Its focus is recycling and sustainability, and I was fortunate enough to assist them while practicing my Mandarin Chinese. While I was there, we conducted site research at recycling plants and I learned about one of the most efficient recycling systems in the world. I came to understand Chinese by speaking it daily and hearing it in different contexts. I spoke in meetings as well as in casual conversations with my coworkers.

I also learned how to address cultural barriers and discomfort. Especially in the more rural areas of Taiwan, people weren’t expecting foreigners and would ask me where I was from or why I was there. At one meeting, once the manager learned that I could understand Chinese, he instead began to speak Taiwanese so that I wouldn’t understand him because he felt uncomfortable about a foreigner participating in the meeting. I was frustrated, but I realized that this wasn’t the time to assert myself. It was more important to respect my elders. I let them continue the meeting, taking notes to learn, and appreciating that there are times to step back.

Learning this cultural “language” was as important, if not more, as learning Mandarin. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t have had in an American classroom, but saw firsthand in a foreign Country.

Throughout the trip, I also saw efficient recycling methods and how governmental economic policy creates measurable differences in how businesses operate. Taiwan’s recycling program, one of the best in the world, inspires me to create something similarly effective after I graduate, starting on a local level. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I interact with nature regularly, whether running cross-country or swimming in Aquatic Park. I’m co-president of our school’s Ocean Conservation Club because I feel it’s not only a passion, but a human obligation to consider the environment. My volunteering with the Paper Carton Alliance stimulated both my passions for multiculturalism and environmental preservation. I hope to continue to work on behalf of the global environment in college and beyond.

Beginning: This essay opens clearly and directly without much of a story. It tells us what the student was involved in, sets up the context, and helps us understand why it matters. While normally we love seeing an essay start with a story, sometimes the topic doesn’t lend itself to that. 

Middle: The little anecdote in the middle of this essay about the manager switching languages is interesting and engaging; more importantly, it allows the writer to reflect critically on a nuanced issue (respecting cultural norms vs asserting yourself). By exploring that question, the writer shows admissions officers that they’re someone who thinks deeply about real-life issues and walks away from them with lessons. 

End: At the end, the author connects this educational opportunity with their passion for sustainable change and other areas of their life. They don’t try to cram every accomplishment in–instead, they just briefly connect some relevant aspects of their life to show that this learning opportunity wasn’t just a one-off, but actually continues to shape how they view the world.

Key elements: Passion+self-awareness+stakes.

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 5

Prompt: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. 

Until that moment, I hated being black. I hated my dark brown skin and wished that I was just a few shades lighter so that I was pretty. I hated my thick coily hair and wished it was straight like the other girls at school. I hated my African features and looking so different from everyone.  

But I hid it all. The older I got the harder it was to feel comfortable in my skin.

My mom held me as I cried, and for the first time in my life, I actually believed her when she called me beautiful. My wide nose and big lips make me uniquely interesting. My curly 4c hair gives me character and expression. My dark skin is exactly what makes me beautiful. For years I was blinded, but after my mom hugged me, I looked in the mirror seeing myself for the first time. I admired my dark skin that glows in the sun. I marveled at my wild hair that frames my face and fits any style of my character. I smiled at my full lips that speak my truth everyday, sharing my experiences with the world as I learn to love myself and love others. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

Every day I face life in a society that wants me to doubt myself, my abilities, and my success as an African American woman. Yet everyday when I look in the mirror I love the reflection looking back at me. The little black girl who never thought she was pretty is almost unrecognizable today. I will share my confidence with all the black girls around me. I will uplift them as my mother uplifted me. As a black woman in STEM, I have the unique opportunity to serve my sisters who are often overlooked in the healthcare industry. Not only can I set an example to young black girls of the greatness they will achieve, but I’ll also get to provide them care in a system that delegitimizes their pains. I will protect them and show them that they are beautiful and valid because they are black. 

Beginning: This essay starts with a series of incredibly powerful, vulnerable assertions. Not only does this student speak frankly about how she viewed herself, but by writing, “until that moment…” she’s also conveying to readers that there’s a story to come. 

Middle: The body of this essay tells a compact, fluid story, effectively using the “But I hid it all” for emphasis and contrast. It recounts that moment of change when the student overcame this discomfort, recounting an emotionally charged experience in bold, detailed prose. 

End: The student then connects this story more directly to the prompt, to wider social issues, and to the student’s academic calling. Note that this essay doesn’t try too hard to recount the writer’s accomplishments or to “sell” the writer as a good student or community member. It doesn’t need to. Instead, it clearly connects a moment of personal growth with the issues faced by black women, articulating how that connection has shaped what this student hopes to accomplish. 

Key elements: Vulnerability+detail+social issue+academics

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 6

Prompt: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

After watching a video about a man with 1,000 Klein bottles under his house, I became fascinated with topological shapes, figures that cannot be broken or torn, only morphed. Inspired to research single-surfaced Klein bottles, twisted Mobius strips, and their relationship to other branches of mathematics, I turned to Google Drawings and started designing a topology infographic.

As I traversed the web for information, one search led to a million others. I tumbled down the topology rabbit hole, hopping from one definition to the next to make sense of fundamental concepts. However, I found joy in deciphering definitions and complex notation. As I learned, I imagined myself taking classes and fully comprehending what were then somewhat cryptic definitions.

My calculus teacher, Mr. K, lent me a book: “Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid”. Absorbing the information in the pages, I recognized the miraculous nature of mathematics. Godel’s logical theorems, Escher’s topological visuals, and Bach’s musical epiphanies connected and built upon each other through a vastly spreading mathematical web. An excitement stirred within me and my eyes gradually opened up to the full extent of mathematics left to learn after high school. I began to wonder if I could study advanced mathematics with an engineering degree. Later, I discovered that topology, a seemingly unrelated field to engineering, is used to construct circuits and optimize materials for aerospace engineering. Through this, I realized that I can always find a way to connect my passions to my goals.

As I wrapped up my research project, I added the finishing touches: a vector icon of a torus and an image of a Klein bottle. Conveying what I’ve learned through a creative presentation is something I excel at, and I enjoy helping others learn in a visually dynamic way. As well as being an artistic opportunity, my topology research also deepened my passion for mathematics, something I am determined to follow through as I select my college courses.

Beginning: with a quirky start (what’s a Klein bottle? Why are so many under that house? Is that where Klein bottles are supposed to go?), this essay hooks us readers and begins recounting the writer’s intellectual pursuit of “topological figures.” It’s unusual, it’s detailed, and it’s clearly from the heart. 

Middle: As is classic for these essays, the middle sketches in detail how the student pursued this interest: a specific book connecting three different figures, each of which inspired this student’s love of math. Again, the details make this work: think about how much more boring this essay would be if we didn’t get the specific names and contributions of the three figures in the book.

End: the end shows, very briefly, the outcome of this learning process: a creative research project tying back to that original Klein bottle. What’s great about this essay is that it doesn’t recount some expensive or inaccessible learning experience like an elite summer camp or trip abroad. The student’s interest was hooked by a weird fact, so they pursued that interest through books, online searches, and a project, all things that just about anyone can do if they wish to. 

Key elements: quirky intro+Details+tangible outcome. I just wish this student told us what a Klein bottle is. 

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 7

Prompt: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  

One. Two. Three. Four. I looked around the room as anxious faces filled in. An awkward silence hung over us as I turned toward my best friend. A part of me felt guilty to be here; I wondered what would happen if any of my family members found out I was bringing “shame” to them. On the other hand, a part of me was glad that there was a place where I could proudly express this part of my identity. 

Finally, I broke the ice and introduced myself, “Hey guys, I’m the co-President; thank you all for coming to the first meeting of the year.” Soon enough, other people introduced themselves, and we started discussing our goals for the year in the affinity group. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

With a plan came weekly meetings. We made posters to promote inclusivity within the school, created educational presentations highlighting LGBTQ+ figures/struggles, and spearheaded activities/discussions to foster a safe place within the Gender and Sexualities Alliance. Our conversations ranged from inspiring LGBTQ+ activists throughout history to members’ personal experiences of coming out to loved ones and what that can mean for a person based on individual circumstances. I realized that the Gender and Sexualities Alliance wasn’t, in fact, a place of shame: it was a community where we could educate, empower, and (most importantly) be ourselves. 

At the very beginning, neither my co-President nor I thought the Gender and Sexualities Alliance would become what it is today. Through all of our efforts came more people, and that group of four became a group of fifteen and only kept growing. Those previously nervous faces turned into ones of confidence and pride—ready to make a difference within our school. The GSA founded a community passionate about creating a more inclusive environment where individuals felt safe to be themselves—enabling them to be more confident in all aspects of their lives, including academic/social pursuits within the school and beyond. I’m proud to have created a space where I can feel secure in myself and encourage others to feel so, as well.


Beginning: As some others, this essay starts in the middle of a story, with a catchy, slightly confusing first line. Done well, these kinds of openers just about always work: we want to know what’s happening, so we read on. That this opening also introduces something like a secret that could bring “shame” further raises the stakes and interest. 

Middle: In this essay, the body serves to provide the relevant context–like what the meeting is about and what the writer’s role is–while also continuing the important narrative of the author coming to terms with their identity. It’s that last bit, which requires vulnerability and self-awareness to write about, that is crucial to this sort of essay. 

End: As we’ve seen before with similar essays, this conclusion serves to move the focus partially away from the student and onto the larger community. The student’s identity is clearly important here, but no less important is “creating a space” where people can feel secure. This shows a commitment to diverse, open-minded communities, which is precisely what colleges are meant to be. 

Key elements: narrative intro+vulnerability+community

Real Sample Essay for UC PIQ 8

I’ve always hated Las Vegas, so I wasn’t thrilled when my dad’s family gathered there to celebrate my Grandma’s birthday one summer. Being around my Nigerian family made me nervous because I felt so -washed. Because I’m not close with my dad, I’m especially distant from my Nigerian heritage. I don’t speak our tribe’s native dialect, Ishan, like the rest of my family. I barely recognized the traditional dishes my cousins ate so comfortably. 

As my relatives lovingly reunited, I quickly felt lost in my own family. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

Nigerian parties are always spent dancing the night away. I hid in a corner, waiting desperately for the night to end before it had begun. Yet my cousins took me in with open arms, quickly erasing my fear of being the sore thumb. They didn’t see me as the outcast I envisioned myself to be. As we swayed to the motions the song progressed the strangers in the audience grew more and more familiar. We danced the night away to Nigerian hip hop, and the lively music drowned out the distance I felt from my culture. The lights of the hall illuminated the bright colors of our traditional African outfits as we jerked and jived to the beats. For the first time in my life I was fully immersed in my culture, and I felt so blessed to have a family with so much pride that leaves no one behind. They had given Vegas a new meaning: one of love, acceptance, and family. 

Being an American-born child to immigrant parents is a unique identity, one that comes with a beautiful background of cultural pride met with self-assimilation to avoid a sense of “other” we often feel. There are countless students who feel out of place in their families, out of touch from their backgrounds as I did. But that summer showed me how much you can give to others by sharing your culture. My hope is that in sharing my experiences with the UC community, we all learn from one another’s cultures and welcome each other with open arms as a family

Essays that respond well to the 8th prompt don’t tend to follow a particular pattern. All that matters is that they convey some essential element of the applicant’s background, which is precisely what this one does. 

Beginning: This essay starts with a strong assertion that immediately leads into a story, leading the reader to question why it is that the writer hated Las Vegas. At the same time, it sets the stakes of this essay: this writer doesn’t feel at home with aspects of her family’s background. 

Middle: The middle picks up and works to resolve that tension, most importantly by telling a detail-rich narrative of this writer’s experience at the family reunion. 

End: Finally, the essay directly and clearly articulates why all this matters: this student’s unique identity has shaped their understanding of community, and has helped them develop into someone who’ll be an open-minded, empathetic member of the University of California.

Key elements: narrative+detail+vulnerability+community

Final considerations for UC essays as a whole

essay on how to make your school a better place

It’s crucial to remember that, unlike in most other colleges’ admissions processes, there is no “main” essay or “personal statement” here. That means your four essays have to work together, painting a coherent but not repetitive picture of you as a college applicant. 

This leads to several important takeaways:

  • Don’t double dip. Each essay needs to illuminate some new aspect of your personality. If you answer the leadership prompt by writing about your role as president of a STEM club, you shouldn’t try to talk about that same club for the community prompt. 
  • Vary your style and structure . This is an often underlooked one. Because UC admissions officers will be reading your four college application essays back to back, you need to vary how you tell each story. We’ve said in this post that a great way to start is in the middle of a story, and that’s true. But you can’t do that for every single essay, or it’ll look like you only know the one trick. 
  • Use each prompt tactically. What we mean here is that you need to think carefully about what you want each of your UC college admissions essays to do for your application. Are you someone whose profile is all-STEM, all the time? Then you might want to use, say, the creativity prompt to highlight something about you totally unrelated to STEM, while using the academic interest prompt to expand on a particularly impressive research project you were involved in. 
  • Reuse and recycle. If you’re applying to non-UC schools, then you’ll also likely have to write a Common App personal statement and supplemental essays. The Common App essay can always be cut down and turned into one of the UC essays. Most of your supplemental essays are also going to be perfect responses (once lengthened) to many of the UC prompts. 

To check out more real-life examples of successful UC application essays, click the link below. And, if you’re ready to start drafting and want to maximize your chances of an admission to one of the more selective UC schools, contact us to get paired with an expert tutor–many of whom have gone through and succeeded in the University of California admissions process. 

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essay on how to make your school a better place

Tips for Writing a Standout Community Service Essay

←6 Diversity College Essay Examples

How to Write the “Why This Major” College Essay→

Through your college applications process, you’re likely to come across the term “community service” many times. In fact, you may be asked to write an essay about it. This post will cover the specifics of a community service essay and how to go about writing one, including what to cover and common mistakes to avoid. 

What is a Community Service Essay?

You may encounter the community service essay as you’re writing your supplemental essays for college. These are school-specific prompts that only go to the college that requests them, unlike the personal statement , which goes to every school you apply to. Not all schools require community service essays, but several do. It’s also a common requirement for scholarship applications, especially if it’s a school-specific merit scholarship. 

The community service essay is an essay that describes the initiatives you have taken outside of the classroom to benefit your community. In a 2018 survey of 264 admissions leaders across the US, 58% said that community service is a tie-breaker between students who are otherwise equally qualified. The community service essay offers you the opportunity to shine light on the work you have done to make an impact on the world and people around you, and is an additional way to help you stand out among other applicants. 

Approaching the Community Service Essay 

Understand the essay requirements  .

As with any essay, it’s important to first understand what is expected of your essay. For a start, elements to pay attention to include: 

  • Length requirements
  • Focus or subject of the essay prompt 
  • Organization of the essay 

Although all community service essays ultimately have the same purpose of having you describe your local service activities, they can come with different types of prompts. Below are three sample prompts. Note the differences in topic specificity, length requirements, and breadth of the prompt. 

From the CGCS – Bernard Harris Scholarship Program: 

Please describe a meaningful volunteer or community service experience, including what you learned from participating.

From the University of California Application :

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words).

From the Equitable Excellence Scholarship:

Describe your outstanding achievement in depth and provide the specific planning, training, goals, and steps taken to make the accomplishment successful. Include details about your role and highlight leadership you provided. Your essay must be a minimum of 350 words but not more than 600 words.

Brainstorming for your community service essay 

Once you have an understanding of what is required of the specific you are to write, the next step is to brainstorm ideas for a specific topic. If you have various community-engaged service experiences under your belt, consider the following before you finalize your decision. 

The best topics:

Are substantial in length and scope. It’s better to cover a long-term commitment than a one-off afternoon at the food pantry or animal shelter. 

Are transformative or inspiring. Although community service is “others”-oriented, colleges are looking to learn more about you. The ideal community service essay topic should be an experience that changed or challenged your perspective, and was ultimately fulfilling. 

Illustrate personal qualities or passions that you want to highlight. Given the specific prompt, and taking the rest of your application into consideration, which personal interests do you want to highlight? Which activity illuminates the personal quality that you want to bring attention to? 

These are all elements to consider before you begin writing your essay. 

essay on how to make your school a better place

Tips for Writing Your Community Service Essay 

1. include anecdotes.

Anecdotes are a great way to begin your essay, not only as a way to grab your reader’s attention, but by launching right into the experience of your service activity. You can start with a line about a particularly busy afternoon at the orphanage, or a morning cleaning up the streets after a storm, or the sense of accomplishment you felt when you watched a dog under your care at the animal shelter get adopted. 

2. Show, don’t tell 

We’re sure you’ve heard this axiom of general writing before, but it applies to college essays just as much as with any other piece of writing. Opt for evocative examples over plain explaining whenever possible. Take this sentence: “There was a lot of food waste at our school cafeteria.” It’s not nearly as powerful as this description: “I peered into the tall, gray trash cans to inspect the mountain of Styrofoam trays and discarded food. There were countless pizza crusts, globs of green beans, and unopened cartons of milk.” 

Anyone could write the first sentence, and it’s not a unique experience. In the second description, we’re shown the scene of the writer’s lunchroom. We get a peek into their perspective and life, which makes the writing more vivid and relatable. Aim to bring your reader into your world as much as possible.

3. Share your responsibilities and accomplishments.

The more tangible your community service activities feel to the reader, the more powerful your essay will be. Concretize your work by stating the basic details of what kind of work you did and what your duties involved, where it was based, when you began working, and the amount of time you spent working. 

Be sure to quantify your work and accomplishments when possible; it’s better to say your fundraiser yielded 125 books than “a large number” of books. It’s important to also elaborate on why the work you did matters. Why was it important? Did the books you collected or purchased after the fundraiser expand the library of the local orphanage that they already had, or did it offer the children easy access to books that wasn’t available previously? Be specific and detailed.  

4. Highlight what you learned and how you’ll use those lessons moving forward. 

Towards the end of your essay, you’ll want to share how you benefited from the community service work you did. This is an important part of the essay, because it shows how you are able to distill your experiences to applicable lessons in your own life. 

Think of this section in two potential parts: skills you learned, and personal development. Did you gain any hard skills, such as public speaking, poster design, or funds management? Then think about how you developed as an individual. Are you more empathetic or patient now? 

Things to Avoid in Your Community Service Essay 

1. don’t list out everything that happened..

You want to keep your essay well-structured and concise. This isn’t a résumé, or a play-by-play of the entire experience. Stick to the most telling details and anecdotes from your experience. 

2. Avoid using a pretentious or privileged tone.

Humility goes a long way, and entitlement can be smelled from afar. The purpose of this essay is not to paint yourself as a savior of any kind, but rather to show what’s important to you in your non-academic life, and how you approach solving real-world and interpersonal problems. 

3. Avoid clichés.

It may be tempting to quote famous people, but doing so can easily seem like a shortcut, plus it shows little of who you are. Try also to steer clear of trite and vague life lesson lines such as “I learned that people can be happy with so little,” or “I learned the importance of giving back.” Not only do they carry a tone of privilege, they are also sweeping general conclusions and don’t convey anything specific of what you learned. 

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Big Ideas for Better Schools: Ten Ways to Improve Education

Ideas for students, teachers, schools, and communities.

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Fourteen years ago The George Lucas Educational Foundation was created to celebrate and encourage innovation in schools. Since then we have discovered many creative educators, business leaders, parents, and others who were making positive changes not only from the top down but also from the bottom up. Since that time we have been telling their stories through our Web site, our documentary films, and Edutopia magazine.

Along the way, we listened and learned. Nothing is simple when strengthening and invigorating such a vast and complex institution as our educational system, but common ideas for improvement emerged. We've distilled those into this ten-point credo.

In the coming year, we will publish a series of essays that further explores each aspect of this agenda, with the hope that those on the frontlines of education can make them a part of their schools.

1. Engage : Project-Based Learning Students go beyond the textbook to study complex topics based on real-world issues, such as the water quality in their communities or the history of their town, analyzing information from multiple sources, including the Internet and interviews with experts. Project-based classwork is more demanding than traditional book-based instruction, where students may just memorize facts from a single source. Instead, students utilize original documents and data, mastering principles covered in traditional courses but learning them in more meaningful ways. Projects can last weeks; multiple projects can cover entire courses. Student work is presented to audiences beyond the teacher, including parents and community groups.

Reality Check : At the Clear View Charter School, in Chula Vista, California, fourth- and fifth-grade students collected insect specimens, studied them under an electron microscope via a fiber-optic link to a nearby university, used Internet resources for their reports, and discussed their findings with university entomologists.

2. Connect : Integrated Studies Studies should enable students to reach across traditional disciplines and explore their relationships, like James Burke described in his book Connections. History, literature, and art can be interwoven and studied together. Integrated studies enable subjects to be investigated using many forms of knowledge and expression, as literacy skills are expanded beyond the traditional focus on words and numbers to include graphics, color, music, and motion.

Reality Check : Through a national project called Nature Mapping, fourth-grade students in rural Washington learn reading, writing, mathematics, science, and technology use while searching for rare lizards.

3. Share : Cooperative Learning Working together on project teams and guided by trained teachers, students learn the skills of collaborating, managing emotions, and resolving conflicts in groups. Each member of the team is responsible for learning the subject matter as well as helping teammates to learn. Cooperative learning develops social and emotional skills, providing a valuable foundation for their lives as workers, family members, and citizens.

Reality Check : In Eeva Reeder's tenth-grade geometry class at Mountlake Terrace High School, near Seattle, student teams design "schools of the future" while mentoring with local architects. They manage deadlines and resolve differences to produce models, budgets, and reports far beyond what an individual student could accomplish.

4. Expand : Comprehensive Assessment Assessment should be expanded beyond simple test scores to instead provide a detailed, continuous profile of student strengths and weaknesses. Teachers, parents, and individual students can closely monitor academic progress and use the assessment to focus on areas that need improvement. Tests should be an opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes, retake the test, and improve their scores.

Reality Check: At the Key Learning Community, in Indianapolis, teachers employ written rubrics to assess students' strengths and weaknesses using categories based on Howard Gardner's concept of multiple intelligences, including spatial, musical, and interpersonal skills.

5. Coach : Intellectual and Emotional Guide The most important role for teachers is to coach and guide students through the learning process, giving special attention to nurturing a student's interests and self-confidence. As technology provides more curricula, teachers can spend less time lecturing entire classes and more time mentoring students as individuals and tutoring them in areas in which they need help or seek additional challenges.

Reality Check : Brooklyn fifth-grade teacher Sarah Button uses exercises and simulations from the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program with her students, helping them learn empathy, cooperation, positive expression of feelings, and appreciation of diversity.

6. Learn : Teaching as Apprenticeship Preparation for a teaching career should follow the model of apprenticeships, in which novices learn from experienced masters. Student teachers should spend less time in lecture halls learning educational theory and more time in classrooms, working directly with students and master teachers. Teaching skills should be continually sharpened, with time to take courses, attend conferences, and share lessons and tips with other teachers, online and in person.

Reality Check : Online communities such as Middle Web, the Teacher Leaders Network, and the Teachers Network bring novice and expert educators together in a Web-based professional community. The online mentorship gives novice teachers access to accomplished practitioners eager to strengthen the profession at its roots.

7. Adopt : Technology The intelligent use of technology can transform and improve almost every aspect of school, modernizing the nature of curriculum, student assignments, parental connections, and administration. Online curricula now include lesson plans, simulations, and demonstrations for classroom use and review. With online connections, students can share their work and communicate more productively and creatively. Teachers can maintain records and assessments using software tools and stay in close touch with students and families via email and voicemail. Schools can reduce administrative costs by using technology tools, as other fields have done, and provide more funds for the classroom.

Reality Check : Students in Geoff Ruth's high school chemistry class at Leadership High School, in San Francisco, have abandoned their textbooks. Instead, they plan, research, and implement their experiments using material gathered online from reliable chemistry resources.

8. Reorganize : Resources Resources of time, money, and facilities must be restructured. The school day should allow for more in-depth project work beyond the 45-minute period, including block scheduling of classes two hours or longer. Schools should not close for a three-month summer vacation, but should remain open for student activities, teacher development, and community use. Through the practice of looping, elementary school teachers stay with a class for two or more years, deepening their relationships with students. More money in school districts should be directed to the classroom rather than the bureaucracy.

New school construction and renovation should emphasize school design that supports students and teachers collaborating in teams, with pervasive access to technology. Schools can be redesigned to also serve as community centers that provide health and social services for families, as well as counseling and parenting classes.

Reality Check : The school year at the Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center, in Fort Worth, Texas, consists of four blocks of about nine weeks each. Intersession workshops allow its K-5 students time for hands-on arts, science, and computer projects or sports in addition to language arts and math enrichment.


9. Involve : Parents When schoolwork involves parents, students learn more. Parents and other caregivers are a child's first teachers and can instill values that encourage school learning. Schools should build strong alliances with parents and welcome their active participation in the classroom. Educators should inform parents of the school's educational goals, the importance of high expectations for each child, and ways of assisting with homework and classroom lessons.

Reality Check : In the Sacramento Unified School District, teachers make home visits to students' families. Teachers gain a better understanding of their students' home environment, and parents see that teachers are committed to forging closer home-school bonds. If English is not spoken in the home, translators accompany the teachers.

10. Include : Community Partners Partnerships with a wide range of community organizations, including business, higher education, museums, and government agencies, provide critically needed materials, technology, and experiences for students and teachers. These groups expose students and teachers to the world of work through school-to-career programs and internships. Schools should enlist professionals to act as instructors and mentors for students.

Reality Check : At the Minnesota Business Academy, in St. Paul, businesses ranging from a newspaper to a stock brokerage to an engineering firm provide internships for three to four hours per day, twice each week. BestPrep, a philanthropic state business group, spearheaded an effort that renovated an old science building for school use.

Five Steps for Building a Better School


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I am convinced that the foundation of a good education is about the concept of building—building a school, building a community, building relationships, and building a sense of self. School works for many students to provide a pathway into the future. It offers a foundation of rich experiences that inspire and form the basis of students’ life stories. Education and schools, however, can never be fully responsible for the outcomes that our students achieve. We cannot blame schools and teachers for the very complex mix of factors that result in any one person’s success in life.

I’ve been thinking recently about how we can alter the school experience for students and staff to better meet the needs of our learning communities. Some of the very structures and experiences that harken back to an earlier era in education may in fact be part of the future of teaching and learning. While it may be counterintuitive in our sophisticated high-tech world, building, manipulating, and creating inside the physical spaces of our school environment are essential in future learning.

Some of the very structures and experiences that harken back to an earlier era in education may in fact be part of the future of teaching and learning."

So what is in store for students, teachers, administrators, policymakers, and the taxpaying public that supports public education in the decades ahead? I suggest five steps for how school learning communities must move forward to build a better school.

1) Create a culture and environment that attends to the authentic learning experiences of the students.

There are many ways to engage students and teachers in authentic learning experiences. Tending a garden offers students a chance to shape their environment and participate in the natural transformation of seed to plant. Putting on a theater production shapes their experience of others, turning the audience into an integral part of learning. Students might create a gallery or museum display in a real process of honoring history and art. They might build a robot, which encompasses a wide range of design and scientific principles. The list of possibilities for school communities to come together and build something is as universal as it is unlimited.

2) Focus on building community; it matters more than raising test scores.

Our students face a growing list of pressures both real and imagined. School boards and superintendents, in particular, should take note of mental-health and substance-abuse issues and concerns. These are reaching crisis levels across the country. Students of all ages need a compelling experience that engages them in their respective learning communities. Sorting students by test scores will never answer the call for safer and healthier learning communities. Establishing deep and abiding personal relationships and building a sense of community will, and it’s urgently needed.

3) Reshape schools; don’t seek to reform them.

I believe that we can honor the place where we work—be it rural or urban, on the shoreline or in a desert—each with its own unique characteristics and endless possibilities. The beauty of creating an authentic and purposeful education for all students is a universal goal that crosses district lines and income divisions. We can enhance our school environments, and in doing so, enhance each other, our community, and ultimately, ourselves. We can build and be committed to the process of continuously rebuilding our mission and our school.

4) Engage stakeholders in re-envisioning the schoolhouse.

If the future is ever more unpredictable, then is keeping things basically the same still an option? Whether it is the students, teachers, policymakers, or families in any learning community, we must look at which tools we keep and which tools we should discard to help us build our schools. Ultimately, whenever we are faced with the challenge of engaging our students in the process of learning, we are building their skills, building a sense of community, and helping each student to build a sense of self.

Schools of the future may require a new vision for how they are structured, built, and financed. Let us not forget that no matter how schools are set up, it is the relationship between child and adult that stands at its center. From that center, we can work together to impart lessons, build understanding, and build capacity.

5) Don’t see school improvement as a technological fix.

We can have Smart Boards in every room but fail to update the pedagogy used 30 years ago. This is not a criticism of how we engaged our students in the past. In fact, I would argue that a way to engage students that is more than 2,400 years old still applies—even more so today. I am referring, of course, to the Socratic method.

Too often, we ask students to learn something as a way to develop a skill or possess knowledge that can be applied later on in life without explaining when they will need that skill.

Let’s make the process of learning and what takes place in school so compelling that it cannot be replaced by an algorithm. Let us ensure that our students continue to be great problem-solvers, fearless learners, courageous citizens, and creative thinkers who contribute greatly to the world around them.

If students become engaged in solving real-world problems, then wouldn’t they be better prepared to build their future? If they had permission to alter the physical space in their school, wouldn’t they alter their view of school in the process? I believe that with each passing generation, we inherit a space, with a covenant to uphold the values and principles of those who have come before us. We have an opportunity to build on their contributions while we forge our own. Is it not true that at all times we stand on the shoulders of others? Let us work together to build on the opportunity that has been given to us.

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Essay Hell

UC Essay Prompt 7: Volunteer Your Best Story

by j9robinson | May 2, 2016

uc essay prompt 7

University of California Personal Insight Question 7:

Time to talk about one of those volunteer experiences.

UC essay prompt 7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

The minute I read UC essay prompt 7, I thought most students would jump at this question because most have spent endless hours volunteering during high school.

Now it’s time to recall some of your most interesting or meaningful “times” or experiences.

You could write a strong essay about giving back, but you have to be careful to avoid the cliche trap.The trick is to think of something unusual or unexpected that happened during one of those experiences.

And think hard about how they affected you so you don’t repeat the same old stuff everyone else usually says. (“I love to help people.” or “I found it very rewarding.”)

Your volunteering experience doesn’t need to be impressive or unique. Many students work on similar projects, such as helping build houses or churches for the needy, tutoring special needs kids, working with seniors, etc. And the UC knows that.

Make sure to probe a little deeper into what you noticed as you helped out your community, school, town or home. Share what you thought, look for specific incidents or moments, and recall those observations or realizations that you didn’t expect.

uc essay prompt 7

Describe something specific that happened during that mission trip, trash pickup or fundraiser instead of describing what you did there in general terms.

That will make what you have to say more interesting and original.

I believe you need to give your essay a focus on something specific within that larger volunteering experience to make it meaningful and effective.

Here’s a sample outline that can help you give your topic interest and focus so you avoid the usual pitfalls of writing about volunteer experiences:

Sample Outline for UC Essay Prompt 7

  • Start by describing “a time” something happened while you were working on some type of improvement activity. Include a problem that you faced to give it interest. Then background the larger project or experience, and what led up to it, why you decided to participate and how you felt about it. (A paragraph or two)
  • Explain how you handled the problem related to that volunteer experience, what you thought about it and what you learned in the process. End with how you intend to apply this lesson in future goals.

The UC admissions included additional suggestions to help you brainstorm for this essay:

Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place – like your high school, hometown, or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community?

Why were you inspired to act?  What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community?

The UC also shared this in the Personal Insight Question Freshman Guide to help you with UC essay prompt 7:

Did you contribute to a positive change at your school or in your community? What steps have you taken to accomplish this? Remember, even small changes can have a big impact. Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort?

I made a short presentation to help student learn How to Write Short Essays , such as these UC essays that need to have fewer than 350 words each.

Check Out These Related Posts!

UC Essay Prompt 6: Your Favorite Academic Subject



Hi I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to write about a time I raised awareness for the refugee crisis by writing about how I did that and its impact on me.


Hi, that’s sounds like an excellent topic for this prompt! JR


I want to write about creating a more accepting environment in school through my club, but I have already mentioned the club earlier on in the application. Would it be hurtful to bring it up again in the personal statement? I would be writing about a specific event in my statement, if that makes a difference. Thanks!


No because mentioning the program again will be your chance to got more in depth and in detail about it.


Hello! I wanted to ask if I can use my experiences registering qualified students with members of Political Activist Club at my own school to write about how I moved from an active task of assisting students to the tedious work of marking which students were done registering, absent, or need to redo their forms and explain what I learned from changing roles.

Hi Ayumo, Yes, that sounds like excellent fodder for this essay! Try to think of some “time” something happened with that work and share how you dealt with it and what you learned. That way it won’t be boring to read about. The key is to find one (or a couple) of your “experiences” to write about that you can use to SHOW the reader what you did and learned. Good luck! JR


I haven’t done any such things. I can’t even lie. So what I do?

Hi Parnika,

Of course, don’t lie. If you don’t have volunteer experiencse, just pick one of the other prompts to answer. Remember, you only have to write about 4 of the 8. Pick the ones that allow you to share experiences and achievements and ideas that you want the UCs to know about you. Best of luck, Janine


Hi, I volunteer at a hospital and wrote about how my encounter with a woman who had cancer was an eye opening experience as there isn’t really a problem that I’ve had while volunteering. I was wondering if writing about that was ok? I used your guideline as reference, but I don’t know how to incorporate how my actions benefited others or emphasize my role in the community since I’m talking about an encounter rather than my volunteering as a whole. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks!


Hi, I’m a little confused about the community at home part. For example what if you help your parents with something important, could that count as making your community a better place.

Andrew Swackhamer

Hi! I’m having a little trouble formulating exactly what I want to say for this prompt. I want to talk about creating my school’s first speech and debate team, how it grew from 3 members to 30, and how I convinced my administration to make it a course offered at my school instead of just a club. I really want to get across the point that I helped to positively impact the lives of not just the people on the team, but because it’s a class it’ll continue to affect students 10-20 years after I’ve left. I just don’t know how to really express that whilst staying true to the idea of keeping it specific instead of generalizing everything and making it boring.


Hi I volunteered at a hospital and wanna include it for prompt 7 but not so sure what to talk about since I wanna make it sound interesting and not something they have read before

Justin Han

Hello, I do an internship at a hospital, and I was wondering could I talk about how my volunteer work impacts the nurses and doctors? Or should I talk about how I help other people in my community?

Mason Espinoza

Hello, although I plan on going into econ, I want to talk about how I am a campaign manager for my former English teacher, in our local election for school board. Does this sound like a good thing to talk about? (I heard not many students have been campaign managers). Thank you!

Sounds good! I haven’t heard of that either. I bet you learned some invaluable real-world skills!

Sounds great! I haven’t heard of anyone writing about that. I bet you learned some wonderful real-world skills!

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UC PIQ: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? | Sabria

essay on how to make your school a better place

Sabria , University of Pennsylvania Class of 2023

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place .

Overtime, I learned that Armani wants to be spoken to as my friend; she wants badly to be accepted. Greg wants to be challenged academically; he wants to be a scholar. My cousin, Zechariah needs constant affection and encouragement; his dad passed away at his peewee football game two weeks ago. Every Saturday morning, at Emanyatta, I work with these children. For African American children in my community, traditional school contributes to cultural genocide. Moreover, a stigma has been festering that college might as well be on the moon if you are not an athlete; I reject this mentality and I am working hard to disprove this stereotype that is infiltrating the minds of my young Black peers.

Emanyatta derives its name from the warrior training camp of the Maassai tribe from Southern Kenya, and I see myself in the warriors that we are conditioning each week. This program was designed to provide elementary school students with additional academic support; however, for myself and many of the kids I work with, the group’s warm environment is monumental and serves as a second home. I know from my own experience, pursuing your passion in my community is a battle. Some of my duties consist of teaching second grade “Read Aloud, Read Proud,” which allows students to practice reading orally, leading third grade’s “Solve It Saturday,” a 30 minute math and critical thinking workshop, and bonding with the kids during “My Earth, My Worth,” a gardening workshop that promotes healthy eating. Seeing the students’ eyes light up each week as I work with them dispels the myth that Black children cannot learn; hearing their choral response disproves the stereotypes that Black children do not listen; feeling their collaborative energy dismantles the notion that Black children will not behave.

I know many of the kids outside of the program, and I know that having a surplus of young volunteers like myself would provide valuable mentorship. My success will come from rewriting the narrative for African American youth in my community, and through encouraging them to pursue higher education.

University of Pennsylvania 2023

About the author 🎓, major: political science, minors: consumer psychology and africana studies, accepted universities: stanford university, georgetown university, bowdoin college, davidson college, emory university, saint mary\'s college of california, santa clara university, university of miami, vassar college, university of southern california, university of california berkeley, university of california los angeles, university of california san diego, university of california davis, howard university, spelman college, hometown: bay area, california, more essays, common app essays →, harvard essays →, mit essays →, princeton essays →, stanford essays →, yale essays →, common application essay: describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve | dyllen.

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma –

essay on how to make your school a better place

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The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you

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Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why The day’s memories flash through my mind as I lie in bed. The piano

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The Community Essay for the Common App Supplements

Mark montgomery.

  • July 24, 2023

community essay for the Common App

How do you write the community essay for the Common App? Many college applications require supplemental essays. A common supplementary question asks you to consider and write about a community to which you belong. 

The definition of community is open to interpretation and can be difficult to pin down. We each belong to a wide variety of communities ranging from our family and friend groups to being members of the global community.  

My Communities 

For example, I belong to a bunch of different communities. I sing in a choir, so I’m part of the community of the Colorado Chorale community (and within that community, I’m a member of the tenor section). I go to see plays a lot, so I’m a member of the “theater-going” community. Birdwatching can be fun, I find, so I belong to the “community of birdwatchers.” I belong to a club or two, so I’m a member or those communities. I belong to a political party, which is a community in a sense. I went to Dartmouth , so I belong to a community of alumni, both locally and globally. Same with my grad school: my friends and I still talk about belonging to the “ Fletcher Community .” 

essay on how to make your school a better place

When I lived in Hong Kong, I was a member of the American community, which was part of the large expatriate community. I speak French and live in Denver. Therefore, I’m part of the community of Denverites who speak French as a second language. I live in a specific neighborhood in the city of Denver in the State of Colorado in the United States. All of those communities define me in one way or another. Finally, at a more intimate level, I also belong to a family community that is very important to me.

Really, when you stop to think about it, we all belong to a large number of overlapping communities. Think of a Venn diagram with lots of overlapping circles—and we are at that tiny dot in the center where each of those circles overlaps. 

Why write the community essay for the Common App?

Why do colleges ask you to write this community essay? In writing about community as it relates to you, you reveal important details at the core of who you are. Colleges are hoping to bring students to their campuses who will contribute in a positive way to campus culture, whether intellectually, socially, or through their extracurricular activities. 

They want students who will be successful in their new community and enrich the college through their varied backgrounds, experiences, accomplishments, activities and behavior. Thus, the way you answer this prompt will help them imagine if you would be a good addition to their campus community.

Here are some examples of the community essay prompt:

  • Please complete the following, and have a little fun doing so: “I appreciate my community because …” (up to 300  characters)
  • At MIT , we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being good friends. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (200-250 words)
  • What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  (up to 350 words)
  • Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.  (up to 300 words)
  • Macalester is a community that includes people from many different backgrounds, some who have lived around the world and others who have lived in one place their entire lives. Please write an essay about how your background, experiences, or outlook might add to the Mac community, academically and personally. (up to 500 words)*

* Note: this last prompt doesn’t ask about a community to which you currently belong, but rather asks you to reflect on what you will bring to the community. This essay is a mix of activities and community essays. However, this essay should emphasize what the applicant would add to the campus community.

The community essay vs. the community service essay

Notice that this essay is not narrowly focused on any service you might provide to your community. Of course, it is entirely possible that your involvement in a community may include some sort of involvement that helps to promote the community and the interests of its members in some way.  

However, the community essay prompts do not specifically ask you to talk about this service. The prompts want you to think about what it means to “belong,” and how you conceive of yourself in the larger world. A sense of community may, indeed, lead you to act in certain ways to advance a cause, donate your time, or exert your energies to meet the needs of your community. Your actions certainly may become part of this community essay as a way to demonstrate the ways in which you identify with—and contribute to—this community. But the focus of this essay is on that sense of belonging. 

Service to your community—or to someone else’s?

To put a finer point to it, it is possible to provide “community service” to communities to which we do not belong. We might donate time to the homeless community—but that does not make us homeless. We might spend time working with refugees, even if we, ourselves, are not refugees. Or while we might enjoy good health, we still might donate time to make meals for the critically ill.

So make sure that when you write the community essay you zero in on a community that defines you, and not on the service you devote to a community that is not your own.  

When preparing for the community essay for the Common App, DO THESE THINGS:

Think carefully about your choice of community.

The community you choose says a lot about you. Think carefully about what message even just the choice of community might convey to your reader. In fact, you may even want to start by asking yourself “What aspects of who I am do I want the reader to know?” and then pick the community that will do that in the best possible way. Think, too, how your choice can help you differentiate yourself and share important insight into who you are. 

Factors for you to consider as you brainstorm the community essay for the Common App:

  • Which communities are most important to you and why?
  • What do these communities say about you that you haven’t shared with your reader elsewhere in your application?
  • What roles have you played in these communities?
  • How would you measure the impact of your participation in these communities?
  • What does your participation in these communities say about your character, qualities, and how you interact with the world around you?
  • What does the overall message say about you as a future college student?

Use this as an opportunity to reveal more about yourself

This prompt isn’t just to elaborate on your community; this is another opportunity to reveal important qualities about yourself. Explain why this community is so important to you. Write about what you learned about yourself and how it has shaped who you are. Reveal how you have made contributions to this community.  

Show, don’t tell

Like every essay, the details show your reader what you want them to know about you. Be specific, but selective, with the details you include. Every word should contribute to the message you want to share with your reader. If you have space, share an anecdote to help the reader visualize the qualities that you are trying to share.

Ensure you answer the prompt fully and directly

Some of these prompts are simple and short, but other schools have long prompts. Don’t get lost in answering the first part of the prompt and forget about the remainder. Re-read the prompt after you have drafted your ideas to make sure you’ve addressed everything. 

In addition, sometimes, if you have multiple applications that ask a “community” question, you may be tempted to simply repurpose the same exact essay from one application to the other. Beware! Each prompt will have different nuances to it, and you will need to ensure that you are actually answering the prompt that is being asked. You can certainly re-use the content from one application to the next, but you should tailor how you express those ideas so that they match the prompt.

When drafting the community essay for the Common App, DON’T DO these things

Don’t be afraid to “think outside of the box”.

Think outside the box when you write the community essay

Some communities to which we belong are obvious because we participate in them on a daily basis. These would include our families and our friend groups. Others are obvious because they are clearly defined: the football team or student government. But what about those informal communities, occasional communities, or hard-to-define communities to which you might belong? Are you a crafty person who blogs about your creations with an online community?

Do you belong to a book group in your neighborhood? Are you a classic car connoisseur? Even writing about things that might not seem like natural “communities” can work quite well as long as they reveal important aspects of who you are. For example, we’ve read a successful “community” essay about a student who belonged to a community of anonymous subway riders. We read another about a community of students who wear crazy socks to school. 

Don’t share obvious details

The detail about the community is not the most important part of your response, even if the prompt does say to “describe a community to which you belong.” Consider only sharing those details about the community that ties into what you are trying to share about yourself. For example, most drama groups put on performances for the public.

But not all drama groups are community-based and have participants ranging in age from 9 to 99. If part of your story is about this multi-generational community, then this detail plays a part in your story. Include those details that play a role in why the community is important or impactful for you.

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Remember these things about the community essay for the Common App

No matter which community you choose to write about, you want to be sure that you reflect deeply about why this community is important to you. If you have a longer word count, you can consider using an anecdote to share with the reader, but for the shorter prompts, keep your writing personal, but just more to the point.

And don’t lose sight of the reason that you are writing this essay. You are applying to be a part of a new community. You want to show that you have a deep appreciation for the sense of satisfaction, dedication, and attachment that comes with being a member of a community. The purpose is to demonstrate that you know how to nurture the community and how you nourish others’ sense of belonging in that circle.  

Colleges want to know that you will keep the flame of that college community alive, even as you graduate and move on with your life. The admissions office wants to know that you will cherish and contribute to the community that they already call their own. Convince them that you deserve to belong.

Mark Montgomery

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Making Your School a Better Place for Everyone

Your school is an important part of the community, and many people will spend a significant part of their lives there. Students, parents and faculty have a vested interest in their school, which is why it’s important that it’s made the best it can be.

Schools can face a number of challenges, from poor academic results to an unhealthy school environment that can leave students and teachers unhappy. Finding a way to overcome these challenges and create a more positive school environment is important for everyone involved, and can help boost the success of your school.

Ready to make some improvements and help you school become the best it can be? Here are some ideas as to how you can make your school a better place for everyone.

Start an Improvement Plan

To stand any chance of making some significant improvements to your school, you’re going to need to put a plan in place. This will require addressing where the problems lie and thinking about the different approaches you can take to help make those improvements a reality.  From finding ways of improving education to starting a new activity program to establish a more inclusive school environment, start thinking of ideas that you can implement to take your school forward.

Make Sure Your Staff Feel Confident and Competent

Having good teaching staff is vital for your school. When your faculty feel confident, respected and competent in their jobs, they’ll be able to deliver excellent education to students. Providing regular training can help teachers to sharpen their skills, while making sure that there are safety procedures in place that stop teachers feeling afraid or threatened in the classroom is also important in ensuring their happiness. Empower your staff by asking for their ideas and feedback and you’ll all be able to work together to bring improvements to your school.

Tackle Problems Among Your Students

Are bullying and inclusion problems an issue at your school? It’s time to tackle these problems so that you can make your students feel safe and happy when they go to school. Bullying comes in many forms, including cyberbullying, and it’s important that schools recognize where the problems are to help do something about it. There are different ways that schools can prevent bullying , so make sure you put a program in place to eradicate it for good.

With the mental health of children becoming an increasingly concerning topic in the news, it’s important that schools begin to recognize the signs of troubled students and help them get the help they need. Training staff to handle mental health topics is important, and having an open-door policy at your school could help students feel like they have a safe place to go to discuss any issues they might be facing.

It’s also important to realize when you don’t have the in-house expertise to manage an issue. This is true of mental health itself, which, while teachers need training in recognizing the signs, is a matter that should ultimately be passed on to affiliated therapy services that can offer proper treatment. Equally, many schools are finding it beneficial to partner with businesses that are backing charity initiatives and can provide the funding for additional equipment or services that schools struggle to manage on their own. 

As David Shulick explains, Whirlpool’s work in tackling disadvantaged absenteeism alongside Teach for America is a great example of this and has provided the financial backing necessary for many schools to provide much-needed clothes-washing facilities to underprivileged students. Similar initiatives can also help to tackle increasingly pressing issues that include food poverty, obesity, and mental health as mentioned. Schools simply need to do their research, consider the problems that are most impacting their children, and seek the partnerships that are most likely to lead to notable change.

Help Parents Feel More Involved

Parents are an important part of the school environment. It’s important that schools involve parents and families where possible to make everyone feel more clued up, as well as ensure that students’ best interests are at the heart of the school. You can bring systems into place that can boost communication between parents and teachers, with parent engagement tools making it easier to discuss development and any issues that might need addressing. Regular meetings between faculty and parents can help ease concerns and ensure development and education continues at home, while also making schools feel like a greater part of the community. Invest time in working with parents to help you implement a successful improvement program.

Learn to Be a Great Leader

Driving change requires a strong leader to see the transition through. Improving your leadership skills can take time, but if you’re willing to work at it, then you could cement your position within your school and become a leader that parents, teachers and students can trust and feel inspired by. A program of change can come with its challenges, but by being a motivational force and being open and honest throughout the process, you’ll stand a better chance of implementing these changes successfully.

Create a More Positive Workplace

All workplaces can go through a stage where employees feel negative or unmotivated by their work environment. Schools are no exception. By developing a team of staff who are happy in their roles, you can improve the education that’s offered, and stand a better chance of retaining your staff. Increasing job satisfaction of your team can help make sure that everyone’s on board when it comes to improving the school, and that staff work closer together to deliver results. Creating a more positive workplace can make your school a more desirable place to work, helping you attract the best talent to your team.

Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle

The health of teachers and your students is important. When people are more active and eat a better diet, they are more focused, and less likely to suffer from common health problems. By encouraging healthy eating at your school , you could help set students up with habits and knowledge that will be useful in later life. Overhauling your lunch program is one way you can begin this change.

Meanwhile, a focus on physical activity can also help make sure that students and teachers stay fit and healthy. Make physical activity an important part of the school day, and offer a variety of activities that students can get involved in – and not just in a competitive way.

Celebrate Your Achievements

Schools can face a lot of challenges and negativity, which is why it’s important to celebrate your achievements. From sporting successes to the individual achievements of your students, recognizing these positive achievements will help to motivate and make everyone take pride in their school. Different ways you can celebrate include recognizing them during an assembly, writing about them in a school newsletter, blog or website, etc. Celebrate your achievements and help everyone remember the amazing things your school is capable of.

Making improvements to your school is important for ensuring its future success. With a focus on making positive changes across multiple areas, you really can help to make your school a better place for everyone.

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9 Ways to Make School Better for our Most Vulnerable Students

Small things make a big difference. Like installing a washer and dryer in your school.

essay on how to make your school a better place

A student is considered vulnerable if one part of their development is not growing at an average rate. What happens if all parts of a child’s development are not growing? These are our most vulnerable students. Many of them are growing up in poverty , facing additional challenges that can make learning extra challenging. Here are some important ways we can  support our vulnerable students and improve their school experience.

1. Start a free clothing closet

Kids don’t want to come to school wearing the same clothes every day, but sometimes they have no choice. “Plainwell High School teacher Nancy Heath noticed a need in her school a few months ago. “I just looked around the school and there are kids that just don’t have adequate clothing. They’re wearing the same thing day in and day out, they’re dirty, you know they probably don’t have access to a washer/dryer and they don’t ask, they don’t complain they just come to school and do their best. So I thought why not help?”

2. Give out weekend food backpacks

Some children living in poverty don’t have access to adequate nutrition unless they are at school. That can make going home for weekends and vacations stressful. Many schools have programs like Feed More  where kids get the food they need.

3. Provide free access to sanitary supplies

Studies suggest that the more stressful a child’s life is early on, the earlier the onset of puberty. Many nonprofits and other services neglect to give young girls free access to menstruation products. There are some places out there making sure girls and women from low-income communities have free access, like Helping Women Period .

4. Have a bank of school supplies available for anyone

Some kids who show up to school without supplies aren’t being irresponsible, they simply can’t bring a pencil to school. Have a place everyone can go to for supplies without being ostracized or made to feel uncomfortable.

5. Help them find safe transportation

Many students rely on free bus programs to get to school during regular hours. After hours programs—such as school plays, extracurricularr activities, and even dances—enhance students’ school experiences but also require transportation. Not every child has access to a vehicle or the money to ride public transportation. See if you can use  or ask your local PTO to fund vans for events, gas cards, and bus passes. Make sure everyone knows they are available without having to prove that they need them.

6. Keep your school libraries

Reading not only increases academic intelligence, reading fiction helps build emotional intelligence skills such as empathy. But not every child has access to literature at home. Combine smart, well-read librarians with vast quantities of (free access) books, you create the best learning experience for children. Teachers cannot possibly be expected to manage all of their teaching and be librarians. They lose more books out of their classrooms when there is no true library check out system. Don’t let your community be a book desert .

7. Build and maintain a long-term mentoring  program

Studies show that students with social support are more likely to remain engaged in school even when faced with adversity. Long-term mentorship programs can help provide that support. If your school doesn’t have the infrastructure to create a mentorship program on your own, look for one that can help, like Fr1ends of Ch1ldren .

8. Install a washer and dryer

Sullivan Middle School in Worcester, Massachusetts, purchased a washer and dryer with a grant to help kids who may not have easy access to cleaning clothes at home. “It’s a practical solution to a practical problem,”  Principal Josephine Robertson told the Worcester Telegram , “We talk about school as having two prongs—there’s the academic side, and the social side. And one cannot be more important than the other.”  When disadvantaged students don’t have fresh clothes to wear, they may feel less comfortable going to school and be more prone to chronic absenteeism. After the success of this pilot program, the Worcester School District now plans to install washers and dryers in all the district’s schools.

9.  Brainstorm as a staff

It takes a community to support any child, and this is particularly true for vulnerable students. Make sure your school nurse, guidance counselor, physical therapist, and school psychologist are working together to look at every aspect of supporting vulnerable students. This can help bring services to the child while we have him right there in school.

Join our Facebook group  Principal Life  for more ideas on how to transform your school.

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How to Make Your Essay Better: 7 Tips for Stronger Essays

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Krystal N. Craiker

How to make your essay better

Essay writing doesn’t have to be intimidating. With a few tips, you can improve your writing skills for any type of academic essay.

How to Write Better Essays

7 tips on how to make your essay better, how to become a better essay writer.

The best way to sum up how to write better essays is, “Make sure you’re answering the question.”

This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many students struggle with this.

From not understanding the prompt to poor research skills to off-topic body paragraphs, it’s easy for an essay to derail.

We’ve got seven tips for writing better essays that will help you avoid common mistakes and craft the best essays possible.

7 tips for imrpoving your essay

Here are our top tips for improving your essay writing skills.

Understand the Prompt or Research Question

The first step in your writing process is to fully understand the essay topic. If your professor gave you a prompt for your academic essay, spend some time analyzing it.

First, take note of whether you’re writing an expository or persuasive essay. The tone, structure, and word choice will differ between essay types.

Pay close attention to the wording of the prompt.

If your teacher wants you to “analyze” the effects of new technology in World War I, but you turn in a descriptive overview of the technology, you are not answering the question.

If they have given you a topic but no prompt, you’ll need to create a guiding question for your research.

Be specific in what you are trying to research, or you’ll end up overwhelmed with a topic that is too big in scope.

“Symbolism in modern literature” is too broad for a term paper, but “How does F. Scott Fitzgerald use symbolism in The Great Gatsby ?” is an achievable topic.

Improve your essay tip

Take Excellent Notes

Once you understand exactly what your essay is about, you can begin the research phase. Create a strong note-taking system.

Write down any idea or quote you might want to use. Cite every note properly to save time on your citations and to avoid accidental plagiarism.

Once you have gathered your research, organize your notes into categories. This will help you plan the structure of your essay.

You’ll likely find that some of your research doesn’t fit into your essay once you start writing. That’s okay—it’s better to have too much information to support your argument than too little.

Write a Strong Thesis Statement

Possibly the most important step in essay writing is to craft a strong thesis statement. A thesis statement is a brief—usually single-sentence—explanation of what your essay is about.

The thesis statement guides the entire essay: every point you make should support your thesis.

A strong thesis is specific and long enough to address the major points of your essay.

In a persuasive or argumentative essay, your thesis should clearly establish the argument you are making.

Make an Outline

Once you have all your research, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. How do you turn the information into a cohesive essay?

Rather than writing an essay with no roadmap, an outline will keep you on track. An outline helps you organize your thoughts, plan your arguments, and sort your research.

A good outline saves you time, too! You can compile the relevant evidence in your notes before writing, so you don’t have to find that specific quote in the middle of essay writing.

An outline will also stop you from reading your finished essay and realizing you went completely off track.

With an outline, you can avoid finding paragraphs that don’t support your thesis right before you submit the essay.

Improve your essay tip

Craft a Great Introduction

An academic essay needs a strong introductory paragraph.

The introduction is the first impression of your essay. It prepares the reader for what’s coming and gets them excited to read your paper.

A good introduction has three things:

  • A hook (e.g. insightful statement, quote, interesting fact)
  • Brief background information about the topic
  • A thesis statement

Using this formula will help you write a strong introduction for your essay.

Have Original Ideas and Interpretations

The best academic writing advice a professor ever gave me was, “You’ve shown me what other people have said about the topic. I want to know what you think about the topic.”

Even a fact-heavy or data-heavy essay needs original ideas and interpretations. For every piece of information you cite, whether you quote or paraphrase it , offer original commentary.

Focus on insights, new interpretations, or even questions that you have. These are all ways to provide original ideas in your essay.

Proofread for Readability

A good essay is a proofread essay.

Readability, or how easy something is to read, has many factors. Spelling and grammar are important, but so is sentence structure, word choice , and other stylistic features.

Academic essays should be readable without being too simple. In general, aim for a readability score that is close to your grade level in school.

There are several ways to check readability scores, including using ProWritingAid’s Readability Report.

ProWritingAid's readability report

The quickest way to increase readability is to fix grammar and spelling mistakes . You can also raise the readability score by using more complex and compound-complex sentences.

ProWritingAid can offer suggestions on how to improve your essay and take it to the next level.

Our free essay checker will check for spelling and grammar errors, plus several other types of writing mistakes.

The essay checker will offer you suggestions on sentence length and passive voice.

It will help you trim the excess words that bog down your writing by analyzing your sticky sentences and overused words.

The essay checker is here to help you turn in an error-free essay.

Want to improve your essay writing skills?

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Krystal N. Craiker is the Writing Pirate, an indie romance author and blog manager at ProWritingAid. She sails the seven internet seas, breaking tropes and bending genres. She has a background in anthropology and education, which brings fresh perspectives to her romance novels. When she’s not daydreaming about her next book or article, you can find her cooking gourmet gluten-free cuisine, laughing at memes, and playing board games. Krystal lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, child, and basset hound.

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How Can We Make This World a Better Place

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Promoting sustainability, advancing education, empowering women and promoting gender equality, promoting peace and conflict resolution, fostering inclusivity and diversity, supporting healthcare and well-being, engaging in acts of kindness and philanthropy.

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