University Of California San Diego Essay Prompts

Note: There is only one application for all the UC schools. Therefore, your responses will be sent to every single University of California school that you apply to. Hence, avoid making essays school-specific (unless you are applying to only one school).


To choose which questions to answer, first browse the eight prompts as a list, and sort them into one of three categories: “definites,”“possibilities,” and “avoid at all costs.” With “definites,” after reading the prompt, you immediately know what you will say and how you will say it. With “possibilities,” a few vague ideas swirl in your head, which you think can be sorted out and possibly develop into a great essay. With “avoid at all costs,” you want to have nothing to do with these essays.


Afterwards, jot down bullet point ideas for the questions you for sure want to write about. Then, select out of the “possibility” questions that would, in combination with your “definites,” produce the most well-rounded essay profile, which would both highlight your few key strengths as well as reveal your complexities and breadth of character. While doing so, it is important to base your decision on not only your immediate liking for the topic, but also on the available substance (anecdotes). Repeat this process until you are faced with only four questions.


This is just one way to approach choosing prompts. Since for some, the process happens organically, do not feel constrained to the method above. Just remember:


  1. Do not rush into prompts at first glance. Make sure that you have jotted down potential ideas for all but the ones you want to avoid, and ultimately write about the one with the most substance.
  2. Your answers should be able to highlight what is most important to you.

This information is meant to supplement the general eligibility requirements for freshmen, not to replace them.

Your international school must have an appropriate level of recognition in the educational system it follows. You must also be earning a certificate of completion that will allow you to enter a university in that educational system. If your international school follows a U.S. curriculum, your school must have U.S. accreditation and you must graduate with a U.S. high school diploma or an equivalent credential.

International Baccalaureate

If you are completing your IB diploma or simply taking IB courses, make sure to report your IB status in your application. There are instructions in the application for reporting IB coursework and examinations.

13-year Educational Systems

If pre-university education is 13 years long in your country, you must complete all 13 years before entering UC San Diego. You must graduate from secondary school in your country, earning a certificate of completion that enables you to attend a university in your country. Admission to UC San Diego is not offered prior to completion of the 13th year.

British & Singapore

You must complete at least 5 IGCSE/GCSE/GCE O Levels and at least 3 GCE A Levels to be considered for admission. If you receive "A", "B" or "C" grades on your GCE A level examinations, UC San Diego may consider granting you transfer credit toward your bachelor’s degree. The exact credit amount will be determined after you have been formally admitted and provide your official certificate.


You must complete 12 years of education and receive your certificate of graduation (i.e., Red Book). All grade 12 subjects must be completed, passed with a C result or better, with an overall 3.0 (or equivalent). We do require grade 9 transcripts, including if it was completed at a middle school. Students in an A Level program should refer to the British entry above.

India & Pakistan

You must complete your standard XII years of education and sit for 10th and 12th year board/state examinations.


You must complete your SPM and STPM or A Levels to be considered for admission.

Sri Lanka

You must complete Sri Lankan O and A Levels. You may also complete O and A Levels through a British Examination Authority.


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