Personal Insight Questions

Personal Insight Questions

I recently attended the UC Conference at UC Irvine.  It's the annual conference for high school counselors.  I was one of the few principals who attended and I went looking for more knowledge about the new Personal Insight Questions.  Here's what I found out.  The old Personal Statements for UC Applications are gone.  Since UCs do not take letters of recommendations, the Personal Insight Questions are a way for the UC admissions counselors to get to know you (the student).  You should view this video to get a good idea of what these Insight Questions will be like: 

As I listened to a UC Director of Admissions speak about the Personal Insight Questions, I realized that it's a move in the right direction.  These PIQs are innovative because they are very different than the Personal Statements that have been around since 2008.   The PIQs (Personal Insight Questions) give you the choice to select four questions out of the 8 questions.  In the past, the Personal Statement was a response to only two questions and were more generic in nature.  These PIQs help draw out personal qualities of who you are beyond the classroom.  The PIQs are questions as opposed to the prompts that were the Personal Statements.  Admissions Directors want to get to know you and they were frustrated with the Personal Statements because many responses were starting to look all the same. 

You only need to answer 4 out of the 8 and you cannot answer all 8.  Each question is worth the same amount of "points".  Each question will allow you to write up to 350 words only.  You do not get penalized for grammar or spelling errors as the PIQs are more about content rather than grammar, but that does not mean that you can write in an informal manner with spelling errors; make sure to represent your best writing skills.  This is the first PIQ option:

  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.

Notice that they are focusing on leadership and how you have made a positive impact to those around you.  This is one of 8 questions and my advice is to only respond to this PIQ if you can speak in an engaging manner about this.  Think about it as an elevator speech.  If you had 30 seconds to introduce yourself in the area of leadership, how would you do it?  Let's take a look at question 6:

  1. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.

This question is one you should respond to as long as you focus on how it has influenced you.  Don't get too stuck on why it's your favorite subject and don't talk about your favorite teacher the whole time. Speak to your transformation as a thinker because of the class and provide examples. 

Overall, you shouldn't spend too much time about thinking about which questions to write about.  Instead, you should choose the ones that give you that gut reaction, that first initial feeling that the question will be a good fit for you and that you have some examples to back it up. 

What is good about these PIQs is that it is the product of a collaborative effort between UC admissions officers, high school counselors, UC faculty and students.  Just like any good work, collaborative work brings out the best.  In this case, the PIQs are the right questions to ask our seniors to best present themselves in this very competitive process.