The 3 Structures That Will Make Your UC PIQ Responses Shine


When it comes to the University of California's PIQ response structures, the way to shine is decidedly plug-and-play.

The experiences you talk about are going to be meaningful, poignant and deeply true to you. (In fact, we've got a blog post on how to figure out your most powerful experiences.) But the structure you use to do it? Wasting time coming up with something unique is only going to set you back.

Here's when to use the 3 structures that will make your PIQ answers admissions-worthy. (They also work well for most supplements at other schools.)

Initiative and Impact Structure 

For responses where your actions had a concrete impact on your peers, community, family or a particular organization — you solved a problem; you overcame a challenge.

Personal Growth Structure

For responses where your actions led you to change as a person — you improved your skills; you learned to see yourself (or others) differently.

Passions Structure

For responses where you pursue a deep interest — a subject, topic, activity or experience that's particularly meaningful to you.

Why the Structures Work

All 8 of the PIQ topics require you to write about an experience in which you (a) achieve a concrete impact; or (b) grow; or (c) pursue a meaningful passion. That means these three simple structures will see you through all four of your responses.

These structures work well because they allow you to say a lot in few words, and ensure your content is compelling and easy to understand. For example:

  • The Impact Structure asks you to write about your impact in a quantitative way. That greatly helps admission officers understand how impressive the accomplishment really was.
  • The Personal Growth Structure focuses on your "growth," making it clear to the admission officers how you improved.
  • The Passions Structure dives deep into your interest.

Note that it's fine to use the same structure four times. What matters is that the structure fits the experience you're writing about. Here's a quick & dirty chart showing how the three structures work.

If you'd like more guidance with each of these structures, create a free Prompt account to access an outlining tool (also free) that will get you most of the way toward writing these responses. It's got helpful hints and examples. (Once you have an account, on the homepage, click Dashboard, then Content.)

Attribution: This article was provided by, the world leader in admissions essay coaching and feedback.