UCLA Personal Statement: FAQ, Examples & Insider Tips

Monday, October 30, 2023

Los Angeles, APR 4: Aerial night view of UCLA campus on APR 4, 2019 at Los Angeles, California

UCLA is part of the University of California system, which is comprised of nine campuses throughout the state. Students applying to UCLA must use the UC application — the University of California system does not use the Common App or Coalition Application. The application process includes several personal statement prompts, or what UC refers to as personal insight questions. Keep reading to learn more about these prompts and tips for responding to them.   

Does UCLA Need a Personal Statement? 

For admission to any of the University of California schools, including UCLA, you are required to respond to the personal statement prompts, which becomes part of the holistic review. What does holistic review really mean? 

IvyWise counselor Tiffany explains, “holistic review really means and acknowledges that there are multiple parts of your personality, your talents, and your application — and the admissions office is willing to consider each of those areas.” The UCLA essays provide insight into who you are beyond how you perform in the classroom. It helps the admissions committee picture how you will contribute to the campus community. 

UCLA Personal Statement 2023 

Well-crafted essay responses may give you an edge over another strong candidate with comparable academic performance. Taking the time to research how to get into UCLA and including specific and relevant details in your responses will make your personal statements much stronger. According to the University of California, your responses to the personal insight questions “provide context for the rest of your application.”  

How Long Is the UCLA Personal Statement? 

The UC system provides eight personal insight questions for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. You are required to respond to four of them. Each response should be 250 to 350 words. Review the questions carefully and choose the four that you feel are the most relevant to your circumstances and life experience.  

Why Is UCLA So Hard to Get Into? 

UCLA receives more applications than any other college or university in the U.S., making it highly competitive. The UCLA acceptance rate is less than 9%, making it one of the most selective schools in the UC system. And because it’s state-funded, admissions preference is given to California residents. Therefore, it’s even more challenging for non-California residents to gain admission. For the class of 2027, the acceptance rate was 9.46% for in-state students, 8.62% for out-of-state students, and 6.09% for international students.  

To be competitive, your application should emphasize the three most important factors for UCLA admissions officers: the rigor of your high school coursework, your GPA, and your personal insight essays. Other factors — such as extracurriculars, volunteer/work experience, personal qualities, and talents/skills — are also important but not given as much weight.  

What Does a Good Personal Statement Look Like? 

It takes time and practice to learn how to write a personal statement that’s compelling and competitive. Your essays should demonstrate your intellectual curiosity, a positive attitude, and the personal characteristics that make you a good fit for UCLA. It’s an opportunity to highlight the educational and personal experiences that shaped you as well as your talents and skills — all of which demonstrate how you will contribute to the campus community both inside and outside of the classroom.  

Examples of Personal Statements for UCLA 

Below are the personal insight questions for the 2023-24 admissions cycle — these are the prompts for UCLA and all other schools in the UC system. There is no right or wrong way to respond to these prompts, but these examples can help you think about how to approach your own essays. Since the UC application can go to multiple University of California schools, these responses don’t specifically mention UCLA.   

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.

Leadership is about empathy, understanding, and finding common ground. My leadership style has been defined by these principles, especially after an experience I had during my sophomore year. 

I joined the student council, serving as a liaison between my peers and the faculty. That year, our school’s annual talent show was in jeopardy due to a heated dispute among the planning committee. I organized a meeting for the committee members to address their concerns and find common ground. I listened to each person’s perspective and soon understood that the arguments stemmed from a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities. 

To resolve the issue, I proposed a clear division of tasks and responsibilities, which was agreed upon by the committee. I also suggested regular check-ins to ensure everyone was on the same page. The show was soon back on track!  

I continued to lead the team, ensuring everyone felt heard and valued, and reminded them of the positive impact our efforts would have on the school community. We worked together tirelessly to make the talent show a success, and the entire experience was a testament to the power of collaboration and empathy. 

This leadership experience highlighted the importance of active listening and empathy in resolving disputes and fostering a positive group dynamic. It also reinforced the idea that leadership isn’t about being in the spotlight but about facilitating teamwork and collaboration. By focusing on the needs and concerns of everyone on the team, I was able to bring about a harmonious resolution and contribute to the success of the talent show. 

As I embark on my college journey, I carry with me the valuable lessons I learned during this experience. I’m excited to continue developing my leadership experience and making a positive impact on the world. 

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.

Creativity makes life more vibrant and full of endless possibilities. It’s in how I approach problems, the stories I write, and the visions I bring to life through photography. 

Problem-solving has always been my playground for creativity. When faced with a challenge, I don’t just take the conventional path—I twist, turn, and reshape it. Once in math class, we had to figure out a complex probability problem. I designed a colorful, interactive game to help solve it. The teacher loved it, and my peers started seeing math in a new light. 

Through storytelling, I can craft worlds, characters, and emotions. I write short stories, poetry, and even started working on a novel. I take pride in sharing my thoughts and ideas through my writing, hoping to inspire others to explore their creative sides. 

Photography is my way of capturing the world’s magic. Whether it’s the rusty old bike leaning against a graffiti-covered wall or a breathtaking sunset over the ocean, I strive to capture the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s my hope that my photos ignite a sense of wonder in others and encourage them to view the world with a fresh perspective. 

My creativity isn’t confined to just one box—it’s constantly meandering into different channels. Whether I’m solving problems, spinning tales, or snapping pictures, my creative side is an ever-evolving, kaleidoscopic expression of who I am. It’s about breathing life into the mundane, stirring curiosity, and letting my imagination roam free. 

As I look ahead to college, I envision myself exploring new horizons, meeting fellow artists and thinkers, and discovering fresh ways to express my creativity. My creativity is always evolving, ready to burst with the new colors and patterns of campus life. I’m excited to see where my creative journey will lead me. 

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

I’ve known since childhood that I’m meant to be an animator. Over the years, I’ve nurtured this talent, honed it, and painted my imagination into vibrant, moving pictures. 

My journey into animation started with doodles in the margins of my notebooks. I couldn’t help but bring life to those still images. It was a spark of magic, and I was hooked. I began teaching myself the basics of animation, poring over online tutorials and practicing relentlessly. 

In high school, I joined the art club, where I had the chance to work on collaborative projects and learn from other passionate artists. But what truly set my journey in motion was an independent project creating an animated short film for a school competition. It was a daunting task, but I was determined to give it my all. 

For weeks, I sketched frames, adjusted details, and tweaked animations until they felt just right. My story was about a young astronaut exploring a distant planet, a reflection of my own sense of adventure and curiosity. The process was grueling but incredibly rewarding. 

The final product played on the screen during the competition to applause and positive feedback. I was overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment, and I realized that this was what I wanted to pursue in life. 

As I reflect on my journey, I see the growth in my abilities. I’ve developed a keen eye for detail, a better understanding of storytelling, and a deep appreciation for the art of animation. What started as doodles in my notebook transformed into a passionate pursuit of a craft that allows me to express my creativity in unimaginable ways. 

The University of California represents the next step in my animation adventure. I’m excited about the opportunity to study animation in a structured and collaborative environment, where I can learn from experienced professionals and immerse myself in this art form. My dream is to work in the animation industry, creating stories that touch hearts, inspire minds, and make people believe in the magic of animation.  

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

One of the most significant educational barriers I’ve faced is my struggle with dyslexia. Reading and writing doesn’t come naturally to me, and for a long time, I felt like I was lagging behind my peers. The education system seemed designed for students who could effortlessly absorb information from textbooks, while I had to fight for every word. 

I was determined not to let dyslexia define me and sought out opportunities to overcome it. I reached out to a school counselor who connected me with Learning Ally, a specialized reading program. Through countless hours of hard work and dedication, I began to make progress. It was slow, but it was progress—and that’s what mattered most to me. 

I also tapped into tools like text-to-speech software and speech recognition. These resources allowed me to engage with the material in a way that accommodated my unique learning style. They transformed my educational experience, giving me a sense of empowerment and independence. 

Soon, I began to realize the power of resilience. My struggle with dyslexia taught me that it’s not the challenges we encounter, but how we confront them, that truly matters. I became more proactive about advocating for my educational needs and helping other students with similar challenges. 

By taking advantage of the educational opportunities available to me and embracing the tools that could help me succeed, I learned that every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise. I may not be the fastest reader or have the strongest writing skills, but I’ve developed a unique perspective and a tenacity that will serve me well in the future. 

I aim to carry this spirit of determination with me to the University of California. Overcoming my educational barriers made me ready to face any challenge that comes my way. I hope to inspire others who face similar hurdles to believe in their own ability to overcome obstacles. 

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?

Childhood cancer. These two words don’t just represent a medical condition—they carry emotional weight.  

My younger sister’s leukemia diagnosis was gut-wrenching for our family. Then came a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, and endless uncertainty into our lives. My parents were consumed by the daily fight for my sister’s life. The stress and emotional toll of the situation were immense, and it inevitably impacted my academic performance. 

Eventually, I learned to manage my time effectively, squeezing in study sessions during hospital visits and late nights. I explained my situation to teachers and my school counselor, and they provided the necessary support and accommodations to help me stay on track academically. 

I became involved in initiatives to raise awareness and funds for leukemia research. I organized fundraisers, volunteered at children’s hospitals, and participated in awareness campaigns. These actions not only provided a sense of purpose during a challenging time but also allowed me to make a difference in the lives of other families facing similar battles. 

Academically, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. I’ve had periods of academic excellence, followed by moments where I struggled to keep up. But I’ve come to realize that true success isn’t defined by grades; it’s about rising to a challenge and finding strength in the face of adversity. My sister taught me that. 

My sister faced a life-threatening illness, but she rose to the challenge and has been cancer-free now for a year. Her strength inspires me. I now aspire to become a pediatric oncologist, using my knowledge and passion to help children like my sister. 

This challenging time affected my academic achievement, but it also transformed me into a stronger, more compassionate individual. I hope to use what I learned from this experience as fuel for my academic journey and my future mission to help children and families facing childhood cancer. 

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

Stars, galaxies, and black holes have always fascinated me. This cosmic curiosity isn’t limited to just the classroom. 

I’m that kid who can’t get enough of astrophysics: the theories of Einstein, the mysteries of dark matter, and the birth and death of stars—these are the puzzles I love to ponder. My teachers say I’m a space geek, and I wear that title proudly. I’ve aced my AP Physics and astronomy courses. When it comes to space, I can talk your ear off about everything from the Big Bang to wormholes. 

I founded an astronomy club at my school, and every stargazing night is a chance to explore the universe. Armed with telescopes, we scan the night sky, trying to spot distant galaxies and nebulae. There’s something magical about watching a meteor shower or the phases of the moon. I’m connecting with the cosmos, and it’s mesmerizing. 

I’ve also helped organize public telescope viewings at a park near my house. Sharing my passion with others is as thrilling as uncovering the secrets of the universe. Watching the wonder in a child’s eyes as they see Saturn’s rings for the first time is a feeling like no other. 

Outside of school, I follow the latest discoveries, read scientific journals, and even tune into space exploration missions. When NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars, I was glued to the live feed, dreaming of the day I might work on such missions myself. 

I’m excited to meet other space geeks in college, joining them in exploring the mysteries of the cosmos and contributing to humanity’s understanding of the universe. I’m looking forward to taking the next step toward making my dream of becoming an astrophysicist a reality.

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

I believe that even small gestures can create ripples of change, and that’s what I’ve set out to do in my school and in my community.  

I helped make my school a better place by starting a kindness club. It all began with a simple idea: to spread positivity and create a more inclusive environment. We organize events like “Compliment Day” and “Kindness Challenges” to encourage students, teachers, and staff to uplift one another. Through these activities, I’ve seen smiles, laughter, and friendships bloom. It’s been heartwarming to witness the impact of kindness on our school culture. 

Mentoring younger students has also been incredibly rewarding. I volunteer as a tutor at an after-school program, helping the students with their homework and providing academic support. It’s not just about assisting them with their schoolwork—I offer encouragement and help them develop confidence in their abilities.   

Beyond these organized efforts, I’m a firm believer in leading by example. I try to be a source of positivity and support for my peers. Whether it’s offering a listening ear or helping someone who’s struggling, I want to be someone others can lean on. 

These experiences have not only enriched my school and community but have also taught me the power of compassion, empathy, and the importance of giving back. As I look ahead to college, I hope to continue making a positive impact. Whether it’s through joining service-oriented clubs or starting new initiatives, I’m excited to contribute to my new community in any way I can. Because, in the end, it’s not about grand gestures; it’s about the collective effort to spread positivity and make the world a better place, one small act at a time. 

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admission to the University of California?

In my small Sierra County, California, town, opportunities for exposure to the vast expanse of knowledge and experiences tend to be scarce. The resources required for an ambitious student’s intellectual growth are limited, and it’s quite a distance to any town with robust educational amenities. However, amidst this lonely setting stands a beacon of hope and knowledge—our local library. 

The library is my haven, my classroom, and my window to the world beyond the comforting but stifling embrace of small-town life. It is where my curiosity is nurtured and my ambitions are fueled. The library’s partnership with other libraries allows me to access a wider range of materials, and I take advantage, checking out an array of books and magazines that supplement my classroom learning and open my mind to the wider world.   

I believe the self-discipline, resourcefulness, and inquisitiveness I honed during those countless hours in the library make me a strong candidate for admission to the University of California. I am accustomed to making the most of what is available, a skill that will serve me well in a university setting. Moreover, my humble upbringing instilled in me the values of hard work, determination, and a genuine appreciation for education. 

I am excited about the prospect of transitioning from a small town to a prestigious institution where the opportunities and resources are boundless. I am eager to contribute my unique perspective shaped by my experiences and in turn, learn from the myriad experiences of others. 

I may have fewer accolades compared to those from more resourceful backgrounds. However, I have a relentless spirit, a profound appreciation for learning, and a ceaseless curiosity to explore beyond the familiar. I am poised to embrace the vast academic and extracurricular opportunities at the University of California, eager to continue my journey of self-discovery and contribute to the community with the earnestness and determination that have brought me this far. 

Once you have a draft for the four prompts you selected, it’s time to start revising and refining. 

UCLA Personal Statement Tips  

The UCLA admissions committee is looking for responses that ring true, so feel free to demonstrate your personality in your essays. Admissions officers can tell when a student isn’t being authentic! Nothing makes your essay more authentic than writing about what excites and motivates you. IvyWise counselor Victoria suggests thinking about what you love to do and what you’re interested in so you can “think about ways that you can show who you are, how you think about the world, and what’s important to you through those topics.” 

While you’re encouraged to be yourself, it’s also important to be cautious. The UCLA admissions office advises students to “be careful with humor and clichés” in their essays. Humor can be easily misinterpreted, and clichés are unoriginal and detract from your voice. As the examples above illustrate, using specific details to show UCLA who you are is important. Just keep in mind that they want to know more about who you are right now than who you plan to be in the future.  

Even with these tips, you might struggle to craft your essays for UCLA. IvyWise is here to help! Our counselors have served as admissions officers at some of the top colleges and universities in the U.S. and have read thousands of essays. Schedule an Initial Consultation to learn how we can help you with the college admissions process.  


Related Topics

College Application Tips, College Essays, College Prep
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