Essays: University of California Transfer Application


This is the sixth edition of Indonesia Mengglobal Essay Clinic, our effort to provide tangible help for Indonesian applicants to US colleges. This essay clinic is not meant to showcase ‘the perfect essay’, but by analyzing other people’s essays (what works, what does not work, what’s good, what’s bad), we hope you can learn how to write an effective application essay and how to continuously improve your own essay. We also accept essay submissions. Click here to learn how to participate.

Author’s Note

These two essays are the personal statements that I used for University of California transfer application. The UCs that I applied to was UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Davis. Besides, I also used this essay for my application essay to HKUST in Hong Kong. I started doing this essay around 2 months before the essays were due. Before writing, I tried to do a lot of brainstorming while reading many personal statement samples in order to get ideas. Finding good personal experience is one of the most difficult things I faced while writing these essays. I wanted to make sure that what I did was aligned with the major I applied to. After I finished writing, I asked many people to proof-read and give their opinions about my essays. Thankfully, all the universities that I applied to accepted my application and offered me admissions. For me, planning is the most important thing to do since what you write can affect your admission decision. So start early and plan carefully.

First Essay

What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field – such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities – and what you have gained from your involvement.

Mathematics had always been my interest since young. What surprised everyone was that I could start doing simple mathematics at the age of two. Upon discovering my natural talent in mathematics, my parents decided to let me focus on mathematics. However, my lifelong fascination with statistics is perhaps owed to my stock trader mother, who encouraged me to study statistics extensively. My mom, who likes to invest in the stock market, Forex, and equities, first introduced me to the beauty of graphs. It really amazed me to know that despite the graphs’ seemingly random movements, an analyst is still able to analyze them correctly. Since then, I decided to learn more about statistics so that I can find new trading methods and hence become an influential analyst and investor in the near future.

When I was in high school, my parents introduced me to a financial analyst guru in Indonesia. Upon learning from him for approximately two weeks, my interest in statistics grew as I engaged in the process of analyzing a stock chart. He first gave me a blank stock chart. Then, he drew a few lines (which represented the levels of support and resistance) in order to determine the price trend of that stock. Afterwards, he repeated the same steps on another stock chart and I was amazed how these simple steps can be applied to a variety of charts with the same efficacy. Learning from him really widened my perspectives towards financial analysis and statistics.

Since then, I have had a profound contemplation about statistics. Despite numerous warning about the high risk of stock trading, I believe that by the virtue of statistics, those mistakes can be avoided. We can easily make the wrong moves if we are swayed by our emotions or other people’s opinions. However, with statistical theories which are based on logic and science alone, these wrong choices can be lessened.

My interest in statistics developed further when I did my internship at the Commonwealth Bank last summer. It was the first time I dealt with advanced statistics in a multinational company. I worked at their Financial Engineering department where a mentor trained me to analyze and evaluate financial reports of companies using the SAS program. Even though it was new and challenging, I finally had a great handle and was comfortable using the program. This SAS program uses broad knowledge in statistics and it really helped me to understand the importance of statistics in this industry. Not only did I grasp the basics of the concept of statistics, I also obtained a comprehensive understanding of it.

All the aforementioned experiences have assured me to pursue my passion in statistics and my long-awaited dream to be a leading financial analyst. All these are factors that fueled my decision to choose statistics as my major and I look forward to learn statistics in depth at the University of California and excel in it.

Feedback from Martin Tjioe

What the admission officers want to get out of this prompt is whether one has the passion and experience for the subject of interest and the author successfully shows that through her essay. The author is to-the-point in her essay: every sentence serves to answer the prompt. We can see from the first three paragraphs that the author’s fascination with her proposed field of study was cultivated since a very young age. This is unique and is a convincing argument that she is passionate about what she will be studying.

Here are some suggestions:

  • One improvement to the essay is perhaps to explain succinctly certain statistics jargons such as “levels of support and resistance” or the SAS program that the admission committee may not be familiar with.
  • In the third paragraph, the author talks about “a profound contemplation about statistics”. From this, we expect to see a discussion about the profound and probably arduous thought process and how it leads to the conclusion that the “wrong choices can be lessened with statistical theories.” However, such thought process is absent from the essay.
  • The paragraph on internship clearly does a great job answering the prompt explicitly. The internship is an experience relevant to the field of study and the author relays its significance to the readers elegantly. The author also talks about the knowledge she gained from the experience. However, the wordings used subtly indicate that the author was not too excited about the internship. It would be nice if the author can convey a more positive reaction to the internship experience as it will demonstrate the author’s passion and readiness to face challenges in the future.

Overall, it is a solid essay that hits the right note on many of the aspects required. The author convincingly conveys her passion and demonstrates that she has the relevant experience to be successful in her field of study. Suggestions as stated above may help to improve the flow and argument found in the essay. The author may have been aware of these but did not incorporate them due to word limit or possibility of redundancy (as this essay is not the only document sent for the application).

Second Essay

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

I thought I was perfect. At the age of two, I had already mastered addition and subtraction. Two years later, I started playing the piano, and by the time I was six, I could dance ballet, play the violin, as well as speak in English, Mandarin and Indonesian. My capabilities roused the amazement and wonder of the people around me, leading them to come to conclude that I had to be a child prodigy.

However, nobody is perfect. My daily struggles then stemmed in the form of social anxiety. I did not have the courage to talk to people and therefore always attempted to avoid people’s gazes. This was why I was terrified to go to school alone. Either my mom or my dad would have to be ‘stationed’ outside my class or else I would burst out crying.

It broke my parents’ hearts to realize that my behaviors were the symptoms of social phobia, a psychological condition which causes me to harbor extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness. This phobia made meeting new people a difficult task. It caused feelings of unease and discomfort to the extent that my palms were always sweating and my heart pounded really fast. My condition was so severe that my psychologist suggested me to undergo consultation periodically.

One day, a national television channel offered to interview me about my achievements in the national Mathematics competition. Truthfully, the idea petrified me, but the unconditional love and support I received from loved ones ignited an intense desire in me to show my best from then on. I wanted desperately to change myself, not only for the sake of the interview but also my future. I did not want my dreams to be dashed from my lingering social phobia. Slowly but conscientiously, I learned to build my confidence through practice. I memorized all the scripts and I learned to manage my body language and expression so that it looked natural on television.

While I was waiting for the interview to begin, cold sweat poured out of my skin. However, deep within my heart, I believed that my abundant preparation was sufficient in building my confidence. My parents always said “do your best and let God do the rest.” With that mindset, I performed well beyond expectations and the interview went amazingly well. Those 45 minutes in a room full of cameras and audiences were the turning point in my life. I spoke confidently and many people were inspired by my success story.

Since then, many television channels and newspaper companies interviewed me to inspire youths. I became more confident as time goes on. Now, public speaking is something that I always do as the chairman of various organizations. Whenever I lacked confidence, I always tried to draw strength from that memorable moment when I did my parents proud and inspired others. I always believed in a quote by Edmund Hillary that ‘it is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.’

Feedback from Stevia Angesty

The admission officers are looking for your achievements which shape who you are today. In this kind of prompt, you can play around with the wording so it gives the admission officers more flavor about your characters and not solely on field-specific jargon like other more technical essays.

In this essay, the author successfully draws her character out; for example:

…that my behaviors were the symptoms of social phobia, a psychological condition which causes me to harbor extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness…  and …I believed that my abundant preparation was sufficient in building my confidence…

Through these sentences, readers can easily get the sense that the author is aware of her weakness, open for change, and willing to work hard to overcome her weakness.

The author also writes in a well-prepared structure:

  • Background story to provide readers some context (e.g., “I had to be a child prodigy”)
  • Problem statement to start the issue (e.g., “symptoms of social phobia”)
  • Examples including what (e.g., “national television channel offered to interview me”) and how (e.g., “do your best and let God do the rest”)
  • Result (e.g., “many television channels and newspaper companies interviewed me to inspire youths”)

Some suggestions:

  • Brief background story. Author can shorten the length of background story to 1 succinct paragraph and focus more on how she coped with her fear.
  • Tying the essay to her field of study. The author focuses a lot on her character and accomplishment but as a third-party reader, I have a hard time recognizing her true passion. The author briefly mentioned her adequacy in music, dance, language, public speaking but none of them really stands out as a theme
  • Clear, memorable opening/ending. The author can better emphasize what she wants the reader to remember through a stronger opening/ending. I like how the quote relates so well with the story but perhaps, adding a more specific personal goal/objective will sound more genuine

Overall, I enjoy reading the essay. It answers the prompt correctly and successfully leaves good impression to the reader. Several suggestions above hopefully will help make this essay stronger.

Photo Credit: Moley & Scholarship Applications via haagenjerrys


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here