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How to Write the “Creative Side” UC Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info. 


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The second University of California system essay prompt asks: 


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.


A lot of students can be scared away from this prompt. Many people, when seeing the word “creative,” automatically think of something artistic, such as theater, visual arts, or music. If those pursuits don’t apply to you, you may be intimidated by this prompt.


However, almost everyone should be able to write a response to this essay prompt, because everyone has something about them that is unique and interesting – something they do or think that makes them different from everyone around them. This prompt gives you the opportunity to talk about what makes you unique in a completely random context. 


Creativity in a Non-Creative Pursuit


One of the most powerful ways to approach this essay is to write about how you’ve used creativity in a non-creative pursuit. This is an opportunity to think a little outside the box with how you define creativity. 


You can write about a creative pursuit as something that you find yourself getting lost in. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an artistic pursuit; it can be any subject you enjoy, such as economics, science, or physics. Writing about getting into a creative flow when you’re doing something you love can make for a powerful narrative essay. You can also examine creativity in the context of problem-solving, taking the reader through how your brain works.


In writing a college essay, you are usually telling an admissions officer some combination of three things: what matters to you, how you think about the world, and how you approach situations, both mentally and emotionally. This essay prompt is a great way to open up about how your mind works.


Innovation in Context


Something about this prompt that often trips people up is the phrase “innovative thinking.” What exactly are they asking for? The best way to define this is innovation in the specific context in which you’re operating. 


Nobody’s expecting you to have come up with a new economics theorem or engineering postulate. Rather, this essay asks how you might approach a problem or idea differently than the people around you. You don’t need to be innovative on a global scale. You can absolutely be innovative in the context of a class, a club, or your family, to name a few examples.


Talking about family is actually an underrated response to this prompt. If you have a difference in mindset from your parents, siblings, or extended family, that can become a great essay. If you decide to write about this, make sure you’re drawing the contrast between what you’d consider a conventional approach compared to an unconventional approach. 


Avoiding a Cliche Essay


Another powerful version of this essay is one that subverts the expectations of the admissions officers. They expect to read about creativity in a positive context: an innovative idea leads to a positive outcome, such as a sports team working better together or a family changing their behavior. But a very powerful essay can also come from writing about an experience where you took a creative approach and it didn’t work out.


This is a great way to avoid a cliche essay. Consider the story you’re telling in your essay. Pretend you’re describing it to someone, and that when you’re 80% through, they ask, “What happens next?” Whatever the expected answer is, write the opposite. Writing about a creative approach that failed breaks the cliche and makes for a compelling read.


Where to Get Your UC “Creative Side” Essay Edited


Do you want feedback on your UC “Creative Side” essay? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!


Finally, if you want more information on how to write responses for the other UC essays, consider reading this breakdown of each personal insight question on CollegeVine’s blog!

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