What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Write the “Strong Candidate” 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.


What’s Covered:



“Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admission to the University of California? (350 words)”


In this article, we will discuss when to choose this prompt, how to approach writing your essay and strategies to avoid the most common pitfall. 


For more information on University of California’s other supplemental essays and writing dos and don’ts, check out our posts on how to write University of California essays and on great University of California essay examples.


When to Choose This Prompt


This prompt is a high-risk, high-reward option, and should be selected intentionally, and only if it will add value to your application. 


When deciding whether or not to choose this University of California (UC) personal insight question (PIQ) prompt, ask yourself, “What do I want admissions officers to take away from my application that isn’t on my resume or in my other essays?” If there is a clear topic that is missing from the rest of your application, then this could be a great prompt option for you. 


Notice Overlaps With Other Essays


UC PIQ prompt #8 is a broad and open-ended question, allowing you to write about a topic of your choice that relates to why you are a strong candidate for admission. 


This prompt is similar to Common App Prompt #7, “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” 


The main difference between the two is that UC prompt #8 is less flexible, asking students to write specifically about what they believe makes them a strong candidate for admission, rather than just any topic of their choice.


Because of the broad nature of this prompt, it can be a good opportunity to reuse a great essay that you’ve written elsewhere. That said, if you choose to reuse an essay, make sure to adjust it accordingly so that it still authentically responds to the prompt.


Avoid Re-stating Your Resume


As with many of the UC PIQ prompts, it’s important to not re-state your resume in your response. Doing so can lead to a boring essay that does not provide admissions officers with any new or useful information about you as an applicant.


If you choose to write about an activity or other experience for this essay, avoid simply listing things that you did. Instead, focus on why the activity matters and how it impacted you. Writing in this way allows you to add value to your application, and demonstrate different sides of yourself that have not already been shown.