What's Up with the New University of California Personal Insight Questions?

The University of California has introduced eight personal insight questions as part of its application process/review. These questions are designed to elicit responses from students that align with one or more of the comprehensive review criteria that the UC uses to determine admissions.

Here are the eight personal insight questions:

  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.
  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.
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  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?
  6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

Of the eight questions, students must select and respond to only four, so choose the four that you want to write about. Ideally, the questions you choose will allow you to put your best foot forward and let your personality shine through.

Each response has a max limit of 350 words, but there is no minimum. So, if you get your point across in fewer than 350 words, that is completely okay.

It is also important to note that you may not use the additional comments section to answer another one of the questions beyond the four you select. Many of the questions have two parts, so it is vital that you answer both parts (notably, numbers 1, 3, 5, and 6). However, all of the questions have equal value. And get this, writing style and grammar are not part of the review, but you should still (and always) aim to write responses free of spelling, punctuation and grammar errors.

Fortunately, your responses are considered in light of your application, so they will not be read in a vacuum. The whole point is to contextualize your high school experiences and accomplishments in order to enlighten the admissions reader as to why you would be a valuable addition to the UC community. 

Admissions readers are looking to see what they can learn about you, essentially conducting fact-finding missions. Stick to the facts and think, “Will a stranger understand me from this context?” Since UC admission review is a cumulative process, you want to convey as much information as possible to the readers. Treat your personal insight responses as your interview, and using your own unique voice, communicate the information that paints you in the best light possible.

So, what exactly are the UCs looking for?

  • Direct responses to the questions – get straight to the point and elaborate, no flowery/metaphorical language
  • Greater authenticity – maximize the student voice (I, my); use your everyday vocabulary
  • Total clarity – Who are you and what is the context of your accomplishments during your 4 years of high school?
  • No guessing – Any relevant information that reflects individual circumstances and adds depth to the application (they can’t assume anything you haven’t told them)

Remember, this is your application, and if you don’t shine the spotlight on yourself, no one else will. The best person to authentically tell your stories is YOU!


Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite of Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."

Fall Test Prep and College Application Workshops are Here!

The school year is underway, and Elite's Fall Session classes are here! Give your students the academic edge they need with one of our many autumn offerings.

Contact your local Elite branch today to schedule a free diagnostic test and consultation to find which programs are right for you.* 

Fall Session classes include:


SAT Prep

Elite’s SAT Reasoning Test Prep Program consists of a weekly practice test and three lecture classes covering Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. In the lecture classes, students  review the practice test with experienced instructors and continue their learning through a series of lessons containing exercises designed to develop their reading, math, grammar, and writing skills.


AP Tutoring

Advanced Placement (AP) Courses offer students an opportunity to earn college credit and strengthen their college applications. Elite’s instructors are the best around, and many are AP high school teachers or college instructors who are experts in their fields.

AP Prep courses include: BIOLOGY E/M • CALCULUS • CHEMISTRY • COMPUTER SCIENCE • ENGLISH LANGUAGE • ENGLISH LITERATURE • EUROPEAN HISTORY • MATHEMATICS • PHYSICS • U.S. HISTORY • WORLD HISTORY*


PSAT Prep

The Elite PSAT Program is designed for students in 9th and 10th grade who want to get a head start on preparing for the PSAT and SAT. PSAT Boot Camp offers a set of three interlocking classes (Critical Reading, Writing and a Math class previewing Algebra II) taught at a pace more suited to younger students.


SAT Subject Test Prep

Elite provides comprehensive preparation for many of the SAT Subject Tests consisting of weekly practice test sessions and review classes with instructors who not only are knowledgeable about their subjects but also understand how to help students prepare effectively for the SAT Subject Tests.Click here to learn more about SAT Subject Tests.


ReadiPrep™ English

Aimed at students in grades 5-9, ReadiPrep™ English focuses on developing studies’ critical reading and thinking skills through an interconnected course of study involving reading comprehension, vocabulary and grammar studies, persuasive writing, and test skill development.


College Application Workshop

College admissions are more competitive than ever, and a finely-crafted essay can be the part of your application that distinguishes you from the crowd. In Elite's College Application Workshop, students learn how to write unique, memorable, and powerful application essays. Teachers meet with students individually to proofread, critique, and revise multiple drafts, helping students create polished and compelling personal statements. In addition, teachers can provide step-by-step guidance in listing extra-curricular activities and completing college application forms.


*Classes and schedules vary by branch. Check your branch's fall schedule for details.

For class schedules and registration info, contact your local Elite branch today!

Posted on August 31, 2016 .

Summer Boot Camp in Shanghai

This summer, Elite China offers the same top American academic preparation and counseling services for all students in grades 3 to 12 at our two Shanghai locations:

Pudong: No.1789 Yunshan Road; 021-61945586
Xuhui: No.406-1 West Jianguo Road; 021-60293805

Contact your closest campus for more information or visit eliteprep.cn

Posted on May 16, 2016 .

Winter & Spring SoCal Weekend Kickstart Programs

The Elite SAT & ACT Weekend Kickstart Programs are supercharged two-day workshops, where students not only learn effective test-taking strategies but also learn how to tackle the some of most commonly tested concepts that appear on each section of the SAT or ACT!

We have a number of Kickstart Practice Test and Weekend Kickstart Programs coming up in Southern California over the next few months. The price is just $10 for the practice test or $159 for the two-day Kickstart program (a reduced rate of $79 is available for students who participate in the Free & Reduced Price Lunch Program).

Winter & Spring 2016 SoCal Kickstart Dates:

Woodbridge HS- Irvine, CA
SAT Practice Test: Feb 13
SAT Kickstart: Feb 20 & 21

Canyon HS
(at Elite of Anaheim Hills)
SAT Practice Test: Feb 13
SAT Kickstart - Feb 20 & 21

Edison HS - Huntington Beach, CA
SAT Practice Test: Feb 13
SAT Kickstart - Feb 27 & 28

JSerra Catholic HS
(at Elite of Laguna Hills)
SAT Practice Test: Feb 20
SAT Kickstart - Feb 27 & 28

North Hollywood HS - NoHo, CA
SAT Practice Test: Feb 20
SAT Kickstart - Feb 27 & 28

Woodbridge HS - Irvine, CA
ACT Practice Test: Mar 5
ACT Kickstart - Mar 12 & 13

Edison HS - Huntington Beach, CA
ACT Practice Test: Mar 12
ACT Kickstart - Mar 19 & 20

Canyon HS
(at Elite of Anaheim Hills)
ACT Kickstart - Mar 26 & 27

North Hollywood HS - NoHo, CA
Practice SAT - Mar 12
SAT After School Kickstart - Mar 29 to Apr 21
Practice SAT - Apr 30

Great Oak HS - Temecula, CA
Practice SAT - Apr 2
SAT Kickstart - Apr 16 & 17

Canyon HS
(at Elite of Anaheim Hills)
Practice SAT - Apr 16
SAT Kickstart - Apr 23 & 24

Posted on February 23, 2016 .

All About the Redesigned SAT: Systems of Equations

The New SAT - The Redesigned SAT - Math - Systems of Equations

When a test like the SAT undergoes a major redesign, changes come in a variety of forms. Big changes like those to the essay structure are easier to spot, but subtle changes can be just as interesting.

Consider the pair of similar-looking questions above. On the left we have a question that could appear on the current SAT Reasoning Test. On the right we have a question that could appear on the redesigned SAT.

So what is different? The question on the left has five answer choices; the question on the right has four answer choices. The question on the left has three variables and two equations; the question on the right has two variables and two equations. But is that it? Are we looking at two superficially different yet largely equivalent questions?

The key different between these two questions is not how they look but how they are solved. On the left, we have a system with more variables than equations.

Can we solve for y? No. Can we solve for z? No. Do we need to? No.

We don’t need to solve for y or z, we just need to find the sum of y and z. And if we subtract the second equation from the first equation, we get y​+​z​=​4. How did we know to subtract the second the equation from the first equation? Because the SAT Reasoning Test is looking for clever manipulations of these equations (in this case, simple subtraction) to get the desired result without solving the whole system.

But what about the question on the right? Here we are asked for the actual solution. So we have two simple approaches: we can solve this system like any beginning algebra student by eliminating one of the variables, or we can find the solution by plugging in the pairs given in the answer choices.

Neither of these solutions works on the question on the left: we can’t solve the system, and we can’t directly plug in numbers for y​+​z.

Why does this matter? Well, this change showcases one of the main differences between the math sections on the SAT Reasoning Test and the redesigned SAT. The math on the current test focuses more on problem-solving skills, while the math on the new test focuses more on skills with the kinds of questions given in school.


Read more about the Redesigned SAT on ElitePrep.com:

Posted on November 24, 2015 and filed under SAT.