About the University of California Santa Barbara
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Undergraduate Population: 23,460
Most Popular Majors: Sociology, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Communication, Global Studies, Marine Biology
Motto: Fiat lux (“Let there be light”)
Asian/Asian American 20.4%
Black/African American 1.7%
Native American less than 1%
The University of California Santa Barbara started as the Anna Blake School in 1891. Initially, the school offered training in home economics and industrial arts. The Anna Blake School was taken over by the state government in 1909 and became the Santa Barbara State Normal School, which then became the Santa Barbara State College in 1921. In 1944, an interest group in the City of Santa Barbara persuaded the State Legislature, the governor of California, and the Regents of the University of California to shift the State College to the more research-oriented University of California system.
From 1944 to 1958, the school was known as Santa Barbara College of the University of California, before taking on its current name. Originally, the regents envisioned a liberal arts college with only a few thousand students. However, the significant population increase after World War II created the need for bigger research universities, and the University expanded accordingly
Until 1958, the campus’s strongest and most famous program was its Department of Industrial Arts. The Regents saw the department as beneath the prestige of a research university and eliminated it, despite protests from its counterparts at other colleges and universities as well as California high schools. The UCSB College of Letters and Science was created in 1961. This was followed in 1962 by the Foundation of Education and Engineering schools. In 1967, the College of Creative Studies, one of the first of its kind, was established.Today, the university offers 90 majors through three undergraduate colleges.
Notable University of California Santa Barbara alumni include musician Steve Aoki, actress Aja Naomi King, Founder of TMZ Harvey Levin, filmmaker Gregg Araki, and writer and artist Chanel Miller.
- Toward the end of spring quarter each year, UCSB hosts Extravaganza, an annual music festival. Lineups have included musicians such as Kendrick Lamar, Charli XCX, Drake, and Snoop Dogg.
- Since the mid-1990s, UCSB Gaucho fans have become nationally notorious for chucking tortillas onto the court or field at televised games. Although eventually tortilla-throwing was banned from UCSB basketball games, fans still occasionally throw tortillas during soccer games at Harder Stadium.
- Every spring, UCSB First, the campus organization dedicated to philanthropy, hosts an annual Senior Pancake Breakfast as a way to bid farewell to the graduating class.
- Students enroll in one of three undergraduate colleges—the College of Letters and Science, the College of Engineering, or the College of Creative Studies.
- The College of Creative Studies offers an unstructured curriculum to about 400 students ready for advanced and independent work in their field. It offers eight majors in a small academic community ideal for self-directed students—Art, Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computing, Marine Science, Mathematics, Music Composition, Physics, and Writing and Literature.
- UC Santa Barbara is known for its unique Global Studies program, which combines language study with global history, culture, economics, and politics.
Average GPA: 4.29
Test Scores (mid-50% range): Test blind
Admit Rate: 25.8%
Test-optional? Test blind
Offers Early Admissions? No
Alongside other UC schools, the University of California Santa Barbara asks students the following questions, known as Personal Insight Questions, or PIQs. Applicants must choose four of the eight questions to answer. Each response should be no more than 350 words.
- Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
- Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
- What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
- Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
- 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?
- Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
- What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
- Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California
When approaching the UC PIQs, think about which prompts will give admissions officers the best sense of who you are and what you care about. Remember that you only need to answer four of them, so you should choose the prompts that are most relevant to your own experience. To make the most of your PIQs, keep this advice in mind:
- Focus on you. Whatever the question, consider your experience: what you did, felt, thought, or learned. If you’re describing a challenge you faced or a subject that inspires you, for example, it’s very easy to spend a lot of your essay writing about the challenge or what you like to study. But that doesn’t tell admissions officers much about you. What did you feel when you faced your challenge, and what concrete steps did you take to overcome it? What excites you about a particular academic subject, and how have you actively pursued it?
- Highlight impact. The prompts about leadership and community are specifically asking about your contributions, but there are other ways to make an impact as well. When writing your essays, think about where and how you’ve made a positive difference.
- Provide depth. Some of these prompts could probably be answered by writing on topics you’ve listed in the Activities and Awards section–this can be a great place to look for a topic you want to say more about. If you feel like the description you gave in that section tells most of the story, it’s probably not a good topic for a PIQ. You want topics that will let you add your perspective and showcase who you are, not just what you participated in.
- Think outside the box. Leadership doesn’t have to mean a title, creativity doesn’t have to be artistic, and your community doesn’t have to be your school or a local organization. Leadership can be mentoring others or organizing a project or event. You can be creative in how you approach problems or make connections between ideas. And a community can be geographically diverse, as long as there is mutual connection and influence within it.
For more tips on common supplemental essay prompts, see our blog post here.