UC Personal Insight Questions How-To Guide, Part I: Show, Don’t Tell

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

If you have read my blog post How to “Show, Don’t Tell” you should have a good idea of the dos and don’ts for your Personal Insight Questions. This blog post will provide an annotated example of “show, don’t tell.”

An example of telling:

Rock climbing is a difficult sport that requires a lot of time and discipline. But it can also be a lot of fun and very rewarding. [This information is vague and says very little about my relationship with climbing.]

An example of showing:

I love rock climbing. I devote my free time 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 a 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 exciting one being Leonids at El Cajon, an 8-hour 400’+ ascend up a sheer vertical wall. Sitting at the top, I was proud of what I accomplished [success/reward].

[Obviously, what I’m talking about here has nothing to do with going to college. But what you discuss in your Personal Insight Questions should be about why you want to go to college (honestly, EVERYTHING you say in your UC Application should be about why you want to go to college because that is THE underlying question you must answer even if it is not explicitly stated in the UC Application or Personal Insight Questions).]

Further explanation:

To effectively “show” and not just “tell,” your Personal Insight Questions need 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 my free time 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 is because I love it (and not because some external factor, such as parents or peer pressure). 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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