Writing UC Prompt 3: Greatest Talent


[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.]


Click here to read yesterday’s post about UC Prompt #2.


Prompt #3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

This is one of the more straightforward prompts that can seem easy to answer if you have a tangible talent that you want schools to know about. Maybe you’re a music prodigy or you can bake the most amazing cakes or you’ve been an undefeated Debate champion. In that case, you’re in luck! This prompt is as close to a no-brainer as you’ll get.


But what if you don’t feel like you have any talents? I mean seriously, there’s no shame in feeling like you’re not particularly good at anything remarkable, because trust me, you’re not alone. But there is a way to write this essay even if you don’t have any tangible talents that you could theoretically perform at a talent show. In fact, less defined talents could make for more unique essays that stand out from the thousands of people who will write about their piano.


In fact, a better way to think about this prompt is, “What’s something you’re passionate about and how have you realized and developed that passion?”


I would also like to emphasize that the talent itself is not as important as the journey you took to develop that talent. Maybe your talent is as ridiculous and quirky as being really good at whistling. Clearly, that’s not something that is going to make much of a contribution to the world, but admissions officers can see a lot about your character if you tell this story correctly. Perhaps you started out unable to make a single note, but through years of practice, you managed to figure out an entire Mariah Carey song from start to finish beautifully. Sure, this might be a slightly sillier example, but the point is that the latter half of this prompt is more important than the former.


Now if you do have a significant talent that you must write about, this prompt can be an easy trap for you to fall into. For example, if you’re a really talented pianist, it can be easy to simply describe each of your concerts and awards to answer this question. Boring! Instead, ask yourself what specific moments led to your love of the instrument or maybe how your talents have grown with your own personal growth.


With this essay, it’s extremely crucial to exercise an appropriate amount of humility. The entire college application process rests on your ability to subtly brag about yourself without crossing the line into arrogance. Watch your tone in this prompt in particular. Stay humble by admitting your early failures and emphasizing the obstacles you had to face.


How you might structure this essay:

  1. What were the beginnings of this talent?

  2. What were some setbacks and obstacles you faced while developing this talent?

  3. How did you overcome those challenges?

  4. Are there any shining moments of success with this talent? (Ex. concerts, awards, etc.)

  5. What did you learn from this journey and how will you apply it to other challenges?

The bottom line is, focus on your journey of developing this talent rather than the talent itself.


If you found this article helpful, stay tuned tomorrow for a discussion of UC Prompt #4!

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