The Leadership Challenge Essay Prompt

Please note: The examples provided here are illustrations only and may not reflect the current course assignment. Students should not rely on this information to shape their assignments but should instead refer to the assignment description provided by their instructor(s).

1. Assignment description: LEAD: Personal leadship challenge (PLC) description.

2. Marked-up versions with verbs, keywords, and instructions indicated: LEAD: PLC description mark-up.

Condensed interpretation of the assignment:

  • 1000-1500 words, excluding references 
  • identify personal leadership challenge currently facing in workplace
  • reflect on personal responsibility for challenge
  • demonstrate openness to shifting challenge through own personal learning
  • choose issue that is:
    • personal and immediate
    • challenge that can be addressed internally without relying on further organizational support or action
    • situation must be able to be improved through applying skills and knowledge gained in first term
    • must be able to identify potential change in situation through application of change in behaviour, new knowledge, or interactions with others
    • scope: problem must be small enough to address after first term but sufficiently interesting to keep interest for 11 weeks of term
  • demonstrate critical thinking and writing skills by:
    • selecting and using appropriate research evidence from readings
    • quote from organizational materials to contextualize challenge
  • refer to guiding questions for content direction
  • formatting and submission expectations:
    • APA 6th edition formatting rules for citations and references
    • Word doc
    • Submit to drop box

Dr. Brigitte Harris, Director of the School of Leadership, approved this interpretation of the assignment.

University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 1)

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

UC Essay Prompt 1 is the first of eight essay prompts for the University of California application that you can choose to answer if you are an incoming freshman.

Of the eight Personal Insight Questions, you only need to answer four.

If you consider leadership one of your defining qualities, or have had an interesting experience as a leader in some capacity, you might want to consider this essay.

Overall, leadership is a terrific quality to showcase to the UC.

And you don’t need to have held a specific “leadership” role, such as Student Body President or scoutmaster, to write about this skill.

Just make sure you share “an example” of a time you used your leadership skills in a way that is specific, interesting and unique to you.

 

Brainstorm First to Learn What the UC Wants to See About Leadership

 

The UC admissions department has provided helpful brainstorming questions both with this prompt and in a worksheet guide they offer on their web site.

You should definitely check out both before you start—since there’s no better way to learn exactly what they want to hear from you.

It can be a lot to take in. (Don’t sweat these short essays! Just read up on them and then crank them out!)

The upshot of their suggestions, in my opinion, is that they want to make sure that you don’t write a generic answer about how you are a skilled leader unless you support your point with specific examples.

To write an effective UC Prompt 1 essay, especially since it’s relatively short (no more than 350 words), it’s critical to have a sharp focus.

That means you narrow down what you want to say about your leadership abilities.

Instead of listing all the places and experiences you have been a leader, it’s more effective to think of ONE TIME you had that role.

 

 

Another way to focus your UC Essay Prompt 1 would be to narrow down what type of leader you are, and try to define your leadership style.

Do you lead by example and use your sense of humor?

Do you lead because you are confident, disciplined and have an air of authority?

Do you lead by building a consensus and getting everyone on board with your group goals?

Once you decide what specific type of leader you are, try to think of A TIME that illustrated that style.

It doesn’t have to be an impressive time; just a moment or experience where you demonstrated your leadership ability.

You don’t have to have been an Eagle Scout, president of the chemistry club or band major to be a leader. It’s more about finding “a time” you played the role of leader, and why that mattered.

If “something happened” during that time, all the better. That will make your essay more interesting.

(Hint: To find something that happened, think about “a time” you were in a group and faced some type of problem.)

If you include a problem (obstacle/challenge/mistake/accident/mix-up/set-back…), it will be easy to go on to explain how you dealt with it—using your leadership qualities or abilities.

Here’s a Short Sample Outline
for UC Essay Prompt 1

 

  1. Start by describing “a time” you faced some type of problem in a group
  2. Explain how you handled it (the steps you took and your inspiration) and felt
  3. Share why you think you were effective and why
  4. Reflect on what you learned about yourself
  5. Conclude with why your leadership style or ability will help you in future goals (personal and academic.)

(Write a couple sentences about each number and you will have a rough draft!)

 

 

Here is the complete Personal Insight Question (UC essay Prompt 1)
(Notice how it’s trying to get you to find “a time” and be specific, too.)

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

Things to consider: A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or a taking lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about your accomplishments and what you learned from the experience.  What were your responsibilities?

Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to school activities.  For example, do you help out or take care of your family?

From the brainstorm Worksheet provided by UC admissions
to further help with UC Essay Prompt 1:

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

How do you define “leader”? List three words that you think describe what a leader is:

1.

2.

3.

Do any of these words apply to you? How? Is there a time in your life when you displayed any of these traits?

* * * * *

Back to my advice:

So remember these main points regarding UC Essay Prompt 1:

  • Leadership is a role, and can apply to any group (no title needed!)
  • It’s best to start with a specific example or “time” you were a leader
  • Describe of what specific type of leader you are (What qualities you used)
  • Include how you think about leading and what you learned

If you decide to write about UC Essay Prompt 1 as one of your four required for the UC application, write it up and see if you like it.

If not, consider one of the other prompts.

You might want to learn How to Answer UC Essay Prompt 8 as well and write about what sets you apart from other students.

RELATED: Check out my 21 Tips for UC Personal Insight Questions to get more ideas on how to select what four prompts to write about, and avoid common pitfalls.

If you need more help with these, I offer tutoring and editing services. Learn more on my SERVICES page.

Good luck!

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