How to Write the Cappex Essays

How to Write the Cappex Essays

It’s been a big year for changes in the college admissions scene.

I typed this guest column about many of them in my local newspaper, The Laguna Beach Independent, this week.

About the same time this was published, yet another college application system entered the admissions picture. It’s call the Cappex Application, and you can learn about it in this article. It’s supposed to ‘launch’ in September.

The appeal of Cappex, apparently, is seeks to streamline and simplify the application process, and only includes one required essay, and no supplemental essays. That can’t be a bad thing, right?

At this point, I would mainly stick with the Common Application to make use of to your target colleges that use it ( more than 600 colleges!). If you opt to apply through the Cappex, I have some tips on how to write the required and optional Cappex essays.

The prompts for 2016-17 Cappex essays will likely be:

  • Required Essay: Tell us a story about yourself that is key to understanding who you are. This could be a moment when you changed, grew, or made a difference or a everyday moment that reveals something people count on you for (500 words or less)
  • Optional Essay: The goal of this application is to reflect your unique interests, experiences, capabilities, and pursuits. To this end, is there anything else that you’d love to express?

I FAVOR these Cappex essays (prompts), especially the required one. It is asking for a classic personal statement, which will be an essay that is meant to showcase something fundamental about what makes you, you.

NOTE: The prompt for this Cappex required essay is very similar to Prompt 1 for the Common Application essays. Chances are you could use the same topic, or even exact essay, for both applications, given a few tweaks to make sure they line-up with the prompts.

Also, in my opinion, whenever you are asked for a optional essay, I believe you would be foolish not to ever write one.

It’s really just another opportunity to show your targeted schools what you will be all about. Why wouldn’t you leap at that? (I know, more work. But hey, remember what you want here to get into your dream school!)

To start brainstorming ideas for the required essay, let’s begin by breaking down the prompt so we understand exactly what they want to understand you in this essay:

They state right out that they want a story, right? Love that!

They offer two choices on what to write about:

  1. a moment when you ‘changed, grew or made a difference’
  2. an everyday moment that ‘reveals something people count on you for.’

So start thinking about ‘times’ or experiences in your past (think high school years in general; don’t go back to toddlerhood) to look for these types of moments.

For no. 1, if you think about times you faced some type of problem(s), chances are that will help you identify an experience where you faced a challenge of some type and ‘changed, grew or made a difference’ in the process of dealing with it.thesis statement for discrimination

For Number 2, I would spend a few minutes thinking of your core qualities that ‘people count on you for.’ These could be such a thing from being punctual, reliable and honest to fair, assertive and funny.

Then try to think of ‘times’ from your past where you used that quality to greatly help others deal with any type of problem, whether it was a challenge, a mistake, misunderstanding, setback, change, failure, etc.

Once you come up with a ‘moment’ that illustrates time you changed, grew, made a difference or helped others in some way, you will be ready to write your essay.

What I would suggest would be to start your essay by describing that ‘moment’ or what happened in a succinct paragraph or two that recreates it. These are often called ‘anecdotes,’ and it’s worth reading up on how to craft them.

Then you provide some background or context to that moment to greatly help the reader understand what led up to it and why it’s important.

The rest of your essay will share how you dealt with what happened, how you handled or managed the problem from that ‘moment.’ Then go deeper and start to analyze, reflect on, explain why that moment mattered to you, and what you learned from it and dealing with it.

Before you know it, you will have a rough draft.

I would strongly suggest that you read my post called How to Write A college Application Essay in 3 Steps to learn more on how to use this approach to write your personal statement for your Cappex essay.

As far as the Optional Cappex Essay, I would suggest you read Common App: Prompt 1, which will be very nearly the exact same as this Optional Essay prompt, and that can get you started brainstorming and provide ideas on how to write about a topic you want to share about yourself.

Please let me know if you have any questions about these Cappex essays in the Comments section. I FAVOR to answer opinions!

If you want to transfer to any of the University of California schools, you need to write four short essays.

The UC changed the required essays this year (2016-17), and calls the new prompts ‘Personal Insight Questions.’

All but one of the four short essay prompts are very nearly the same as required for incoming freshmen: You have seven prompts to choose from to write three of your essays.

The fourth essay is a required prompt and specifically addresses your reasons for transferring.

The four essays are on the short side: no more than 350 words each. That’s generally only a couple paragraphs.

The UC admissions stresses that all four of these short essays will be considered equally.


I have written separate posts on my ideas, tips and strategies on how to address the 7 ‘Personal Insight Questions’ (essay prompts) that you have to choose from to write 3 of your UC transfer essays. Find links to these helpful posts at the bottom of this post.

Before you do anything else, however, I would advise that you start by reading the instructions from the UC Admissions for transfer students explaining all about the new Personal Insight Questions on this page of their site. Notice that they also include this worksheet guide for transfer applicants, which you should also read closely for ideas on how to address these prompts.

Also, check out these Writing Tips from the UC for these transfer essays!


Since there are four essays, try to pick topics that complement each other and don’t say the same thing. As you brainstorm ideas, think of the four as one unit that showcases why you will be prepared to transfer into a UC.

If you don’t know where to start, consider starting with the one Personal Insight Question (prompt) about your intended major, which will be required.

And then identify three other prompts from the 7 other Personal Insight Questions that will let you expand on your personal background and educational experiences so far.

Look for Personal Insight Questions (essay prompts) that would allow you to expand on themes linked to your intended field of study and educational goals. (This will make more sense once you review all the prompts.)

The One Required Question for UC Transfer Essays

‘Please describe how you have prepared for your intended major, including your readiness to succeed in your upper-division courses once you enroll at the university.’Things to consider: How did your interest in your major develop? Do you have any experience linked to your major outside the classroom such as volunteer work, internships and employment, or participation in student organizations and activities? If you haven’t had experience in the field, consider including experience in the classroom. This may add working together with faculty or doing research projects.

If you’re applying to multiple campuses by way of a different major at each campus, think about approaching the topic from a broader perspective, or find a common thread among the majors you’ve chosen.

Those three paragraphs are all part of the official ‘Personal Insight Question’ that is required for UC transfer applicants. As you can see, the UC is working hard to make sure you give the information about you that they want.

Centered on their ‘Things to Consider,’ start with what first interested you in your major

How did your interest develop? You could start your essay by way of a specific example of a moment or experience that first sparked your interest in this field.

Then brainstorm specific examples to illustrate how you developed this interest, what you learned in the process, and how they helped prepare you to study this major.

Due to the fact UC suggested, first look for activities and experiences outside the classroom to include. If you didn’t have any there, brainstorm ones inside the classroom. (You can infer here that they find outside experiences potentially more relevant, interesting or important; although it certainly relies on the specific activities and experiences.)

The trick to writing shorter essays is to look for specific moments, incidents or experiences that you can use to illustrate a larger point you are making. This helps give your essay a sharp focus, in place of trying to cram too many points into a short piece of writing.

If you’d like to make a point exactly how you will be prepared for your major, make sure to support it with specific examples from your past.

Another way to give a focus to this essay would be to showcase a defining quality or characteristic which have helped you prepare so far with this major, and which you believe will help you once you transfer and continue your studies.

Strategies for Writing About Each of the 7 New UC Essay Prompts (Transfer students pick 3 to write about)

Here are my ideas and great tips on ways you could think about the 7 essay prompts to get started.

NOTE: Since you are writing about these topics for your transfer essays, it wouldn’t hurt to find how to add how they related to your intended major, whether it’s your leadership experience, creative side, volunteer work or that ‘one thing that sets you apart’ from other applicants.

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