How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essays: Examples + Tips

June 27, 2024
8 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 6/27/24

Learn how to craft exceptional UCLA supplemental essays with examples and expert tips. Elevate your application and stand out as a top candidate.

Like every aspiring candidate who wants to attend UCLA, you are expected to write supplemental essays to compel the admission committee. These essays allow you to express yourself, your interests, and your aspirations.

Writing compelling essays starts with understanding what the school is looking for. As noted in its Core Curriculum, UCLA values an academic journey that promotes diverse exploration, reflected in its essay prompts.

This guide will provide valuable tips on how to write UCLA essays. It’ll also provide some UCLA essays that worked for you to draw inspiration from. Let’s get into it.

UCLA Personal Insight Question (PIQ) Prompts 2024-2025

Here are UCLA essay prompts:

Prompt #1

“Describe an example of a leadership experience in which you’ve positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.”

Prompt #2

“Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem-solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.”

Prompt #3

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?”

Prompt #4

“Describe how you’ve taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you’ve faced.”

Prompt #5 

Describe the most significant challenge you’ve faced and the steps you’ve taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?”

Prompt #6 

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you’ve furthered this interest inside and/or outside the classroom.”

Prompt #7 

“What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?”

Prompt #8 

“Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admission to the University of California?”

How to Write Each Essay Prompt for UCLA

Let’s take a quick look at how to write each prompt.

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #1 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #1: In this prompt, UCLA wants to understand your leadership abilities. They want to know when you've positively influenced others, mediated disputes, or contributed to a group effort. Your response should showcase your leadership skills and the impact they've had over time.

  1. Pick an Experience: Choose an experience, preferably from high school, that demonstrates your leadership. It could be from a school club, community service project, or personal initiative.
  2. Show Impact: Highlight not just what you did but the positive influence it had. How did you inspire others? How did your leadership contribute to a resolution or group success?
  3. Reflect on Growth: Discuss how this experience shaped you as a leader. Mention what you've learned from it and how it will contribute to your future at UCLA.

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #2 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #2: UCLA values creativity, and this prompt encourages you to express your creative side. Whether through problem-solving, innovative thinking, or artistic works, they want to know how you unleash your creative potential.

  1. Pick a Niche: Determine your creative outlet, whether it's through art, science, technology, or any other field. It could be a personal project, a scientific discovery, or a piece of art.
  2. Tell a Story: Share a narrative about a specific instance that illustrates your creative abilities. Describe your challenge, the solution you crafted, or the artwork you produced.
  3. Show Impact: Explain how your creativity has made a difference. Has it solved a problem, inspired others, or resulted in an innovative solution?
  4. Connect to Future Goals: Link your creativity to your future aspirations. How will this creative side benefit you at UCLA and beyond?

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #3 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #3: In this prompt, UCLA is interested in your exceptional abilities. You should discuss your greatest talent or skill, how you've developed it, and instances where you've demonstrated it.

  1. Identify Your Talent: Start by identifying your unique talent or skill. It could be in the arts, sports, academics, or any other area where you excel.
  2. Share Your Experience: Describe how you discovered and nurtured this talent. Discuss any challenges or obstacles you overcame.
  3. Highlight Achievements: Provide concrete examples of when you've showcased this talent. Share any awards, recognitions, or significant accomplishments.
  4. Connect to Growth: Explain how this talent has evolved. How has it influenced your personal development, and how might it benefit the UCLA community?

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #4 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #4: UCLA wants to know about your educational journey. This prompt asks you to detail a significant educational opportunity you've seized or a barrier you've had to overcome.

  1. Pick a Story: Choose a pivotal educational opportunity or barrier in your academic journey. This could be a specific class, project, or academic challenge.
  2. Describe Opportunity/Barrier: Explain the situation clearly. What was the opportunity or obstacle? How did it impact your education?
  3. Your Response: Discuss your response to this situation. Did you seize the opportunity, and how did it enhance your education? If it was a barrier, what actions did you take to overcome it?
  4. Highlight Growth: Reflect on how this experience affected your academic achievement and personal growth.

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #5 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #5: This question focuses on challenges you've faced and your efforts to overcome them. Describe your most significant challenge and how it influenced your academic achievements.

  1. Define the Challenge: Clearly outline the adversity you've faced. It could be personal, academic, or a combination of both.
  2. Explain Impact: Discuss how this challenge affected your academic performance, mindset, and determination.
  3. Overcoming Obstacles: Describe the steps you took to overcome this adversity. What strategies did you employ? What support did you seek?
  4. Show Resilience: Emphasize your resilience and determination. What have you learned from this challenge, and how have you grown?

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #6 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #6: This question centers on your academic interests and what inspires you. Describe an academic subject that excites you and how you've pursued it inside and outside the classroom.

  1. Choose Your Passion: Select an academic subject that genuinely inspires you. Explain why it resonates with you.
  2. Show Engagement: Discuss how you've explored this subject. Mention specific courses, books, projects, or research related to it.
  3. Highlight Your Dedication: Highlight extracurricular activities, clubs, or personal initiatives that further your passion for this subject.
  4. Connect to UCLA: Explain how this academic passion aligns with your future goals and why it makes you a great fit for UCLA.

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #7 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #7: UCLA values community engagement. Share how you've contributed to making your school or community a better place.

  1. Choose Your Impact: Highlight a specific project, initiative, or role where you've positively impacted your school or community.
  2. Demonstrate Your Contribution: Describe your role and the contributions you've made. What changes or improvements have you facilitated?
  3. Reflect on Values: Explain how your engagement aligns with your values and aspirations. How will your community spirit benefit UCLA?
  4. Inspire Others: Discuss any instances where your actions have inspired others to join your cause or carry on your work.

How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essay #8 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #8: In this open-ended prompt, you can share something unique about yourself that hasn't been covered in other parts of your application.

  1. Say Something New: Use this space to provide fresh insights about yourself. Avoid repeating information from other essays.
  2. Talk About Your Strengths: Highlight your unique strengths, experiences, or perspectives that set you apart.
  3. Why UCLA: Share what makes you a strong candidate for admission to UCLA. How do your qualities and experiences align with the university's values and mission?
  4. Show Authenticity: Be yourself and let your genuine personality shine through in your response.

These tips should help you write each of UCLA's Personal Insight Questions effectively. If followed, you can increase your chances of standing out among numerous candidates.

Examples of UCLA Supplemental Essays That Worked

Below are some UCLA-accepted essays from admitted students to give you inspiration and insights. Take note of our expert insight into why it worked.

Sample Essay #1

Prompt #1: “Describe an example of a leadership experience in which you’ve positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.”

Take a look at this essay example:

“It was her fourth honor council. I sat on the committee for her third that granted her one last chance. It was mid-April–just weeks before graduation, and she would walk across the stage with her diploma. The third honor council debated for hours about the best course of action. No student had ever been given 4 chances without separation from the school. One attendee argued for her future in retaining her college admission, while another suggested her negative impacts on the school community. After hours of debate, the honor council was split. It was left up to just a few of her peers to decide her fate. We reviewed her previous violation, and then it appeared: “Any future violations of school rules WILL result in separation from the school”. I believe strongly in seeking first to understand a person’s circumstances before drawing judgment, and I think there is great value in the second chance. Unfortunately, this student was unable to take responsibility after failing on multiple counts, and we eventually decided it would be best for the community if she separated from the school. She was given the opportunity to receive her diploma after successfully completing online classes.

Hard decisions like these have been a driving factor in shaping my character and values caring for the greater good of the community. I faced discrimination as a person with learning differences, which prompted me to solve issues of inequity through leadership positions. I give back to the community by leading school discussions about acts of hate and aggression that happen on and off campus, and I strive to create diversity and inclusion by attracting new people to [CITY]. I attempt to create a well-rounded incoming class of freshmen that will better the FVS community and help to solve issues of discrimination and a lack of diversity on campus. Together, my roles have heavily aligned with my values of creating diversity and solving a wide range of issues on campus.”

Why Essay #1 Worked

This essay demonstrates the applicant's commitment to fairness, accountability, and the welfare of the community. 

The opening narrative about the honor council meeting showed the applicant's involvement in challenging and impactful decisions. It portrays their dedication to upholding integrity and fairness, which aligns well with the university's values. 

The essay ties this experience to the applicant's personal growth and values, emphasizing their commitment to addressing discrimination, promoting diversity, and improving the community. 

It highlights the applicant's leadership, problem-solving abilities, and dedication to creating a more inclusive and equitable environment, making it a strong response to the prompt.

Sample Essay #2

Prompt #2: “Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem-solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.”

Check out this essay example:

“The test covered L’Hopital’s Rule and Related Rates–a topic I felt I had mastered but would need extra time to complete. But there I was. Waiting patiently with everyone else for [NAME] to hand out the test. As a student with a learning difference, I had a written contract for accommodations: extended time in a distraction free setting, but he didn’t care. It wasn’t the first time this happened, and I knew how this story would unfold. He placed the test on my desk. I frantically solved as many problems as I could. I flew through the first half of the test, but just as I began solving related rates, I heard a disappointing “5 Minutes Left”. I frantically jotted down anything that came to mind on the remaining portion of the test, but it didn’t matter. Time was up.

I sat quietly in class the next day, enraged. Every question I completed was correct, but it didn’t make up for the unattempted problems. “79%” engraved in dark red ink. What’s worse, he wrote, “Why didn’t you try these problems?” across the page of unanswered questions. Nearly every problem I attempted on any quiz or test in his class was mathematically correct, but I ran out of time on almost every assessment. It didn’t matter how good I truly was at Precalculus.

Until then, I had a hard time advocating for myself. That day something ignited in me and I knew I carried the responsibility to advocate for not only myself but for other students with learning differences. I wrote a letter to the school which reviewed the rights of students with learning differences set forth by the ADA. The following semester, my teacher was obligated to allow accommodations in his class, and as a result, those of use with differences were allowed “equal playing time.” The grade I received that semester did not reflect my mastery of Honors Precalculus, but it was a very impactful experience. I now understand the mental burden true discrimination can have on a person, and I carry the motivation to fight it.”

Why Essay #2 Worked

This essay shows the applicant's resilience and advocacy in adversity. It narrates a challenging situation in a math test and conveys the frustration and injustice the student felt. 

The essay then skillfully transitions into the applicant's transformation, highlighting their decision to advocate not only for themselves but for others with learning differences, which is a compelling display of leadership and resilience. 

Additionally, the applicant's essay demonstrates growth, showing how a challenging experience can lead to meaningful change, making it a strong response to the prompt and providing valuable insights into the applicant's character and determination.

Sample Essay #3

Prompt #4: “Describe how you’ve taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you’ve faced.”

Take a look at this UCLA essay example: 

“My grandfather delights in scenic diversions while traveling, and I am his willing companion on road trips. Our journeys have taken us to trails and prime fishing spots as memorable as our final destination. Information processing in my brain resembles these scenic journeys. I have dyslexia, and one of the greatest challenges I have overcome has been to find the beauty and advantage in the way my neural pathways function–never a direct route and usually a lengthy journey. 

Learning to read was an arduous undertaking for me. While my siblings learned to read with ease, I toiled along and avoided tasks that involved reading. After I was diagnosed with dyslexia, I drudged through hours of remediation and studied twice as hard as my neurotypical peers. I had difficulty attributing my success to natural ability because I worked so hard to attain it. It wasn’t until my freshman year that my mindset shifted. A guest speaker visited my school to talk about the gifts of neurodiversity. As I listened, I began to think about my own neural pathways as roadways for information. I realized that my destination is the same as someone with an ordinary brain, but information in my brain takes the scenic route. I then started uncovering the benefits of neurodiversity. Dyslexia has helped me excel in forming creative solutions to problems, and as my classes become more advanced, the processing differences become less apparent. What’s more, I’ve spent my life working hard to spot and rectify errors, reading and re-reading passages, and intensely persevering to meet my own high expectations. This has culminated in a work ethic for which I will always have muscle memory. Above all, I now confidently own my success.

As I reflect on expeditions with my grandfather, it is clear my experience on the road could never be the same as my siblings, who rode with my parents in the “fast car”. I would never trade the memories made for the time spent. As for my neural pathways, I am content knowing that my brain will always take me where the fish are biting.”

Why Essay #3 Worked

This essay uniquely recounts the applicant's journey with dyslexia through road trips with their grandfather, offering a relatable analogy. It begins with the struggle of learning to read and shifts to embracing the advantages of neurodiversity, demonstrating resilience and self-awareness. 

The narrative is well-structured, engaging, and effectively addresses the prompt, showcasing the applicant's personal growth and ability to overcome challenges. 

The essay's conclusion creatively ties the road trips with the neural pathways, leaving a memorable and cohesive impression. This narrative effectively communicates the applicant's journey and growth.

Sample Essay #4

Prompt #5: “Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you’ve furthered this interest inside and/or outside the classroom.”

Let’s go over an essay example: 

“The assignment was to scrape and organize many DNA sequences from a database. It was late on a Sunday night, and I hadn’t started the assignment. I opened my laptop and saw the article I had been reading earlier that day. “Coronavirus has now killed 250 thousand people in the United States”. I moved it aside to start the project that was due the next morning. After spending hours finding creative ways to scrape the data I desired, I began debugging. I spent another hour tirelessly fixing problems that wouldn't allow my code to run. I turned back to the web to see if Stack Overflow had the answers to my questions. Then I saw it again: “Coronavirus has now killed 250 thousand people in the United States”. I put it aside but pondered how I could apply web scraping to a real-world crisis like COVID-19. I began debugging but was overtaken by my curiosity. I diverged from my school project and began writing code to scrape a COVID database and organize it into data frames. Eventually, after scraping tons of data, I glanced at the clock: 4 AM and I still had not finished my assignment. It was time to get to work. I drudged through another hour of debugging and eventually finished. I glanced outside my window and saw bright beams of sunlight poking through the dense fog on the mountains, so I quickly grabbed my things and ran out the door for school.

 I was energized by the real-world application of what I was learning in my directed study, “Using Python for Research.” It inspired me to continue taking courses in addition to those offered at my school, such as “Analyzing Data with R” and “Multivariable Calculus.”

Why Essay #4 Worked

This essay showed the applicant's drive, problem-solving skills, and ability to connect classroom learning to real-world applications. The story of how the applicant was initially distracted by news about the pandemic but then redirected their focus towards using their coding skills to contribute to COVID-19 research is compelling. 

It demonstrates their initiative, adaptability, and genuine passion for using their education to make a meaningful impact, aligning with qualities sought by universities like UCLA. 

These essays generally work for UC schools. So, if you’re contemplating applying to UCLA, USC, or even UC Berkley, these tips will work fine. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the nuances of writing specific UC essays since they each have their own requirements.

Get More Samples Essays Here!

If you’re interested in reading more UCLA supplemental essays that worked, visit our admission essays database. The database has a collection of successful essays for schools across the country.

FAQs: How to Write UCLA Supplemental Essays

Here are answers to questions on how to write UCLA supplemental essays.

1. How Many Essays Does UCLA Require?

UCLA requires eight essays for freshmen applicants and four essays for transfer applicants.

2. How Important Are Essays for the University of California, Los Angeles?

Essays are highly important for UCLA admissions as they provide insights into your character, experiences, and aspirations.

3. How Much Does UCLA Supplemental Essays Matter for Transfers?

UCLA admissions essays matter very much for transfer applicants; they help evaluate their readiness and fit for the university.

4. What’s the Maximum Word Count for Each UCLA Personal Insight Question?

The maximum word count is 350 words. Each essay response should be no more than this word count. 

5. How Do I Submit My UCLA Supplemental Essays?

You submit the essays through the UC application portal when applying.

6. Are There Any Specific Formatting Requirements for UCLA Piqs?

Keep your responses in plain text (no formatting, such as bold text, italics, underlining, etc.) and avoid special characters or symbols.

Final Thoughts

Writing the UCLA supplemental essays gives you a unique opportunity to show your individuality and experiences. To craft compelling narratives that align with each prompt, focus on your personal growth and contributions. 

UCLA values these essays, so invest time in making them memorable. Highlight your strengths and aspirations while thoughtfully addressing life challenges. Good luck with your UCLA application!

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