In these times of extreme competition for admission to the UC's (and many other colleges), whatever essays are submitted by an applicant really should be written in a controlled environment.
I think it is fair to presume that some applicants are getting much more "help" than others with their essays.
There are solid reasons for not administering the SAT/ACT tests as "take home" exams. Essays critical to admissions assessment should be administered in a similar manner.
Photo provided by Pexels
Admission to UC Berkeley is a two-step process: satisfying college and major requirements and selection. All achievement—both academic and nonacademic/personal—is considered in the context of your educational circumstances, with an emphasis on the opportunities or challenges presented to you and your response to them. No single attribute or characteristic guarantees the admission of any applicant to Berkeley.
Personal insight questions | UC Admissions
Photo provided by Flickr
It's easy to overthink essays for college applications. Students often feel pressure to be clever, to use a highly sophisticated vocabulary, or to present qualities that are truly extraordinary. If you're feeling this pressure, take a deep breath and step back for some perspective. The essay is simply a piece of the application that helps the admissions folks get to know you better. If your essay is well written and is true to you--that is, if it honestly presents your interests and personality--then you have succeeded with your essay.