Writing UC Prompt 5 Tips: Significant Challenge Essay

[This article is part of a new series where we will be dissecting each of the UC essay prompts in depth, providing examples and tips on how you can make your application stand out.]

Click here to read yesterday’s post about UC Prompt #4.

Struggling with writing your college application essay? We've got you covered! Read our Ultimate Guide to Stand Out College Essays to learn the tips and techniques on writing a winning essay and maximize your college admission chances!


Prompt #5: 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?

This is one of the most commonly answered prompts, because the range of human challenges is so infinite and important to our personal development. These challenges shape our world view and how we handle these situations speaks volumes about our character and integrity. All of us have experienced difficulty before, and the UCs want to know how you’ve been shaped by these obstacles.

So what counts as a significant challenge? You might think that the only challenges worth sharing about have to be as drastic as being financially unstable or feeling the impact of racial discrimination, but admissions officers know that problems are relative. As long as you show how your obstacle has affected you as a person, it’s fair game. 7EDU can help you identify significant challenges and showing it in a compelling story. Get started early with a free consultation with our experts.

Here are some examples to show you how wide the range of possible challenges you could write about is:

  1. Dealing with your parents’ divorce

  2. Recovering from an injury

  3. Overcoming any fear

  4. Completing a marathon

  5. Suffering from a mental or physical illness

  6. Mending a broken relationship

  7. Realizing and overcoming a flaw in your character

If you choose to answer this prompt, this is definitely where you want your personality and your voice to show through your writing. Your goal is to make the admissions officers feel the emotions that you felt while dealing with these struggles, whether they be frustration, grief, loss, or fear. If you convey this properly, you’ll be able to help your readers understand the accomplishment of overcoming these challenges.

When the prompt asks to explain how the challenge “affected your academic achievement,” this is an opportunity for you to both justify negative academic achievements as well as show how you were able to overcome it.

Here’s how you might structure this essay:

  1. Start with an anecdote that immediately puts the reader in the challenge you faced

  2. Give any background in order to fully explain the situation

  3. Mention any effects it had on your academic performance

  4. Describe how you began to overcome the issue and any steps you took

  5. Reflect on what you learned from dealing with this obstacle

The bottom line is, there is no “correct” challenge that you have to pick; problems are relative and you just need to show what you’ve learned from it.

7EDU has helped hundreds of students connect their experiences to a compelling story. Get started early with a free consultation with our experts.

If you found this article helpful, check out the rest of our series below on UC Prompts!

Meanwhile, feel free to check out the rest of our UC Prompt Series while you're here :)

UC Prompt #1 Leadership Experience

UC Prompt #2 Your Creative Side

UC Prompt #3 Greatest Talent

UC Prompt #4 Educational Experiences

UC Prompt #5 Significant Challenge

UC Prompt #6 Favorite Subject

UC Prompt #7 Improving your Community

UC Prompt #8 How do you Stand Out?

Curious about what UC students really think about their schools? We asked real college students the questions you've always wanted to ask. Check out the whole series with other universities here:



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7EDU’s primary mission is to deliver the most effective quality of education to every student we serve. We believe that all individuals learn differently, each with varying of needs, preferences, and degrees of readiness; thus, our educators understand that strategically personalizing every student’s learning experience is the key to unlocking their academic potential. Furthermore, 7EDU Impact Academy has embraced technological advances with adaptive teaching principles since its conception in 2014, with our programs routinely delivering tremendous results and academic breakthroughs for all 7EDU students. By consistently nurturing young minds to unearth their hidden capabilities while maintaining our position as a leader in educational technology, 7EDU Impact Academy promises to continue advancing our teaching methodology to accommodate for modern learning environments and to provide unique, personalized learning experiences designed for students to reach their highest goals in academics.


Writing UC Prompt 5 Tips: Significant Challenge Essay
7EDU Impact Academy 7 July, 2021
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Writing UC Prompt 6 Tips: Favorite Subject Essay