University of California Personal Insight Question 4 Back to all templates
Section 1

Here, you will focus on an experience that furthered your education. Whether you overcame an educational barrier or took action towards an educational opportunity, you exemplified your commitment to learning. 


If you choose to focus on a barrier you overcame:

Be clear about how overcoming the barrier contributed to your education.


If you choose to focus on an opportunity you took:

Remember that it can include anything that added value to your education such as advanced courses, extracurriculars or volunteer work. 


Do: Focus on education. The experience you choose to describe should have an impact on your educational path. 

Do: Describe the experience in detail. Do not shy away from sharing emotions, as this is a very personal reflection.


Don’t: Write a list of experiences.

Don’t: Write about a barrier you have not yet overcome. This is a triumph story.

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An Educational Barrier or Opportunity

Starting Sentence Option 1: I encountered a challenging educational barrier when [briefly describe the barrier you faced, eg “I struggled to pass my Algebra 2 course and rarely earned a test grade above a D.”] The most difficult aspect of this challenge for me was [briefly describe a specific task or issue you faced as part of this challenge, eg “overcoming my anxiety about math and applying myself to my studies.”]


Starting Sentence Option 2: I took advantage of a tremendous opportunity when [briefly describe the opportunity you chose to take, eg “I was offered free pottery lessons with my neighbor.”] I chose to take this opportunity because [briefly describe why you took advantage of this opportunity, eg “I was at a point in my progress when I truly needed an experienced mentor.”]


Section 2

Tell the brief story of your educational barrier or opportunity. Without going into too much detail, convey the most important parts of your journey. 


Do: Write about at least two chronological steps you took to either overcome the barrier or take advantage of an opportunity. 

Do: Choose the most important steps you took.


Don’t: Write about someone else helping or “saving” you. Focus on an experience that you, yourself are responsible for.

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The Steps you Took

Starting Sentence Option 1: The first step I took in overcoming this educational barrier was to [describe the first action you took when you faced the educational barrier, eg “seek a supportive peer who could volunteer their time to work with me.”]


Starting Sentence Option 2: The first step in taking this opportunity involved [briefly describe the first action you took in accepting the opportunity, eg “committing to a specific amount of time each week to focus completely on my artwork.”]


Section 3

How did your life change as a result of overcoming your educational barrier or taking the educational opportunity? This is where you explain the “reward” that followed your breakthrough. 


Do: Write about the positive impact of your experience.

Do: Reflect on the “big picture,” or how this experience changed you. 


Don’t: Continue to tell the story of your experience. It is important to have a reflection aspect.

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Reflecting on the Results

Starting Sentence Option 1: The actions I took took to overcome this educational barrier resulted in [briefly describe the end result, eg “my passing Algebra 2 class with a B and learning techniques to reduce my math anxiety.”]


Starting Sentence Option 2: Seizing this opportunity led to [briefly describe the end result of the opportunity you took, eg “a tremendous improvement in my skill as well as a respect for the power of mentorship.”]


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