How to Write the University of San Diego Supplemental Essays

May 29, 2024
10 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/29/24

If you're looking for a guide on how to ace the University of San Diego supplemental essays, you are in the right place.

Each year, many students try to get into the University of California, San Diego. Of every 100 applicants, 30 are admitted, indicating a 30% acceptance rate. As you prepare to meet UCSD's SAT/ACT and GPA requirements, you should also make adequate preparations for acing its supplemental essays. 

UC San Diego is known for training students in science and technology research programs. As a student, aside from your major coursework, you learn critical skills for the future. 

Graduates from UCSD are leaders in business, nonprofits, and government organizations across the globe. With a well-crafted supplemental essay, you are on your way to becoming the best of the best. 

The secret to writing a compelling supplemental essay is understanding the question. All your preparations, including reading this blog, will help you explain and provide winning answers to each prompt. This blog maps out all the tips for crafting outstanding supplemental essays for your application to UCSD.

University of San Diego Personal Insight Questions 2023-2024

How many USCD essay prompts must you write for the University of San Diego? UCSD provides eight Personal Insight Questions. From these eight, you will need to answer four questions. Here are the eight questions to choose from:

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.”

Prompt #2

“Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem-solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistic, 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 have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.”

Prompt #5 

Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have 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 have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of 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 stand out as a strong candidate for admission to the University of California?”

How to Write Each Essay Prompt For the University of San Diego

After reading these questions, they may seem difficult. Do not worry; you can have the best answers among all applicants. Here’s how to write UCSD supplemental essays directly, captivatingly, and compellingly.

How to Write University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #1 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #1:

The first question asks you to describe your leadership experience. They want you to focus on that role where you made the most impact and not just make a list of all your previous experiences.  

A leader has influence, strong values, and the ability to mentor, correct, and assist people needing help. Being a leader could be being the chairman of a committee or mentoring a student in junior year. Whether you have actively taken up a leadership role, here are tips on answering question #1. 

1. Pick a Role: We believe every student has had a leadership role at one point or the other. So, write up a list of each role, from the role of a president to the role of a group leader. Then, pick a role that allows you to tell an engaging story.

2. Be Authentic: Think deeply before answering this question. If you took up a role, consider the impacts you made there. Think about how people keep referring to your role as a leader. It could be that you were able to set up a reading club, or you helped a junior study to pass a course. 

3. Be Detailed: Take your time to tell this story in a way that catches your attention. You can mention the name of the book club or the junior you helped. Start by describing your thoughts about the idea and the steps you took until a delivery point. Admissions officers' interest lies in why you took up the role and the lessons learned. 

How to Write the University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #2 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #2:

This question aims to bring out your creativity. To write a stellar essay, ask yourself these questions. Do I have a creative skill that I cherish? UCSD explores your creative side. In your essay, you will describe your creativity and how you use this skill to solve problems.

1. Know That You Have a Creative Side: This UCSD essay prompt needs you to be creative, so you should have creative skills. They need to know that this applicant is not only academia-oriented. So, think about your singing, painting, sewing, baking, or ballet skills. Note that this can boost your chances at the admission office, especially if your academic requirements are not strong enough.

2. Be Creative: Prompt #2 does not just ask you to discuss your creative side. It seeks to know how original and artistic your skill is and how it can be problem-solving. Being creative here involves writing about how you started baking every Sunday to keep the family together. Or how you go sculpting to let your emotions out. 

3. Bring your creativity into your major: If your major is engineering, you can describe how you choose to paint during your leisure time. Go further by describing how your classmates joined you in painting as a time away from academics. This way, you have revealed more about yourself besides your grades. 

How to Write the University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #3 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #3: The keywords here are talent/skill, develop and demonstrate. There's a chance for you to explain the places you've been to as a result of your talent. If you are an athlete, a songwriter, a performer, or a teacher, you can let your talent shine in this essay. How do you go about it?

1. Think About your Strengths: If you have any of the talents listed above, pick one of them for this question. But if you don't, there's no cause for fear. One who isn't an athlete can be a good organizer. Review your experience or ask family and friends to assess your strengths and skills. 

2. Share your Skill Development: Begin your essay as a story describing the training that helped hone your talent. You can talk about the different clubs you joined as a junior, your consistent role as a teacher in church, or how you always made your sibling laugh while growing up. 

And if you are a strong member of the debate club, describe how your skills began as an outspoken child of the family.

3. Share your Skill Demonstration: Now, you can explain your many awards in the award section. Your skill as the best winger made your soccer team the reigning champion for years. Or how you organized several events as a junior in high school and the many awards you bagged for the debate club.

How to Write the University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #4 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #4: A significant educational opportunity is not just the high schools you attended. It is an educational platform that increases your experience as a student. Opportunities like advanced courses, a summer enrichment program, a debate club, and an unpaid internship with a physician, to name a few. 

Then, what were the barriers during these programs? It could be inadequate resources or physical or health challenges. How do you answer this question?

1. Showcase a Challenge not on Your UC Application: A student who previously had a learning disability will shine in this prompt. Remember that you have overcome this challenge, so you didn't indicate it in your personal data.

2. Be Vulnerable: It may sound unnecessary, but it will increase your chances. Explain how this challenge hindered your progress at the start of the educational opportunity. For example, your program may have been extended due to this barrier. 

3. Describe Your Success: Delve into how you overcame the challenge. Did you have to see a counselor? Did you join small study groups? Write about the specific events that led to your successful completion of such a program and how they helped shape who you are today.

How to Write University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #5 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #5: If you are familiar with supplemental essays, you will realize that most schools want to see your ability to handle challenges. The admission office wants to see this challenge and your approach to solving it. Here are tips for writing prompt #5 in the best way possible.

1. Be Real: To make a point, don't conjure a challenge you didn't go through. Choose the most significant challenge you experienced, even if it seems too minute. Every student will go through unexpected challenges. So, show UCSD that you will not run in the face of challenges.

2. Be Direct: While you may want to stick to multiple challenges, ensure you stick to one. Then, explain the one as much as you can. Describe how it affected you, given specific examples. 

3. Show Your Growth: You may lose some points if you fail to include your growth process during this challenge. Write about how you were able to come out of the situation stronger. Your answer should prove that if you come to any challenge, you will be ready to face it head-on and overcome it.

How to Write University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #6 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #6: This question begins with the keyword "academic" subject. This means you must not write about the novels you read during your leisure or the movies you discover. You may write about the textile creation course that inspired you as a medical student. 

The next step is to write about how you took the course and expanded your knowledge. Here's how to write this essay.

1. Show your Decision-making Ability: Many students can desire to pursue an interest, but it stays and remains an idea for a long time. But for you, you can show UCSD that you can decide to pursue your interests via this answer. By joining the literature summer class, you can pursue your literary interest as a maths student. 

2. Share the Lessons Learnt: Explain how your interest in this subject broadens your thinking process. For example, reading a book on history during a literature class informs you about things you were not privy to before. You can also talk about how this subject will spur you to join the creative writing club at UCSD. 

3. Use Specific Examples: Don’t overshare in one short UCSD essay prompt. If you pursue more than one academic subject, stick to one. You can showcase your decisiveness experience with one point. Pick one point and explain, staying within the word limit.

How to Write University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #7 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #7: This prompt seeks to discover how you contribute to your environment. Your interaction with your present school, home, or community shows what kind of future community member you’ll be. The admission officers expect to see your thoughtfulness, abilities, and impact during your contributions. So here are tips before you write.

1. Don't Exaggerate Your Role: While this prompt asks you to define your contributions, avoid bragging about it. Admission officers want to know about your workability. However, they also want to see that you are humble while working for the people. So, be sure to give a sincere description in this essay.

2. Describe your Inspiration: What spurred you to contribute? Was it a lingering problem in the street? Or a call for volunteers? This description shows that you have high emotional intelligence, boosting your chances of getting into UCSD. Also, you can write about how your inspiration increased your exposure to different areas in society.

3. Show your Team Spirit: This prompt is an opportunity to showcase your ability as a string team member, especially if you collaborated with others. For example, if you joined your school sanitation team to clean the dining weekly, that displays teamwork. 

How to Write the University of San Diego Supplemental Essay #8 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #8: This prompt is an open question that requires any kind of answer. Hold on for a second. Think about it. What could be missing in the previous seven prompts? 

You can go ahead if you realize you have something to share that isn't covered in previous questions. Aim to answer the question, 'What makes you an excellent choice for UCSD?'

1. Share What Makes You Stand Out: This question is not an avenue to write about other extracurricular activities or events that are not significant to the school. It should focus on exceptional attributes and events. You can talk about a business you started during the holidays. 

2. Be Honest: The prompt is another opportunity to sell yourself. However, if you have done this in the previous questions, you need not answer prompt #8. So, don't be tempted to include information that isn't yours. 

Some ideas include writing about how you develop the ability to work under pressure, even as a student, or your ability to stay focused despite distractions in some study settings. 

Examples of the University of San Diego Supplemental Essays that Worked

After extensive explanations, the best next thing is to investigate practice examples of these essays. These essay samples were written by successful applicants at the University of San Diego. Let's go!

Sample Essay #1

Prompt: "Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time."

Take a look at this sample.

"It was her fourth honor council. I sat on the committee for her third, which 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 four 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 it appeared: “Any future violations of school rules will result in separation from the school”. I believe strongly in seeking to understand a person’s circumstances before drawing judgment, and I think there is great value in the second chance. Unfortunately, this student could not 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 allowed to receive her diploma with successful completion of 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 Norwich. 

I attempt to create a well-rounded incoming class of freshmen that will better the 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

The first paragraph shows the author's role as a council member. This essay works because the author demonstrates their leadership skills and highlights an event expressing their qualities and characteristics.

Sample Essay #2

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

An example of how you can showcase your creativity goes thus:

"I believe in the strength of words because I know the power that just one can hold. Most of the time, it begins like that: I hear a word in a song that isn’t there, and an idea blooms. That word gives the sentence new meaning and great potential blossoms. So, I use that new phrase to write a new song.

Sometimes, the title of a book or a phrase in it takes me to the same place of raw creativity and expressive fervor. Something specific - a certain je ne sais quoi in my frontal cortex, which has long been dubbed creativity’s hub - ignites a thought in me that allows me to transform a creative piece of work into one of my own, something original, something new. 

The main way I’m able to explore this creative metamorphosis is through the transportability I experience with books. I write poems for the strength of Briseis and compose songs for the endless halls Piranesi roams, not to mention for the nostalgic memories of Tsukuru Tasaki. All these characters, and more, inspire me with their stories. I can write based on things I may never face as well as ubiquitously occurring feelings I haven’t yet felt because I can relate to them by reading about them in books written by others who have experienced those things (well, most of them).

It’s as if someone has created a cover-to-cover world and allowed me to enter it, a world which once I finish its final page, belongs once again to the author or musician - to his or her own experiences and feelings - but a world that I, too, can create, one that feels like home to me. I can write as if I’ve lived under the sea and dive into a wide range of themes in a limitless, fantasy-like way. 

Being able to write in this fashion gives me complete freedom on the angle I wish to explore with each theme and gives each of these themes a sense of universality and relatability to the reader or at least that’s the goal."

Why Essay # 2 Worked

You can see this author's creativity in creating lyrics from different inspirations, including a book title. They can create original, unique poems and songs from everything and anything in this diverse world. It also describes their problem-solving skill, as the original music will solve another musician's problem.

Sample Essay #3

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

This author carefully explains their greatest skill in the sample below.

"When it comes to rooms, I’m a “reader”. I find reading books helps me improve my ability to read rooms because books help me understand events and individuals outside of my day-to-day experiences. Yet, this skill can also be problematic. For example, when I got my wisdom teeth pulled, I read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. 

With my face all puffy, I predicted two of the twist endings by pages 100-120 and found myself thoroughly disappointed (and somewhat proud) that they came to fruition simultaneously. Sometimes, it sucks to be right with this superpower.

Another activity that has augmented my talent for reading a room is traveling. Traveling improves my worldliness, which undoubtedly plays a key role in reading different people and situations. While living in Columbia, I found reading rooms initially difficult and thus felt vulnerable, as if my semi-psychic superpowers had been stripped away. But over time, I sensed my ability returning and even broadening as I ventured further outside my comfort bubble. 

Traveling within and outside Latin America has exposed me to multifarious cultures and peoples, which have each, in their own way, bolstered my ability to read the rooms around me into an even more potent superpower of being able to read rooms around the world.

Not only did I travel to others around the world to expand my horizons, but they also “traveled” to me via the Elders Support Initiative, a volunteer group directed toward helping senior citizens digitally during coronavirus. Conversing at length with such seasoned seniors helped grant me the perspective to understand them despite our differing worldviews from disparate epochs. Time allowed me to eventually read them and the (Zoom) room just the same, which made leading and organizing activities they’d like far easier and more successful.

Last but certainly not least, especially in today’s sociopolitical climate, reading rooms allow me to resolve conflicts and mediate problems between parties. However, my favorite part of being a “reader” is being the one to whom my friends always vent and with whom they share exciting news because they feel heard and understood by me."(351 words)

Why Essay #3 Worked

This essay works because of the engaging story about a room reading skill. It embodies communication skills, conflict mediation, and of course, reading skills. This author displays the development and three practical instances where this skill was useful. Any admission officer will read and connect with the author before the end. 

Sample Essay #4

Prompt: "Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced."

Check out this author's essay sample.

"The test covered L’Hopital’s Rule and Related Rates – something I knew I’d need extra time to complete. But there I was. Waiting in the classroom patiently with everyone else for Dr Robert to hand out the Honors Precalculus exam. I had been given a written contract for accommodations, but he didn’t care. 

This was the third time this had happened. I spoke to him about the extended time that I was entitled to the test before, yet here I was- again- in the same room as everyone else without any accommodations. Then he handed me my paper. I scribbled down my name as fast as possible to give myself enough time to maybe get two-thirds into the test without him grabbing it from my hands. 

I flew through L’Hopital’s rule through the constant sneezing, sniffing, and occasional cough from my neighbors. Did the person sitting next to me have COVID? It didn’t matter. What mattered was getting through as much math as possible within the time I was allowed. After finishing the first half, I looked over to my left– only to see the student next to me flipping to the last page of the test. 

Just as I started on the second half, I heard the disappointing “5 Minutes Left”. I quickly jotted down anything that came to mind for the remaining few minutes. I wrote as fast as possible until he came around and grabbed the test from underneath my pencil. I stood up and left the class full of frustration and anger. I found my friends, who had finished theirs 30 minutes early. I listened in frustration as they exclaimed, “That was the easiest test I’ve ever taken!”. 

I ran furiously to swim practice, thinking about the injustice I had faced – just like every test before. The next day in class, he handed back our tests. “What did you get?” “How did you do?” “98 – easiest test ever” “96 – I didn’t even study!”. Then he handed mine back. It was face down. I stared in agony at the back page with a large red “X” on the unattempted problems. 

I flipped it over, which only made it worse: “78%”. Nearly everything I had attempted on the test was correct. The remaining 22% were all unattempted problems. This happened many more times – “86”, “79”, “80”, “Did you attempt this problem?”, “Why didn’t you try this one?”. 

The end of the semester eventually came, and grades were finalized. “B+”. Nearly every problem I attempted on any quiz or test was mathematically correct, but I had run out of time on almost every assessment. It didn’t matter how good I truly was at Precalculus. What mattered to the teacher was what was down on the paper – an incomplete test. 

The frustration over the discrimination I faced in the classroom got so intense that I decided to write Dr. Robert one final email to let him know just how much his injustice in the classroom affected me. Knowing there was nothing I could do to help my grade, I furiously typed out every article about the ADA he violated and how unfair this truly was to me. My advocacy not only for myself, but for all students with learning differences made a big difference in the classroom, and in the second semester, I faced much less discrimination." (555 words)

Why Essay #4 Worked

In this sample, the author describes a challenge quite common among students in the university. After stating the barrier, they describe the pain, shame, and discrimination this barrier had caused. It works because it shows their ability to persist till there's a solution in the face of challenges.

Sample Essay #6

Prompt: "Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom."

Here's what this author has to say about pursuing an academic interest. 

"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 #6 Worked off

Most schools offer different courses outside your major course. In this essay, the author, a medical student studying DNA sequences, chose to pursue an interest in programming languages. This essay sample works because the author learned and used her newly acquired knowledge to solve a problem.

Sample Essay #7

Prompt: "What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?"

Here's how to write UCSD essay Prompt #7.

"Whatever your expectations of my musical talents are, just throw them on the ground,” said my brother as he prepared to play the bagpipes for Treasure Talent Hunt, our school’s talent competition. Although I admit my brother’s bagpipe playing wasn’t entirely musical, hearing him make the entire student body laugh was music to my ears after two and a half years without social activities. 

For me, school is more than didactic education. It’s a community, and my goal is always to increase camaraderie and boost our collective spirit.  Last year, we returned to in-person classes, but the only social event we held was the prom. My disappointment in the lack of extracurricular events moved me to make a change. 

As student body vice president, my mission has been to increase the number of programs my school sponsors. I enjoy gathering feedback and ideas from my schoolmates and bringing them to the council to discuss, but generating ideas is only part of the fun. Last year was chaotic, as everyone on the student council performed the same task regardless of their position. To offer more events, I felt it was important for the student council members to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, so I set expectations. 

In planning the Treasure Talent Hunt. I delegated to the spirit coordinators the registration of participants and the organization of the events, and to the class representatives the purchase of the drinks and snacks, which the treasurer reimbursed. The whole school turned out for the event and cheered on their performing classmates. Everybody cheered for the eight students performing at Treasure Talent Hunt.

In my first few months leading the student council, I also organized seven new social events, including homecoming festivities and spirit week, which were met with equal enthusiasm from the student population. I slowly noticed a palpable change in the camaraderie among my schoolmates, as they now have more opportunities to reconnect with each other. While my brother might not expect much from his music, I expect to rebuild our school community one event at a time.

Why Essay #7 Worked

The author discusses her participation in bringing back a talent competition, an extracurricular activity. They define how the enthusiasm and cheering spirit was brought back to school via her initiative. The admissions officers reading this essay will likely stand for this student before the university.

Get More Sample Essays Here!

These sample essays have helped broaden your thoughts, no doubt. If you want more of these, check out our extensive essay database.

FAQs: How to Write the University of San Diego Supplemental Essays 

Perhaps we couldn't answer all your questions, here are some common questions regarding the University of San Diego supplemental essays.

1. How Important Are Essays For the University of San Diego? 

Essays are very important in the University of San Diego's application process. They allow you to showcase your personality, experiences, and skills, helping the admissions committee understand you beyond your academic achievements.

2. How Many Essays Does UCSD Require?

You need to write four UCSD essays. Generally, UCSD provides eight personal insight essays as part of the University of California application.

3. Which UC Essay Should I Write?

Choose the questions that allow you to provide unique answers best. Your essay should resonate with your story and provide a comprehensive picture of yourself.

4. How Long Should University of San Diego Essays Be?

Your University of San Diego essay should not exceed 350 words. Remember to adhere to each limit, as adhering demonstrates your ability to follow instructions and effectively communicate your ideas.

Final Thoughts

When you started reading this guide, the prompts may have seemed daunting. By now, you should see each essay prompt as an opportunity to demonstrate your personality beyond your grades and test scores.

Take your time to craft, edit, and write compelling University of San Diego supplemental essays today. 

Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Thanks ! You're now subscribed!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get A Free Consultation

Speak to a college admissions expert about how we can help you get into your dream school
Schedule a Call

You May Also Like

Before you go, here are a few facts about us!
The Quad Factor: Working with us can increase your chances of admission by 11x!

The Best of the Best: Our team comprises of only 99th percentile tutors and admissions counselors from top-ranking universities, meaning you work with only the most experienced, talented experts.

The Free Consultation: Our experts would love to get to know you, your background, goals, and needs. From there, they match you with a best-fit consultant who will create a detailed project plan and application strategy focused on your success.