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Personal Insight Questions

As a vital part of your application, the personal insight questions—short-answer questions you will choose from—are reviewed by both the Admissions and Scholarship offices.

At Berkeley we use personal insight questions to:

  • Discover and evaluate distinctions among applicants whose academic records are often very similar
  • Gain insight into your level of academic, personal and extracurricular achievement
  • Provide us with information that may not be evident in other parts of the application

What we look for:

  • Initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service to others, special potential and substantial experience with other cultures
  • All achievement in light of the opportunities available to you
  • Any unusual circumstances or hardships you have faced and the ways in which you have overcome or responded to them. Having a hardship is no guarantee of admission. If you choose to write about difficulties you have experienced, you should describe:
    • How you confronted and overcame your challenges, rather than describing a hardship just for the sake of including it in your application
    • What you learned from or achieved in spite of these circumstances

Academic achievement

For freshman applicants:

  • Academic accomplishments, beyond those shown in your transcript

For transfer students:

  • Include interest in your intended major, explain the way in which your academic interests developed, and describe any related work or volunteer experience.
  • Explain your reason for transferring if you are applying from a four-year institution or a community college outside of California. For example, you may substantiate your choice of a particular major or your interest in studying with certain faculty on our campus.

How to answer your personal insight questions

  • Thoughtfully describe not only what you’ve done, but also the choices you have made and what you have gained as a result.
  • Allow sufficient time for preparation, revisions, and careful composition. Your answers are not evaluated on correct grammar, spelling, or sentence structure, but these qualities will enhance overall presentation and readability.

If you are applying...

  • to a professional college (such as the College of Engineering or Chemistry), it is important that you discuss:
    • Your intended field of study
    • Your interest in your specific major
    • Any school or work-related experience
  • for a scholarship, we recommend that you elaborate on the academic and extracurricular information in the application that demonstrates your motivation, achievement, leadership and commitment.
  • to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)—the support program for students from low-income families in which neither parent is a college graduate:
    • Discuss how the program might benefit you
    • Tell us about your determination to succeed even though you may have lacked academic or financial support

Keep in mind

You can use the Additional Comments box to convey any information that will help us understand the context of your achievement; to list any additional honors awards, activities, leadership elements, volunteer activities, etc.; to share information regarding a nontraditional school environment or unusual circumstances that has not been included in any other area of the application. And, finally, after we read your personal insight questions, we will ask the question, “What do we know about this individual?” If we have learned very little about you, your answers were not successful.

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