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College Essays

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If you're applying to any University of California (UC) campus as an incoming first-year student , then you have a special challenge ahead of you. Applicants need to answer four UC personal insight questions, chosen from a pool of eight unique prompts different from those on the Common App. But not to worry! This article is here to help.

In this article, I'll dissect the eight UC essay prompts in detail. What are they asking you for? What do they want to know about you? What do UC admissions officers really care about? How do you avoid boring or repulsing them with your essay?

I'll break down all of these important questions for each prompt and discuss how to pick the four prompts that are perfect for you. I'll also give you examples of how to make sure your essay fully answers the question. Finally, I'll offer step-by-step instructions on how to come up with the best ideas for your UC personal statements.

What Are the UC Personal Insight Questions?

If you think about it, your college application is mostly made up of numbers: your GPA, your SAT scores, the number of AP classes you took, how many years you spent playing volleyball. But these numbers reveal only so much. The job of admissions officers is to put together a class of interesting, compelling individuals—but a cut-and-dried achievement list makes it very hard to assess whether someone is interesting or compelling. This is where the personal insight questions come in.

The UC application essays are your way to give admissions staff a sense of your personality, your perspective on the world, and some of the experiences that have made you into who you are. The idea is to share the kinds of things that don't end up on your transcript. It's helpful to remember that you are not writing this for you. You're writing for an audience of people who do not know you but are interested to learn about you. The essay is meant to be a revealing look inside your thoughts and feelings.

These short essays—each with a 350-word limit—are different from the essays you write in school, which tend to focus on analyzing someone else's work. Really, the application essays are much closer to a short story. They rely heavily on narratives of events from your life and on your descriptions of people, places, and feelings.

If you'd like more background on college essays, check out our explainer for a very detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application .

Now, let's dive into the eight University of California essay questions. First, I'll compare and contrast these prompts. Then I'll dig deep into each UC personal statement question individually, exploring what it's really trying to find out and how you can give the admissions officers what they're looking for.

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Think of each personal insight essay as a brief story that reveals something about your personal values, interests, motivations, and goals.

Comparing the UC Essay Prompts

Before we can pull these prompts apart, let's first compare and contrast them with each other . Clearly, UC wants you to write four different essays, and they're asking you eight different questions. But what are the differences? And are there any similarities?

The 8 UC Essay Prompts

#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.

#2: 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.

#3: What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

#4: Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

#5: 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?

#6: Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

#7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

#8: Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

How to Tell the UC Essay Prompts Apart

  • Topics 1 and 7 are about your engagement with the people, things, and ideas around you. Consider the impact of the outside world on you and how you handled that impact.
  • Topics 2 and 6 are about your inner self, what defines you, and what makes you the person that you are. Consider your interior makeup—the characteristics of the inner you.
  • Topics 3, 4, 5, and 8 are about your achievements. Consider what you've accomplished in life and what you are proud of doing.

These very broad categories will help when you're brainstorming ideas and life experiences to write about for your essay. Of course, it's true that many of the stories you think of can be shaped to fit each of these prompts. Still, think about what the experience most reveals about you .

If it's an experience that shows how you have handled the people and places around you, it'll work better for questions in the first group. If it's a description of how you express yourself, it's a good match for questions in group two. If it's an experience that tells how you acted or what you did, it's probably a better fit for questions in group three.

For more help, check out our article on coming up with great ideas for your essay topic .

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Reflect carefully on the eight UC prompts to decide which four questions you'll respond to.

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How Is This Guide Organized?

We analyze all eight UC prompts in this guide, and for each one, we give the following information:

  • The prompt itself and any accompanying instructions
  • What each part of the prompt is asking for
  • Why UC is using this prompt and what they hope to learn from you
  • All the key points you should cover in your response so you answer the complete prompt and give UC insight into who you are

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 1

The prompt and its instructions.

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 taking a 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?

What's the Question Asking?

The prompt wants you to describe how you handled a specific kind of relationship with a group of people—a time when you took the reigns and the initiative. Your answer to this prompt will consist of two parts.

Part 1: Explain the Dilemma

Before you can tell your story of leading, brokering peace, or having a lasting impact on other people, you have to give your reader a frame of reference and a context for your actions .

First, describe the group of people you interacted with. Who were and what was their relationship to you? How long were you in each others' lives?

Second, explain the issue you eventually solved. What was going on before you stepped in? What was the immediate problem? Were there potential long-term repercussions?

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Leadership isn't limited to officer roles in student organizations. Think about experiences in which you've taken charge, resolved conflicts, or taken care of loved ones.

Part 2: Describe Your Solution

This is where your essay will have to explicitly talk about your own actions .

Discuss what thought process led you to your course of action. Was it a last-ditch effort or a long-planned strategy? Did you think about what might happen if you didn't step in? Did you have to choose between several courses of action?

Explain how you took the bull by the horns. Did you step into the lead role willingly, or were you pushed despite some doubts? Did you replace or supersede a more obvious leader?

Describe your solution to the problem or your contribution to resolving the ongoing issue. What did you do? How did you do it? Did your plan succeed immediately or did it take some time?

Consider how this experience has shaped the person you have now become. Do you think back on this time fondly as being the origin of some personal quality or skill? Did it make you more likely to lead in other situations?

What's UC Hoping to Learn about You?

College will be an environment unlike any of the ones you've found yourself in up to now. Sure, you will have a framework for your curriculum, and you will have advisers available to help. But for the most part, you will be on your own to deal with the situations that will inevitably arise when you mix with your diverse peers . UC wants to make sure that

  • you have the maturity to deal with groups of people,
  • you can solve problems with your own ingenuity and resourcefulness, and
  • you don't lose your head and panic at problems.

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Demonstrating your problem-solving abilities in your UC college essay will make you a stronger candidate for admission.

How Can You Give Them What They Want?

So how can you make sure those qualities come through in your essay?

Pick Your Group

The prompt very specifically wants you to talk about an interaction with a group of people. Let's say a group has to be at least three people.

Raise the Stakes

Think of the way movies ratchet up the tension of the impending catastrophe before the hero swoops in and saves the day. Keeping an audience on tenterhooks is important—and distinguishes the hero for the job well done. Similarly, when reading your essay, the admissions staff has to fundamentally understand exactly what you and the group you ended up leading were facing. Why was this an important problem to solve?

Balance You versus Them

Personal statements need to showcase you above all things . Because this essay will necessarily have to spend some time on other people, you need to find a good proportion of them-time and me-time. In general, the first (setup) section of the essay should be shorter because it will not be focused on what you were doing. The second section should take the rest of the space. So, in a 350-word essay, maybe 100–125 words go to setup whereas 225–250 words should be devoted to your leadership and solution.

Find Your Arc

Not only do you need to show how your leadership helped you meet the challenge you faced, but you also have to show how the experience changed you . In other words, the outcome was double-sided: you affected the world, and the world affected you right back.

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Give your response to question 1 a compelling arc that demonstrates your personal growth.

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 2

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.

Things to consider: What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem?

How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career?

This question is trying to probe the way you express yourself. Its broad description of "creativity" gives you the opportunity to make almost anything you create that didn't exist before fit the topic. What this essay question is really asking you to do is to examine the role your brand of creativity plays in your sense of yourself . The essay will have three parts.

Part 1: Define Your Creativity

What exactly do you produce, make, craft, create, or generate? Of course, the most obvious answer would be visual art, performance art, or music. But in reality, there is creativity in all fields. Any time you come up with an idea, thought, concept, or theory that didn't exist before, you are being creative. So your job is to explain what you spend time creating.

Part 2: Connect Your Creative Drive to Your Overall Self

Why do you do what you do? Are you doing it for external reasons—to perform for others, to demonstrate your skill, to fulfill some need in the world? Or is your creativity private and for your own use—to unwind, to distract yourself from other parts of your life, to have personal satisfaction in learning a skill? Are you good at your creative endeavor, or do you struggle with it? If you struggle, why is it important to you to keep pursuing it?

Part 3: Connect Your Creative Drive With Your Future

The most basic way to do this is by envisioning yourself actually pursuing your creative endeavor professionally. But this doesn't have to be the only way you draw this link. What have you learned from what you've made? How has it changed how you interact with other objects or with people? Does it change your appreciation for the work of others or motivate you to improve upon it?

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Connecting your current creative pursuits with your chosen major or career will help UC admissions staff understand your motivations and intentions.

Nothing characterizes higher education like the need for creative thinking, unorthodox ideas in response to old topics, and the ability to synthesize something new . That is what you are going to college to learn how to do better. UC's second personal insight essay wants to know whether this mindset of out-of-the-box-ness is something you are already comfortable with. They want to see that

  • you have actually created something in your life or academic career,
  • you consider this an important quality within yourself,
  • you have cultivated your skills, and
  • you can see and have considered the impact of your creativity on yourself or on the world around you.

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College admissions counselors, professors, and employers all value the skill of thinking outside the box, so being able to demonstrate that skill is crucial.

How can you really show that you are committed to being a creative person?

Be Specific and Descriptive

It's not enough to vaguely gesture at your creative field. Instead, give a detailed and lively description of a specific thing or idea that you have created . For example, I could describe a Turner painting as "a seascape," or I could call it "an attempt to capture the breathtaking power and violence of an ocean storm as it overwhelms a ship." Which painting would you rather look at?

Give a Sense of History

The question wants a little narrative of your relationship to your creative outlet . How long have you been doing it? Did someone teach you or mentor you? Have you taught it to others? Where and when do you create?

Hit a Snag; Find the Success

Anything worth doing is worth doing despite setbacks, this question argues—and it wants you to narrate one such setback. So first, figure out something that interfered with your creative expression .  Was it a lack of skill, time, or resources? Too much or not enough ambition in a project? Then, make sure this story has a happy ending that shows you off as the solver of your own problems: What did you do to fix the situation? How did you do it?

Show Insight

Your essay should include some thoughtful consideration of how this creative pursuit has shaped you , your thoughts, your opinions, your relationships with others, your understanding of creativity in general, or your dreams about your future. (Notice I said "or," not "and"—350 words is not enough to cover all of those things!)

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Dissecting Personal Insight Question 3

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Things to consider: If there's a talent or skill that you're proud of, this is the time to share it. You don't necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you?

Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule?

Basically, what's being asked for here is a beaming rave. Whatever you write about, picture yourself talking about it with a glowing smile on your face.

Part 1: Narrative

The first part of the question really comes down to this: Tell us a story about what's amazing about you. Have you done an outstanding thing? Do you have a mind-blowing ability? Describe a place, a time, or a situation in which you were a star.

A close reading of this first case of the prompt reveals that you don't need to stress if you don't have an obvious answer. Sure, if you're playing first chair violin in the symphony orchestra, that qualifies as both a "talent" and an "accomplishment." But the word "quality" really gives you the option of writing about any one of your most meaningful traits. And the words "contribution" and "experience" open up the range of possibilities that you could write about even further. A contribution could be anything from physically helping put something together to providing moral or emotional support at a critical moment.

But the key to the first part is the phrase "important to you." Once again, what you write about is not as important as how you write about it. Being able to demonstrate the importance of the event that you're describing reveals much more about you than the specific talent or characteristic ever could.

Part 2: Insight and Personal Development

The second part of the last essay asked you to look to the future. The second part of this essay wants you to look at the present instead. The general task is similar, however. Once again, you're being asked to make connections:  How do you fit this quality you have or this achievement you accomplished into the story of who you are?

A close reading of the second part of this prompt lands on the word "proud." This is a big clue that the revelation this essay is looking for should be a very positive one. In other words, this is probably not the time to write about getting arrested for vandalism. Instead, focus on a skill that you've carefully honed, and clarify how that practice and any achievements connected with your talent have earned you concrete opportunities or, more abstractly, personal growth.

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Remember to connect the talent or skill you choose to write about with your sense of personal identity and development.

What's UC Hoping to Learn About You?

Admissions officers have a very straightforward interest in learning about your accomplishments. By the end of high school, many of the experiences that you are most proud of don't tend to be the kind of things that end up on your résumé .

They want to know what makes you proud of yourself. Is it something that relates to performance, to overcoming a difficult obstacle, to keeping a cool head in a crisis, to your ability to help others in need?

At the same time, they are looking for a sense of maturity. In order to be proud of an accomplishment, it's important to be able to understand your own values and ideals. This is your chance to show that you truly understand the qualities and experiences that make you a responsible and grown-up person, someone who will thrive in the independence of college life. In other words, although you might really be proud that you managed to tag 10 highway overpasses with graffiti, that's probably not the achievement to brag about here.

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Unless you were hired by the city to paint the overpasses, in which case definitely brag about it.

The trick with this prompt is how to show a lot about yourself without listing accomplishments or devolving into cliche platitudes. Let's take it step by step.

Step #1: Explain Your Field

Make sure that somewhere in your narrative (preferably closer to the beginning), you let the reader know what makes your achievement an achievement . Not all interests are mainstream, so it helps your reader to understand what you're facing if you give a quick sketch of, for example, why it's challenging to build a battle bot that can defeat another fighting robot or how the difficulties of extemporaneous debate compare with debating about a prepared topic.

Keep in mind that for some things, the explanation might be obvious. For example, do you really need to explain why finishing a marathon is a hard task?

Step #2: Zoom in on a Specific Experience

Think about your talent, quality, or accomplishment in terms of experiences that showcase it. Conversely, think about your experiences in terms of the talent, quality, or accomplishment they demonstrate. Because you're once again going to be limited to 350 words, you won't be able to fit all the ways in which you exhibit your exemplary skill into this essay. This means that you'll need to figure out how to best demonstrate your ability through one event in which you displayed it . Or if you're writing about an experience you had or a contribution you made, you'll need to also point out what personality trait or characteristic it reveals.

Step #3: Find a Conflict or a Transition

The first question asked for a description, but this one wants a story—a narrative of how you pursue your special talent or how you accomplished the skill you were so great at. The main thing about stories is that they have to have the following:

  • A beginning: This is the setup, when you weren't yet the star you are now.
  • An obstacle or a transition: Sometimes, a story has a conflict that needs to be resolved: something that stood in your way, a challenge that you had to figure out a way around, a block that you powered through. Other times, a story is about a change or a transformation: you used to believe, think, or be one thing, and now you are different or better.
  • A resolution: When your full power, self-knowledge, ability, or future goal is revealed.

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If, for example, you taught yourself to become a gifted coder, how did you first learn this skill? What challenges did you overcome in your learning? What does this ability say about your character, motivations, or goals?

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 4

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

Things to consider: An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. For example, participation in an honors or academic enrichment program, or enrollment in an academy that's geared toward an occupation or a major, or taking advanced courses that interest you—just to name a few.

If you choose to write about educational barriers you've faced, how did you overcome or strive to overcome them? What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today?

Cue the swelling music because this essay is going to be all about your inspirational journey. You will either tell your story of overcoming adversity against all (or some) odds or of pursuing the chance of a lifetime.

If you write about triumphing over adversity, your essay will include the following:

A description of the setback that befell you: The prompt wants to know what you consider a challenge in your school life. And definitely note that this challenge should have in some significant way impacted your academics rather than your life overall.

The challenge can be a wide-reaching problem in your educational environment or something that happened specifically to you. The word "barrier" also shows that the challenge should be something that stood in your way: If only that thing weren't there, then you'd be sure to succeed.

An explanation of your success: Here, you'll talk about what you did when faced with this challenge. Notice that the prompt asks you to describe the "work" you put in to overcome the problem. So this piece of the essay should focus on your actions, thoughts, ideas, and strategies.

Although the essay doesn't specify it, this section should also at some point turn reflexive. How are you defined by this thing that happened? You could discuss the emotional fallout of having dramatically succeeded or how your maturity level, concrete skills, or understanding of the situation has increased now that you have dealt with it personally. Or you could talk about any beliefs or personal philosophy that you have had to reevaluate as a result of either the challenge itself or of the way that you had to go about solving it.

If you write about an educational opportunity, your essay will include the following:

A short, clear description of exactly what you got the chance to do: In your own words, explain what the opportunity was and why it's special.

Also, explain why you specifically got the chance to do it. Was it the culmination of years of study? An academic contest prize? An unexpected encounter that led to you seizing an unlooked-for opportunity?

How you made the best of it: It's one thing to get the opportunity to do something amazing, but it's another to really maximize what you get out of this chance for greatness. This is where you show just how much you understand the value of what you did and how you've changed and grown as a result of it.

Were you very challenged by this opportunity? Did your skills develop? Did you unearth talents you didn't know you had?

How does this impact your future academic ambitions or interests? Will you study this area further? Does this help you find your academic focus?

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If writing about an educational obstacle you overcame, make sure to describe not just the challenge itself but also how you overcame it and how breaking down that barrier changed you for the better.

Of course, whatever you write about in this essay is probably already reflected on your résumé or in your transcript in some small way. But UC wants to go deeper, to find out how seriously you take your academic career, and to assess  how thoughtfully you've approached either its ups or its downs.

In college, there will be many amazing opportunities, but they aren't simply there for the taking. Instead, you will be responsible for seizing whatever chances will further your studies, interests, or skills.

Conversely, college will necessarily be more challenging, harder, and potentially much more full of academic obstacles than your academic experiences so far. UC wants to see that you are up to handling whatever setbacks may come your way with aplomb rather than panic.

Define the Problem or Opportunity

Not every challenge is automatically obvious. Sure, everyone can understand the drawbacks of having to miss a significant amount of school because of illness, but what if the obstacle you tackled is something a little more obscure? Likewise, winning the chance to travel to Italy to paint landscapes with a master is clearly rare and amazing, but some opportunities are more specialized and less obviously impressive. Make sure your essay explains everything the reader will need to know to understand what you were facing.

Watch Your Tone

An essay describing problems can easily slip into finger-pointing and self-pity. Make sure to avoid this by speaking positively or at least neutrally about what was wrong and what you faced . This goes double if you decide to explain who or what was at fault for creating this problem.

Likewise, an essay describing amazing opportunities can quickly become an exercise in unpleasant bragging and self-centeredness. Make sure you stay grounded: Rather than dwelling at length on your accomplishments, describe the specifics of what you learned and how.

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Elaborating on how you conducted microbiology research during the summer before your senior year would make an appropriate topic for question 4.

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 5

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?

Things to consider: A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to talk about any obstacles you've faced and what you've learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone?

If you're currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, "How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends, or with my family?"

It's time to draw back the curtains and expand our field of vision because this is going to be a two-part story of overcoming adversity against all (or some) odds.

Part 1: Facing a Challenge

The first part of this essay is about problem-solving. The prompt asks you to relate something that could have derailed you if not for your strength and skill. Not only will you describe the challenge itself, but you'll also talk about what you did when faced with it.

Part 2: Looking in the Mirror

The second part of question 5 asks you to consider how this challenge has echoed through your life—and, more specifically, how what happened to you affected your education.

In life, dealing with setbacks, defeats, barriers, and conflicts is not a bug—it's a feature. And colleges want to make sure that you can handle these upsetting events without losing your overall sense of self, without being totally demoralized, and without getting completely overwhelmed. In other words, they are looking for someone who is mature enough to do well on a college campus, where disappointing results and hard challenges will be par for the course.

They are also looking for your creativity and problem-solving skills. Are you good at tackling something that needs to be fixed? Can you keep a cool head in a crisis? Do you look for solutions outside the box? These are all markers of a successful student, so it's not surprising that admissions staff want you to demonstrate these qualities.

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The challenge you write about for question 5 need not be an educational barrier, which is better suited for question 4. Think broadly about the obstacles you've overcome and how they've shaped your perspective and self-confidence.

Let's explore the best ways to show off your problem-solving side.

Show Your Work

It's one thing to be able to say what's wrong, but it's another thing entirely to demonstrate how you figured out how to fix it. Even more than knowing that you were able to fix the problem, colleges want to see how you approached the situation . This is why your essay needs to explain your problem-solving methodology. Basically, they need to see you in action. What did you think would work? What did you think would not work? Did you compare this to other problems you have faced and pass? Did you do research? Describe your process.

Make Sure That You Are the Hero

This essay is supposed to demonstrate your resourcefulness and creativity . And make sure that you had to be the person responsible for overcoming the obstacle, not someone else. Your story must clarify that without you and your special brand of XYZ , people would still be lamenting the issue today. Don't worry if the resource you used to bring about a solution was the knowledge and know-how that somebody else brought to the table. Just focus on explaining what made you think of this person as the one to go to, how you convinced them to participate, and how you explained to them how they would be helpful. This will shift the attention of the story back to you and your efforts.

Find the Suspenseful Moment

The most exciting part of this essay should be watching you struggle to find a solution just in the nick of time. Think every movie cliché ever about someone defusing a bomb: Even if you know 100% that the hero is going to save the day, the movie still ratchets up the tension to make it seem like, Well, maybe... You want to do the same thing here. Bring excitement and a feeling of uncertainty to your description of your process to really pull the reader in and make them root for you to succeed.

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You're the superhero!

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 6

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Things to consider: Many students have a passion for one specific academic subject area, something that they just can't get enough of. If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, internships, employment, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or clubs — and what you have gained from your involvement.

Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)? Are you inspired to pursue this subject further at UC, and how might you do that?

This question is really asking for a glimpse of your imagined possibilities .

For some students, this will be an extremely straightforward question. For example, say you've always loved science to the point that you've spent every summer taking biology and chemistry classes. Pick a few of the most gripping moments from these experiences and discuss the overall trajectory of your interests, and your essay will be a winner.

But what if you have many academic interests? Or what if you discovered your academic passion only at the very end of high school? Let's break down what the question is really asking into two parts.

Part 1: Picking a Favorite

At first glance, it sounds as if what you should write about is the class in which you have gotten the best grades or the subject that easily fits into what you see as your future college major or maybe even your eventual career goal. There is nothing wrong with this kind of pick—especially if you really are someone who tends to excel in those classes that are right up your interest alley.

But if we look closer, we see that there is nothing in the prompt that specifically demands that you write either about a particular class or an area of study in which you perform well.

Instead, you could take the phrase "academic subject" to mean a wide field of study and explore your fascination with the different types of learning to be found there. For example, if your chosen topic is the field of literature, you could discuss your experiences with different genres or with foreign writers.

You could also write about a course or area of study that has significantly challenged you and in which you have not been as stellar a student as you want. This could be a way to focus on your personal growth as a result of struggling through a difficult class or to represent how you've learned to handle or overcome your limitations.

Part 2: Relevance

The second part of this prompt , like the first, can also be taken in a literal and direct way . There is absolutely nothing wrong with explaining that because you love engineering and want to be an engineer, you have pursued all your school's STEM courses, are also involved in a robotics club, and have taught yourself to code in order to develop apps.

However, you could focus on the more abstract, values-driven goals we just talked about instead. Then, your explanation of how your academics will help you can be rooted not in the content of what you studied but in the life lessons you drew from it.

In other words, for example, your theater class may not have stimulated your ambition to be an actor, but working on plays with your peers may have shown you how highly you value collaboration, or perhaps the experience of designing sets was an exercise in problem-solving and ingenuity. These lessons would be useful in any field you pursue and could easily be said to help you achieve your lifetime goals.

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If you are on a direct path to a specific field of study or career pursuit, admissions officers definitely want to know that. Having driven, goal-oriented, and passionate students is a huge plus for a university. So if this is you, be sure that your essay conveys not just your interest but also your deep and abiding love of the subject. Maybe even include any related clubs, activities, and hobbies that you've done during high school.

Of course, college is the place to find yourself and the things that you become passionate about. So if you're not already committed to a specific course of study, don't worry. Instead, you have to realize that in this essay, like in all the other essays, the how matters much more than the what. No matter where your eventual academic, career, or other pursuits may lie, every class that you have taken up to now has taught you something. You learned about things like work ethic, mastering a skill, practice, learning from a teacher, interacting with peers, dealing with setbacks, understanding your own learning style, and perseverance.

In other words, the admissions office wants to make sure that no matter what you study, you will draw meaningful conclusions from your experiences, whether those conclusions are about the content of what you learn or about a deeper understanding of yourself and others. They want to see that you're not simply floating through life on the surface  but that you are absorbing the qualities, skills, and know-how you will need to succeed in the world—no matter what that success looks like.

Focus on a telling detail. Because personal statements are short, you simply won't have time to explain everything you have loved about a particular subject in enough detail to make it count. Instead, pick one event that crystallized your passion for a subject   or one telling moment that revealed what your working style will be , and go deep into a discussion of what it meant to you in the past and how it will affect your future.

Don't overreach. It's fine to say that you have loved your German classes so much that you have begun exploring both modern and classic German-language writers, for example, but it's a little too self-aggrandizing to claim that your four years of German have made you basically bilingual and ready to teach the language to others. Make sure that whatever class achievements you describe don't come off as unnecessary bragging rather than simple pride .

Similarly, don't underreach. Make sure that you have actual accomplishments to describe in whatever subject you pick to write about. If your favorite class turned out to be the one you mostly skipped to hang out in the gym instead, this may not be the place to share that lifetime goal. After all, you always have to remember your audience. In this case, it's college admissions officers who want to find students who are eager to learn and be exposed to new thoughts and ideas.

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 7

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Things to consider: Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place— like your high school, hometown or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community?

Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community?

This topic is trying to get at how you engage with your environment. It's looking for several things:

#1: Your Sense of Place and Connection

Because the term "community" is so broad and ambiguous, this is a good essay for explaining where you feel a sense of belonging and rootedness. What or who constitutes your community? Is your connection to a place, to a group of people, or to an organization? What makes you identify as part of this community—cultural background, a sense of shared purpose, or some other quality?

#2: Your Empathy and Ability to Look at the Big Picture

Before you can solve a problem, you have to realize that the problem exists. Before you can make your community a better place, you have to find the things that can be ameliorated. No matter what your contribution ended up being, you first have to show how you saw where your skills, talent, intelligence, or hard work could do the most good. Did you put yourself in the shoes of the other people in your community? Understand some fundamental inner working of a system you could fix? Knowingly put yourself in the right place at the right time?

#3: Your Problem-Solving Skills

How did you make the difference in your community? If you resolved a tangible issue, how did you come up with your solution? Did you examine several options or act from the gut? If you made your community better in a less direct way, how did you know where to apply yourself and how to have the most impact possible?

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Clarify not just what the problem and solution was but also your process of getting involved and contributing specific skills, ideas, or efforts that made a positive difference.

Community is a very important thing to colleges. You'll be involved with and encounter lots of different communities in college, including the broader student body, your extracurriculars, your classes, and the community outside the university. UC wants to make sure that you can engage with the communities around you in a positive, meaningful way .

Make it personal. Before you can explain what you did in your community, you have to define and describe this community itself—and you can only do that by focusing on what it means to you. Don't speak in generalities; instead, show the bonds between you and the group you are a part of through colorful, idiosyncratic language. Sure, they might be "my water polo team," but maybe they are more specifically "the 12 people who have seen me at my most exhausted and my most exhilarated."

Feel all the feelings. This is a chance to move your readers. As you delve deep into what makes your community one of your emotional centers, and then as you describe how you were able to improve it in a meaningful and lasting way, you should keep the roller coaster of feelings front and center. Own how you felt at each step of the process: when you found your community, when you saw that you could make a difference, and when you realized that your actions resulted in a change for the better. Did you feel unprepared for the task you undertook? Nervous to potentially let down those around you? Thrilled to get a chance to display a hidden or underused talent?

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To flesh out your essay, depict the emotions you felt while making your community contribution, from frustration or disappointment to joy and fulfillment. 

Dissecting Personal Insight Question 8

Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Things to consider: If there's anything you want us to know about you, but didn't find a question or place in the application to tell us, now's your chance. What have you not shared with us that will highlight a skill, talent, challenge or opportunity that you think will help us know you better?

From your point of view, what do you feel makes you an excellent choice for UC? Don't be afraid to brag a little.

If your particular experience doesn't quite fit under the rubrics of the other essay topics , or if there is something the admissions officers need to understand about your background in order to consider your application in the right context, then this is the essay for you.

Now, I'm going to say something a little counterintuitive here. The prompt for this essay clarifies that even if you don't have a "unique" story to tell, you should still feel free to pick this topic. But, honestly, I think you should  choose this topic only if you have an exceptional experience to share . Remember that E veryday challenges or successes of regular life could easily fit one of the other insight questions instead.

What this means is that evaluating whether your experiences qualify for this essay is a matter of degrees. For example, did you manage to thrive academically despite being raised by a hard-working single parent? That's a hardship that could easily be written about for Questions 1 or 5, depending on how you choose to frame what happened. Did you manage to earn a 3.7 GPA despite living in a succession of foster families only to age out of the system in the middle of your senior year of high school? That's a narrative of overcoming hardship that easily belongs to Question 8.

On the flip side, did you win a state-wide robotics competition? Well done, and feel free to tell your story under Question 4. Were you the youngest person to single-handedly win a season of BattleBots? Then feel free to write about it for Question 8.

This is pretty straightforward. They are trying to identify students that have unique and amazing stories to tell about who they are and where they come from. If you're a student like this, then the admissions people want to know the following:

  • What happened to you?
  • When and where did it happen?
  • How did you participate, or how were you involved in the situation?
  • How did it affect you as a person?
  • How did it affect your schoolwork?
  • How will the experience be reflected in the point of view you bring to campus?

The university wants this information because of the following:

  • It gives context to applications that otherwise might seem mediocre or even subpar.
  • It can help explain places in a transcript where grades significantly drop.
  • It gives them the opportunity to build a lot of diversity into the incoming class.
  • It's a way of finding unique talents and abilities that otherwise wouldn't show up on other application materials.

Let's run through a few tricks for making sure your essay makes the most of your particular distinctiveness.

Double-Check Your Uniqueness

Many experiences in our lives that make us feel elated, accomplished, and extremely competent are also near universal. This essay isn't trying to take the validity of your strong feelings away from you, but it would be best served by stories that are on a different scale . Wondering whether what you went through counts? This might be a good time to run your idea by a parent, school counselor, or trusted teacher. Do they think your experience is widespread? Or do they agree that you truly lived a life less ordinary?

Connect Outward

The vast majority of your answer to the prompt should be telling your story and its impact on you and your life. But the essay should also point toward how your particular experiences set you apart from your peers. One of the reasons that the admissions office wants to find out which of the applicants has been through something unlike most other people is that they are hoping to increase the number of points of view in the student body. Think about—and include in your essay—how you will impact campus life. This can be very literal: If you are a jazz singer who has released several songs on social media, then maybe you will perform on campus. Or it can be much more oblique: If you have a disability, then you will be able to offer a perspective that differs from the able-bodied majority.

Be Direct, Specific, and Honest

Nothing will make your voice sound more appealing than writing without embellishment or verbal flourishes. This is the one case in which  how you're telling the story is just as—if not more—important than what you're telling . So the best strategy is to be as straightforward in your writing as possible. This means using description to situate your reader in a place, time, or experience that they would never get to see firsthand. You can do this by picking a specific moment during your accomplishment to narrate as a small short story and not shying away from explaining your emotions throughout the experience. Your goal is to make the extraordinary into something at least somewhat relatable, and the way you do that is by bringing your writing down to earth.

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Your essays should feature relatable thoughts and emotions as well as insights into how you will contribute to the campus community.

Writing Advice for Making Your UC Personal Statements Shine

No matter what personal insight questions you end up choosing to write about, here are two tips for making your writing sparkle:

#1: Be Detailed and Descriptive

Have you ever heard the expression "show; don't tell"? It's usually given as creative writing advice, and it will be your best friend when you're writing college essays. It means that any time you want to describe a person or thing as having a particular quality, it's better to illustrate with an example than to just use vague adjectives . If you stick to giving examples that paint a picture, your focus will also become narrower and more specific. You'll end up concentrating on details and concrete events rather than not-particularly-telling generalizations.

Let's say, for instance, Adnan is writing about the house that he's been helping his dad fix up. Which of these do you think gives the reader a better sense of place?

My family bought an old house that was kind of run-down. My dad likes fixing it up on the weekends, and I like helping him. Now the house is much nicer than when we bought it, and I can see all our hard work when I look at it.

My dad grinned when he saw my shocked face. Our "new" house looked like a completely run-down shed: peeling paint, rust-covered railings, shutters that looked like the crooked teeth of a jack-o-lantern. I was still staring at the spider-web crack in one broken window when my dad handed me a pair of brand-new work gloves and a paint scraper. "Today, let's just do what we can with the front wall," he said. And then I smiled too, knowing that many of my weekends would be spent here with him, working side by side.

Both versions of this story focus on the house being dilapidated and how Adnan enjoyed helping his dad do repairs. But the second does this by:

painting a picture of what the house actually looked like by adding visual details ("peeling paint," "rust-covered railings," and "broken window") and through comparisons ("shutters like a jack-o-lantern" and "spider-web crack");

showing emotions by describing facial expressions ("my dad grinned," "my shocked face," and "I smiled"); and

using specific and descriptive action verbs ("grinned," "shocked," "staring," and "handed").

The essay would probably go on to describe one day of working with his dad or a time when a repair went horribly awry. Adnan would make sure to keep adding sensory details (what things looked, sounded, smelled, tasted, and felt like), using active verbs, and illustrating feelings with dialogue and facial expressions.

If you're having trouble checking whether your description is detailed enough, read your work to someone else . Then, ask that person to describe the scene back to you. Are they able to conjure up a picture from your words? If not, you need to beef up your details.

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It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but it'll make a great college essay!

#2: Show Your Feelings

All good personal essays deal with emotions. And what marks great personal essays is the author's willingness to really dig into negative feelings as well as positive ones . As you write your UC application essays, keep asking yourself questions and probing your memory. How did you feel before it happened? How did you expect to feel after, and how did you actually feel after? How did the world that you are describing feel about what happened? How do you know how your world felt?

Then write about your feelings using mostly emotion words ("I was thrilled/disappointed/proud/scared"), some comparisons ("I felt like I'd never run again/like I'd just bitten into a sour apple/like the world's greatest explorer"), and a few bits of direct speech ("'How are we going to get away with this?' my brother asked").

What's Next?

This should give you a great starting point to address the UC essay prompts and consider how you'll write your own effective UC personal statements. The hard part starts here: work hard, brainstorm broadly, and use all my suggestions above to craft a great UC application essay.

Making your way through college applications? We have advice on how to find the right college for you , how to write about your extracurricular activities , and how to ask teachers for recommendations .

Interested in taking the SAT one more time? Check out our highly detailed explainer on studying for the SAT to learn how to prepare best.

Worried about how to pay for college after you get in? Read our description of how much college really costs , our comparison of subsidized and unsubsidized loans , and our lists of the top scholarships for high school seniors and juniors .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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  • November 11, 2021

How To Write The University of California Essays (2021-2022)

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Adrianne is a college admissions consultant and TV/film director, producer, writer, and actress currently based in LA. She uses her experience in multiple disciplines to help students achieve their personal and academic goals.

Welcome to the 2021-2022 essay prompts for the University of California system! Here’s everything you need to know to write the best UC essays possible before the November 30th deadline.

california style essay

These schools are some of the most popular in the country and admitted just over 132,353 prospective freshmen — including out-of-state and international students — last year out of a record-breakingly large applicant pool. Whether you’re a California resident or not, you’ll need to stand out amongst the crowd in your answers to these questions.

You can refer to the University of California admissions website if you want to see how exactly they’re presenting their essay prompts, also known as “Personal Insight Questions,” for this year. The UC school system has its own application, and all nine schools — UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, UC Merced — accept the same application with the same essay questions.

You’ll need to respond to 4 of the 8 questions listed below, in essays of 250-350 words. This is a pretty big writing assignment, and you have a lot of freedom in which topics you choose, so spend some time brainstorming.

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.

Let me say right off the bat that this isn’t a great question. Even if you’ve demonstrated incredible leadership, The University of California has better essay prompts for you, so you’re welcome to read on, or skip ahead to the next question.

OK. This appears to be a good question for student-entrepreneurs—kids who’ve created impactful projects. As always, however, you need to make sure you’re going beyond your activities list—don’t just tell us about a project you’ve listed elsewhere on your application. The UC schools don’t accept the Common App, but they have a place on their application where they ask you to describe your “activities and awards.”

Think very small here, and focus on specific examples of leadership. Remember: essays are stories. This is your chance to tell a good one about a specific time you took the reins. All this being said, if the strongest leadership story you can muster is about helping a fellow student with his or her homework one time, you should probably choose another prompt — unless somehow it’s a really great story.

The hard thing about questions like this, as always, is resisting the temptation to brag, and finding a way to tell your story without sounding like you’re making yourself out to be a hero. Don’t sensationalize or exaggerate your accomplishments. Be matter-of-fact when talking about your achievements. Focus on a specific anecdote. Give us a clear sense of why a specific leadership experience mattered to you.

2. 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.

Remember how I said there were better questions about leadership? Here’s one. Rather than tell the story about a time you were a leader-hero, why not answer this one? Frame your accomplishments in terms of your creativity, rather than in terms of your leadership. If you’ve started a business, non-profit, or club, it’s on your activities list and we know that you are “a leader” (at least on paper). But are you creative ? How did you come up with your idea? How did you make it happen?

This response doesn’t have to be about leadership, of course. It doesn’t need to be about problem-solving, and it doesn’t need to relate to your future major. Try not to write a boring, formulaic essay in response to this prompt, since it’s a little disappointing to read an essay about creativity that isn’t creative.

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Again, don’t repeat what’s on your activities and awards list. Definitely don’t talk about your awards. They appear elsewhere, and how would you feel if someone you just met started talking about his or her gold medals and trophies? It doesn’t make you look well-adjusted.

It’s tough to talk about your skills without sounding braggy. “How has your talent or skill helped you in or outside the classroom?” Are they serious? I just can’t imagine how answering this question would make anyone look confident and mature.

The only effective response to this prompt would be about mundane or even downright pointless skills. Pomona, when it asks about talents, specifies that you are welcome to discuss “useless skills.” You’re welcome to do so for the UC schools as well. Don’t be flippant; make sure you have something meaningful to say about your mundane or useless skill. For example, I have a friend who can list in chronological order just about every hit rock, soul, and pop album released between 1964 and 1982. This ability has no practical application in his professional life as far as I can tell, but it says a great deal about who he is and how his mind works. And it’s a far more endearing detail than any of the awards and accolades he’s received in life.

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

This is one of those questions where, for some, not answering is the best way to demonstrate self-awareness and maturity.

You’re being asked to talk about educational opportunities and barriers. Before you answer this question, ask yourself: have you received noteworthy educational opportunities and/or faced barriers to pursuing your education? If you got a big-deal scholarship or got into a charter school after taking an IQ test or something, there may be a story there. (Although, “I have a high IQ” isn’t a great story.) If you spent your junior year caring for a sick parent or grandparent or suffered a physical or mental health issue yourself, that’s definitely a barrier to education.

But, on the other hand, if the opportunities you’ve had in terms of education have to do with your parents’ ability to pay for a fancy school, choose a different question. If, for you, “barriers to education” means commuting forty-five minutes to school, or something like that, again, there are plenty of other questions to answer. Self-awareness is at the top of the list of qualities that schools like Berkeley, UCLA, and the other UC schools are looking for in their applicants. Make sure you’re in touch with the opportunities you’ve been given, and the impediments you’ve faced.

5. 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?

See my comments on the previous question. If you’ve faced some real challenges, and if you have enough distance from them to write with perspective (and to feel comfortable writing about them, of course), this may be a question for you. But think long and hard about the challenges you’ve encountered. If they aren’t very serious in the big scheme of things, don’t try to exaggerate them, and to convince your readers you had a hard time.

This is a tempting question to answer if you want to explain a low grade, for example. Let’s say you got a C+ in ninth grade English. Be careful: the question wants to know about “the most significant challenge you faced”: so if you got that C+ because your cat died the day before the final exam, or because your teacher was a jerk, don’t write about it. Everybody has teachers they don’t like and all pets die at some point. (Sorry to be grim.) These are not life’s greatest challenges.

As with “talents” questions, “challenges” questions sometimes put applicants in a tricky situation. Make sure it doesn’t sound like you’re blaming others unfairly or complaining.

If you have an entertaining story about a challenge, which says a lot about who you are, but which isn’t a serious example of hardship, you can absolutely write about it. But use humor and be self-aware. In other words, make it clear that you are cognizant of the fact that your inability to parallel park, apply makeup properly, or beat your little brother in Fortnite doesn’t constitute a “real” challenge.

6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

If you’re a nice “pointy” student, here’s your chance to talk about how all your intellectual activities over the past three years have served to further your passion for… fill in the blank (architecture, art history, astrophysics). Presumably, if you’re this kind of kid, you plan on majoring in an academic field related to what you’re writing about, so discuss your choice of major as well, and say what you plan on doing at the UC school(s) you’re applying to.

You can also answer this question by talking about an academic subject you have no intention of majoring in, provided that it’s interesting, and that you can clearly point to your experience with the subject. If you plan on majoring in history, but you had a really good bio teacher freshman year, that probably isn’t enough of a reason to talk about biology.

Maybe you plan on majoring in psychology at The University of California, but what you really want to do later in life is art therapy, and you’ve gained some experience in the subject, and have a real, demonstrable passion for art generally (you were in the art club, or you exhibited your work somewhere, or you did something else that is at least mildly remarkable with art). Talk about art.

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

I know I keep saying this, but beware of sounding braggy. Make sure you’re demonstrating self-awareness.

I keep saying these things because there are a good number of high schoolers out there who are effectuating real, significant societal change, and who are fighting in extremely ambitious ways to make their communities and even their country a better place. Keep kids like them in mind as you evaluate your own accomplishments in your community. I know this is intimidating — but remembering them will help you maintain perspective as you write.

Here’s a bad example of “making one’s community a better place” — the kind of thing you should not write about. When I was in high school, I was elected student body president, and I succeeded in getting our “student room” equipped with an electric kettle (for tea, ramen noodles, what have you). My fellow students were pretty psyched. But let me tell you: describing this kind of accomplishment would be a pretty pathetic response to the question that’s being asked here. In the big scheme of things, ramen noodles rank pretty low.

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Great question! Take the following phrase very seriously: “Beyond what has already been shared in your application.” Don’t talk about anything on your activities and awards list.

I know it’s tempting to write about your greatest achievements, but they’re already on your application. This is a great opportunity to talk about something new and different, in order to help your admissions committee get to know the real you a little better.

Think small and personal for this one. This is your chance to talk about that hobby of yours that doesn’t have any direct relation to your academic and professional future, or one of your personal quirks that maybe doesn’t matter much in the big scheme of things, but says a lot about who you are.

The way the question is phrased makes it sound like you need to show off here (“what do you believe makes you stand out”). Don’t give in to the temptation to brag. Or, if you do, brag about a useless personal talent, or make the bold claim that what makes you stand out as an applicant is that you’ve read every Stephen King novel ever written, or that you can do a near-perfect Elvis Costello impression. Think: humor and self-awareness.

As always, our Ivy League college consultants are here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out .

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How To Write The 2020-21 University of California Essays

The recording will load in a moment., about this livestream, university of california, berkeley | uc berkeley.

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Learn how to write an awesome University of California essay for every single prompt.

Vinay Bhaskara will provide an in-depth breakdown of each of the UC essay prompts, discussing how to write a great essay in response to each one. He'll also share his take on the essays and topics you shouldn't write about for each prompt.

Finally, he'll open up the floor for a Q&A session, where he'll answer any and all questions about the UC essays and talk about how to set yourself apart with your essay.

california style essay

Undergrad College: University of Chicago

Major: Economics

Work Experience: As a Co-Founder of CollegeVine, I lead the data science and admissions curriculum teams. I have worked with thousands of students and families over the course of 8 years. I have also spent time as a senior analyst in aviation operations, strategy, and marketing.

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How to Write the “Strong Candidate” UC Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

What’s Covered:

When to choose this prompt, notice overlaps with other essays, avoid re-stating your resume.

“Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admission to the University of California? (350 words)”

In this article, we will discuss when to choose this prompt, how to approach writing your essay and strategies to avoid the most common pitfall. 

For more information on University of California’s other supplemental essays and writing dos and don’ts, check out our posts on how to write University of California essays and on great University of California essay examples .

This prompt is a high-risk, high-reward option, and should be selected intentionally, and only if it will add value to your application. 

When deciding whether or not to choose this University of California (UC) personal insight question (PIQ) prompt, ask yourself, “What do I want admissions officers to take away from my application that isn’t on my resume or in my other essays?” If there is a clear topic that is missing from the rest of your application, then this could be a great prompt option for you. 

UC PIQ prompt #8 is a broad and open-ended question, allowing you to write about a topic of your choice that relates to why you are a strong candidate for admission. 

This prompt is similar to Common App Prompt #7 , “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.” 

The main difference between the two is that UC prompt #8 is less flexible, asking students to write specifically about what they believe makes them a strong candidate for admission, rather than just any topic of their choice.

Because of the broad nature of this prompt, it can be a good opportunity to reuse a great essay that you’ve written elsewhere. That said, if you choose to reuse an essay, make sure to adjust it accordingly so that it still authentically responds to the prompt.

As with many of the UC PIQ prompts, it’s important to not re-state your resume in your response. Doing so can lead to a boring essay that does not provide admissions officers with any new or useful information about you as an applicant.

If you choose to write about an activity or other experience for this essay, avoid simply listing things that you did. Instead, focus on why the activity matters and how it impacted you. Writing in this way allows you to add value to your application, and demonstrate different sides of yourself that have not already been shown.

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4 Tips for Writing the University of California Essays

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Written by Gabbi Tobias on November 6th, 2023

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  • Think of these essays as interviews and answer them as such. You should approach the UC questions as concisely and directly as possible. Similar to an interview, the readers are focused on you answering the question and providing insight and value as to why your answer is true. Since you only have 350 words to answer each question, it’s important that you just get to the point. To answer each of the prompts, think of what some refer to as “the 6 Ws” (who, what, where, when, why, and how) as the details behind each answer. From there, start to do a little self-reflecting on why each of these details are significant.
  • Focus on content, not style. When answering the personal insight questions the reader is less concerned with how you format the essay and more concerned with how you answer the question. The UC system is unique as the readers are reviewing for positive content only. A misspelled word or simple typo will not hold you back in the application process—but it is still in your best interest to proofread your essays.
  • Don’t repeat the same information! Yes, having a theme in an application can be a good thing, but you don’t want to come off as repetitive. Readers only get 1,400 words to learn about you, so it’s important to diversify the content you present so you don’t come off as one-dimensional. You can do this by picking prompts that differ from each other or by writing about a variety of activities and accomplishments across your prompts.
  • Connect the dots. Why is the information you presented important? What does the information tell the reader about what you can bring to a UC campus? You want to talk about being captain of the volleyball team? Great! Walk the reader through what you have learned from this accomplishment and how this relates to the person you are today. Most importantly, how have you grown from being involved in this activity?

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What is APA Style?

American Psychological Association (APA) Style "is a set of guidelines for clear and precise scholarly communication that helps authors, both new and experienced, achieve excellence in writing" (APA, 2020, p. xvii). APA Style is used in a variety of fields, including sociology, economics, political science, psychology, nursing, anthropology, business, education, engineering, social work, communication, and others. 

There are five main aspects of APA Style:

  • Paper format
  • Mechanics of style
  • In-text citations
  • Reference list citations
  • Ethical practices

Although most student papers will not be published, "by writing papers, students engage in critical thinking, thoughtful self-reflection, and scientific inquiry and thereby prepare to make unique contributions to the repository of knowledge. Therefore, student writing deserves the same level of care and attention to detail as that given to professional writing" (APA, 2020, p. 3). Whether you are planning to submit your paper for publication or striving for a good grade, proper formatting, mechanics of style, citations, and ethical practices are essential features of reporting and presenting your findings. Formatting your paper in a style uniform to your field and using the mechanics of style correctly help your readers to follow the structure of your argument. Correct citations allow your readers to locate the original sources of the information in your paper. Following good ethical practices means that your subjects and readers will trust the content of your paper.

  • Official APA Style Website The APA provides a great amount of information about APA Style on its website.
  • Official APA Style Manual Multiple copies of the APA Style Manual are available for students to use in the Library.
  • Updates to the 7th Edition If you are looking for what's new in the 7th Edition, see the introduction to the new manual.

This guide is based on the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association: The Official Guide to APA Style, which was released October 1, 2019. It is intended to cover the most common concerns with APA Style. For more information, see the Official Guide to APA Style, go to the Official APA Style website, or ask a librarian. 

American Psychological Association. (2020).  Publication manual of the American Psychological Association  (7th ed.). ​https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

The Research Process

Schematic of Research Process

While you conduct your research, it is important to retain the records of the resources that you find. When you move into the reporting and presenting stage, you will need to demonstrate to your audience that you used quality resources. 

More Resources

  • Official APA Style Blog Search answers that are not in the official print APA style manual.
  • Sample Papers in APA Format Sample papers from the American Psychological Association.
  • JARS Reporting Standards The Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS) are guidelines for presenting complex quantitative and qualitative data.
  • OWL: Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue University publishes a free, comprehensive online APA Style guide in their Online Writing Lab (OWL).

This guide was originally created by Leilani Hall. It was updated to the 7th edition by Sarah Davis in January 2020. 

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The Bluebook

The most commonly used citation style is the Bluebook, available on reserve at the law library circulation desk and at the law library reference desk:

Two free online guides provide you with the information necessary to create approximately Bluebook-style citations:

  • The Indigo Book A simpler, free Bluebook alternative, developed by a NYU Law professor.
  • Introduction to Basic Legal Citation Cornell Law Professor Peter W. Martin offers this online guide for basic legal citation.

Looking for example citations for a specific legal source? Look up a legal source and find a suggested Bluebook-style citation using Prince's Dictionary:

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Alternative Citation Styles

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State Specific Citation Styles

Some state courts have developed their own, alternative citation styles. Bluebook Bluepages Table BT2 will tell you if a state has an alternative style.

California state courts typically use either the Bluebook or the California courts own California Style Manual.

Print copies of the California Style Manual are available on reserve at the law library circulation desk and at the law library reference desk: 

california style essay

Additionally, a complete scan of the California Style Manual is available for free from California's Sixth District Appellate Program:

  • California Style Manual

Citing Foreign and International Materials

Bluebook Rule 20 explains how to cite Foreign Materials and Bluebook Rule 21 explains how to cite International Materials.

Rules for specific foreign countries are not included in the print Bluebook and are instead posted for free online:

  • Bluebook T2 Foreign Jurisdictions

Other law schools have created additional and alternative rules for foreign countries.

Copies of NYU's and Nova Southeastern's guides are available in the reference reading room:

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  • International Citator and Research Guide by Shepard Broad Law Center (Nova Southeastern University) Staff (Contribution by) Call Number: K89 .I58 2018 (Location: Reference) Publication Date: 2018-01-01

An earlier edition of the NYU guide and a guide by WUSTL are available online:

  • Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations (2006) The 2006 first edition of NYU's Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations is available for free online.
  • Washington University in St. Louis' International Citation Manual

The law library also owns a guide to citing British legal sources:

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UC San Diego Editorial Style Guide

Use this as a guide when you write for Blink, TritonLink, or other UC San Diego websites.

The UC San Diego Web Editorial Style Guide is intended to help writers preparing text for UC San Diego websites. In most instances, it follows The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook (subscription required for online access). We recommend that writers and editors follow this style to ensure consistency throughout UC San Diego websites.

You can access the UC San Diego Library's online copy of the AP Stylebook . This resource is limited to 10 users at a time (including student use). To ensure availability for others, don't leave the website open longer than needed. Access is r estricted to UCSD IP addresses (on network or VPN).

Instructions for use

Note that some entries contain separate instructions or style guidelines that are recommended for anyone who writes content for Blink and TritonLink. These entries are identified with the words "Blink/TritonLink instructions." All other UC San Diego writers should follow the general instructions.

For additional reference

  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law
  • Merriam-Webster online dictionary
  • UC San Diego Equal Opportunity/ Staff Affirmative Action
  • Webopedia.com

If you have style questions or suggestions, contact Workplace Technology Services (WTS) .

Note: This page has a friendly link that's easy to remember: http://blink.ucsd.edu/go/styleguide

abbreviations

See acronyms and abbreviations .

The preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: Mary Smith, who has a doctorate in philosophy. Use an apostrophe in bachelor's degree, a master's, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. When academic degrees are referred to in general terms such as doctorate, doctoral, bachelor's, or master's, they are not capitalized. When using the initial forms, do not put spaces between the initials. Examples:

  • bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral degree, doctoral candidate, a doctorate in history, a B.A., an M.S., a Ph.D., an M.F.A., an M.B.A., a master's (degree) in applied physics, the doctor of philosophy degree
  • A.B.     B.A.     B.S.    D. Eng.    Ed.D.    J.D.    M.A.T.    M.Arch.    M.B.A.     M.D.    M.Eng.    M.F.A.    M.L.A.    M.P.H.      M.P.P.     M.A.    M.S.    M.S.W.    Ph.D.     Pharm.D.

Licenses and associations do not take periods: CPA, LCSW, AAAS, IEEE, ASLA.

In general, capitalize disciplines only when referring to specific courses or departments:

  • He is a doctoral student in cognitive science at UC San Diego.
  • She is a master's student in the Department of Cognitive Science.

In a first reference, use "Department of Literature," but use "literature department" or "literature" in subsequent references. Majors and minors are lowercase, but proper names as subjects are always capitalized. Example:

  • She majored in linguistics and minored in Chinese studies.

See also academic degrees , building and facility names , departments , office(s) .

Use "the Academic Senate," or "the senate." If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also collective nouns , faculty .

Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, dean, etc., when they precede a name. Use lowercase elsewhere:

  • This year's keynote address will be given by Chancellor Pradeep Khosla.
  • The chancellor will give the keynote address this year.
  • The chancellor of UC San Diego is Pradeep Khosla.

See also academic degrees , chancellor , Dr. , job titles , lecturer , professor .

Use the entire name first, followed by the acronym in parentheses, then use the acronym in subsequent references:

  • Temporary Employment Services (TES)

Exception: If the acronym is familiar to your audience, use it first, followed by the entire name in parentheses:

  • EH&S (Environment, Health & Safety)

Avoid using the word "the" with an acronym unless it is necessary for clarity. In general, omit periods from acronyms: DOE, NCAA, NEA, NIMH, SAT scores, UNESCO, but U.S., U.N. Examples:

  • Check with OSHPP.
  • Visit the OSHPP website.
  • Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) is the office responsible for providing occupational health, safety, and environmental services to UC San Diego.
  • UC San Diego's School of Medicine (SOM) is highly ranked as a research institution. Research from SOM is frequently cited in professional publications.

See a listing of UC San Diego Acronyms and Abbreviations .

If you are using the campus CMS:

  • In the summary: Use the spelled-out name, not the acronym.

Use "the administration" or "UC San Diego's administration." If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

Use "Admissions" or "Office of Admissions." If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

The preferred spelling is "advisor" (not adviser) for college counselors, etc. If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

See ethnic groups, nationalities .

Always use figures:

  • The department is 9 years old.
  • The graduates are in their 20s.

Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives:

  • She is a 30-year-old graduate student.

See also bias-free language .

Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for a similar reference to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of women and men. Informally, use "alum" for singular or "alums" for plural.

Avoid using "&" except when it's part of the official name of a department:

  • Environment, Health & Safety

Use lowercase letters with periods and no spaces between letters:

See also en dash (–), times of day .

Anchor links help readers jump to the topic they need within the same page. Use Back to top format (not "Return to top" or "Top of page"), followed by an extra line space.  

Blink/TritonLink instructions:

  • By using the "drawer" template, you can usually avoid anchor links.

Avoid the use of "and/ or" by writing the sentence in a different way. When you do use it, no space after the slash: and/or.

Usually hyphenated, but refer to the AP Stylebook for exceptions.

Plurals of a single letter, add apostrophe s for clarity:

  • There are two l's in Revelle.

Figures, numbers , do not use an apostrophe:

  • The 1960s were an interesting time.
  • The temperature is in the low 20s.

See also possessives , and reference the AP Stylebook (possessives and punctuation guide).

Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, B.A., B.S. A bachelor's degree or bachelor's is acceptable in any reference and preferable to the term "baccalaureate." See also academic degrees .

See anchor links .

Avoid reference to gender, race, age, sexual orientation, ethnic background or debilitating physical condition if it is not pertinent to the story.

  • Age: Avoid the terms "elderly" and "senior citizen" in reference to an individual.
  • Diseases: Do not use a disease to describe an individual: He is diabetic. Rather: He has diabetes. One acceptable variation is "survivor of," as in "She is a survivor of cancer."
  • Racial and ethnic group identification: Avoid unless pertinent to the story.

See also disabled, disability , ethnic groups, nationalities , gender , sexual orientation .

See millions .

Capitalize only when integral part of a proper name:

  • It is the responsibility of the UC San Diego Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board.
  • The board meets 4 times a year.

Always use lowercase.

Use bold or red text sparingly when you need to emphasize important words or phrases, but generally avoid using italics in online text, since it's hard to scan. Bold any punctuation that immediately follows your bolded text. HTML code:

  • Use <b>  </b> tags.

Use "the UC San Diego Bookstore" in the first occurrence on a page, then use "Bookstore" in subsequent instances (not University Bookstore). If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also Bookstore website .

Brand is more than a visual system with logos, colors and typography. It’s a reflection of campus essence and how UC San Diego stakeholders feel about the institution. See the Brand Guidelines website .

Never abbreviate, except when necessary in charts and tables. Capitalize the proper names of buildings, including the word "building" if it is part of the proper name:

  • He worked in the Capitol Building
  • Her office is in the Center Hall building

If you must abbreviate the name of a building, look for an entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also departments , office(s) .

Always use an initial capital letter on the first word in a list item. Use end punctuation only if the list item is a complete sentence. Use ordered (lettered or numbered) lists when the order of the items is important. Otherwise, use bullet lists. Make all items within a list parallel in construction; e.g., start each item with a verb, make each item a complete sentence, etc.

  • Bullets:<ul> <li> </li> </ul>
  • Numbers:<ol> <li> </li> </ol>

  If an introductory sentence precedes the list, end the sentence with a colon .

In general, no hyphen: byproduct, bygone era

Use as the abbreviation for California. Use "CA" only as a mailing address. See also northern , southern .

Spell out on first reference, then abbreviate as Calit2 in subsequent references:

  • California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology is a partnership between UC Irvine and UC San Diego. Calit2 is one of 4 California Institutes for Science and Innovation established by former Gov. Gray Davis in December 2000.

Use lowercase in all instances: The UC San Diego campus. Avoid using: the upper campus, the lower campus. Instead, use the Scripps campus and the main campus, or central campus. If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also UC San Diego .

Use lowercase "c":  Please present your campus ID.

1 word or with hyphen is acceptable. See also universitywide .

Generally, avoid unnecessary capitalizations or those that result from individual preference or sense of emphasis. Consult the Merriam-Webster online dictionary : if lowercase is an acceptable form, follow that usage. Avoid using ALL CAPS in websites, since it's hard to scan. See also buildings , departments , ethnic groups , non- , offices , titles , web page titles .

Cards: Capitalize when part of the name, lowercase when referring to cards in general:

  • Do you have an identification card?
  • This is the Preferred-Program Card.

Forms: Use lowercase:

  • Complete the General Application form.

Use "Cashier's Office" instead of Cashier or University Cashier. If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

Note hyphen and capitalization.

2 words, no hyphen.

Use "chair." Avoid chairwoman, chairman, chairperson:

  • It is up to the chair of the Department of History. (whether male or female)
  • Notify the chair of the department.

As part of a formal title, capitalize:

  • Chair Robert Johnson has a 2-year term.

In less formal references, use lowercase:

  • She was meeting chair Robert Johnson during office hours.

See also endowed chair .

Lowercase when not used with a name:

  • The chancellor attended.

Uppercase when used with a name (as part of a title):

  • The main speaker was Chancellor Khosla.

Uppercase when referring to a position or job title :

  • Recruiting for the position of Chancellor has begun.

If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also vice chancellor .

Use lowercase when referring to the physical shoreline. Capitalize when referring to U.S. regions lying along such shorelines. Capitalize the Coast when standing alone only if the reference is to the West Coast.

Nouns denoting a unit take singular verbs and pronouns: class, team, faculty:

  • The class comprises freshmen only.
  • The faculty is prepared to meet.

See also data .

Spell out and capitalize as part of a formal name:

  • Saddleback College
  • Stanford University

Use lowercase when referring to "the college" and "the academy." Always spell out the proper name of an institution in full on first reference. Popular or shortened versions are OK on second reference. Examples:

  • California State University, Stanislaus, offers bachelor's degrees in the liberal arts and sciences, business, and education. CSU Stanislaus also offers teaching credentials and master's degree programs.
  • Exceptions: Writers may use the abbreviation UC on first reference for all University of California campuses: UC Irvine, UC San Francisco, etc.

See also University of California , UC San Diego .

In most cases, use the entire name of the UC San Diego college in the first reference on a page and whenever it appears in a heading, then the shortened name for subsequent references:

  • Thurgood Marshall College, then Marshall
  • John Muir College, then Muir
  • Roger Revelle College, then Revelle
  • Eleanor Roosevelt College, then Roosevelt
  • Sixth College, then Sixth (but never 6th)
  • Earl Warren College, then Warren

When listing the colleges, alphabetize by last name, with Sixth before Warren, in this order:

Use lowercase "college" for general description: college policy, the college's events. See also UC San Diego's Six Colleges and information on individual colleges: Marshall , Muir , Revelle , Roosevelt , Sixth , Warren .

Within a sentence, capitalize the word following a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence:

  • We were on our way: San Diego, then Los Angeles, then north to San Francisco.
  • The instructions read: Stay back.

Use a colon for emphasis or to begin a list:

  • He had only two hobbies: eating and drinking.
  • Please don't forget: Bring your swimsuit and goggles.

A colon at the end of boldface text should also be bold. Colons go outside of quotation marks unless they are part of the quotation itself.

Use a colon:

  • To introduce long quotations within a paragraph
  • At the end of a paragraph that introduces a new paragraph of quoted material

Use a comma to introduce a direct quotation of 1 sentence within a paragraph.

See font colors .

For details on using commas, see the punctuation guide of the AP Stylebook . Exception to the AP Stylebook: Use a serial comma (the final comma in a series of items) when needed for clarity, or when the tone is more formal or academic.

Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: 

  • She signed up for classes in math, science and literature.

Do put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction:

  • I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Capitalize when "committee" is part of the official title:

  • She is a member of the thesis committee.
  • The committee met yesterday.
  • The Committee on Educational Policy determines that.
  • She is a member of the UC San Diego Signage Committee. This committee meets monthly.

See also collective nouns , subcommittee .

See University Communications and Public Affairs .

Use these general guidelines for titles of books, magazines , newspapers , operas, plays, poems, songs, TV shows, web page titles , and titles of lectures , speeches and works of art:

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of 4 or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article (the, an, a) if it is the first or last word in the title.
  • Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily reference works (catalogs, almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks).
  • "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
  • "CBS Evening News"
  • "Schindler's List"
  • "The Star-Spangled Banner"
  • the NBC-TV "Today" program
  • the "CBS Evening News"
  • "Encyclopedia Britannica," but no quotation marks around titles of reference works such as:
  • The AP Stylebook
  • Farmers' Almanac

See also non- , software titles , web page titles .

Blink/TritonLink instructions: All Blink and TritonLink pages should close with a contact line. Ex:

  • For more information, contact Allisa Becker , 858-534-1013.
  • A person's name is given, if possible (department or group name is acceptable as a second choice)
  • Link goes to an email address
  • Contact number is the full phone number, no parentheses

HTML code for email and phone number: < a href="mailto:[email protected]"> Allisa Becker</a>, 858-534-1013.

Blink style: In Blink pages, insert contact line in the "More Information" field. If contact information is lengthy (more than 2 to 3 lines), use the "Other" field instead.

TritonLink style: In TritonLink pages, the contact line goes at the end of the body content.

  • Contact: Financial Aid and Scholarships Office , (858) 534-4480
  • Your department
  • Your college
  • Registrar's Office , (858) 534-3144

Organize the tables in department contacts pages with the reader in mind. List the services in the left column and the employee or unit name, email, phone and fax numbers in the right column. Example: Imprints: Contacts

Capitalize course titles, but do not italicize or enclose in quotes. In a sequence of courses with a single title and course description, a course should appear as:

  • Chemistry 12A-B-C  ( Not " Chemistry 12A-12B-12C")
  • Singular: curriculum vitae
  • Plural: curricula vitae
  • Abbreviation: CV

See em dash , en dash .

Usually a plural noun: The data have been carefully collected. "Data" can, however, take a singular verb when used as a collective noun (describing a group or quantity as a unit):

  • The data is accurate.

Use 1981–82, not 1981/82 or 1981–1982 (use en dash between); in the '80s or 1980s. See also en dash .

Use "weekdays" instead of "Monday through Friday." Generally, spell out the days of the week:

  • Monday through Wednesday

When space is an issue (e.g., on some graphics), abbreviate the days. Do not use a period after an abbreviation, and separate the days with an en dash . Examples:

  • Mon–Thu

See also weekdays .

Acceptable, or use "hard of hearing," but not "hearing impaired." Do not use "deaf-mute" or "deaf and dumb." See also disabled, disability .

  • She is the dean of Graduate Studies.
  • The dean attended the seminar.
  • The dean of Arts and Humanities Jason Jones spoke.

Uppercase when used with a name:

  • Dean Williams gave the keynote speech.

See academic degrees .

Capitalize "Department" when the word is part of the official name, but not when part of running text:

  • She chairs the Department of Philosophy
  • The chemistry and biology departments are involved in the research.
  • She majored in economics.
  • She majored in one of the most popular majors in the Department of Economics.

If you must abbreviate the name of a department, look for an entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also academic departments , building and facility names , office(s) .

Use a hyphen in all instances, even when another website referred to uses "dialin."

Use lowercase when not used with a name:

  • The director of CMRR gave the opening address.
  • The director, known for her humor, told a joke.

The term "disabled" is preferable to "handicapped." The phrase "people with disabilities" is preferable to "the disabled." Do not use "afflicted with" or "wheelchair-bound." Examples:

  • He has muscular dystrophy.
  • She uses a wheelchair.

For more information on people with disabilities in postsecondary education, visit the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) .

See also bias-free language , deaf .

Disc is the preferred spelling for CDs and CD-ROMs (optical or laser-based media). Disk refers to floppy and hard drives (magnetic storage media).

Blink/TritonLink instructions: The disclaimer on a Blink or TritonLink page points out that the content has been derived from university or UC San Diego policies and procedures, which take precedence over Blink or TritonLink content in any case of dispute. The disclaimer (if used) appears in gray at the bottom of the page.

See disc/ disk .

See Dr. , M.D. , professor .

Use the symbol and numerals for exact amounts: $75. Spell out proximate amounts or casual references: a million dollars. Use a singular verb for specific amounts: We applied for a $500,000 grant. Do not include decimal or zeros in round dollar amounts: $50 (not $50.00) For amounts over $1 million, use the $ symbol and numerals up to two decimal points. Examples:

  • The building was appraised at $4.25 million.
  • The department has a $3.2 billion budget. (Note: no hyphens.)

See residence hall .

A business operating on the World Wide Web. Use lowercase and hyphen.

Use the title "Dr." for medical doctors only: Dr. Jonas Salk. Never use Dr. and M.D. at the same time. Refer to individuals with other doctoral degrees (such as Ph.D.s) by their specialty or department. Examples:

  • Mary Stewart, Ph.D.
  • Mary Stewart, assistant professor of ethnic studies

See also M.D. , professor , Ph.D.

Hyphenate. (See Merriam-Webster entry .)

  • Select an entry from the drop-down menu.

An acronym for digital video disk or digital versatile disk. Always capitalize.

Generally, use lowercase; capitalize when used as the proper name of the planet.

Means "for example" (Latin) and is followed by a comma. Do not confuse with i.e. , which means "that is," or "in other words."

Use an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of 1 or more words in condensing quotes, texts and documents. Avoid deletions that would distort the meaning. Leave 1 space before and after an ellipsis. Example:

  • I ... tried to do what was best.

If the words preceding an ellipsis constitute a complete sentence, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis, and follow it with a regular space before the ellipsis:

  • I no longer have a strong political base. ...

Use an ellipsis with sentences ending in other punctuation marks (question mark, exclamation point, comma or colon) in the same manner:

  • Will you come? ...

Do not use an ellipsis at the beginning and end of direct quotes. Do not use an ellipsis to indicate a pause in speech—use a dash, unless it is in a context where words have been deleted, in which case an ellipsis would be appropriate.

Do not use a hyphen. Only use: email. When used in a title, capitalize only the "e":

  • "How to Send Email"

Use the person's name — not the email address — as the name of the link. Follow the name with a comma and the phone number:

  • Mary Smith , 858-555-5555.

HTML code: < a href="mailto:[email protected]"> Mary Smith</a> 858-555-5555.

Use a hyphen with other e-terms, such as: e-book, e-business and e-commerce.

Use an em dash to indicate a break in thought, an abrupt change, or emphasis within a sentence:

  • Topics include — but are not limited to — the items on the list.

Use an em dash to set off a series of words separated by commas:

  • Several kinds of interview questions — open-ended, behavioral, follow-up — should be included.

Always use a space before and after an em dash. HTML Code: —

See also en dash , hyphen .

Use emeritus (emeriti in plural) when referring to a man who has retired from a position. Use emerita (emeriti in the plural) for a similar reference to a woman. Use emeriti when referring to a group of women and men:

  • Professor Emeritus of Literature John Smith
  • Professor Emerita of Physics Joyce Smith
  • The department's faculty includes 6 professors emeriti.

An en dash is half the length of an em dash and longer than a hyphen. An en dash connects numbers in dates, times, and references. When an en dash connects letters or numbers, do not add a space before or after it. Examples:

  • Letters A–D
  • 1–2 p.m.
  • Pages 12–14
  • 2006–2007

When an en dash connects words or a word and a number, add 1 space before and after it:

  • May – June
  • 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

See also em dash , hyphen , times of day .

For names of endowed chairs, capitalize the entire entry:

  • He filled the Simon Bolivar Chair in Latin American Studies.
  • The department planned to solicit donations for 3 endowed chairs.

See also chair .

"Ensure" means to make certain of, to make sure of:

  • We're working to ensure our team will meet its deadline.

See also insure .

Always capitalize (not "ethernet").

Avoid racial, ethnic group references unless pertinent to the story. Capitalize the names of people, races, tribes, and other groupings of humankind, including American Indian, Asian, and Hispanic. Use lowercase for black and white (noun or adjective). Preferred usage:

  • American Indian or Alaskan Native: People having origins in any of the original American Indian peoples of North America, including Eskimos and Aleuts, or who maintain cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition. Native American may also be used in news releases and publications, depending on the wishes of the individual(s) cited in the story. If "Indian" is used, be careful to adequately distinguish from East Indian.
  • Asian: Includes Chinese/ Chinese-American, Japanese/ Japanese-American, Filipino/ Pilipino, Pakistani/ East Indian, and other Asian groups.
  • Black: People having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Capitalize Black (noun or adjective) in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. Use African-American only in quotations or the names of organizations, or if individuals describe themselves so. The lowercase black is a color, not a person.
  • Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, Mexican-American: These terms, which should be capitalized, have distinct meanings that depend, to a large extent, on the interpretations and preferences of individuals. "Hispanic" includes black individuals whose origins are Hispanic, as well as Mexican/ Mexican-American/ Chicano, Latin-American/ Latino, and other Spanish/ Spanish-American individuals. According to AP Stylebook , the preferred term is Hispanic for those whose ethnic origin is a Spanish-speaking country. Latino is an acceptable alternative for Hispanics and Latinx is a gender-neutral form for those who prefer that term. When possible, use a more specific identification, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, or Mexican-American.
  • Indigenous: We also now capitalize Indigenous in reference to original inhabitants of a place.
  • Muslim: The preferred term (favored over "Moslem") to describe followers of Islam.
  • White: Primarily people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe. Note that "white" is lowercase when referring to ethnicity.

(adv.) every day; (adj.) everyday:

  • She walks every day.
  • She wears everyday shoes.

Use the exclamation point to express a high degree of surprise, incredulity or other strong emotion. Avoid overuse. Use a comma after mild interjections and a period to end mildly exclamatory sentences. Place the exclamation point inside quotation marks when it is part of the quoted material. Examples:

  • "How wonderful!" he exclaimed.
  • "Never!" she shouted.

Place the exclamation point outside quotation marks when it is not part of the quoted material:

  • I hated reading Spenser's "Faerie Queen"!

Do not use a comma or a period after the exclamation mark:

  • "Halt!" the corporal cried. (Not: "Halt!", the corporal cried.)

See telephone number/ extension .

See UC San Diego Extension .

Use lowercase: the faculty, the faculty of Muir College. See also academic senate , collective nouns .

See quarter , seasons .

FAQ is an acronym for "frequently asked questions." Use the acronym primarily in titles and headers , not in body text. Use the spelled-out version of "frequently asked questions" in body text, at least in the first usage. When referring to 1 document that contains frequently asked questions, refer to the document as an "FAQ" (not "FAQs"). When referring to more than 1 document that contain frequently asked questions, refer to the documents as "FAQs." Refer to specific questions within an FAQ as "questions," not as "FAQs." When writing an FAQ page, if you have more than 10 questions, try grouping them into categories.

Farther refers to physical distance:

  • He ran farther than before.

Further refers to an extension of time or degree:

  • She will investigate the matter further.

Do not capitalize: fees, university registration fee, parking fee, housing fees

Use lowercase when used alone, but capitalize in combination with the name of a granting organization:

  • Mark is an AARA Fellow.
  • A fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association will attend.
  • He is hoping for a Guggenheim Fellowship
  • She was one of 4 fellows selected from California universities.

See numbers .

Use first-year as the adjective: They beat the first-year team (not "freshmen team") alternative. Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier. Examples:

  • She is a first-year student at Warren College.
  • She worked hard during her first year at UC San Diego.

Abbreviate as FY: "FY 2007."

Use "flyer" for both physical (paper) postings and electronic notices.

Blink/TritonLink instructions: For the most part, don't use colored fonts in Blink or TritonLink text. Use a red font sparingly, for emphasis, following these guidelines:

HTML code: Do not use <font="red">

  • Example: <span class="emphasis"> your red text here </span>
  • Example: <span class="cwp-important> your red text here </span>

See international .

See cards, forms .

The noun: freelancer; no hyphen for all forms.

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier (adjective):

  • She has a full-time commitment.

Do not use a hyphen when "full time" appears after the verb:

  • This position is full time.

1 word, no hyphen.

See fiscal year .

If singular construction is necessary, use "he" or "she."  No slashes ("his/her"). Avoid the awkward "he or she" and "his or her" by using plurals wherever possible, being careful not to mix singular and plural:

  • All students have their preferences. ( Not: "Every student has their preference.")

Be sensitive to gender-specific terms and titles:

  • Chair (not chairman, chairwoman, chairperson)
  • Supervisor (not foreman)
  • Police officer (not policeman)
  • Flight attendant (not stewardess)
  • Server (not waitress)

Copy intended to apply to both sexes should be written without gender bias. Avoid specifying gender unless it is essential to meaning. Avoid using "man" or "mankind" when referring to men and women; instead, use "human," "humanity," or "humankind." See also bias-free language , sexual orientation .

Hyphenate as a modifier:

  • You must fulfill all general-education requirements.

See grade-point average .

Hyphenate both the noun forms (first-grader, 10th-grader) and the adjectival forms (an 11th-grade competitor).

Letter grades appear without quotation marks (as in B average). Use an apostrophe in plurals: She earned all A's this quarter.

Hyphenate as a modifier; no hyphenation for the noun form: She earned 12 grade points during the year. Abbreviate as GPA — no periods.

Alt text is mandatory (find more information about alt text and why it is used ).

  • For images that are decorative only, use an empty alt tag: alt="california style essay"
  • HTML example: <img alt="california style essay" src="/Blink/_images/homepage/news_geisel3.jpg">

In cases where the image carries meaning , follow these guidelines for alt text:

  • Keep it short.
  • Accurately describe the graphic.
  • Use an initial cap on the first word, then lowercase subsequent words unless they are proper nouns
  • HTML example: <img src="/Blink/Images/Gallery/5811hp.jpg" alt="Bar graph showing diversity statistics">

Readers should be able to scan the headers on a page for an overview of the main ideas. Use no more than 2 levels of headers (<h2> and <h3>) below the page title. Use <h2> for main topic areas and <h3> for subtopics.

Use 2 words (as both an adj. and noun). Use UC San Diego Health when referring to the UC San Diego patient-care program.

In general, use lowercase:

  • UC San Diego educates many students in the health sciences.

Use uppercase when referring to the department:

  • The vice chancellor of Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine discussed the issues.

Note hyphenation.

Capitalize the names of widely recognized epochs in anthropology, archaeology, geology and history:

  • the Bronze Age
  • the Dark Ages
  • the Pliocene Epoch

Capitalize recognized popular names for the periods and events:

  • the Atomic Age
  • the Boston Tea Party
  • Prohibition

Lowercase century: the 20th century. Capitalize only the proper nouns or adjectives in general descriptions of a period:

  • ancient Greece
  • classical Rome
  • the Victorian era

The "front" page of a particular website. Always 2 words, no hyphen.

All references should specify that the degree is honorary.

Use a hyphen to link compound modifiers:

  • It was a good-faith attempt.

Use a hyphen for clarity:

  • She recovered the data.
  • They re-covered the damaged roof.

Do not hyphenate compound modifiers that include the word "very" or words that end in "-ly":

  • She gave very clear directions.
  • The instructions were overly complicated.

Capitalize hyphenated words in titles and headers only if the hyphen connects 2 separate words:

Do not capitalize the letter following the hyphen in hyphenated words:

See also anti- , by- , em dash (—) , en dash (–) , inter- , intra , mid- , pro- , -wide .

See campus ID .

Means "that is" (Latin) or "in other words" and is followed by a comma. Do not confuse with e.g. , which means "for example."

Both "index" and "index number" are acceptable. Use the plural "indexes."

Use periods and no space when someone uses initials instead of a first name: R.G. Little. See also period .

Hyphenate and lowercase when used generically or following an individual's name:

  • The department had an artist-in-residence during each of the past 5 years.
  • Joyce Smith, the department's professor-in-residence, will be on campus until April.
  • Many American universities have artist-in-residence programs.

Capitalize when used as a formal title or name:

  • When will Artist-in-Residence John Smith present the lecture?
  • We discussed the UC San Diego Artists-in-Residence Program.
  • John Smith, UC San Diego Artist-in-Residence.

"Insure" means to contract to be paid money in the case of loss:

  • UC San Diego offers a benefit that enables you to insure against accidental injury or loss of life.

See also ensure .

Prefix use rules apply, but in general, no hyphen: interstate, interracial, but inter-American.

Always capitalize.

Preferred to "foreign." International student, not "foreign student."

Prefix use rules apply, but in general, no hyphen: intramural, intranet

Avoid using italics online except in special design circumstances; it makes text difficult to scan online.

Lowercase job titles when they appear in body copy:

  • Human Resources has several recruiting specialists.

Lowercase job titles when they refer to a particular person but do not appear as part of the person's official title:

  • Steve Relyea is one of UC San Diego's vice chancellors.

Uppercase job titles when they appear as part of an individual's official title:

  • Steve Relyea, Vice Chancellor, Business Affairs.

Uppercase job titles when they refer to a position:

  • We have an opening for a Senior Writer.

If you must abbreviate a job title, look for an entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also capitalization , titles .

Use a hyphen.

Not judgement.

Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. only with full names. Do not precede by a comma: Joseph P. Baldwin Jr.

A gender-neutral word for people of Latin American descent.

The title of a lecture should, in all cases, be written in quotes but not italicized. Lectures can be held, presented or given. The title "lecturer" should be treated as an occupational title rather than a formal title, and thus always be lowercased, even before a name. Example:

  • Nutrition lecturer Mary Smith.

Lectureships, often endowed or underwritten, enable the university to invite distinguished scholars to campus for a period of a few days to participate in seminars and to give one or more talks:

  • The 19th annual Shell Biochemistry Foundation lectureship is funded by a grant from the Shell Oil Corp.

If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

left hand (n.), left-handed (adj.), left-hander (n.)

See grades .

Use 1 space after a period in both printed materials and website copy.

Use uppercase when part of a name:

  • The UC San Diego Library; Geisel Library

Use lowercase when not part of a name:

  • The university librarian, the librarian

If you must abbreviate, see entries in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also job titles , UC San Diego Libraries .

Use initial cap on both "Link" and "Family." "Link products" is also acceptable. Avoid using the lengthier "Link Family of products." The Link family is an integrated Web-based environment that provides authorized UC San Diego students, faculty, and staff with consistent and easy-to-use access to administrative information. See LinkFamily for more information.

When you link to a document in one of these file formats, put the name of the application or format in parentheses at the end of the link:

  • Link text (Excel)
  • Link text (PDF)
  • Link text (PPT)
  • Note: Use "file" after Word only.
  • Link Text (Zip)

Use "mailing list" or "electronic mailing list" instead of the trademarked word Listserv to refer to an electronic discussion group based on common interests that uses a mailing list program to distribute messages to all members' email addresses. UC San Diego uses Mailman software to administer its electronic mailing lists.

Log in and log out are the preferred terms for entering/ exiting an application. Log in/ log out are used as verbs; login/logout may be either a noun or an adjective. Log in/ log out (verb). Examples:

  • Did you log in?
  • When finished, don't forget to log out.

Login/logout (noun or adjective):

  • If you forget your login ID, you can request it by email.
  • And don't forget to click the logout button to exit the program.

Note: If your use of log in is followed by the word "to," then use "into":

  • You can log into your email from home.

Lowercase the word "magazine" unless it is part of the publication's title:

  • Harper's Magazine (part of title)
  • Newsweek magazine (not part of title)

See also composition titles .

Capitalize both words, no hyphen.

Majors and minors are not capitalized:

  • Her minor was world literature.

If you must abbreviate the name of a major or minor, look for an entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

"Make up" when it's a verb, but "makeup" when used as a noun or adjective (never hyphenated):

  • I hope they can make up after their argument. (verb)
  • You'll need to take a makeup exam. (adjective)
  • I'm going to put on my makeup. (noun)

See gender .

Blink/TritonLink instructions: Following the named location, lowercase the word "map" and enclose in parentheses, with only the word "map" hyperlinked to the URL (not the parentheses):

  • Thursday, Oct. 10 in the Price Center, Ballroom A ( map ).

To find the map URL:

  • Go to MapLink .
  • Use the Search box or browse categories to find the location.
  • Select the correct pin.
  • Click "Link to Map".
  • Copy the URL from the "Link to map" popup.

Can be shortened to a master's degree or master's. See also academic degrees .

Preferred usage is physician or surgeon. See also Dr.

See University of California, San Diego Medical Center .

Generally, no hyphen, unless a capitalized word or a figure follows:

  • It was midafternoon before he arrived.
  • Hurricanes often occur in the mid-Atlantic
  • The temperature is in the mid-50s.

No hyphen when used as a noun:

  • He belongs to the middle class.

Hyphenate when used as a modifier:

  • He lives in a middle-class suburb.

Spell out the word and use with numerals:

  • The population reached 1 million.
  • The company posted a $1.2 billion deficit.

Do not hyphenate when used in a phrase:

  • She received a $24 million grant.

See dollar amounts ($) .

Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone:

  • I was born in December.
  • They emigrated in April 1943.

Abbreviate only with date in calendar and event listings. Abbreviate as: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Never abbreviate March, April, May, June, or July.

Use "Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health" on first reference; may use "Moores Cancer Center" on subsequent references. Do not use "Moores UC San Diego Comprehensive Cancer Center," “Moores UCSD Cancer Center” or "Moores Comprehensive Cancer Center."

Prefix use rules apply, but in general, no hyphen: multiethnic, multilateral, multimedia, multidisciplinary.

Capitalize "the" in a newspaper's name if that's how the publication prefers to be known:

  • I subscribe to The New York Times.
  • She was quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

UC San Diego common usage often includes a hyphen in words with the prefix "non":

  • non-employee
  • non-federal

Otherwise, follow prefix rules; no hyphen.

Capitalization in titles: When "non" is used as part of a hyphenated word in a title or heading, use an initial cap only:

  • Non-vendor Instructions
  • Non-cash Awards

Write "12 p.m." or "noon" (but not "12 noon").

But use Northern California.

In general, use numerals in Web writing, since usability tests show they are easier to scan. If a number occurs at the beginning of a sentence, spell out the number. Spell out 1 – 9 in text, except when you want to draw attention to the number or when using a numeral makes the text easier to scan. With measurements ( percentages , hours, etc.), use numerals. Examples:

  • We only have a 4% return on investment.
  • Jack slept for 4 hours.

In all cases, use judgment based on context. You wouldn't write "4 score and 7 years ago."

Use lowercase when the word "ocean" stands alone, or in plural uses:

  • I saw the ocean.
  • Capt. Jack sailed both the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Capitalize the proper name of the ocean:

  • The Atlantic Ocean can be very cold.

Hyphenate only when used as an adjective before a noun:

  • Press 8 to call an off-campus phone number.
  • Torrey Pines Center South is located off campus.

See also on campus/ on-campus .

Capitalize "Office" when the word is part of the official name, but not when part of running text, such as "the office provides . . . ". Capitalize "Office" in the official name "the Registrar's Office" but not in "the registrar." Examples:

  • He went to the Cashier's Office
  • You can give it to the cashier.
  • The college advising office is located in that building.
  • The Office of Admissions will take your form.
  • Contact the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy.

If you must abbreviate the name of an office, look for an entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also departments .

1 word, no hyphen. See also online .

  • The new guidelines apply to all on-campus offices.
  • The Women's Center is located on campus.

See also off campus/ off-campus .

1 word, no hyphen. See also offline .

See bullet or ordered lists .

See PID/PAC .

Use sparingly or try to rewrite the sentence to avoid them. Use commas or dashes to set off incidental material within a sentence whenever possible. Place a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (such as this fragment). (An independent parenthetical sentence such as this one takes a period before the closing parenthesis.) When a phrase placed in parentheses (this is an example) might normally qualify as a complete sentence but is dependent on the surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or end with a period.

Hyphenate only when used as an adjective before a noun (no hyphen when "part time" appears after the verb):

  • This is a part-time position.
  • This position is part time.

Use "person" for an individual, "people" as the plural. Use "persons" only in a quote.

Use the symbol % when writing for the Web. Always use numerals. However, when AP style is required, "percent" should be written out:

  • The professor said 40% is a failing grade.
  • About 60% of the association's membership was there.
  • Use a period at the end of a declarative sentence: The book is finished.
  • Use a period at the end of a mildly imperative sentence: Shut the door.
  • Use an exclamation point instead of a period for greater emphasis: Be careful!
  • Use a period at the end of some rhetorical questions. A period is preferable if a statement is more a suggestion than a question: Why don't we go.
  • Use a period at the end of an indirect question: He asked what the score was.
  • Use a period with initials: John F. Kennedy, T.S. Eliot. But, people referred to by their initials only do not take periods: JFK, LBJ.
  • Periods always go inside quotation marks: She said, "Let's head for the pub."

See also spacing .

See People, persons .

It is preferable to say that someone holds (or has) a doctorate and name the specialty area. (Note that areas of study are not capitalized.) Examples:

  • He holds a doctorate in mathematics.
  • She has a doctorate in bioengineering.
  • He is a doctoral student in literature, not: She is a Ph.D. student in pharmacology.

See also academic degrees , academic titles , Dr. , professor .

  • PID: Use "personal ID number (PID)" (lowercase except for acronym) on first reference, then use "PID" in subsequent references.
  • PAC: Use "personal access code (PAC)" (lowercase except for acronym) on first reference, then use "PAC" in subsequent references.

Use lowercase with periods. Do not write: 11 p.m. tonight. See also a.m. and p.m. , times of day .

In general, lowercase when you are not using a specific policy's official name:

  • UC San Diego Professional Development policy
  • Relocation policy

Blink/TritonLink instructions: Blink and TritonLink aim to summarize, not restate, policy. If you need readers to see word-for-word policy, link to its location in the online Policy & Procedure Manual  (PPM) using the policy number and proper name:

  • For more details, see PPM 395-9 Vacation Accrual and Usage Accounting
  • Singular nouns not ending in "s" — add apostrophe s: The university's location
  • Singular common nouns ending in "s" — add apostrophe s unless the next word begins with "s": The class's topic, but the class' story; the hostess's invitation, but the hostess' seat
  • Singular proper names ending in "s" — use only an apostrophe: Scripps' history, Socrates' life, Kansas' schools
  • Plural nouns not ending in "s" — add apostrophe s: The alumni's decision
  • Plural nouns ending in "s" — add only an apostrophe: All employees' rights, the girls' apartment, the students' parents

See also apostrophe .

Follow prefix rules and Webster's except when the prefix precedes a word that begins with the same vowel: pre-election, pre-exists.

Generally, do not use a hyphen when the prefix precedes a word starting with a consonant. Use a hyphen when the prefix precedes a word that starts with the same vowel, except in cooperate and coordinate. Use a hyphen if the word that follows the prefix is capitalized. Examples:

  • She is a midfielder.
  • He resides in the mid-Atlantic states.

See the AP Stylebook . for additional examples and use guidelines. See also anti- , by- , inter , intra , non- , pre- , pro- , re- , sub .

Capitalize only when part of a formal title: UC Office of the President. Otherwise, use lowercase: The president arrived today.

Hyphenate only when joining words that mean in support of something: pro-war, pro-peace. See also prefixes .

Never abbreviate. Capitalize when used as a formal title before a full name. Do not use on second reference to the person:

  • The professor of literature gave the lecture.
  • She is a professor emeritus.
  • Professor Peter Smith is going to Africa next month.

If you must abbreviate, see the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also Dr. , Ph.D.

Program names are capitalized: courses in the Education Studies Program. Check program names carefully so that words aren't transposed in the "official" names. If you must abbreviate a program name, look for an entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also collective nouns .

they, them, their

In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.

Usage example: A singular they might be used when an anonymous source's gender must be shielded and other wording is overly awkward: The person feared for their own safety and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Arguments for using they/them as a singular sometimes arise with an indefinite pronoun (anyone, everyone, someone) or unspecified/unknown gender (a person, the victim, the winner). Examples of rewording:

  • All the class members raised their hands (instead of everyone raised their hands).
  • The foundation gave grants to anyone who lost a job this year (instead of anyone who lost their job).
  • Police said the victim would be identified after relatives are notified (instead of after their relatives are notified or after his or her relatives are notified).
  • Lottery officials said the winner could claim the prize Tuesday (instead of their or his or her prize).

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person's name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person. Examples of rewording:

  • Hendricks said the new job is a thrill (instead of Hendricks said Hendricks is thrilled about the new job or Hendricks said they are thrilled about the new job).
  • Lowry's partner is Dana Adams, an antiques dealer. They bought a house last year (instead of Lowry and Lowry's partner bought a house last year or Lowry and their partner bought a house last year).

When they is used in the singular, it takes a plural verb: Taylor said they need a new car. (Again, be sure it's clear from the context that only one person is involved.)

Do not use themself.

Follow these examples for usage:

  • Dean Thomas, the provost of First College.
  • Sally took the paper to the provost.
  • Provost Susan Smith attended the celebration.
  • The meeting is in the Office of the Provost of Tenth College.
  • Go to Muir Provost's Office

If you must abbreviate, see entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

See apostrophe , colon , comma , ellipsis , em dash , en dash , exclamation point , hyphen , parentheses , period , question mark , quotation marks , and semi-colon . See also the Punctuation Guide of the AP Stylebook .

Generally use:

  • fall quarter
  • winter quarter
  • spring quarter

Capitalize when referring a specific quarter/ year such as Fall Quarter 2006-2007 or Fall Quarter 2008. If referring generically to any fall quarter, use lowercase. Note that summer is a session, not a quarter. See also week of quarter , Summer Session , term .

Use a question mark at the end of a direct question:

  • "Who started the riot?"
  • "Did he ask who started the riot?"

Do not use question marks to end indirect questions:

  • He asked who started the riot.
  • To ask why the riot started is unnecessary.
  • I want to know what the cause of the riot was.
  • How foolish it is to ask what caused the riot.

Put question marks inside or outside of quotation marks, depending on the meaning:

  • He asked, "How long is the book?" and who wrote "Gone With the Wind"?

Use quotation marks around the title of a book or other major literary or artistic work. Use quotation marks to refer to a word as a word, or to indicate foreign words:

  • The word "mediation" has several meanings.

Put periods at the end of sentences inside the quotation marks. Put a question mark inside quotation marks if the question is part of the sentence or item in quotes:

  • I think the title is "What About Retirement?"

Put colons and semicolons outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quotation. Do not put quotation marks around page or form names in text unless they are necessary:

  • Find out more in the Diversity Overview.
  • Refer to the "10 Steps to Safety" guide.

Use figures and hyphens: 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio.

Prefix rules apply. Use a hyphen when the prefix ends in a vowel and the following word begins with the same vowel:

Also use hyphen if meaning denotes repetition:

  • re-cover (cover again), but recover (regain)

The formal name is the Board of Regents of the University of California. Acceptable abbreviations include: UC Regents, the Regents of the University of California, the Board of Regents, the regents, or the board. UC Regents is OK on first reference. See also collective nouns .

See text links and See Also box .

Preferred. Avoid "dormitory."

Do not include accent marks in onscreen text. In body text, be careful not to place the word where it could be mistaken by the reader for the verb "resume."

right hand (n.), right-handed (adj.), right-hander (n.)

Completely identify a location by including the building name and the room's name (capitalize) or numbers (in figures):

  • East Conference Room
  • Social Sciences Building
  • Literature Building, Room 210

See also building and facility names .

An abbreviation of the phrase "please respond" in French. Do not write, "R.S.V.P. please."

The acronym is SOM.

Use "Scripps Institution of Oceanography" in first reference. In second reference use "Scripps Oceanography" if space permits and just "Scripps" if space is limited.

Institution, not Institute.

Remove all references to the acronym "SIO."

Use Scripps' (not Scripps's).

There is no "the" or "The" in front of the institution name.

Always lowercase unless part of a formal title, even when naming an issue of a publication:

  • They organized our annual Summer Spectacular event.

See also quarter .

Blink/TritonLink instructions: Items that appear in the See Also box link to other websites, documents, applications, or Blink or TritonLink pages. These links supplement the information on the page where they appear.

  • Use no more than 5 links
  • Give the link the same name as the document or website it links to. If the name is too long, give the link a shorter, logical name, using an initial cap on the first word only.

The semi-colon is often used to separate lengthy sentences. In online writing, it's best to simply write shorter sentences. Instead of using a semi-colon in a complicated list, use bullet points:

With semicolons (hard to scan): He teaches a writing class, "Your Autobiography," at UC San Diego; a composition class, "Paragraphs 101" at Grossmont College; and a basic writing class at Mesa College.

With bullets (easier to scan):

  • "Your Autobiography," a UC San Diego writing class
  • "Paragraphs 101," a composition class at Grossmont College
  • Basic writing at Mesa College

Place semi-colons outside quotation marks.

Most individuals of same-sex orientation prefer "gay" or "lesbian" to "homosexual." See also bias-free language .

Capitalize all 3 words and use a hyphen between "sign" and "on" when referring to the UC San Diego system. Spell with all lowercase letters when using "single sign-on" as a generic term for systems that require only 1 password.

Space once after the slash:

  • Payroll/ Personnel
  • receipt/ invoice

Exception: If the words are short, don't space after the slash:

Use initial caps on "Social Security" only:

  • Social Security number
  • Social Security card

The acronym for Social Security number is SSN.

Capitalize but do not use quotations marks around titles such as MS Word or Windows. Use quotation marks for computer game titles: "The Sims."

But use Southern California.

Use 1 space between sentences. See also period .

Use figures:

  • The car slowed to 11 miles per hour.
  • Typhoon winds of 100 miles per hour hit the ship.

See also numbers .

For word spellings, consult these references in order:

  • AP Stylebook

When the dictionary lists multiple choices for word spellings (e.g., "canceled" and "cancelled"), use the first-listed spelling. If Webster's provides different spellings in different listings, (e.g., "tee shirt" and "T-shirt"), use the spelling that appears with the full definition ("T-shirt").

The spell-checker in Microsoft Word uses a different dictionary, so double-check with the Merriam-Webster online dictionary if you aren't sure.

In running text, always spell out state names when they stand alone. When used in conjunction with the name of a city or town, abbreviate states per the AP Stylebook . (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are not abbreviated according to these rules.) See also Calif.

See bold text .

Prefix rules apply.

1 word, no hyphen. Capitalize if part of the group's formal name. Otherwise, use lowercase. See also committee , collective nouns .

See headers .

Follow the Merriam-Webster online dictionary .

Use "Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center at UC San Diego Health" on first reference; may use "Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center" on subsequent references. Do not use "Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center."

See seasons , Summer Session .

Uppercase both words. Note that summer is a session, not a quarter.

The plural "syllabi" is also acceptable.

1 word or with hyphen is acceptable for the University of California campuses and labs.

CMS users: When creating a table, follow these guidelines:

  • Don't indent HTML code for a table. This makes code harder to read.

No hyphens. Do not use teen-aged or teenaged.

General style:

858-555-1111 858-555-1111, Ext. 45555 800-888-8888, not 1-800-888-888 Ext. 45555 (not X45555, x45555, ext. 45555, or extension 45555)

Use quarter , not "term."

  • Online documents
  • Applications
  • Other Blink or TritonLink pages
  • Email addresses

General guidelines for text links:

  • Keep text links as short as possible while still conveying adequate meaning. For example, a link to the Blink page Hardware and Software Recommendations might appear as the word " recommendations " in a sentence.
  • Contact your college advisor . ( Not "Click here to find your college advisor.")

Use your judgment about the number of text links to include. Too many links make a page hard to read, but if the links are necessary (for example, to explain steps in a process), include them. Do not underline punctuation marks that appear next to text links. Examples:

  • Use the term " recommendations " to illustrate this.
  • Consult with Human Resources , then take the appropriate action.

Link to a Web page outside of Blink or TritonLink:

  • Use the complete URL.
  • HTML code: See the Office of the President's <a href="http://ucop.edu/">website</a>.

Generally, use "which" in nonessential clauses (clauses that could be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence). Nonessential clauses are usually set off by commas:

  • That 1998 report, which focused on attendance, was the first of its kind.

Generally, use "that" in essential clauses (clauses that can't be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence):

  • The report that focused on attendance was the first of its kind.

Use "that" and "which" to refer to inanimate objects and animals without a name:

  • The department that created the process now shares it with other UC San Diego departments.
  • Casey and Spirit, who are golden retrievers, behave well at work.

Use "who" as the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase:

  • Speak to the staff member who is in charge.

Use "whom" as the object of a verb or preposition:

  • She is the teaching assistant to whom you should address your questions.

Lowercase when used with organizations. Capitalize when used with the name of newspapers and periodicals if they are part of the proper title:

  • The findings were reported in The Sacramento Bee.
  • The measure was approved by the University of California Board of Regents.
  • She works for the Dow Chemical Co.

Use "theater" for all generic references to auditoriums and the theatrical arts. Use "theatre" only if part of a proper name. Theaters located on the UC San Diego campus are:

  • The Arthur Wagner Theatre
  • Dance Studio 3
  • The La Jolla Playhouse
  • The Mandell Weiss Theatre
  • The Mandell Weiss Forum
  • The Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre
  • The Weiss Forum Studio
  • The Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre

Always use numerals, except for noon and midnight. Use lowercase type and periods, but no spaces, with a.m. and p.m. Use an en dash for ranges. Examples:

  • midnight (not 12 a.m.)
  • noon (not 12 p.m.)
  • 1–2 p.m. (See en dash for spacing.)
  • 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (See en dash for spacing.)

See also en dash , a.m. and p.m.

General guidelines, including UC San Diego web page titles, capitalize:

  • The first and last word
  • Principal words
  • Questions to Ask During an Interview
  • Personnel Policies for Staff Members
  • How to Declare or Change a Major

Capitalize the first letter of each word in a hyphenated compound word, but only the first letter of the first word in a hyphenated prefix:

  • Non-employee

Capitalize words in parentheses after a title:

  • How to File for Your Degree (Undergraduates)

Capitalize the title of a person when it precedes the person's name but not when it appears separately:

  • Vice Chancellor Relyea and Trustee Marvin Waring spoke. But: The vice chancellor agreed.

When the title appears after the name, do not capitalize:

  • Steve Relyea, vice chancellor at UC San Diego, agreed.

See also academic degrees , academic titles , composition titles , job titles , magazine names , M.D. , newspaper names , software titles , the , web page titles .

Blink/TritonLink instructions: For pages that are overviews or instructions on how to use a tool (e.g., MyBlink, Connexxus, FinancialLink), get a link to the tool as high on the page as possible and alert the user if authorization is required. Examples:

  • See details below, or go directly to the MyDirectory tool .
  • See details below, or go directly to the Class Lists tool (authorization required).
  • UC San Diego Job Bulletin: Overview

Treat as a formal title when appropriate and capitalize in such cases if used before a name:

  • Trustee John Smith

Otherwise, use lowercase:

  • John Smith, trustee of the UC San Diego Foundation

See University of California .

UCPath is the University of California's system-wide payroll, benefits, human resources, and academic personnel system.

Do not use "UC Path."

UC San Diego is the preferred first reference in higher-level Web pages, but the following forms are also acceptable:

  • University of California San Diego (no comma between "University" and "San Diego")
  • UC San Diego

Use “University of California San Diego” for a first reference. Use the abbreviated version “UC San Diego” in subsequent references and in headlines.

Do not use “UCSD.”

Write "the university" (lowercase) for both UC San Diego and UC references.

See also UC San Diego Health .

Use "UC San Diego Extension" when referring to UC San Diego Extended Studies and Public Programs . See entries in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

"UC San Diego Health" refers to the entirety of the academic medical enterprise at UC San Diego. Use "UC San Diego Health" when referring to any of the medical center’s patient-care programs or locations on first reference.

  • UC San Diego Medical Center at UC San Diego Health
  • Thornton Hospital at UC San Diego Health
  • Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center at UC San Diego Health
  • Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health
  • Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health

On second and subsequent reference, the name of the facility alone can be used. See UC San Diego Health’s Brand Guide or Editorial Style Guide on Pulse (login required) for more details.

"UC San Diego Health Sciences" is largely outdated - use "UC San Diego Health" instead in most cases. "UC San Diego Health Sciences" may still be used to describe the organizational structure of the medical center within the context of the university setting or in job titles for staff. Example:

  • John Carethers, MD, is vice chancellor of UC San Diego Health Sciences .

Use "UC San Diego Medical Center" only when referring to the hospital in Hillcrest.

Always capitalize "Medical Center."

Do not use "UC San Diego Medical Center – Hillcrest," or refer to it as "Hillcrest."

If an event is place-specific, you may use "UC San Diego Medical Center." But use "UC San Diego Health" when referring to our general services. Example:

  • The birth class is held at UC San Diego Medical Center.
  • UC San Diego Health offers many birth options.

2 words, no hyphen:

  • The project is under way.

On the World Wide Web, underlining in a document indicates that the underlined word or phrase is an active hypertext link. All HTML editing programs automatically underline any text linked to another hypertext or website.

When composing Web documents, avoid underlining. Instead, bold the text or use quotation marks around words for emphasis.

Spell out in most cases. Use U.S. (with periods) only as an adjective:

  • He was born in the United States.
  • California exports more U.S. produce than Utah.

See UC San Diego , college and university names .

Spell it out in most cases. If you must abbreviate, use UCtr. Don't use UCTR, Uctr, Ucen, or Ucenter.

See the entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

All of the following are acceptable:

  • University of California
  • the university

If confusion with UC San Diego is likely, refer to "the 10-campus UC system." University of California Office of the President may be abbreviated as "UC Office of the President" or "UCOP." Do not use "Systemwide" as a title for UCOP. However, "systemwide" is acceptable as an adjective. Example:

  • The committee reviewed systemwide personnel policies.

Abbreviate other UC campuses as UC Berkeley , UC Davis , UC Irvine , UCLA , UC Merced , UC Riverside , UCSF , UC Santa Barbara , and UC Santa Cruz .

See also UC San Diego and college and university names .

Refer to "Communications" as University Communications and Public Affairs.

1 word or with hyphen is acceptable. Interchangeable with "systemwide" to refer to the campuses in the UC System. See also campuswide .

A Uniform Resource Locator (URL), an Internet address. Plural: URLs. If a Web address falls at the end of a sentence, use a period.

Capitalize "ID."

See entries in Acronyms and Abbreviations .

  • The vice chancellor of Business Affairs was there.
  • It was left up to the associate vice chancellor.

Use uppercase when used with a name (as part of a title):

  • Vice Chancellor Jones congratulated the team.
  • Associate Vice Chancellor Smith paid us a visit.

If you must abbreviate, see entry in Acronyms and Abbreviations . See also chancellor .

Use waitlist as a noun and wait-list as a verb or compound modifier:

  • Put yourself on the waitlist. (noun)
  • You can wait-list a class. (verb)
  • See a list of wait-listed classes. (compound modifier)

Lowercase web, website, webserver, webcam, webcast, webinar, webmaster. 

Capitalize the first and last word, principal words, prepositions and conjunctions of 4 or more letters such as With, From, Before. Examples:

  • How to Delcare or Change a Major

When referring to a particular week within the 10-week quarter, use an uppercase "W," followed by a numeral:

  • He added the class during Week 2.

Use "weekdays" instead of "Monday through Friday." See also days of the week .

1 word, and hyphenate.

See that, which, who, whom and the AP Stylebook entry on "essential clauses."

Do not use a hyphen in campuswide, systemwide, nationwide, worldwide. Do use a hyphen in these cases:

Use figures , without commas: 1975.

To indicate decades, use an "s" without apostrophe : 1990s. It was back in the ‘80s or 1980s.

To indicate a range of years, use an en dash and this format: 2004–2006 (not 1981/82 or 1981–82)

Use all caps in "ZIP" and lowercase "c" in code. Always 2 words, no hyphen.

  • Request Info
  • Event Tickets

In This Section

Style guides.

Most often used in the behavioral and social sciences, the APA style prioritizes the date of publication and reliable paraphrasing/summarizing of sources.

Click on links for tutorials:   Basic   and   Academic Writer . If you need a tutorial on how to use Academic Writer, visit  this YouTube   playlist  or click on this   link   for a video. 

  • APA Paper Setup Guide
  • Sample Student Paper   (from Purdue OWL)
  • Sample Professional Paper   (from Purdue OWL)

Most often used in literature and the humanities, the MLA style prioritizes authorship and close analysis of quotations.

Click on the link for the   official MLA website .

  • Sample MLA Paper   (from Pudue OWL) 

Most often used in the medical fields, the AMA style prioritizes footnotes and cross-references between research. 

Click on the link for the   official AMA website .

  • Brief AMA Style Guide   (from UIC) 
  • Longer AMA Style Guide   (from USC)

Most often used in the arts, history, and religious studies, the CMS style prioritizes cross-references and commentary in footnotes and endnotes.

Click on the link for the   official CMOS website .

  • Guide to Turabian
  • Sample CMS Paper   (from Purdue OWL)

Purdue Online Writing Lab ( OWL )

When you need a quick reference guide to citing something or a reminder of what goes into an annotated bibliography, the internet is full of potential mistakes. The Purdue OWL, like other university resources, is a reliable internet resource.

Norton Field Guide to Writing ( NFG )

The print version is a standard textbook that provides detailed instructions and samples of many writing genres. This website offers an abbreviated version that is still useful because it is always around even when the book isn’t.

Video Tutorials

norton field guide

(Click on image to watch videos)

Based on   The Norton Field Guide to Writing , 5th edition.   [NFG]

  • How to write a literacy narrative 
  • How to write an analysis essay 
  • How to report information 
  • How to write an argumentative essay 
  • How to write abstracts, annotated bibs., & lit. reviews 
  • How to write an evaluation essay
  • How to write a literary analysis essay 
  • How to write a memoir essay 
  • How to write a profile essay 
  • How to write a proposal 
  • How to write a reflection essay 
  • How to write a resume and job letter
  • How to use APA, MLA, and CMS

craft of research

Based on  The Craft of Research,   4th edition.  [COR]

  • How to connect with readers
  • How to develop research topics into research questions
  • How to develop research questions to research problems
  • How to find sources 
  • How to engage sources 
  • How to develop good arguments
  • How to make good claims
  • How to use reasons and evidence 
  • How to respond to counterarguments 
  • How to develop good warrants 
  • How to draft your essay 
  • How to organize your essay 
  • How to use visual evidence 
  • How to revise your intros and conclusions 
  • How to revise your writing style

rhetorical grammar

Based on  Rhetorical Grammar,  8th edition.  [RG] 

  • Words and phrases
  • Sentence patterns 
  • Versatile verbs 
  • Coordination and Subordination
  • Using adverbials
  • Using adjectivals
  • Using nominals 
  • Using other styles
  • Sentence rhythm
  • Writer's voice 
  • Words and word classes 
  • Punctuation 

video tutorials screenshot

  • Using translators 
  • Avoiding plagiarism 
  • Making good transitions 

Graduate Students

Intended for graduate students who are just beginning their program, this workshop was recorded in front of a live residency group of DBA and DPA students, who rated this among the highest resources for new students. The purpose of these videos is to help students transition to graduate-level writing in academic discourse communities. 

(Click on image below to watch videos)

video screenshot

Intended for graduate students transitioning from coursework to research projects, this workshop offers key insights drawn from Wayne Booth's celebrated text The Craft of Research (see Books below). The purpose of these videos is to help students develop successful research topics and strategies.

video screenshot

There are so many writing books to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to choose. Check out our list of recommended books curated just for you. If you need extra resources related to grammar, rhetoric, research, academic discourse, or style, the link to the right is a great place to start.

Writing Resources Purchasing List

Booth, Wayne, et al.   The Craft of Research . 4th ed, U of Chicago P, 2016.

This textbook is standard for understanding what   research   is and how to develop your research project. Most useful are its recommended steps to move from topics to questions, problems, sources, arguments, and, finally, to the writing and revision process.

seagull

Bullock, Richard, et al.   The Little Seagull Handbook . Norton, 2014.

There are many writing   handbooks   that offer quick reminders and references for academic genres, research, and grammar. But I have chosen this one because of its affordability and simplicity. There are two versions of the handbook depending on whether you want an additional section with exercises. This can be paired with the Graff and Birkenstein text below for a discount from Norton.

Bullock, Richard.   The Norton Field Guide to Writing . Norton, 2016.

This textbook is widely used among college composition courses, and it offers a pretty comprehensive guide to writing in many of the   academic genres   that you will encounter including annotated bibliographies, proposals, evaluations, reports, and others. Chapters offer both sample models and strategies that reflect good academic writing and practical instructions that will help you write and edit your papers.

dreyer's

Dreyer, Benjamin.   Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style . Random House, 2019.

Academic writing isn’t the only game in town. Not every writing   style   falls under APA or MLA. If you’re writing a non-academic piece that is trying to reach a broader audience, then this book offers you great insight into the mind of a chief copy editor of a major publishing house. It will give you the confidence to break some of those rules you learned in school.

they say, i say

Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein.   They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing . 3rd ed, Norton, 2017.

This book offers a useful introduction to the conversational model that is so central to academic writing. The authors provide useful   templates   that can be adopted or adapted to your needs. It can be paired with the Bullock handbook above for a discount from Norton.

Kolln, Martha and Loretta Gray.   Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects . 8th ed, Pearson, 2016.

Everyone needs the occasional brushing up on their   grammar , which can be painful if approached the wrong way. This textbook, however, offers a rhetorical approach to grammar that focuses less on memorizing rules and more on understanding effects.

words like pistols books

Leith, Sam.   Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama . Basic Books, 2012.

This is a general introduction and overview of   rhetoric   that includes the five parts and three branches of rhetorical studies. The book is written for a general audience and is quite enjoyable to read. In between the chapters on rhetoric, Leith profiles various “champions of rhetoric” that include Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Adolf Hitler.

between you and me

Norris, Mary.   Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen . Norton, 2016.

A fantastic defense of learning grammar and style in a digital age, this book is not only informative, but also a joy to read as much as her YouTube videos are to watch. Written by the copy editor of the celebrated magazine   The New Yorker ,   this book is iridescent.

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California Bar Exam: Essays

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CA Bar Exam Essay Test Instructions:

"Your answer should demonstrate your ability to analyze the facts in the question, to tell the difference between material facts and immaterial facts, and to discern the points of law and facts upon which the case turns. Your answer should show that you know and understand the pertinent principles and theories of law, their qualifications and limitations, and their relationships to each other. Your answer should evidence your ability to apply the law to the given facts and to reason in a logical, lawyer-like manner from the premises you adopt to a sound conclusion. Do not merely show that you remember legal principles; instead try to demonstrate your proficiency in using and applying them. If your answer contains only a statement of your conclusions, you will receive little credit. State fully the reasons that support your conclusions, and discuss all points thoroughly. Your answer should be complete, but you should not volunteer information or discuss legal doctrines that are not pertinent to the solution of the problem. Unless a question expressly asks you to use California law, you should answer according to legal theories and principles of general application."

Essay Test Prep Materials

CA Bar Exam Questions and Selected Answers by Subject   (Please bear in mind that these are not model answers, but actual answers to past exams that may include some errors. Available to UC Law SF students only)

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California Bar Exam Essay Guide

In this guide, we show you how to conquer the essay portion of the California Bar Exam.

We start by giving you a general overview of what is tested on the California Bar Exam, some California Bar Exam essay tips, and a frequency chart so you can see when particular subjects were tested.

Then, we dive into each of the 14 subjects that are fair game on the California Bar Exam and give you tips and tricks for each one.

Lastly, we give you the option to download a PDF of this guide if you would like to view all of the chapters at the same time or to save to consult later.

Send Me a PDF of the Guide:

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California Bar Exam Essay Guide Chapters

  • Introduction to the Guide
  • Chapter 1: What is Tested on California Bar Exam Essays : Here, we give you a brief overview of how the essay portion of the California Bar Exam is structured, what is tested on California Bar Exam essays, and when California distinctions are tested.
  • Chapter 2: California Bar Exam Essay Tips : We reveal important essay tips to make sure you are writing essay answers that get the most points.
  • Chapter 3: California Bar Exam Essay Frequency Chart : We show you exactly when each California Bar Exam subject has been tested so you can get a visual idea of the highly tested areas of law, plus the less tested areas of law.
  • Chapter 4: Agency and Partnership
  • Chapter 5: Civil Procedure
  • Chapter 6: Community Property
  • Chapter 7: Constitutional Law
  • Chapter 8: Contracts
  • Chapter 9: Corporations
  • Chapter 10: Criminal Law
  • Chapter 11: Evidence
  • Chapter 12: Professional Responsibility
  • Chapter 13: Real Property
  • Chapter 14: Remedies
  • Chapter 15: Torts
  • Chapter 16: Trusts
  • Chapter 17: Wills
  • Chapter 18: Download PDF : We provide you with the option to download this guide in PDF form if you would like to view all of the chapters at the same time or to save to consult later.

The Goal of Our California Bar Exam Essay Guide

Students are often unsure how to approach the essay portion of the California Bar Exam. As a result, many students study ineffectively or inefficiently. The goal of our California Bar Exam Essay Guide is to help you find an effective and efficient approach to the California Bar Exam right from the beginning. This guide will help you feel confident on test day so you can conquer the essay portion of the California Bar Exam!

If you have any questions, we are happy to answer them. You can  contact us here  at your convenience. We love to hear from our readers!

Additional California Bar Exam Resources

Below are some additional California Bar Exam resources that we recommend: Please check out all our  California Bar Exam services here !

  • California Bar Exam On Demand Course : Our On Demand California Bar Exam Course is tailored to work with your schedule so you can walk into the bar exam with confidence. It includes tailored outlines, access to prerecorded lectures that you can start and stop at your convenience, self-administered quizzes, 10 essays graded by a personal attorney essay grader, and released multiple-choice and essay questions. We give you everything you need to pass the California Bar Exam, on your time! Check out a preview of our course here.
  • California Bar Exam private tutoring : We tutor for all aspects of the California Bar Exam! You get an outline relevant to the topic you are discussing with your purchase!
  • MBE services : we have a variety of MBE services to help you pass the multiple-choice portion of the California Bar Exam.
  • Essay feedback : we offer one-time or weekly essay feedback for the California Bar Exam.
  • California Bar Exam One-Sheets : We summarize the highly tested topics on the California Bar Exam in one sheet, front and back, for each subject! Check out a sample here .

Go to the next topic, Chapter 1: What is Tested on California Bar Exam Essays .

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This glossary is intended to assist you in understanding commonly used terms and concepts when reading, interpreting, and evaluating scholarly research. Also included are common words and phrases defined within the context of how they apply to research in the social and behavioral sciences.

  • Acculturation -- refers to the process of adapting to another culture, particularly in reference to blending in with the majority population [e.g., an immigrant adopting American customs]. However, acculturation also implies that both cultures add something to one another, but still remain distinct groups unto themselves.
  • Accuracy -- a term used in survey research to refer to the match between the target population and the sample.
  • Affective Measures -- procedures or devices used to obtain quantified descriptions of an individual's feelings, emotional states, or dispositions.
  • Aggregate -- a total created from smaller units. For instance, the population of a county is an aggregate of the populations of the cities, rural areas, etc. that comprise the county. As a verb, it refers to total data from smaller units into a large unit.
  • Anonymity -- a research condition in which no one, including the researcher, knows the identities of research participants.
  • Baseline -- a control measurement carried out before an experimental treatment.
  • Behaviorism -- school of psychological thought concerned with the observable, tangible, objective facts of behavior, rather than with subjective phenomena such as thoughts, emotions, or impulses. Contemporary behaviorism also emphasizes the study of mental states such as feelings and fantasies to the extent that they can be directly observed and measured.
  • Beliefs -- ideas, doctrines, tenets, etc. that are accepted as true on grounds which are not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.
  • Benchmarking -- systematically measuring and comparing the operations and outcomes of organizations, systems, processes, etc., against agreed upon "best-in-class" frames of reference.
  • Bias -- a loss of balance and accuracy in the use of research methods. It can appear in research via the sampling frame, random sampling, or non-response. It can also occur at other stages in research, such as while interviewing, in the design of questions, or in the way data are analyzed and presented. Bias means that the research findings will not be representative of, or generalizable to, a wider population.
  • Case Study -- the collection and presentation of detailed information about a particular participant or small group, frequently including data derived from the subjects themselves.
  • Causal Hypothesis -- a statement hypothesizing that the independent variable affects the dependent variable in some way.
  • Causal Relationship -- the relationship established that shows that an independent variable, and nothing else, causes a change in a dependent variable. It also establishes how much of a change is shown in the dependent variable.
  • Causality -- the relation between cause and effect.
  • Central Tendency -- any way of describing or characterizing typical, average, or common values in some distribution.
  • Chi-square Analysis -- a common non-parametric statistical test which compares an expected proportion or ratio to an actual proportion or ratio.
  • Claim -- a statement, similar to a hypothesis, which is made in response to the research question and that is affirmed with evidence based on research.
  • Classification -- ordering of related phenomena into categories, groups, or systems according to characteristics or attributes.
  • Cluster Analysis -- a method of statistical analysis where data that share a common trait are grouped together. The data is collected in a way that allows the data collector to group data according to certain characteristics.
  • Cohort Analysis -- group by group analytic treatment of individuals having a statistical factor in common to each group. Group members share a particular characteristic [e.g., born in a given year] or a common experience [e.g., entering a college at a given time].
  • Confidentiality -- a research condition in which no one except the researcher(s) knows the identities of the participants in a study. It refers to the treatment of information that a participant has disclosed to the researcher in a relationship of trust and with the expectation that it will not be revealed to others in ways that violate the original consent agreement, unless permission is granted by the participant.
  • Confirmability Objectivity -- the findings of the study could be confirmed by another person conducting the same study.
  • Construct -- refers to any of the following: something that exists theoretically but is not directly observable; a concept developed [constructed] for describing relations among phenomena or for other research purposes; or, a theoretical definition in which concepts are defined in terms of other concepts. For example, intelligence cannot be directly observed or measured; it is a construct.
  • Construct Validity -- seeks an agreement between a theoretical concept and a specific measuring device, such as observation.
  • Constructivism -- the idea that reality is socially constructed. It is the view that reality cannot be understood outside of the way humans interact and that the idea that knowledge is constructed, not discovered. Constructivists believe that learning is more active and self-directed than either behaviorism or cognitive theory would postulate.
  • Content Analysis -- the systematic, objective, and quantitative description of the manifest or latent content of print or nonprint communications.
  • Context Sensitivity -- awareness by a qualitative researcher of factors such as values and beliefs that influence cultural behaviors.
  • Control Group -- the group in an experimental design that receives either no treatment or a different treatment from the experimental group. This group can thus be compared to the experimental group.
  • Controlled Experiment -- an experimental design with two or more randomly selected groups [an experimental group and control group] in which the researcher controls or introduces the independent variable and measures the dependent variable at least two times [pre- and post-test measurements].
  • Correlation -- a common statistical analysis, usually abbreviated as r, that measures the degree of relationship between pairs of interval variables in a sample. The range of correlation is from -1.00 to zero to +1.00. Also, a non-cause and effect relationship between two variables.
  • Covariate -- a product of the correlation of two related variables times their standard deviations. Used in true experiments to measure the difference of treatment between them.
  • Credibility -- a researcher's ability to demonstrate that the object of a study is accurately identified and described based on the way in which the study was conducted.
  • Critical Theory -- an evaluative approach to social science research, associated with Germany's neo-Marxist “Frankfurt School,” that aims to criticize as well as analyze society, opposing the political orthodoxy of modern communism. Its goal is to promote human emancipatory forces and to expose ideas and systems that impede them.
  • Data -- factual information [as measurements or statistics] used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation.
  • Data Mining -- the process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information, often to discover patterns and/or systematic relationships among variables.
  • Data Quality -- this is the degree to which the collected data [results of measurement or observation] meet the standards of quality to be considered valid [trustworthy] and  reliable [dependable].
  • Deductive -- a form of reasoning in which conclusions are formulated about particulars from general or universal premises.
  • Dependability -- being able to account for changes in the design of the study and the changing conditions surrounding what was studied.
  • Dependent Variable -- a variable that varies due, at least in part, to the impact of the independent variable. In other words, its value “depends” on the value of the independent variable. For example, in the variables “gender” and “academic major,” academic major is the dependent variable, meaning that your major cannot determine whether you are male or female, but your gender might indirectly lead you to favor one major over another.
  • Deviation -- the distance between the mean and a particular data point in a given distribution.
  • Discourse Community -- a community of scholars and researchers in a given field who respond to and communicate to each other through published articles in the community's journals and presentations at conventions. All members of the discourse community adhere to certain conventions for the presentation of their theories and research.
  • Discrete Variable -- a variable that is measured solely in whole units, such as, gender and number of siblings.
  • Distribution -- the range of values of a particular variable.
  • Effect Size -- the amount of change in a dependent variable that can be attributed to manipulations of the independent variable. A large effect size exists when the value of the dependent variable is strongly influenced by the independent variable. It is the mean difference on a variable between experimental and control groups divided by the standard deviation on that variable of the pooled groups or of the control group alone.
  • Emancipatory Research -- research is conducted on and with people from marginalized groups or communities. It is led by a researcher or research team who is either an indigenous or external insider; is interpreted within intellectual frameworks of that group; and, is conducted largely for the purpose of empowering members of that community and improving services for them. It also engages members of the community as co-constructors or validators of knowledge.
  • Empirical Research -- the process of developing systematized knowledge gained from observations that are formulated to support insights and generalizations about the phenomena being researched.
  • Epistemology -- concerns knowledge construction; asks what constitutes knowledge and how knowledge is validated.
  • Ethnography -- method to study groups and/or cultures over a period of time. The goal of this type of research is to comprehend the particular group/culture through immersion into the culture or group. Research is completed through various methods but, since the researcher is immersed within the group for an extended period of time, more detailed information is usually collected during the research.
  • Expectancy Effect -- any unconscious or conscious cues that convey to the participant in a study how the researcher wants them to respond. Expecting someone to behave in a particular way has been shown to promote the expected behavior. Expectancy effects can be minimized by using standardized interactions with subjects, automated data-gathering methods, and double blind protocols.
  • External Validity -- the extent to which the results of a study are generalizable or transferable.
  • Factor Analysis -- a statistical test that explores relationships among data. The test explores which variables in a data set are most related to each other. In a carefully constructed survey, for example, factor analysis can yield information on patterns of responses, not simply data on a single response. Larger tendencies may then be interpreted, indicating behavior trends rather than simply responses to specific questions.
  • Field Studies -- academic or other investigative studies undertaken in a natural setting, rather than in laboratories, classrooms, or other structured environments.
  • Focus Groups -- small, roundtable discussion groups charged with examining specific topics or problems, including possible options or solutions. Focus groups usually consist of 4-12 participants, guided by moderators to keep the discussion flowing and to collect and report the results.
  • Framework -- the structure and support that may be used as both the launching point and the on-going guidelines for investigating a research problem.
  • Generalizability -- the extent to which research findings and conclusions conducted on a specific study to groups or situations can be applied to the population at large.
  • Grey Literature -- research produced by organizations outside of commercial and academic publishing that publish materials, such as, working papers, research reports, and briefing papers.
  • Grounded Theory -- practice of developing other theories that emerge from observing a group. Theories are grounded in the group's observable experiences, but researchers add their own insight into why those experiences exist.
  • Group Behavior -- behaviors of a group as a whole, as well as the behavior of an individual as influenced by his or her membership in a group.
  • Hypothesis -- a tentative explanation based on theory to predict a causal relationship between variables.
  • Independent Variable -- the conditions of an experiment that are systematically manipulated by the researcher. A variable that is not impacted by the dependent variable, and that itself impacts the dependent variable. In the earlier example of "gender" and "academic major," (see Dependent Variable) gender is the independent variable.
  • Individualism -- a theory or policy having primary regard for the liberty, rights, or independent actions of individuals.
  • Inductive -- a form of reasoning in which a generalized conclusion is formulated from particular instances.
  • Inductive Analysis -- a form of analysis based on inductive reasoning; a researcher using inductive analysis starts with answers, but formulates questions throughout the research process.
  • Insiderness -- a concept in qualitative research that refers to the degree to which a researcher has access to and an understanding of persons, places, or things within a group or community based on being a member of that group or community.
  • Internal Consistency -- the extent to which all questions or items assess the same characteristic, skill, or quality.
  • Internal Validity -- the rigor with which the study was conducted [e.g., the study's design, the care taken to conduct measurements, and decisions concerning what was and was not measured]. It is also the extent to which the designers of a study have taken into account alternative explanations for any causal relationships they explore. In studies that do not explore causal relationships, only the first of these definitions should be considered when assessing internal validity.
  • Life History -- a record of an event/events in a respondent's life told [written down, but increasingly audio or video recorded] by the respondent from his/her own perspective in his/her own words. A life history is different from a "research story" in that it covers a longer time span, perhaps a complete life, or a significant period in a life.
  • Margin of Error -- the permittable or acceptable deviation from the target or a specific value. The allowance for slight error or miscalculation or changing circumstances in a study.
  • Measurement -- process of obtaining a numerical description of the extent to which persons, organizations, or things possess specified characteristics.
  • Meta-Analysis -- an analysis combining the results of several studies that address a set of related hypotheses.
  • Methodology -- a theory or analysis of how research does and should proceed.
  • Methods -- systematic approaches to the conduct of an operation or process. It includes steps of procedure, application of techniques, systems of reasoning or analysis, and the modes of inquiry employed by a discipline.
  • Mixed-Methods -- a research approach that uses two or more methods from both the quantitative and qualitative research categories. It is also referred to as blended methods, combined methods, or methodological triangulation.
  • Modeling -- the creation of a physical or computer analogy to understand a particular phenomenon. Modeling helps in estimating the relative magnitude of various factors involved in a phenomenon. A successful model can be shown to account for unexpected behavior that has been observed, to predict certain behaviors, which can then be tested experimentally, and to demonstrate that a given theory cannot account for certain phenomenon.
  • Models -- representations of objects, principles, processes, or ideas often used for imitation or emulation.
  • Naturalistic Observation -- observation of behaviors and events in natural settings without experimental manipulation or other forms of interference.
  • Norm -- the norm in statistics is the average or usual performance. For example, students usually complete their high school graduation requirements when they are 18 years old. Even though some students graduate when they are younger or older, the norm is that any given student will graduate when he or she is 18 years old.
  • Null Hypothesis -- the proposition, to be tested statistically, that the experimental intervention has "no effect," meaning that the treatment and control groups will not differ as a result of the intervention. Investigators usually hope that the data will demonstrate some effect from the intervention, thus allowing the investigator to reject the null hypothesis.
  • Ontology -- a discipline of philosophy that explores the science of what is, the kinds and structures of objects, properties, events, processes, and relations in every area of reality.
  • Panel Study -- a longitudinal study in which a group of individuals is interviewed at intervals over a period of time.
  • Participant -- individuals whose physiological and/or behavioral characteristics and responses are the object of study in a research project.
  • Peer-Review -- the process in which the author of a book, article, or other type of publication submits his or her work to experts in the field for critical evaluation, usually prior to publication. This is standard procedure in publishing scholarly research.
  • Phenomenology -- a qualitative research approach concerned with understanding certain group behaviors from that group's point of view.
  • Philosophy -- critical examination of the grounds for fundamental beliefs and analysis of the basic concepts, doctrines, or practices that express such beliefs.
  • Phonology -- the study of the ways in which speech sounds form systems and patterns in language.
  • Policy -- governing principles that serve as guidelines or rules for decision making and action in a given area.
  • Policy Analysis -- systematic study of the nature, rationale, cost, impact, effectiveness, implications, etc., of existing or alternative policies, using the theories and methodologies of relevant social science disciplines.
  • Population -- the target group under investigation. The population is the entire set under consideration. Samples are drawn from populations.
  • Position Papers -- statements of official or organizational viewpoints, often recommending a particular course of action or response to a situation.
  • Positivism -- a doctrine in the philosophy of science, positivism argues that science can only deal with observable entities known directly to experience. The positivist aims to construct general laws, or theories, which express relationships between phenomena. Observation and experiment is used to show whether the phenomena fit the theory.
  • Predictive Measurement -- use of tests, inventories, or other measures to determine or estimate future events, conditions, outcomes, or trends.
  • Principal Investigator -- the scientist or scholar with primary responsibility for the design and conduct of a research project.
  • Probability -- the chance that a phenomenon will occur randomly. As a statistical measure, it is shown as p [the "p" factor].
  • Questionnaire -- structured sets of questions on specified subjects that are used to gather information, attitudes, or opinions.
  • Random Sampling -- a process used in research to draw a sample of a population strictly by chance, yielding no discernible pattern beyond chance. Random sampling can be accomplished by first numbering the population, then selecting the sample according to a table of random numbers or using a random-number computer generator. The sample is said to be random because there is no regular or discernible pattern or order. Random sample selection is used under the assumption that sufficiently large samples assigned randomly will exhibit a distribution comparable to that of the population from which the sample is drawn. The random assignment of participants increases the probability that differences observed between participant groups are the result of the experimental intervention.
  • Reliability -- the degree to which a measure yields consistent results. If the measuring instrument [e.g., survey] is reliable, then administering it to similar groups would yield similar results. Reliability is a prerequisite for validity. An unreliable indicator cannot produce trustworthy results.
  • Representative Sample -- sample in which the participants closely match the characteristics of the population, and thus, all segments of the population are represented in the sample. A representative sample allows results to be generalized from the sample to the population.
  • Rigor -- degree to which research methods are scrupulously and meticulously carried out in order to recognize important influences occurring in an experimental study.
  • Sample -- the population researched in a particular study. Usually, attempts are made to select a "sample population" that is considered representative of groups of people to whom results will be generalized or transferred. In studies that use inferential statistics to analyze results or which are designed to be generalizable, sample size is critical, generally the larger the number in the sample, the higher the likelihood of a representative distribution of the population.
  • Sampling Error -- the degree to which the results from the sample deviate from those that would be obtained from the entire population, because of random error in the selection of respondent and the corresponding reduction in reliability.
  • Saturation -- a situation in which data analysis begins to reveal repetition and redundancy and when new data tend to confirm existing findings rather than expand upon them.
  • Semantics -- the relationship between symbols and meaning in a linguistic system. Also, the cuing system that connects what is written in the text to what is stored in the reader's prior knowledge.
  • Social Theories -- theories about the structure, organization, and functioning of human societies.
  • Sociolinguistics -- the study of language in society and, more specifically, the study of language varieties, their functions, and their speakers.
  • Standard Deviation -- a measure of variation that indicates the typical distance between the scores of a distribution and the mean; it is determined by taking the square root of the average of the squared deviations in a given distribution. It can be used to indicate the proportion of data within certain ranges of scale values when the distribution conforms closely to the normal curve.
  • Statistical Analysis -- application of statistical processes and theory to the compilation, presentation, discussion, and interpretation of numerical data.
  • Statistical Bias -- characteristics of an experimental or sampling design, or the mathematical treatment of data, that systematically affects the results of a study so as to produce incorrect, unjustified, or inappropriate inferences or conclusions.
  • Statistical Significance -- the probability that the difference between the outcomes of the control and experimental group are great enough that it is unlikely due solely to chance. The probability that the null hypothesis can be rejected at a predetermined significance level [0.05 or 0.01].
  • Statistical Tests -- researchers use statistical tests to make quantitative decisions about whether a study's data indicate a significant effect from the intervention and allow the researcher to reject the null hypothesis. That is, statistical tests show whether the differences between the outcomes of the control and experimental groups are great enough to be statistically significant. If differences are found to be statistically significant, it means that the probability [likelihood] that these differences occurred solely due to chance is relatively low. Most researchers agree that a significance value of .05 or less [i.e., there is a 95% probability that the differences are real] sufficiently determines significance.
  • Subcultures -- ethnic, regional, economic, or social groups exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish them from the larger society to which they belong.
  • Testing -- the act of gathering and processing information about individuals' ability, skill, understanding, or knowledge under controlled conditions.
  • Theory -- a general explanation about a specific behavior or set of events that is based on known principles and serves to organize related events in a meaningful way. A theory is not as specific as a hypothesis.
  • Treatment -- the stimulus given to a dependent variable.
  • Trend Samples -- method of sampling different groups of people at different points in time from the same population.
  • Triangulation -- a multi-method or pluralistic approach, using different methods in order to focus on the research topic from different viewpoints and to produce a multi-faceted set of data. Also used to check the validity of findings from any one method.
  • Unit of Analysis -- the basic observable entity or phenomenon being analyzed by a study and for which data are collected in the form of variables.
  • Validity -- the degree to which a study accurately reflects or assesses the specific concept that the researcher is attempting to measure. A method can be reliable, consistently measuring the same thing, but not valid.
  • Variable -- any characteristic or trait that can vary from one person to another [race, gender, academic major] or for one person over time [age, political beliefs].
  • Weighted Scores -- scores in which the components are modified by different multipliers to reflect their relative importance.
  • White Paper -- an authoritative report that often states the position or philosophy about a social, political, or other subject, or a general explanation of an architecture, framework, or product technology written by a group of researchers. A white paper seeks to contain unbiased information and analysis regarding a business or policy problem that the researchers may be facing.

Elliot, Mark, Fairweather, Ian, Olsen, Wendy Kay, and Pampaka, Maria. A Dictionary of Social Research Methods. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016; Free Social Science Dictionary. Socialsciencedictionary.com [2008]. Glossary. Institutional Review Board. Colorado College; Glossary of Key Terms. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Glossary A-Z. Education.com; Glossary of Research Terms. Research Mindedness Virtual Learning Resource. Centre for Human Servive Technology. University of Southampton; Miller, Robert L. and Brewer, John D. The A-Z of Social Research: A Dictionary of Key Social Science Research Concepts London: SAGE, 2003; Jupp, Victor. The SAGE Dictionary of Social and Cultural Research Methods . London: Sage, 2006.

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california style essay

  • Sep 24, 2019

Breaking down Essay Grading by the California Bar Exam

If you are gearing up to take the February 2020 California Bar Exam, you may be wondering how the California bar essay portion is graded. California recently made some changes to their bar exam going from a three day examination period to two days. Day one is the written portion of the exam and consists of 5 one-hour essays and one 90 minute Performance Test.

California divides the graders into six groups, each consisting of 12 experienced graders and up to 4 apprentice graders. Both groups are supervised. The graders assign a raw score to each essay on a scale from 40 – 100. The State Bar of California has explained, “in order to earn a 40, the applicant must at least identify the subject of the question and attempt to apply the law to the facts of the question. If these criteria are not met, the answer is assigned a zero.” We’re going to go out on a limb here and assume you want to hit a score of 65 and above. That’s exactly what our inexpensive materials are geared to accomplish.

A score of 55 is designated as a below passing paper . The applicant missed or incompletely discussed two or more major issues. The applicant had a weak or incomplete analysis of the issues addressed and the overall organization was poor.

A score of 60 is a slightly below passing paper . The applicant may have missed or incompletely discussed one major issue. Discussion of all issues was incomplete and organization of the issues was poor.

A score of 65 is an average passing paper . Applicant had a lawyer-like discussion of all major issues and missed some minor issues. Overall paper could have been better.

A score of 70 is a slightly above average paper . Applicant had a lawyer-like discussion of all major issues and missed some minor issues. Paper could have been better, but analysis and reasoning warrants more than a 65. Well organized paper.

A score of 75 is a distinctly above average paper . Applicant discussed all major issues in a lawyer-like fashion and discussed the ancillary minor issues. Overall, a well organized paper.

A score of 80-85 is unusually complete and thorough paper. Applicant discussed all major and minor issues in a lawyer-like fashion and very well organized.

Components used for grading include: organization/format, issue spotting, rule statement, and analysis. A passing paper will have use of headings and IRAC used to organize issues discussed. Issues are generally discussed in a logical order. A passing paper will discuss all the main issues, but may fail to discuss some of the minor issues. A passing paper will have clear rule statements that may be stated verbatim or in your own words that blend some of the concepts into one statement. Rules are correctly applied to the facts of the case and there is infrequent discussion of both sides of an issue, but paper still discusses major issues raised from the fact pattern.

We hope this gives you a better idea of what a passing (65 and above) paper looks like. Feel free to head to our sample page to see a CBB sample of Civil Procedure. All subjects are organized in the same fashion and are specifically geared towards a passing score of 65 and above.

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What I’ve Learned From My Students’ College Essays

The genre is often maligned for being formulaic and melodramatic, but it’s more important than you think.

An illustration of a high school student with blue hair, dreaming of what to write in their college essay.

By Nell Freudenberger

Most high school seniors approach the college essay with dread. Either their upbringing hasn’t supplied them with several hundred words of adversity, or worse, they’re afraid that packaging the genuine trauma they’ve experienced is the only way to secure their future. The college counselor at the Brooklyn high school where I’m a writing tutor advises against trauma porn. “Keep it brief , ” she says, “and show how you rose above it.”

I started volunteering in New York City schools in my 20s, before I had kids of my own. At the time, I liked hanging out with teenagers, whom I sometimes had more interesting conversations with than I did my peers. Often I worked with students who spoke English as a second language or who used slang in their writing, and at first I was hung up on grammar. Should I correct any deviation from “standard English” to appeal to some Wizard of Oz behind the curtains of a college admissions office? Or should I encourage students to write the way they speak, in pursuit of an authentic voice, that most elusive of literary qualities?

In fact, I was missing the point. One of many lessons the students have taught me is to let the story dictate the voice of the essay. A few years ago, I worked with a boy who claimed to have nothing to write about. His life had been ordinary, he said; nothing had happened to him. I asked if he wanted to try writing about a family member, his favorite school subject, a summer job? He glanced at his phone, his posture and expression suggesting that he’d rather be anywhere but in front of a computer with me. “Hobbies?” I suggested, without much hope. He gave me a shy glance. “I like to box,” he said.

I’ve had this experience with reluctant writers again and again — when a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously. Of course the primary goal of a college essay is to help its author get an education that leads to a career. Changes in testing policies and financial aid have made applying to college more confusing than ever, but essays have remained basically the same. I would argue that they’re much more than an onerous task or rote exercise, and that unlike standardized tests they are infinitely variable and sometimes beautiful. College essays also provide an opportunity to learn precision, clarity and the process of working toward the truth through multiple revisions.

When a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously.

Even if writing doesn’t end up being fundamental to their future professions, students learn to choose language carefully and to be suspicious of the first words that come to mind. Especially now, as college students shoulder so much of the country’s ethical responsibility for war with their protest movement, essay writing teaches prospective students an increasingly urgent lesson: that choosing their own words over ready-made phrases is the only reliable way to ensure they’re thinking for themselves.

Teenagers are ideal writers for several reasons. They’re usually free of preconceptions about writing, and they tend not to use self-consciously ‘‘literary’’ language. They’re allergic to hypocrisy and are generally unfiltered: They overshare, ask personal questions and call you out for microaggressions as well as less egregious (but still mortifying) verbal errors, such as referring to weed as ‘‘pot.’’ Most important, they have yet to put down their best stories in a finished form.

I can imagine an essay taking a risk and distinguishing itself formally — a poem or a one-act play — but most kids use a more straightforward model: a hook followed by a narrative built around “small moments” that lead to a concluding lesson or aspiration for the future. I never get tired of working with students on these essays because each one is different, and the short, rigid form sometimes makes an emotional story even more powerful. Before I read Javier Zamora’s wrenching “Solito,” I worked with a student who had been transported by a coyote into the U.S. and was reunited with his mother in the parking lot of a big-box store. I don’t remember whether this essay focused on specific skills or coping mechanisms that he gained from his ordeal. I remember only the bliss of the parent-and-child reunion in that uninspiring setting. If I were making a case to an admissions officer, I would suggest that simply being able to convey that experience demonstrates the kind of resilience that any college should admire.

The essays that have stayed with me over the years don’t follow a pattern. There are some narratives on very predictable topics — living up to the expectations of immigrant parents, or suffering from depression in 2020 — that are moving because of the attention with which the student describes the experience. One girl determined to become an engineer while watching her father build furniture from scraps after work; a boy, grieving for his mother during lockdown, began taking pictures of the sky.

If, as Lorrie Moore said, “a short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage,” what is a college essay? Every once in a while I sit down next to a student and start reading, and I have to suppress my excitement, because there on the Google Doc in front of me is a real writer’s voice. One of the first students I ever worked with wrote about falling in love with another girl in dance class, the absolute magic of watching her move and the terror in the conflict between her feelings and the instruction of her religious middle school. She made me think that college essays are less like love than limerence: one-sided, obsessive, idiosyncratic but profound, the first draft of the most personal story their writers will ever tell.

Nell Freudenberger’s novel “The Limits” was published by Knopf last month. She volunteers through the PEN America Writers in the Schools program.

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How To Create The California Casual Look

Last Updated on May 20, 2024 by SampleBoard

Regarding home décor, California's casual style has become famous for many homeowners.

This laid-back, effortless aesthetic captures the essence of coastal charm and the relaxed lifestyle of California.

With its natural materials, soothing colors, and comfortable furnishings, California's casual style creates an inviting and effortless space.

It's not just about how a home looks but also how it feels— casual, airy, and breezy , like a day spent on the beach.

The beauty of California's casual style lies in its adaptability.

It suits any space, from a tiny apartment to a sprawling beach house , and it allows for personal touches that make a home unique.

In this article, we'll explore the key elements of California casual style and how you can incorporate them into your home to create a relaxing and welcoming space.

Whether you're a seasoned decorator or just starting out, the principles of California casual can guide you to a serene living environment.

california style essay

What is California Casual Style?

California casual style is a design aesthetic that originated in the coastal regions of California .

It's a style that emphasizes comfort and tranquility, focusing on creating a welcoming and uncluttered home.

The look is unfussy, encouraging a sense of peace and relaxation. It's a style that's not just about how a home looks but also how it feels: calm, airy, and inviting, much like a day spent on the beach.

The style's popularity has grown beyond California, appealing to those who appreciate a warm, inviting, and unpretentious home environment.

It's perfect for those who want their living spaces to reflect a carefree yet sophisticated lifestyle.

However, balancing the casual and sophisticated elements is important to avoid a cluttered or overly formal look . 

California casual-style homes often feature open spaces with plenty of light, a connection to the outdoors, and an emphasis on comfort and practicality.

california style essay

5 Key Elements of California Casual Style

To achieve the California casual look, there are a few key elements that you should keep in mind:

1. Natural Materials

California casual style is all about bringing the outdoors in. 

This is why natural materials such as wood, wicker, rattan , and linen are commonly used in this design aesthetic.

These materials help to create a sense of harmony with nature, which is essential for achieving the laid-back vibe of California casual.

california style essay

2. Neutral Color Palette

The color palette of California casual style is inspired by the coastline's natural beauty.

Think soft whites, sandy beiges , and muted grays with pops of blues and greens. These colors create a restful, soothing, elegant, and cozy environment.

california style essay

3. Comfortable Furnishings

Comfort is key in California casual style.

The furniture should be comfortable and inviting, with soft lines and plush cushions.

It's not just about how the furniture looks; it's about creating an environment where you can relax and unwind at the end of the day.

4. Layered Textures

Layering textures is crucial for adding depth and interest to a space.

Think chunky knit blankets, woven rugs, and linen curtains. These elements add visual warmth and can transform a room from flat to dynamic without sacrificing the understated elegance of the style.

5. Incorporating Plants

For California casual style, bringing a touch of nature into your home is a must.

Plants add a pop of color, help purify the air, and create a calming atmosphere . They can be used as focal points or subtle accents depending on the desired effect.

california style essay

How to Incorporate California Casual Style into Your Home

Now that you know the critical elements of California casual style, it's time to start incorporating them into your home .

Here are some tips to help you achieve the laid-back, effortless look:

Start with a Neutral Base

To achieve the California casual look, start by creating a neutral base. 

This means choosing neutral colors for your walls, furniture, and larger pieces. These neutral tones will provide a calming and cohesive backdrop for the rest of your décor.

They act as a blank canvas, allowing you to layer in color, texture, and personal items without creating a cluttered look.

california style essay

Add Pops of Color

While neutral colors are the foundation of California casual style, don't be afraid to add pops of color.

Blues and greens are perfect for achieving a coastal vibe, while warmer tones such as terracotta and mustard can add a touch of bohemian flair.

These colors can be introduced through accessories, artwork, and textiles, providing flexibility to change the room's mood with the seasons or trends.

Mix Natural Materials

One key element of California casual style is the use of natural materials. 

Mix and match different wood, wicker, rattan, and linen materials to achieve this look. This will add depth and texture to your space, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Incorporating elements like a jute rug or a bamboo coffee table can instantly give a nod to nature's palette and textures.

california style essay

Layer Textures

Layering textures is another essential aspect of California casual style. 

Mix and match textures like chunky knit blankets, woven rugs, and linen curtains. This will add visual interest to your space and create a cozy and relaxed feel.

By layering various textures, you'll also add an element of comfort and luxury to your rooms.

Embrace Indoor Plants

Indoor plants are a must for achieving the California casual look.

They add a touch of nature to your space, help purify the air, and create a calming atmosphere. Opt for low-maintenance plants such as succulents, cacti, and fiddle-leaf figs. 

Grouping plants of varying heights and textures can make a more dramatic and interesting statement.

Incorporate Vintage Pieces

Adding vintage pieces is a wonderful way to infuse your home with character and personality. 

Look for unique pieces at flea markets, thrift stores, or antique shops that speak to you. These pieces will add a touch of history and charm to your space, inspiring you to create a unique home.

Whether an old leather armchair or a mid-century modern sideboard, vintage items can serve as conversation starters and lend a sense of timelessness to your décor, sparking your creativity and imagination.

Examples of California Casual Style in Different Home Settings

To give you some inspiration, here are a few examples of California casual style in action:

  • A living room with a neutral color palette, comfortable furnishings, and layered textures. The space is completed with a large indoor plant and a vintage rug. Accents like personal photographs, books, and ceramics can add a lived-in feel, making the room more inviting.
  • A bedroom with a mix of natural materials, including a wooden headboard, rattan pendant light, and linen bedding. The space is brought to life with pops of blue and green in the form of throw pillows and wall art. Soft lighting and a plush area rug can turn the bedroom into a serene retreat.
  • This dining room has a coastal vibe and features a wooden dining table, wicker chairs, and a rattan pendant light. A large indoor plant and a vintage rug complete the space. Adding a gallery wall of seascapes or abstract art can enhance the coastal aesthetic and give the room a personal touch.

california style essay

Final Thoughts

California casual style is about creating a relaxed and inviting space that captures the essence of the California lifestyle.

You can achieve this look in your home by incorporating natural materials, neutral colors, comfortable furnishings, and indoor plants. 

Why not bring a touch of coastal charm and California chic into your space?

Remember, the goal is to create a home that feels like a sanctuary, where the boundaries between inside and outside are blurred, and every day feels like a staycation.

california style essay

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JDRF Southern California One Night Gala

Marie Hasnain, Steve Altman, Christian Waage, Faheem Hasnain, Craig Knox and Randy Socol.

Event raises more than $700K for type 1 diabetes research

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The JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Southern California chapter hosted its One Night Gala at Pendry San Diego last month.

The event attracted 160 guests and raised more than $700,000 in support of JDRF Southern California.

The night began with cocktails, silent and wine auctions, and raffles that featured a Roberto Coin diamond necklace. Dinner included a filet and salmon duet entrée, as well as a chocolate mousse and roasted almond sponge with brown butter sable and caramelized nuts as desserts.

High Tide Society provided the music.

San Diego Board President Lina Pitesa Waage chaired the event.

One Night Gala sponsors included Dexcom, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and DLA Piper.

According to JDRF, the organization is the world’s largest private funder of type 1 diabetes research and has contributed more than $2.5 billion to the research since its inception in 1970.

If your organization has held an event, you’re welcome to email a high-resolution photo along with information on the event to [email protected] . Please clearly identify those in the photo, make them aware their image might appear in print and online, include the photographer’s name for credit and be sure to include the who, what, where, when and why information on the event.

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Guests dance to the music of Wayne Foster Entertainment.

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Guests enjoy the evening at Coasterra on Harbor Island.

Boys to Men Mentoring

Events raises $400K to assist teen boys

May 1, 2024

Traditional Irish dancers perform at the Gaslamp event.

St. Paddy’s Day fest

Event supported the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation

April 4, 2024

Dr. Patrick Frias; Bridgett Brown; Craig Brown; Steve Jennings.

Charity Ball - Starry Night

Event benefits Rady Children’s Hospital

March 21, 2024

From a photo shoot for San Diego Magazine, one of the spring fashions for 1964. (ONE TIME USE)

Local History

From the Archives: Spring is in the air

New fashion for 1964

March 19, 2024

Award recipients, from left, Roosevelt Williams III, J-Movelle J2 Brown, Terrell Rackley, Dexter Holiday, and Dawud Hasan.

Recognition of service

Events honors individuals who have given to the community

March 14, 2024

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  1. PDF California Style Manual Quick Reference Guide

    We would like to show you a description here but the site won't allow us.

  2. 12 Great University of California Essay Examples

    Essay #1: Leadership. Prompt: Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words) 1400 lines of code. 6 weeks. 1 Pizza. I believe pizza makers are the backbone of society.

  3. How to Write the University of California Essays 2023-2024

    3. Outline the structure of your essay, and plan out content for an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. 4. Before you start writing your essay, write one or two sentences that summarize how you would like the admissions officers to perceive you based on this essay.

  4. How to Write a Perfect UC Essay for Every Prompt

    In general, the first (setup) section of the essay should be shorter because it will not be focused on what you were doing. The second section should take the rest of the space. So, in a 350-word essay, maybe 100-125 words go to setup whereas 225-250 words should be devoted to your leadership and solution.

  5. How to Write Great UC Essays (Examples of All Personal Insight

    Part 1: Introduction. Whether you're a California resident or not, you may have considered applying to University of California (UC) schools—and for good reasons. In addition to being the nation's best public university system overall, the UC system includes several elite schools that may be better options than private schools for competitive applicants due to their prestige, diversity ...

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  7. How To Write The 2020-21 University of California Essays

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    Notice Overlaps With Other Essays. UC PIQ prompt #8 is a broad and open-ended question, allowing you to write about a topic of your choice that relates to why you are a strong candidate for admission. This prompt is similar to Common App Prompt #7, "Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that ...

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    The University of California's Personal Insight Questions -- I just call them "UC essays" -- require a different approach than the Common App Personal Statement. It's not just because they're shorter (UC essays are 350 words each) and it's not just because there are more of them (students choose four of eight prompts to answer).

  10. Writing the University of California Essays

    by Gabbi Tobias, former admissions officer at High Point University For so many students, writing the main Common App or Coalition App essay is the most stressful part of the college application process.Something about crafting one long (up to 650 words) essay is daunting for even the most confident of writers. If you are applying to the University of California campuses, however, you are in ...

  11. Home

    American Psychological Association (APA) Style "is a set of guidelines for clear and precise scholarly communication that helps authors, both new and experienced, achieve excellence in writing" (APA, 2020, p. xvii). APA Style is used in a variety of fields, including sociology, economics, political science, psychology, nursing, anthropology ...

  12. Citation Styles

    Bluebook Bluepages Table BT2 will tell you if a state has an alternative style. California state courts typically use either the Bluebook or the California courts own California Style Manual. Print copies of the California Style Manual are available on reserve at the law library circulation desk and at the law library reference desk:

  13. PDF HOW TO WRITE AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY

    4. Write a rough draft. Now at last you are ready to start writing your paper. Start with a short introduction paragraph and then use your outline to draft the body and conclusion. Don't forget to begin each paragraph in the body with a topic sentence that conveys the main argument of that paragraph.

  14. PDF CITING YOUR SOURCES OF INFORMATION

    Similarly, a California Court of Appeal case would be cited as follows: Albertson's, Inc. v. Young (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 106, 113. The "107 Cal.App.4th" refers to volume 107 of the fourth series of Official California Appellate Reports, which is the official reporter for California Court of Appeal opinions. Federal court citations follow the ...

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    At the University of Southern California, Ms. Karpeles began tutoring college students on how to write college essays and was awarded the Unruh Scholar Honor after writing a fifty-page essay on the constitutionality of religious symbols on public property. Enroll Now. Or Call (818) 722-6680.

  16. Writing Lab

    The Written Assignments completed at California Coast University allows you an opportunity to demonstrate a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Your work will need to reflect your ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the information you have learned in your course. In your Study Guide, you will find ...

  17. UC San Diego Editorial Style Guide

    Purpose. The UC San Diego Web Editorial Style Guide is intended to help writers preparing text for UC San Diego websites. In most instances, it follows The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook (subscription required for online access). We recommend that writers and editors follow this style to ensure consistency throughout UC San Diego websites.

  18. Resources

    The Craft of Research. 4th ed, U of Chicago P, 2016. This textbook is standard for understanding what research is and how to develop your research project. Most useful are its recommended steps to move from topics to questions, problems, sources, arguments, and, finally, to the writing and revision process.

  19. Citation Style

    Citation Style - California Style Manual; Finding books; Library Exercise Examples; California Style Manual. California Style Manual (whole publication) - PDF format. CSM - Resources. PDF Guide: CSM & Blue Book. Quick "cheat sheet" to specific citation formats. Pepperdine guide Bluebook v. CSM.

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    The graders assign a raw score to each essay on a scale from 40 - 100. The State Bar of California has explained, "in order to earn a 40, the applicant must at least identify the subject of the question and attempt to apply the law to the facts of the question. If these criteria are not met, the answer is assigned a zero.".

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    View the latest news and breaking news today for U.S., world, weather, entertainment, politics and health at CNN.com.

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    Call For Papers. Abstract submission deadline: May 15, 2024. Full paper submission deadline, including technical appendices and supplemental material (all authors must have an OpenReview profile when submitting): May 22, 2024 01:00 PM PDT or. Author notification: Sep 25, 2024. Camera-ready, poster, and video submission: Oct 30, 2024 AOE.

  29. How To Create The California Casual Look

    To achieve the California casual look, there are a few key elements that you should keep in mind: 1. Natural Materials. California casual style is all about bringing the outdoors in. This is why natural materials such as wood, wicker, rattan, and linen are commonly used in this design aesthetic.

  30. JDRF Southern California One Night Gala

    Event raises more than $700K for type 1 diabetes research. May 23, 2024 3:35 PM PT. The JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Southern California chapter hosted its One Night Gala at Pendry ...