UC Personal Insight Questions How-To Guide, Part I: Show, Not Tell

This is the first half of a two-part UC Personal Insight Questions How-To Guide. See Part II for examples of how to “talk about yourself.”

If you have read my blog post How to “Show, Don’t Tell”, you should have a general idea of what you should and should not do for your response to the Personal Insight Questions. This blog post will give you examples that demonstrate how to talk about whatever you need to talk about.

How Do I … “Show, Not Tell” in My Response to the Personal Insight Questions?

An example of telling:

I love rock climbing. It is a hard sport that requires a lot of time and discipline. But it is also a lot of fun and a very rewarding sport.

An example of showing:

I love rock climbing. I devote time each day to think about how I should train to overcome my weakness (climbing overhanging routes) [demonstrates my devotion to rock climbing]. I visit the gym at least twice a week to train and develop my physical and mental strength [showing time dedicated and discipline required for the sport]. One day, I hope to conquer the 22-pitch (2,000’) route in Utah [aspiration I have].

I push myself to train regularly on routes and holds I don’t like or find especially difficult, because I know that with often enough repetition, I will develop muscle memory to handle similar moves when I encounter them elsewhere [elaboration on discipline]. All of the training and the time I spend in the gym culminate to that moment of exhilaration when I ascend a route [enjoyment]; the most recent one being Leonids at El Cajon, an 8-hour 400’+ ascend up a sheer vertical wall. Sitting at a three-foot wide ledge with my legs dangling hundreds of feet off the ground, I was proud of what I accomplished [success/reward].

[Ideally you should be able to apply what you are discussing to address the “why I want to go to college” question (THE underlying question you must answer for EVERY college application, whether it is explicitly stated in the question/prompt or not). In this particular case, I may use the remainder of the response to explain how I apply the mental discipline and commitment I have developed through rock climbing in other aspects of my life (such as school) and how those abilities/skills make me more likely to succeed in college.]

To effectively “show” and not just “tell,” your response needs to be example-driven. But remember to also guide the readers toward the conclusion you want them to make. For example, I prefaced “I devote time each day to think about how I should train to overcome my weakness” with “I love rock climbing” because I want the readers to know that the reason why I think about rock climbing each day is because I love it (and not because of something else). Follow the format of this is what I want you know –> this is an example showing what I want you to know –> this is what I just told you (recap/reinforcement) to ensure your points are solid and come across clearly.


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