Writing UC Prompt 1: Leadership Experience


[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 in full detail over trying to fit several stories in.`


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?



On Saturday, July 11th, we'll be hosting a Live Open Class + Q&A on what COVID-19 means for College Admissions 2020 at 6:00pm PDT. Register via Google Form to receive your Zoom link! We'll be discussing a range of topics like Policy requirement changes, test score relevancy, community and family contributions, writing about the pandemic, and more!


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