UC Berkeley Essays #4

Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. (350 words or fewer)

At 10:30 pm on a hot, summer, Wednesday night, you would expect my friends and me to be having the time of our lives and going out on crazy high school adventures— but instead, we were actually stuck in a chemistry laboratory trying to map out the Lewis structure of sulfuric acid.

Over the summer of my sophomore year, my friends and I enrolled into ‘Introduction to Chemistry’, an evening course at our local community college. As a six-week summer course, I spent two hours in lecture, two hours in the laboratory, and another two hours studying on my own for four days a week for six weeks. It was evident that I struggled with adjusting to the pace of college when I received 19% on a quiz. I felt left behind, exhausted, and overall pathetic. No matter how many hours I spent studying, I couldn’t keep up. But instead of giving up, I picked up certain strategies like reading the material the night before, rewriting my notes, and joining a study group; eventually working my way up to a B.

At the end of that summer, I learned so much more than just chemistry. On top of having the raw experience of what college is like, my chemistry experience taught me that it is okay to fail. I discovered that failure is an essential part of learning. Coming to this realization inspired me to take more college courses and rigorous courses in high school. I transformed into a hungry learner, eager to fail, learn, and improve. By seizing the opportunity to take this course, I pushed myself beyond my limits. This experience and realization changed how I wanted to pursue the rest of high school, college, and life in general.

I walked into my first day of the chemistry class expecting to walk out with an A; but thankfully, I didn’t. Instead, I walked out of that class with a taste of the college experience and a principle that I now live by– that it is okay to fail, as long as you get back up.


Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California? (350 words or fewer)

The spin-the-wheel slows down and eventually stops at ‘try again next time’. That is, until I secretly push it one slot over to ‘princess tiara’. As the child hurries away to the next carnival game with the tiara in her hair, her mom turns back at me with a warm smile and mouths the words “thank you”. Seeing genuine happiness in the people of my community while volunteering at events such as my school carnival always remind me why I love my community so much.

I hold a lot of pride in how I’ve become a prominent figure in my community. From volunteering at festivals for my local elementary school to becoming employed by the City of American Canyon Parks and Recreation Department, I relish being in the hub of the community. I love our annual Fourth of July parades and Easter egg hunts, where I am stopped every 15 minutes to catch up with the crazy kids I worked with at summer camp or even just with the staff I’ve met from school. Growing up and connecting with such a diverse community is and will always be a large part of who I am. From kindergarten up until my senior year of high school, both my small community and I as an individual have grown immensely. By volunteering at local events, connecting with the people of my community, and finally getting employed by my city, I know that I have contributed to the successful growth of my community.

Although I really love my community here in the small town of American Canyon, I cannot help but think of the other great communities that I can potentially be a part of as well. I believe that by going to the University of California, I will be able to thrive in the liveliness of the communities that the campuses are well-known for. A major contribution I believe that I can bring to the University of California is integrating, being involved in, and building the school’s community so that both I and the school can grow together for each other.


Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement? (350 words or fewer)

Throughout my childhood, I grew up in a nine-person household where the channels of our TV never left the Filipino drama station and the air always smelled of Filipino food. But the moment I left home, I would go to a typical suburban elementary school as an average American kid at the playground. I grew up in a unique position which I both love and hate: being a second-generation Filipino American. I love being a second-generation immigrant. I have the best of both worlds. But I also hate it. It chains me to this ongoing struggle of living under the high expectations of immigrant parents. How could I hate the part of me that I loved the most?

Growing up, I lived under the constant academic stress that my parents placed on me. Their expectations were through the roof, demanding that I only bring home A’s on my report card. My entire academic career was based on my parent’s expectations. Their eyes beat down on every test score I received. I loved them so much, but I could only handle so much. The stress ate me alive, but I silently continued to work hard.

Living under this stress is the biggest ongoing challenge of my life thus far. Until last year, I never understood why my parents expected so much from me. Finally being old enough to understand my parent’s point of view, I realize that they set these high expectations in the hopes that one day, all of the pain and struggles it took to get to America will pay off. Since then, I’ve overcome the high expectations of my parents by converting their pressure into a fireball of ambition and motivation, deeply ingrained in my mentality.

This intense desire to succeed in America as a second-generation immigrant is something that has and always will fuel my academic drive. As the first person in my family to go to college in America, I’ve made it my life aspiration to succeed in academics in the honor of my family– a decision made by me.


Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time. (350 words or fewer)

Seconds after our teacher announced our project groups ​I heard the familiar, pitchy voice of the most irritating person in the class yell my name. Just like my worst nightmare, I had been put in a group to work with [Sarah]; the annoying girl who had a weird obsession with horses. At that moment, I knew that it was going to be the longest project of my life.

[Sarah] was extremely difficult to work with; she would always interrupt me, stubbornly stuck to what she wanted, and did not listen to a thing I said. Two weeks of tension and no progress flew by until one day during class, [Sarah] went on another ramble about her horses. Although I wasn’t ready to hear her talk about horses again, I let her continue. What was another rant about horses turned into a conversation about the mental disorders [Sarah] faced and how she relied on horse riding as therapy. After that conversation, our progress took a complete 180. I was eager to learn more, and we finished the project with more purpose and meaning. My perspective changed entirely.

I was moved by [Sarah]’s passion for horse riding and encouraged her to start a club on campus where she could share her passion with others. Beyond this project, I helped [Sarah] defend her riding center during city council meetings because it was on the verge of being shut down. In exchange, working with [Sarah] taught me how to be more open-minded, more patient, more understanding; values of which I personally lacked my entire life. ​I began to cooperate with people with a more accepting and considerate mentality, understanding that people work in different ways.

I’m glad I chose to work through the project with [Sarah] because I grew as a leader in a way that I would have never expected. I know I could have easily done the project by myself, but instead, I worked through our disagreements and bickering. S​haring this experience with [Sarah] unearthed my ability to lead using patience and understanding, which are now essential assets to my leadership capabilities.

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