Experience About Leadership Essay Samples

University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 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.

UC Essay Prompt 1 is the first of eight essay prompts for the University of California application that you can choose to answer if you are an incoming freshman.

Of the eight Personal Insight Questions, you only need to answer four.

If you consider leadership one of your defining qualities, or have had an interesting experience as a leader in some capacity, you might want to consider this essay.

Overall, leadership is a terrific quality to showcase to the UC.

And you don’t need to have held a specific “leadership” role, such as Student Body President or scoutmaster, to write about this skill.

Just make sure you share “an example” of a time you used your leadership skills in a way that is specific, interesting and unique to you.

 

Brainstorm First to Learn What the UC Wants to See About Leadership

 

The UC admissions department has provided helpful brainstorming questions both with this prompt and in a worksheet guide they offer on their web site.

You should definitely check out both before you start—since there’s no better way to learn exactly what they want to hear from you.

It can be a lot to take in. (Don’t sweat these short essays! Just read up on them and then crank them out!)

The upshot of their suggestions, in my opinion, is that they want to make sure that you don’t write a generic answer about how you are a skilled leader unless you support your point with specific examples.

To write an effective UC Prompt 1 essay, especially since it’s relatively short (no more than 350 words), it’s critical to have a sharp focus.

That means you narrow down what you want to say about your leadership abilities.

Instead of listing all the places and experiences you have been a leader, it’s more effective to think of ONE TIME you had that role.

 

 

Another way to focus your UC Essay Prompt 1 would be to narrow down what type of leader you are, and try to define your leadership style.

Do you lead by example and use your sense of humor?

Do you lead because you are confident, disciplined and have an air of authority?

Do you lead by building a consensus and getting everyone on board with your group goals?

Once you decide what specific type of leader you are, try to think of A TIME that illustrated that style.

It doesn’t have to be an impressive time; just a moment or experience where you demonstrated your leadership ability.

You don’t have to have been an Eagle Scout, president of the chemistry club or band major to be a leader. It’s more about finding “a time” you played the role of leader, and why that mattered.

If “something happened” during that time, all the better. That will make your essay more interesting.

(Hint: To find something that happened, think about “a time” you were in a group and faced some type of problem.)

If you include a problem (obstacle/challenge/mistake/accident/mix-up/set-back…), it will be easy to go on to explain how you dealt with it—using your leadership qualities or abilities.

Here’s a Short Sample Outline
for UC Essay Prompt 1

 

  1. Start by describing “a time” you faced some type of problem in a group
  2. Explain how you handled it (the steps you took and your inspiration) and felt
  3. Share why you think you were effective and why
  4. Reflect on what you learned about yourself
  5. Conclude with why your leadership style or ability will help you in future goals (personal and academic.)

(Write a couple sentences about each number and you will have a rough draft!)

 

 

Here is the complete Personal Insight Question (UC essay Prompt 1)
(Notice how it’s trying to get you to find “a time” and be specific, too.)

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.

Things to consider: A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or a taking lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about your accomplishments and what you learned from the experience.  What were your responsibilities?

Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to school activities.  For example, do you help out or take care of your family?

From the brainstorm Worksheet provided by UC admissions
to further help with UC Essay Prompt 1:

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.

How do you define “leader”? List three words that you think describe what a leader is:

1.

2.

3.

Do any of these words apply to you? How? Is there a time in your life when you displayed any of these traits?

* * * * *

Back to my advice:

So remember these main points regarding UC Essay Prompt 1:

  • Leadership is a role, and can apply to any group (no title needed!)
  • It’s best to start with a specific example or “time” you were a leader
  • Describe of what specific type of leader you are (What qualities you used)
  • Include how you think about leading and what you learned

If you decide to write about UC Essay Prompt 1 as one of your four required for the UC application, write it up and see if you like it.

If not, consider one of the other prompts.

You might want to learn How to Answer UC Essay Prompt 8 as well and write about what sets you apart from other students.

RELATED: Check out my 21 Tips for UC Personal Insight Questions to get more ideas on how to select what four prompts to write about, and avoid common pitfalls.

If you need more help with these, I offer tutoring and editing services. Learn more on my SERVICES page.

Good luck!

Check Out These Related Posts!

In my last email, I introduced and gave a few writing tips for the leadership personal insight question for the University of California application. At the end of the email, I promised some examples of actual responses.

First, please note that for a good reason, I have chosen not to write these essays to the required UC word count. Why? There is the very real possibility that someone will copy the writing entirely and use it as an actual response. Or more likely, use this writing as a template. Neither case is desirable.

Recap of the essay prompt:

  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.

Examples:

(Note: The following writing is completely my original writing based on composites of the hundreds of application essays I’ve read in the past decades.)

Uninspiring:

In tenth grade, I was president of the Latino Culture Club. There were about 20 members in the club, but most of them didn’t come very often. We met to discuss the unique aspects of our culture in the United States, and my job was to get more members and figure out ways to show our culture to others.

In the first week of the club, I was overwhelmed by what to do. It seemed like I had so much responsibility, but not much time. But I decided that the best way to get ahead and reach our goals was to use: teamwork.

As a team, we were not only stronger, but we had more ideas. Suddenly, people who kept to themselves spoke up. They seemed more excited about coming to meetings. And we also had many more suggestions about what to do. After this, one of the best suggestions came up, we should put on a talent show to show the different kinds of culture we had amongst ourselves. We decided to include singing, dancing, music, and traditional costumes that each performer could pick.

The talent show was a great success, and it could never have happened without harnessing the power of the team. It’s like a bundle of sticks—alone, each one is breakable. But together, they are unstoppable.

Compelling:

In ninth grade, I set a goal for myself: I wanted to increase the presence of the Latino Culture Club at my school—I wanted it to be one of the clubs people talked about and actually wanted to join because they enjoyed it, not because they felt like they were required to.

I initially joined the club because I wanted to share the beauty of Latino culture with others, and hopefully, even improve race relations at my school. We have a fairly balanced mix of races at my school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our opinions of each other are as fairly balanced. I believe that to some extent we all represent others who look like us and come from similar backgrounds, and if we can create favorable impressions of our cultures with others, we can help reduce the racial tension that plagues some areas of the US.

Running for president, I gave some short speeches and presentations, and my fellow club members seemed impressed. And then I launched my big plan: Pull off an event that the whole school would talk about.

We had dozens of suggestions, from a talent show to a “Cultural Awareness Day” to a flash mob-style performance in the cafeteria of a fusion of hiphop and Latino music. But in the end, we decided on a food festival with music; after all, if there’s anything that brings people together, it’s delicious food.

For several months, we planned and marketed. To create excitement for the event, we announced that we’d be giving out prizes for students who arrived early and for those who visited every table at the festival. I believe that any good leader is also in the trenches, so in addition to overseeing preparations, I was also planning for my table, which would showcase the Brazilian snack “kibe” (a Middle East-inspired mixture of beef and bulgar wheat that is fried and served with hot sauce). I decided to play “baile funk,” a style of dance music popular in clubs in Rio de Janeiro.

We encountered a number of obstacles and disagreements along the way, but nothing that logical discussion and decision-making couldn’t overcome. In the end, I couldn’t have been happier with the result—for the four hours of the event, I heard the laughter of the attendees amid the various types of music being played. While I cannot state with 100% certainty that our club succeeded in creating a positive image of Latino culture at our school, I can say without any hesitation that everybody who attended had a good time and left with tummy full of delicious food, all homemade and provided by us.

See the difference between the two examples? Although nearly the same events happen in both essays, the student in the second essay sounds much more impressive. Many students believe that they must encounter some completely unique hardship or invent the cure for some disease in order to "have something interesting to write about," but really, the events themselves are only half of the puzzle. As these essay examples have shown, the other half of an interesting essay lies in how well the essay is written. Good writing can make a conventionally boring event come alive, just as bad writing can make a dramatically gripping event seem dull.

The takeaway from all of this:
If you think you have a "boring" story, don't worry! You'll do fine as long as you are descriptive and really show your passion.
If you think you have a good story, that's great! But make sure you don't get complacent! A stellar writer with an everyday story easily outshines a mediocre writer with a "good" story.

Best of luck with your college admissions!

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