By Jason Chen
The class of 2017 will experience yet another challenge for college admissions. After almost 10 years, the UC system is replacing its current two personal statement questions with four “personal insight questions” to supposedly allow applicants more flexibility in writing about their experiences.
Prior to this year’s change, the UC application required applicants to choose two out of four possible prompts to answer for their personal statements. Additionally, they were given a limit of 1,000 words to answer both prompts, or about 500 words per question.
For the class of 2017, the UC application now requires students to answer four out of eight possible “personal insight” questions. However, each response is restricted to a maximum of 350 words. The UCs’ rationale for these changes is that applicants will have access to a broader range of experiences to draw from when writing about themselves.
Admissions offices claim that because students have a greater variety of questions to choose from, they may “express who they are and what matters to not only in how they respond to the questions, but also through the questions they choose to answer.” They also claim that the new questions are related to the UC system’s thorough criteria for reviewing applicants.
Additionally, UC admissions offices have announced that all questions have equal value in the review process. Although the UC admissions offices maintain that the application changes are beneficial to students, the reality is that these modifications hurt students. The advantage of having fewer questions is that students are able to focus their energy on writing about fewer topics.
This is especially important considering the circumstances of students during this time, as they will already be occupied with adjusting to the workload of senior year, as well as the various other college applications they will be completing. Essentially, these changes have extended the amount of time a student spends on the application during a period when “time” is extremely limited.
Students additionally have a somewhat unreasonable word limit for each of their responses in the new application. The number of words allocated to answering each question has been significantly reduced from 500 words to 350 words, an astonishing 30 percent decrease. Although students overall have more words to use, the fact that they have fewer words per response will result in answers that are less comprehensive and thorough.
It seems that the UC system expects applicants to somehow include more personal experiences, but with fewer words. However, these expectations cheat students out of an opportunity to thoroughly present themselves to universities and place an unnecessarily difficult barrier between satisfactory self-expression and efficiency.