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How to write the 2021-2022 University of Southern California (USC) supplemental essays

by Story2 Staff, on Jul 24, 2021 5:51:11 PM

Hoping to spend your college years in sunny Southern California? USC might be the school for you! But before you make your way to LA, you’ll need to complete USC’s supplemental essays. Their supplements are fairly unique, and they combine a mix of optional and required essay prompts, as well as short-answer questions. 

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Read on for how tackle the USC supplemental essays! 

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USC Essay #1

Applicants must answer one of three different prompts for their first essay, which is limited to 250 words. Below you will find the prompts:

Essay 1, Prompt 1: USC believes that one learns best when interacting with people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Tell us about a time you were exposed to a new idea or when your beliefs were challenged by another point of view. (250 words)

This first option is a perfect opportunity to tell a story, because that’s exactly what it’s asking you to do! College is all about opening your mind and expanding your horizons, and admissions readers at USC want to know that you’re up to the task. Start with a moment from your life when you learned something new, considered an opposing idea, or changed your perspective on something.

Essay 1, Prompt 2: USC faculty place an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic opportunities. Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning. (250 words)

USC is looking for students who are passionate about learning, who will take advantage of the wide variety of classes the school has to offer. This second choice gives you the opportunity to show ways you’ve demonstrated such curiosity. How have you sought out learning opportunities, outside of your high school curriculum? You’re not limited to strictly academic learning! It could be a new skill or hobby — anything that you’re interested in exploring further during college. 

Essay 1, Prompt 3: What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you?

Since this third option is so direct, you might be tempted to just tell readers what you think, but remember that it’s usually stronger to show yourself in action, not just in your own thoughts! Aside from that, though, you pretty much have free rein to respond however you like — so be honest and have fun with it, in ways that don't repeat info from other parts of your application. 

USC Essay #2

Question 2: Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (250 words)

This prompt offers a chance to dig into your academic interests and how they match up with the programs available at USC. The admissions committee doesn’t expect you to know exactly what you want to study in college, so instead of worrying about the “right” choice, focus on what your real interests are now and how you see those interests playing out in college and afterwards. Can you show how those interests fit with other parts of your application? Since this question is forward-looking, keep your focus on why and how you want to explore these interests at USC, rather than how you became interested in them in the first place. 

USC Essay #3

Question 3: Starting with the beginning of high school/secondary school, if you have had a gap where you were not enrolled in school during a fall or spring term, please address this gap in your educational history. You do not need to address a summer break. (250 words) 

This question really only applies to people who took a gap year or were not enrolled in school during a fall or spring term. If this applies to you, share what you did during that time and be honest about it. Whether you volunteered, worked, travelled, or were in any other sort of circumstance, find a moment or two that demonstrates the impact that that moment had on you. If this doesn't apply to you, you don't need to answer it.

USC Short Answer Questions

Questions 1 to 3 (one box is for each word): Describe yourself in 3 words. (25 characters each) 

Avoid cliches like “hard-working,” “studious,” or “energetic,” and get creative! What three traits do you want readers to know about you that are not sufficiently covered elsewhere in your application? The traits you choose don’t have to be entirely new revelations, but make sure that you provide some new insight with your choices. 

USC Essay #4

Questions 4 to 12: What is your/the… (100 characters each) 

  • Favorite snack
  • Favorite app/website
  • Best movie of all time
  • Hashtag to describe yourself
  • Dream job
  • Theme song
  • Dream trip
  • TV show will you binge watch next
  • Place you are most content
  • Well-known person or fictional character that would be your ideal roommate
  • Favorite book
  • Topic you would teach a class on 

This is a chance for USC readers to get to know you as a person — not just numbers, but a real person with hobbies, interests, and dreams that are not strictly related to academics. As always, be genuine, and don’t worry about finding the right answer, because there isn’t one! Each response is limited to 100 characters, so be very concise and specific with your word choice, and don’t waste time trying to be cute or clever. Do let your authentic personality shine through! 

Next steps

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Topics:college admissions