UCs like to see how you have handled life's obstacles through perseverance. Read on.
When writing your personal essay for your UC apps, admissions directors are keen in spotting applicants who have encountered significant obstacles, yet, despite the set-back, the applicant has persevered.
UC Berkeley and UCLA (and they say, all UCs for the Fall 2012) are applying the "comprehensive review" towards an applicant. A comprehensive review is using a holistic approach in viewing the applicant. Instead of looking at strict GPA and SAT/ACT scores, they are looking at the applicant as a whole. Therefore, they will be looking at evidence of family, economic, personal or social obstacles. They will be looking if you took advantage of academic and extracurricular achievement despite the obstacles. UC Berkeley will tend to look at the applicant's ability to "live and learn in an environment with limited academic opportunities." This shows character and someone they would like to see contribute to their university.
So, if your parents lost their job, their house, were divorced, have low English proficiency, or have a low-level experience with institutionalized education or a stressful immigration experience, don't be embarrassed to address this in your personal essay. Being homeless, a victim of a crime, living in a foster home, commuting more an hour to school (by bus even), having a serious or chronic illness, or having a physical or learning disability are obstacles. You should not be ashamed to mention them and show how you persevered despite of these significant obstacles. And UCs like Berkeley, look for that. Also note that your essays are confidential.
Click here: Hear from UC admissions directors on the personal statement