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Friday, May 20, 2016
University of California to Offer Eight Essay Prompts
Commencing with the 2016-2017 application year, the University of California will be retiring its two current admission essay prompts. Historically, students have been allotted 1,000 words to answer the following two questions:
"Describe the world you come from - for example, your family, community or school - and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations".
"Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?"
Citing repeated feedback from applicants, the UC will instead be mandating responses to four of eight possible prompts of 350 words each, for a total of 1,400 words. University of California
As a writer and editor, I prefer the new prompts. The UC's old essay questions were broad and stale, leaving students too wide a berth in their responses. I saw students struggle to write 250-500 words about a talent. Others struggled with the generality of the first prompt. The results were often long, rambling personal accounts that lacked solid centers.
I appreciate how difficult it is to draft a complete narrative in under 350 words. The limits will necessarily change the format of these responses, which will no longer have space for expansive introductory paragraphs and meandering conclusions.
Short word counts force students to get to the heart of the question quickly. Concise morsels will be easier for readers to quickly digest. The limitations may step on the toes of the more gifted prose writers, but from an efficiency standpoint, should be game-changers for the admissions committees. UCLA, for example, receives nearly 100,000 applications per admissions cycle.
Students may struggle to come up with four instead of two topics, but ultimately, the format forces student-writers to better hone in on a single idea before even starting their compositions.
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