Writing UC Prompt 1: Leadership Experience (2020 Update at Bottom)


[This article is part of a new series where we will be dissecting each of the UC essay prompts in depth, providing examples and tips on how you can make your application stand out.]


Now that you have an idea of how to choose which essays to write, we will be analyzing each prompt and providing you with ways to get you started and examples of good essay topics.

Prompt #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.

The University of California’s admissions page, specifically lists that it strongly considers students’ “experiences that demonstrate unusual promise for leadership, such as significant community service or significant participation in student government” as a factor for admission. Therefore, this prompt is rather crucial for those who choose to answer it.


Now, the natural response after reading this prompt is to immediately think about all the formal leadership positions you might have. Maybe you’re the student body president or you’re an officer of your Speech & Debate club. These are great jumping off points for answering this prompt, but avoid simply listing out descriptions of all your positions.

Remember, the UCs are looking for unique potential for leadership, meaning they care a great deal about the inherent qualities you possess that could make you a strong leader. Think about the number of applicants around the world who are officers of some club. It’s not enough to simply have a title - you must show how these activities have changed you in ways that will be applied to your future endeavors.


Think about it, you’ve likely already listed your leadership positions on the activities list portion of the application, so unless you accomplished something extraordinary, it does not provide much new information.

For that reason, don’t limit yourself to just thinking about your formal positions. Instead, consider specific moments in your life when you have demonstrated exceptional leadership and have changed for the better because of it. Because you only have 350 words, you should prioritize describing ONE moment or experience in full detail as opposed to trying to fit numerous, unrelated leadership positions.


One unique way to write this essay could also be to explore your leadership style. Do you lead by establishing authority or do you prioritize developing friendly relationships? Do you lead by asking questions or by giving orders? You don’t have to answer these questions with a specific position, and in fact, I think it creates a more personal and honest depiction if you just write about a moment or experience when you demonstrated these talents.


Here is an example of how you might structure this essay:

  1. Short anecdote painting a picture of the experience you want to highlight

  2. How you felt during the experience

  3. Reflect on what made that experience stand out

  4. What you learned from that experience

  5. How you’ll apply it to future endeavors

The bottom line is, if you choose to write this essay, make it about how certain experiences have shaped your career, not just about the experiences themselves.

If you found this article helpful, make sure to check out UC Prompt #2 Your Creative Side!


Meanwhile, feel free to check out the rest of our UC Prompt Series while you're here :)

UC Prompt #3 Greatest Talent

UC Prompt #4 Educational Experiences

UC Prompt #5 Significant Challenge

UC Prompt #6 Favorite Subject

UC Prompt #7 Improving your Community

UC Prompt #8 How do you Stand Out?

2020 Update:

We have our Live Open Class this weekend on Weighing Collge & Major Choices with our Lead College & Career Expert, Frances, & our founder Jun Liu! Below is Frances' invitation to all high school students to join us this Saturday evening (8/22/20)!

7EDU Online Panel: Weighing Colleges & Major Choices! 🏫🤷‍♀️

Register before Friday to enter in 7EDU's Raffle Game! 🎟 Registration Link: http://tiny.cc/7EDU0822FB

⭐️Speaker: 👩‍💼 Frances

⭐️Masters in Education

⭐️Alumni Interviewer for University of Pennsylvania

⭐️10 Years of Experience In College Counseling & English Teaching 👩‍🏫

Topics of Discussion

✅CHANGES IN 2020 APPLICATIONS

✅TRANSFER MAJOR OR DEPARTMENT, DUAL MAJORS/MINORS, MOST POPULAR (SUSTAINABLE & BEST PAID) MAJORS & DEPARTMENTS

✅MAJOR SELECTIVITY, INTERDISCIPLINARY MAJORS & ALTERNATIVE CHOICES

✅WHICH MATTERS MORE - COLLEGE OR MAJOR? GRADUATE SCHOOL?

✅COMPROMISE BETWEEN TOP VS. MID LEVEL UNIVERSITIES?

✅2020 JOBS & CAREER PROSPECTS

So for those of you applying, as I'm sure you probably know, five new valuations have shown up to the application checklist as a result of the global pandemic - Self Care, Family Contributions, Extracurricular Activities, & Community Contributions - or at least according those 315 schools & their deans who signed the Harvard Making Care Common Project "Care Counts in Crisis" Letter issued to the public in June. We wrote about the letter & its possible implications in our blog here.

So now, understanding the host of factors that contribute to your "holistically evaluated" application, taking a leadership stance during times of difficulty is truly a demonstration of one's capability, conscientiousness, and charisma. In these moments of our country's turmoil, many of you have had to take ownership - over your family's well-being, over your adaptation to school, over your decision to keep working on your college applications amidst the uncertainties, and possibly over something greater than your immediate self; that last point is when the leaders stand firm while others pale into the shadows.


Did you take ownership and lead others in your life in a meaningful way? How did you do so? Why? If you didn't, the summer's up - DO NOT EVEN TRY to pretend - admissions committees will sniff out insincerity like gym sweat. However, if you do recognize a moment where you made a tangible, scary, but courageous impact on people's lives - like our latest student guests on our Live Open Class, GENCare, - then don't hold it back! Demonstrate how you've responded to the global emergency as a leader & should your words be righteous, there's few more powerful college essays that sincerely communicate an 18 year old's extent of leadership experience.

We also had a workshop last month on Constructing Successful Admissions Essays that garnered tremendous appreciation from the audience after Dr. Niemann laid out some of the most critically important principles for approaching one's college essay. He demonstrates some of the biggest red flags in these essays & shows you how to wave green flags sincerely, he demonstrates the importance of using pathos not as the vehicle, but a device for enhancing your essay's delivery - but not by exaggerating nor self-qualifying, and he suggests that students begin as early as possible on their admissions essays, as what you're writing is far more than just an essay. Dr. Niemann emphasizes the fact that this writing is to envision the direction of your next step in life & this narrative will follow you throughout the rest of your professional career - so own it! Don't take my word for it - check out our recording here.

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