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 explanation and 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 dos and don’ts for your responses to the Personal Insight Questions. This blog post will give you examples of showing versus telling.

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 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 recent 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].

[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.]

Further explanation:

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 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 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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