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College Essay Resources

College Essay Workshops

CollegePath LA is a local organization whose volunteers are working with Marshall seniors through email this semester. CPLA volunteers can help you brainstorm, draft, revise, and improve your essays. To participate in this program, fill out the form linked here and email it to Do this soon, as space is limited and college essays can make or break your application.

CollegePathLA is now offering on-demand sessions where you can drop in and brainstorm an essay, choose a topic, and/or get feedback on your current essay draft(s). Sign up here!

2021-2022 College Essay Prompts

Common Application Essay (Choose and answer one)

There are no advantages for choosing one prompt or another, so choose whichever you think will make you stand out the most.

     Word limit: 650     Tips and sample essays here

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  1. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  1. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  1. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  1. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  1. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  1. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.


University of California Personal Insight Questions (UC PIQs) (Choose and answer four)

There are no advantages for choosing any one prompt over another, so choose whichever ones you think will make you stand out the most.

     Word limit: 350      Need some guidance? Check out this Brainstorm/Outline Guide

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
  1. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
  1. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  1. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  1. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  1. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you
  1. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  1. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?


California State University (CSU) EOP Biographical Questions (Answer all)

Note that the CSU application does not have an essay requirement unless you're applying to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). EOP provides resources and support to ensure that students from disadvantages backgrounds (low-income, first-generation, immigrant, etc.) can succeed in and graduate from college. You can apply for EOP directly through the CSU application and we highly recommend it for anyone from these backgrounds. Even if you're ultimately not accepted into EOP, these responses can give context to the rest of your application. 

     Character limit: 2500     Need some guidance? Check out this Brainstorm/Outline Guide

  1. Briefly describe your family's economic background. Include information about your financial challenges.
  1. Why would you like to attend college? Discuss your career and personal goals. Are there any particular circumstances, school experiences, or persons that influenced your preparation or motivation to attend college (e.g., cultural/financial background, family, teachers, schools you attended)? Please explain.
  1. Briefly discuss your academic background. Did you utilize any additional support at your high school, such as tutoring? Do your grades in high school and/or college reflect your academic ability or potential?
  1. List any volunteer, extracurricular activities, or work experience in which you are or have been involved in the past two years.
  1. Is there any additional information you would like EOP to consider in determining your admission to the program?