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How to write the 2020-2021 USC Supplemental Essays

by Rebecca Acree, on Sep 11, 2020 12:13:45 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 our guide to tackling 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. Can you think of 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 that are passionate about learning, who will take advantage of the wide variety of classes the school has to offer. This second choice of prompts gives you the opportunity to show the ways that 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 about yourself, but remember that it’s always best to show using action! Aside from that, though, you pretty much have free reign to respond however you like — as long as you’re telling a story that will help readers understand who you are as a person and a student, in ways that are not repetitive of 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, just focus on: a) what your real interests are, and b) how those interests fit into the story you’re telling in the rest 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: Describe yourself in 3 words. (25 characters) 

You have just 25 characters at your disposal here, so be direct and concise. 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

Question 4: Describe your/the… (100 words) 

  • 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 great chance for USC readers to get to know you as a complete person — not just a college applicant, 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 words, so be very careful with your word choice, and don’t waste time trying to be cute or clever. But feel free to let your authentic personality shine through! 

Next steps

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Topics:college admissions