UC PIQ Guidance

Apologies in advance for a repeat question, I did my search before posting but could find exact specific info.
DD is being recommended by the school to start working on essays, she wants to focus on UC and want to work on her PIQs, Was wondering if someone can share what resources (book , professional course, coaching, etc) they are using to get some guidance


Hope this helps! UC Santa Barbara has great admissions advice and tips. My daughter said that she used the advice from an admissions presentation by a UC Santa Barbara admissions officer the most for her UC app. See if your student can sign up for one. Good luck!

I also recommend UCSB’s video tutorials.

Here are some additional PIQ Tips from the UC Counselor Conference 2021.

PIQ tips:

“Students need to think of the PIQ’s as interview questions and respond to them thus”

What works:

• Examples and details are helpful. Examples should be recent (focused on events in high school) when possible. If students reflect on life before high school they will need to explain how that situation impacted them as a high school student.

• The student doesn’t need to add details which place the reader in the moment with them. We don’t need to know that it was Tuesday at 2:15pm when the blue skateboard they were riding hit a green shard of glass and caused a 40 degree angle turn of their front wheel. Details should be about the experience instead (example – ‘I fell off my skateboard and ended up in a foot cast for 3 months walking on crutches.’ The detail here is due to their fall they had three months on crutches.)

What does not work:

• It is important that students understand the purpose of these responses is for admissions readers to get to know them. Literary or descriptive language is not helpful in introducing the student to the stranger in admissions.

• Admissions readers cannot make assumptions about what they read. Therefore, flowery language, metaphors and analogies are not helpful since they create ambiguity.

• Quotes, lyrics and dialogue may note be the students words, thus making them unnecessary as they often detract from the response.

• Students should avoid attempts to entertain or “hook” the reader and should instead use their own words to share their story and voice.

I would advise working on the Activity & Award section and make sure your student is able to complete as many of those 20 spots as possible. You have a certain number of characters to describe the company/organization and then another section to tell what you did or why you won an award. Make sure your PIQs complement or expand upon what is in activities & awards, not repeat it.

If a student is struggling with what to write about or how to be reflective, working on the 20 smaller activities & awards might be an easy place to start.

My second suggestion is to make sure you answer the full prompt. Each PIQ has several “things to consider” under it. Make sure you address the “things to consider” in your PIQ.

For example, many students choose to answer PIQ 7 - What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

Under “things to consider” it says,

  • 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?

I read scholarship applications and the rubric we are given has specifics that are not asked outright in the prompt but are very similar to what is shared in “things to consider.”