Your Personal Insight Essays Will Matter More Than Ever

Students admitted to U.C. Berkeley
Students at the University of California, Berkeley walk past Wheeler Hall and the Campanile

Standardized Tests Dropped by the University of California–Forever, More or Less

It’s official: your application essays are now an even bigger part of your University of California application for 2021-2022, and essays will continue to play a much larger role in determining admissions to the UC from San Diego to Berkeley. Forever, or at least for the next generation or so.

Why? Good question! There is more than one reason for this, but the big booster this spring was a court decision that came down on Friday, May 14th: the University of California will no longer even consider standardized test scores for admissions because of the bias inherit in the current tests, meaning the SAT and the ACT. This comes a year after the UC suspended use of standardized tests, in 2020, while planning to create its own admissions test. But as of now, all standardized aptitude tests of any kind are off the table as far as the calendar can see. Nothing except your high school grades and transcript, your activities and your application essays will be evaluated in your UC application.

If your response is WTF? (What the Fidget-Spinner?) that is understandable. This year has been terribly boring as you sat under house arrest staring at your computer screen, yet at the same time full of a firehose of information from the terrifying to the simply batty, everywhere from the U.S. Capitol Building to the latest Florida Man event.

A few reports on a court case out on the Left Coast can slide by totally unnoticed. But a minor rule change in the big scheme of things is a major event in the micro world of UC Admissions. And with the temporary halt to standardized testing already having an impact this year, expect that impact to build.

Application Essays for The University of California Will Matter More than Ever in 2021-2022

What do I mean by impact? And why will your essays be even more important? Let’s start with the second question, since that was my lead for this post.

Your essays will be much more important simply because the UC has now lost a simple up or down tool for screening students. As much as the UC tried to evaluate the “whole person” via their holistic approach, the use of test scores created a funneling effect for “prequalified” students and was an easy way to separate students who otherwise seemed similar. This process was called funneling. Colleges, no kidding, actually purchased lists of students with the test data they wanted–the going rate for the College Board (a.k.a. the SAT here) was 47 cents per name. No kidding. And that can add up to a lot of money for the folks over at the College Board. If you like the details as much as I do, take a look: The Decline of Testing. No doubt the folks over at the College Board are upset at this lost revenue.

Me? Not so much. And I don’t think you should be, either. If you have the ability to get a stellar score on an SAT or ACT, you also have the ability to write a good essay. And if the trend continues–as it may, with the UC system being a major setter of trends for college admissions–you may find, if you are early in your high school career, that you can discard all of the time wasted on becoming a standardized test killer and turn it to good use doing something more constructive. And if that more constructive time is used for activities you like that help your community, or whatever, or even if it just gives you time to read a book you otherwise would not have read, it’s all to the better.

Changes in Applications and Enrollment are Already Emerging

As for the impact of this change? Well, let’s just say we can already see that students who we know have been admitted skew away from the traditional profile of recent years. In particular, UC saw a surge in Latino and Black applicants, and this is expected to continue. So if you are applying this fall (November of 2021) or in the coming years, you will be applying with, and most likely attending school with, a much more diverse group of people. That’s good. The problem for you now is how to differentiate yourself. And the place to start is with your activities–you have about three months to develop anything new if you are applying this fall–and of course, those essays.

It’s Not too Soon to Start Thinking About those Application Essays–Start Here:

And here they are: UC Application Essays, otherwise know as the Personal Insight Essays. The name says it all, but how to write effective and winning essays that offer personal insights is another thing entirely–which I will turn to in my next two posts on the UC application for 2021-2022. The video overview is sincere, so I’d take a look, then copy the 8 prompts and print a few to post where you will see them regularly. Let your brain start working on the problem that way, indirectly and over time, and have a notebook or your phone handy whenever an idea pops up. I will write more about the proces of creating winning essays soon, but that’s my first tip–let it become part of your daily background for a few weeks before you officially start writing the essays, and write down any ideas that come up–or you might lose them.

Come back soon for more information on the college essay process, the UC and other important colleges. And if you want help developing essays and editing contact me.

Leave a Reply