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UC insight question quick guide 3 (challenge & favorite subject)

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?

First thing first. If you are from an immigrant family, you might automatically want to write about how you acculturated into this country. As someone who shares the same background, I understand this desire to share such a significant part of your life, but I would recommend to do so with caution simply because it has been written over and over again, thus the standard to stand out becomes very high. In addition, this should not be a pity-party but a story of overcoming and personal growth.

When I think of this prompt, my mind automatically goes to economic hardship. For example, you can write about how your parents needed to work two jobs to support the family, and how limited time from your parents impacts your academic development. Significant challenges can also include mental illness, parental marriage status, disabilities…etc. If you moved a lot when you were a kid,  you can also write about it. Some of the more personal topics include “coming out” or been bullied.

If you are not careful with this prompt, you will end up writing a soap opera. Please make sure your point is on how your experience affects your academic achievement. How you overcome the challenge is more important than merely identifying your challenge. Usually, after you overcome a challenge, you will mature and have some kind of new outlook of your situation. Make sure you direct the audience back to you.

funny cartoon casual man in various poses for use in advertising, presentations, brochures, blogs, documents and forms, etc.6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.

This prompt is probably the most straightforward one out of the eight, but the devil is in the detail. If you write “I love math, and all my life, I’ve been doing very well in math”, and not providing any personal substance, you might as well just just attach your transcript. Remind yourself once again that UC “insight” questions is really about story-telling. If you love a subject, tell the readers why you love this subject. Was there a special conversation you had with your teacher that became the catalyst of your interest? Maybe a role model in your community that inspired you? Perhaps, you just have a inner-drive to learn more about this topic?

After you tell us a story, you can start writing about how you learn more about this subject via different channels. For example, volunteers, internships, jobs, summer camps, youtube channels…etc. Since this prompt asks about academic subject, you do want to mention your experience in an advance class such as AP/IB/community college. Hopefully, the major you are applying is the same as your favorite academic subject. If it’s not, you probably want to skip this prompt.

Lastly, don’t forget to write about how this subject has influenced you. Does it help your logic, your world view, your value, your understanding of people…etc. Don’t forget to answer the whole prompt.




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