The personal statement is an important component of your freshman or transfer application for admission and scholarships. Your test scores and grades show us what you have achieved academically; the personal statement allows us to get to know you as an individual through your experiences and accomplishments.
Note: The information and advice on this page are offered by the UC Davis campus to address what we look for in a personal statement. Other UC campuses may review personal statements differently. This information is a supplement, not a substitute, for the application instructions.
What We are Looking for
The personal statement format requires your response to two short-answer prompts. The short-answer prompts offer you an opportunity to provide a context for the rest of the information in your application and to discuss your personal commitment to learning; any special talent, creativity, leadership experience, accomplishment, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the university; and other information that is important for us to consider, including your tenacity and/or response to life challenges. We are looking for qualities that we know will help you succeed at UC Davis and also enrich our learning community.
Our application process involves comparing your application to those of other highly qualified and competitive students. Other applicants may have similar accomplishments to yours, such as serving in student governance, playing on sports teams, chairing committees or traveling abroad. Providing details and examples of your personal experience can help you stand out from the crowd. Your statement can also be very successful if it elaborates on the insights you gained, or on the way your outlook, activities, commitment or goals have been shaped and influenced.
Writing a Successful Statement
Composing a personal statement can be intimidating, so we encourage you to begin well before the deadline in order to take pressure off yourself and improve the quality of the final draft. Read the application instructions carefully. Make a list of ideas. Then write a first attempt, leave it for a day or two, and return to make revisions. Read each draft aloud to catch misspellings or awkward or inappropriate wording. When you prepare your final draft, correct grammar and spelling.
We recommend creating the personal statement in a word processing program, then pasting it into the application. Use the Word Count feature to be sure that you are writing the appropriate length.
Read the Instructions
Read the instructions for the application carefully. The most common mistake applicants make is to skim the written instructions or to rely on misinformation received from others.
Common Statement Pitfalls
- Not reading the instructions in the application.
- Not writing about recent events.
- Reiterating information listed elsewhere in the application.
- Listing accomplishments without explanation or detail.
- Using gimmicky writing techniques, such as poems.
- Using cliches.
- Writing more about an inspirational person than yourself (e.g. your mother, favorite uncle, etc).
- Rambling, unfocused thoughts.
- Being overly humorous, self-deprecating or glorifying.
Applicants must respond to two short-answer prompts. Each response may be as long as necessary, as long as the total word count for both responses falls within the 1,000 word limit. We suggest your shortest response be no less than 250 words.
In addition to the two required prompts, there is an optional third prompt with a separate 550 word limit. Its purpose is to allow you to provide us with additional information that you have not been able to provide elsewhere in your application. Please leave the third prompt blank if you do not have any additional information to add.
Freshman applicants: 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.
Transfer applicants: What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field—such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities—and what you have gained from your involvement.
All applicants: 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?
All applicants: If necessary, you may use this space to tell us anything else you want us to know that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in the application.
Instructions for Scholarship Applicants
Some scholarship committees review your personal statement. An effectively written statement will serve you in the scholarship and admission processes. Please note that some scholarships, such as the Cal Aggie Alumni Association scholarships, may require separate applications and essays. Please visit our Scholarships page to learn more about scholarships available at UC Davis. Once again, read all instructions carefully.
Getting More Information
Teachers and counselors in your high school or college are good sources of information about writing your personal statement and responding appropriately to the prompts. You may also want to consult various online resources, books or multimedia available in your counseling office, career center, transfer center or local library.
Ready to Apply?
You can view the UC online application for admission and scholarships and start preparing your application as early as August 1—submit your completed application beginning November 1, and no later than November 30. Visit our Apply page today for final tips and to get started!