What is UC PIQs?

  • Alma_Matters
  • 07 Oct, 2022

What is UC PIQs?

By Alma_Matters

October 6, 2022


PIQs is a key component of the University of California (UC) Application.

Shveta Bagade, a College Counselor, says that PIQs is the least favorite part of the application for all students. But, in fact, it is a big opportunity for students to stand out, and the last thing students can control in the application.


This article on PIQs is based on the 3-Segment Podcast Series on “Applying to University of California” with Shveta Bagade.

So, let’s double-click on PIQs and learn more.

  1. What is UC PIQs?
  2. Choosing 4 PIQs
  3. What to Write in PIQs?
  4. How to Write PIQs?


1.What is UC PIQs?

The UCs call it Personal Insight Questions. 

  • They don't want it to be an essay. They want it to be about you. They actually call it an “interview on paper”. 
  • Just 350 words each, per insight question. 
  • And you need to jump right to the point. Use those 350 words to talk about you, only you! They want to see words like “I” “me” “myself”.
  • If you tell them a long drawn out story, and then you sum it up with one line about what the answer is really to the prompt, it doesn't give them a lot of information.


2.Choosing 4 PIQs

  • There are 8 prompts (or questions) to choose from and you have to choose 4
  • Choose the four that give you the best opportunity to talk about different aspects of you. 
  • For example, if you are a soccer player, or play an instrument, then use one of your PIQ answers related to that, but don't do it in all four
  • Highlight the different sides of character, the kind of person you are, the kind of student, maybe the kind of leader or teammate you are.


3.What to Write in PIQs?

Shveta tells students that if the idea for an answer to a PIQ comes to you quickly, it's probably the easiest thing for you to write about. It may be one of the better stories that you're going to write.

  • Be genuine
  • Try to write about things that provide the most information about you. 
  • Write about those things that you are the closest to, meaningful to you, that you value and treasure.
  • If you talk about being the captain of your cross country team, and you use that for the leadership question. 
  • But, don’t keep writing about cross country, unless there's something in that story that's really, completely different. Like overcoming challenges, or a significant opportunity etc.
  • Don’t limit your response just to things that happened to you during high school.
  • Experiences from middle school, elementary school may have had a significant impact as a high school student - maybe how you approach academics, maybe how you approach being a team, part of it in a collaboration type of environment, maybe the kind of person you are.


4.How to Write PIQs

  • You have to plan and spend time on PIQs. You cannot just whip out something in say, 10-15 minutes. 
  • Start early. Don't wait till November 25 to write for these answers. That's too late! 
  • Write Drafts. Then take some time away from it and then read it. Then modify the answers to get it in line with what you want it to look like.
  • If you're starting now, then over the next few weeks to really spend 15-20 minutes at a time to write.
  • If it's taking you two, three hours to write 200 words, you probably haven’t picked the right thing to talk about.
  • Read your draft answers out aloud. It's a great way to catch grammatical errors, spelling errors, and then you also hear the flow of what you've written. And you're not stumbling over any words or sentences or things that sound a little weird. So, this is your opportunity to catch those little things before you submit.



  • Review everything and make sure it looks the way you want to answer that question. 
  • Also make sure you put the right response under the right question or PI prompt. 
  • Students are known to write the answers to PIQs on a separate document and they copy and paste it in the wrong place on the application. That's heartbreaking to hear. Just be extra careful!


Good Luck with the PIQs and the UC Applications!


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