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College Essay Series: Writing the Academic Interest Essay (UC Prompt #6)

Updated: Feb 22

Students who truly love a school subject can’t get enough of it in the classroom, so they will continue learning and applying their knowledge outside the classroom. The sixth essay prompt from the University of California Application invites students to discuss this:

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Don’t write a love letter to your favorite subject.

The most tempting thing to do in this space, especially if you really love the topic, is to rhapsodize about your favorite subject in school. After all, if you love rockets, you probably have lots to say about rockets. Or, if you’re into psychology, you might want to tell us all about the human brain. Unfortunately, though, this defeats your college essay, which must in all cases be an essay about you.

So, just like with all the other essays, make sure you are the primary focus of the essay. “I” should be the subject of most of the sentences, and “I” should be doing lots of action verbs to show how you apply the subject.

You need to apply the academic subject, ideally outside the classroom.

It’s not enough to know the subject, or to be learning it in the essay. Even though “know” and “learn” are grammatically active verbs, they are passive in idea. If you know, you’ve got something in your head; if you learn, you’re sponging up knowledge, but not doing anything with it. Instead, you should be applying your knowledge (doing new things with it) inside and outside the classroom.

The prompt asks you to tell how you furthered the academic subject, and this is the key word of the prompt. Replace “furthered” with action verbs that tell what you did with the academic subject, beyond just learning it. Come up with a big list, so that you have options to pick and choose from. Then, incorporate your favorites into your outline. Make sure at least half of your verbs are happening outside the classroom, as those actions will have required more motivation for you to accomplish.

Be ready to show us how you exemplify knowledge in action… simply knowing stuff isn’t enough for you!

Get specific.

Don’t write a broad essay about math or history. Zoom in as much as possible and show something specific. Think about individual lessons you’ve learned. Then, maybe you can even zoom in further to show a specific topic from a specific lesson. Your essay focus is not likely to become too narrow, so don’t stop yourself.


  • Instead of “history,” show how you used Henry Ford’s assembly line to create the homecoming float right before the deadline.

  • Instead of “physics,” show how you used convex and concave mirrors to install safety mirrors in your apartment complex’s parking garage.

  • Instead of “geometry,” show how you used trigonometry to create the plans for your Eagle Scout project.

  • Instead of “botany,” show how you correctly identified the various plants in the local botanical garden and labeled them in English and Latin, color-coding the native and non-native plants.

When you look at the specific topic, it’s hard to imagine how you would have known what to write for the original one! You could have rambled about anything in that “I love history” essay.