What Are You Good At?
(Yes, UC Essay Prompt 3 Can Be About Almost Anything!)
I believe all students who need to answer four of the new University of California “Personal Insight Questions” should seriously consider the third one, otherwise known as UC Essay Prompt 3.
If you’re a student who has focused on one special talent or skill in your life, and are recognized in that field as “among the best,” this is your chance to share that in detail.
However, you don’t need to be a star at your talent or skill to write an effective essay about it.
And your talent or skill doesn’t even need to be impressive.
Here is UC Essay Prompt 3 in full (the following three paragraphs):
What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
Things to consider: If there’s a talent or skill that you’re proud of, this is the time to share it. You don’t necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you?
Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule?
UC essay prompt 3 mainly needs to feature something that you are passionate about.
As long as you can show why you love it and how hard you have worked at it, almost any activity could be a great topic.
If you are a star at ice-skating or drama or coding, again, this is your big chance to share your story about this passion.
Even if you have included this talent or skill heavily in your application (listing accolades and awards), you can still write about it for UC essay prompt 3.
This is your chance to go beyond your impressive status with this talent or skill and share how you got into it, what inspired you, how hard you worked and what obstacles you overcame to excel.
The most important part of this essay would be to explain why your impressive status matters—to you, to others and to the world.
Has it changed you? Does it define you? What does it mean to you?
How to Toot Your Own Horn in UC Essay Prompt 3
The biggest pitfall with writing about how great you are at something is that you can come across as bragging or full of yourself.
Even though the UC admissions page literally asks you to brag a little, it’s wise to watch your tone in UC Essay Prompt 3.
The best trick to walking that tone tightrope of talking about a talent or skill and remaining humble is to think of some type of problem you encountered as you developed it over the years.
This “problem” can be an obstacle, challenge, mistake, set-back; there are many types of problems.
If can be something that happened to you, or something within you, such as a fear, phobia, obsession, etc.
The idea is that you start UC essay prompt 3 by sharing a moment or incident that illustrates that problem, or one “time” that involved that problem, and go from there.
By starting at a low point in your journey developing your talent or skill, you can then go into how you handled the problem and explain what you learned and why that mattered.
This approach to writing about yourself helps keep your essay first-person “voice” humble and likable.
Of course you include how far you came with your talent or skill, and include details to show how good you are now, but you focus on how and what you learned along the way.
Even if you have a talent or skill that you are still working on, consider writing about it for UC Essay Prompt 3 —especially if it’s something unusual or unexpected.
If you excel at something that many students also could be good at, spend more time trying to come up with something unique or unexpected about your talent or skill to help you stand out.
Based on what I’ve seen my former students write about over the past eight years, I would say these activities would include these popular high school activities: playing band instruments, sports, acting, computer coding, etc.
It really all comes down to what you have to say about your talent or skill, more than how great you are at it.
If you have an unusual talent or skill, I would highlyencourage you to write about for UC Essay Prompt 3.
Are you the one of the best skimboarders in the world? Write about it!
However,iIf you mainly love skimboarding as a favorite hobby, then you need to make sure you have something valuable and unique to say about why that talent matters to you and the world.
RED FLAG (especially in California): Possible overdone topics: Skateboarding. Skiing. Surfing. Just saying.
Are you an excellent glassblower?
Or do you help with making floats for the Rose Bowl Parade?
Have you raised a family of ostriches?
Are you known for making an unforgettable grilled cheese sandwich?
Can you blow tiny bubbles through your nose?
(Okay, you get the point.)
These types of quirky talents and skills could make terrific topics for UC essay prompt 3.
Again, it’s all what you have to say about that talent—why it matters to you and the world.
Trust me, hundreds of students will be writing about their piano playing or singing or dancing or photography. And this is fine.
If you want to stand out with your essay, and write about one of these popular talents and skills, look for something unexpected, unusual or highly personal to say about it.
If you write about an offbeat talent or skill for UC essay prompt 3—skipping stones, hacking computers, lucid dreaming, knitting dog sweaters, etc.—make sure to include what you have learned from this ability and why it matters.
Like almost all personal essays, mundane (everyday/ordinary) topics often make better topics than so-called impressive ones.
I repeat—it’s all what you have to say about it.
More Brainstorming Ideas for UC Essay Prompt 3
The UC provided these extra tips in its Personal Insight Questions worksheet to help you brainstorm UC essay prompt 3:
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? List three of your talents or skills:
Were these talents or skills the same a few years ago? What changed? What improved? Which one of the three talents or skills you listed is the most meaningful or important to you and why? Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent?
Learn all about The New UC Essay Prompts and also 21 Tips to Help Answer the New UC Essay Prompts.
If you need more help with these, I offer tutoring and editing services. Learn more on my SERVICES page.
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by Lance D. Smith
There are many talented people in the world. But for various reasons, many of us have yet to realize or fully express our talent.
Grand or not, everyone has a talent. But many hide or withhold their talents, keeping them secret and close to themselves.
Many people misunderstand and don’t fully realize the real essence of talent.
For example, a ball player’s talent is fully expressed when contributed to a team. But if the player only uses his talent to define him or herself better than the rest, then their talent will only take them so far, a place that is usually lonely, isolated, and unfulfilling. A ball player’s, or anyone else’s talent becomes fully realized when they serve others, a team, and not just themselves.
One thing I have learned about talented people is that they don’t look to others to define their talent. Their talent is “not about them.” In other words, they don’t use their talent to create a superiority complex to make them anymore special than the next person.
Actually these talented people are just the opposite. They are usually humble and see their talent as something was given to them and to be used as a service for others and their talents are meant to be shared, not hoarded. They feel they are not any different from the rest of world and we all could do what they do, only if we tried.
How do you know if you are talented at something? The first indication is time flies while you are doing. You enjoy the intricate details and it feels like fun even if it is hard work! For example, a talented writer will agonize over a word or sentence. Or a singer will sing a line trying many different melodies to find its perfect expression. They love the work and their love hones their skills.
True talent is expressed through the sheer joy of doing it, not praise, recognition, or validation. Ethel loves cooking. Even as a small girl, she loved making her daddy sandwiches and packing his lunch sack. It fulfilled her with a sense of contribution to the household.
She grew up, became a nurse but still deeply enjoys preparing meals for family, friends, and church events.
She built a public demand for her cooking and her kitchen grew into a catering business. She felt a little guilty at first about being paid for doing something she loved so much. But the cost of ingredients eventually justified it to her. Her catering business soon grew so much she needed more than her home kitchen. But she had to make sacrifices and quit her day job if she were to open a restaurant. She eventually opened a bistro that has become very successful. Life was difficult for awhile, but also very fulfilling and rewarding. Ethel put in the time because she loved what cooking did for her soul. It was never for money, fame, or recognition.
This is an example of developing real talent. Food, in this example, shows how talent offers a way to make “our” difference in the world through serving others.
When you express your talents you create joy and fulfillment in yourself and for others. You see, happiness comes through you, not to you.
Unfortunately many people don’t express their talents or who they fully are. Their talent may be they are able to easily make someone smile, or laugh, or feel totally understood.
Don’t be discouraged, even if you think others are more talented at what you do. You have a specific place in this world and no one else is you. No one can give or serve in the unique way you can.
Talent is beautiful in that, as we fill the needs of others as we also fulfill our own needs.
The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it. Goethe
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