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10 Great Essay Writing Tips

how to write the usc essays

Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.

Prepare to Answer the Question

Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.

how to write the usc essays

Plan Your Essay

Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.

Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable

You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.

how to write the usc essays

View It as a Conversation

Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.

how to write the usc essays

Provide the Context in the Introduction

If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.

how to write the usc essays

Explain What Needs to be Explained

Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.

how to write the usc essays

Answer All the Questions

After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.

how to write the usc essays

Stay Focused as You Write

Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.

how to write the usc essays

Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread

When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.

how to write the usc essays

Avoid Filling the Page with Words

A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.


how to write the usc essays

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how to write the usc essays

How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

The University of Southern California has a few supplemental essays and creative short answers that students must complete. Your essays are one of the only opportunities you’ll have to show an admissions officer who you are beyond the numbers, and with USC’s many different prompts, it’s clear this school wants you to seize that opportunity.

Here are our tips for responding to the USC essays in a way that will help your application stand out!

Read this USC essay example to inspire your own writing.

USC Supplemental Essay Prompts

Prompt 1: 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).

Prompt 2 (Optional): 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).

Short Answer Prompts: Respond to all the prompts below (100 characters unless otherwise specified)

  • Describe yourself in three words (25 characters each)
  • What is your favorite snack?
  • Best movie of all time
  • If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
  • What TV show will you binge watch next?
  • Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?
  • Favorite Book
  • If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

Dornsife Applicants Prompt: Many of us have at least one issue or passion that we care deeply about — a topic on which we would love to share our opinions and insights in hopes of sparking intense interest and continued conversation. If you had ten minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your talk be about? (250 words)

Prompt 1 (Required)

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)..

The tricky bit about this prompt is that it essentially combines the “ Why This Major ” and “ Why This College ” essay archetypes into one essay with a strict cap of 250 words. That’s a lot of information in not a whole lot of space, which might feel overwhelming. The first thing you should do is figure out the content of your essay.

Step One: Think about your academic interests (i.e. your majors). 

  • How did your interests develop? 
  • Why are you passionate about your interests? 
  • What are your goals within your interests?
  • How will pursuing your major help you achieve your goals in life? 

Step Two: Think about the answers to those questions in relation to USC. 

  • How will USC help you to further develop your interests? 
  • What resources does the university have that will help you achieve your goals? 

While your essay should explore resources that will aid in your academic pursuits, you should also keep it as specific to USC as possible—this essay should not be able to be copied and pasted for any other university! Here’s an example of how to achieve the specificity you need:

Bad: USC is a great school, located in the beautiful city of Los Angeles, with unparalleled academics and renowned instructors.

Why is this bad? This sentence could just as easily apply to UCLA. Without the bit about Los Angeles, the reasoning could even apply to any decent school in existence.

Good: At USC, I plan to participate in the Joint Educational Project (JEP) to find a community of students who, like me, are passionate about the intersections of teaching and social justice. Through JEP, I will be able to actively use the teaching principles I learn in my classes about the Dynamics of Early Childhood.

Why is this good? It references a unique resource at USC and relates to the student’s academic interests.

The Final Step: Write a cohesive essay that tells admissions officers why you are pursuing your field and why USC is the right place for you to pursue it. Some examples could include:

  • An Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering student who was obsessed with the launching of the Antares rocket, movies like Gattaca and The Martian , and their physics summer camp as a middle schooler. They could describe their goal of working for NASA, then discussing their interest in the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL).
  • An English student who ultimately wants to write romance novels discussing the Creative Writing Hour series that is hosted by English faculty. They might want to reference some of the big-name professors at USC—like Maggie Nelson, Aimee Bender, Dana Johnson, and T.C. Boyle—who have inspired their love of writing.
  • A Fine Arts applicant mentioning the Fisher Museum of Art that is on USC’s campus. It was after a school field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) that they first tried working with graphite and learned of their life goals. They know the power of art museums for inspiration and are excited to have a constant source of inspiration just minutes away.

If you are worried about the word count, one way to maximize the little space you have is to find a way to relate your first- and second-choice majors. This way, your explanations of each wouldn’t read like separate essays; rather, they would be telling different parts of the same story. A student with a first-choice major in Physics and a second-choice major in English might want to write about their ultimate goal of writing Science Fiction novels. A student with a first-choice major in History and a second-choice major in East Asian Languages and Culture might write about their goal of curating Asian American history museums.

Make sure you focus on your academic interests/goals and tell admissions officers the ways that USC will help your academic dreams come true, and you will be set!

Prompt 2 (Optional)

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)..

USC’s second prompt is optional and won’t apply to most students. However, if you do have a gap in your educational history, then be sure to use this space to address it. Give a brief explanation of the reasoning for the gap—be it illness, a move, etc.—as well as an overview of how you spent this time outside of school. 

For example, let’s say your family moved across the country and you took a term off during the transfer. You can describe your role in the move (perhaps you were in charge of organizing a yard sale), why the circumstances warranted an educational gap (maybe the new school doesn’t allow mid-term transfers), and any other projects or commitments to which you dedicated your time. 

Ideally, you want to demonstrate how you made the most of this time off and why the time off was necessary.

Short Answer Prompts

Required: respond to all the prompts below (100 characters unless otherwise specified), 1. describe yourself in three words (25 characters each).

2. What is your favorite snack?

3. Best movie of all time

4. Dream job

5. If your life had a theme song, what would it be?

6. Dream trip

7. What TV show will you binge watch next?

8. Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?

9. Favorite Book

10. If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

In this section, USC lets you have a little fun. The questions ask for short, rapid-fire responses that give you the opportunity to let your individuality shine.

The most important thing to keep in mind with the short answer supplements is that USC is asking you to provide new information that sheds light on different aspects of your personality. 

Don’t repeat tidbits you’ve already mentioned, although you can and should develop new angles of themes you’ve already established. Most importantly, have fun in this section! If you’re having fun writing it, chances are your admissions officer will have fun reading it.

You can leave descriptions or notes in your responses, though remember that you have 100 characters max. If your choices are more offbeat, we recommend giving a brief description, as your admissions officer certainly won’t have the time to look things up. If your choices are pretty well-known, you can still leave a note about why you chose them (as in the sample response to #8). It’s another opportunity to share your personality, which is valuable!

1. Describe yourself in three words (25 characters max each).

Example: Cinephile. Cynophile. Logophile. 

Tip: Be creative!

Example: My Gram’s Lebuchken, tiny gingerbread-esque German cakes that my family devours each holiday season.

Tip: This is an opportunity to show your roots or quirky favorites. Make your response more interactive by including descriptive words that appeal to the senses, especially taste and smell. Also, if you’re using another language or describing a less common food, feel free to provide a short description or explanation so that someone who’s never heard of it before can still imagine it.

Example: October Sky; Homer’s rockets remind me of my own homemade science creations, like my DIY lava lamp.

Tip: A lot of applicants will write Harry Potter . Be genuine in your response, but take this opportunity to stand out rather than providing a generic answer.

Example: A math professor; sharing my love of topology to positively shape students’ view of the subject. 

Example: Crossword Puzzle Writer; my mornings aren’t complete without a cup of OJ and my daily brain teaser.

Tip: If you go with a serious answer, make a clear connection to your major to show that you’re focused on your academic path. Don’t give a generic answer like “doctor” or “lawyer;” talk about what specialty or subfield interests you most. That said, you could also go for a more lighthearted answer, like a crossword puzzle writer, to use the space to show personality.

Example: The [TV show] Intro; I’d like to think of myself as a [character], but I have to admit I’m more of an [character]. 

Example: Happy Birthday by AJR – a catchy tune with funny/sarcastic lyrics about the reality of modern life.

Tip: Just as with the best movie prompt, you may want to avoid mainstream selections and instead put forward a title that says something about you. What song would you want the admissions officer to play while reading your application? Make sure the song you choose is appropriate.

Example: Road trip around Iceland’s perimeter; stops include Thingvellir National Park and the Geysir Springs.

Tip: Be more specific than simply “Hawaii” or “Europe.” Also, just as with all the prompts, you want to convey something about yourself in your response, so avoid mainstream or overly luxurious answers.

Example: Aggretsuko (anime about a red panda who relieves job stress by singing death metal at karaoke bars)

Tip: Follow similar guidelines to the theme song prompt—mainstream selections are fine  and are potentially relatable to the reader, but that quirkier show you have your eye on  might make for a more fun response. If your selection is lesser-known, consider adding a brief description.

Example: Rory Gilmore – there definitely won’t be a shortage of coffee or good conversation.

Tip: It’s okay to go with a more well-known character here, since that will allow the  reader to relate. It’s just important to use that extra space to elaborate on why you’d want to live with this person.

9. Favorite book

Example: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – I read the entire book in my favorite pair of Air Max 97s.

Tip: Follow the same advice for best movie of all time.

Example: SETI: Using the Drake Equation to Find E.T., complete with a field trip to outer space!

Tip: You can have some fun with this prompt; try thinking outside the box of the generic  “Intro to Calculus.” You can also have the class relate back to your intended major,  though that’s not absolutely necessary.

Dornsife Prompt (Required)

Many of us have at least one issue or passion that we care deeply about — a topic on which we would love to share our opinions and insights in hopes of sparking intense interest and continued conversation. if you had ten minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your talk be about (250 words).

This prompt requires less deep thought than the former. The “education” prompt asks students to think deeply about a question they have probably never thought about before, while this prompt asks you “what are you thinking about all the time?”  

If an idea comes to mind when you first read this prompt, that’s probably where you should start. USC is not looking for wild answers where students turn the holes in swiss cheese into a complex metaphor—they really just want to hear what you care about. That being said, what you care about can totally be weird or nuanced, as long as your interest in the subject tells admissions officers something about you.

Some examples of how you could work this prompt:

  • Writing about a social justice issue. Introducing a specific anecdote (that you would introduce during your hypothetical talk). Providing insightful and unique commentary on the issue—whether that be how we got here or where we should go from here.
  • Writing about a school of thought in science or philosophy. Explaining the importance of certain types of questions. Giving specific examples (historical, fictional, and anecdotal) that show that you have thought through the importance of rationalism, taoism, sensationalism, or any other school.
  • Writing about a lecture on a specific book. Discussing how White Teeth, Giovanni’s Room, or Moby Dick tells multiple important life lessons in one pretty package. Drawing connections between the fictional world and the real world.
  • Writing about the valuable lessons that can be learned from another culture. Introducing stories from your past that show the value of Japanese respect, Persian hospitality, or Indian selflessness. Recognizing negative aspects of cultures, but recognizing the lessons that can be learned when you take the time to learn them.

While these are just some examples, this prompt leaves the door open for you to explore whatever you care about. Because this essay is the simpler option, make sure that your writing is impeccable if you choose this second prompt. Engage with anecdotes and a unique personal voice to keep your essay engaging. Don’t give the reader the option to stop reading!

Where to Get Your USC Essays Edited for Free

Do you want feedback on your USC essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools.  Find the right advisor for you  to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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how to write the usc essays

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USC Essay Examples

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USC Essay Examples – Introduction 

If you’ve been searching for USC Essay Examples, you’re in the right place. The University of Southern California is a private university located in Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1880, USC has 21,000 undergraduates and is a premier research university in the United States. So, it’s no surprise that the USC admissions is very competitive. The most recent USC acceptance rate was under 12% , lower than the average USC acceptance rate of 16%. 

USC has a total undergraduate enrollment of 20,790 students, as of Fall 2021. It is ranked #25 in the U.S. News College Rankings. Its ranking, paired with the low USC acceptance rate, qualifies USC as a very competitive university. According to their website , most first-year students were in the top 10% of their high school class.

An Overview of USC Application Requirements

To understand how to get into USC, you must thoroughly examine the USC application requirements. This includes the USC supplemental essays. In this article about USC essay examples, we’ll look at USC essays that worked. We’ll also provide a breakdown of why these USC supplemental essay examples were effective. That way, you can learn how to write the best USC essay.

Let’s take a closer look at the USC application requirements. When you apply, you’ll submit several USC supplemental essays in addition to your Common App or Coalition App personal statement . Below, we will go through each of the USC essay prompts for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle. We’ll also provide USC essay examples and USC supplemental essays examples. 

How many supplemental essays does USC have?

Technically there are 12-13 USC supplemental essays. However, don’t let that number scare you. Most of these are short answer essays, which are much easier to write than the typical supplemental essay.

The USC application only requires you to write one or two 250-word supplemental essays depending on your choice of major. You’ll also complete 10 short answer essays and one optional 250-word essay.

You should mostly focus on the required USC essay (or essays). Most students will only complete the required USC essay prompts. We’ll explore some USC supplemental essays examples—or USC essays that worked—later on in this article. That way, you can understand how to craft a successful USC essay.

Essays are a key part of the USC application requirements. So, use these USC essay examples as a blueprint. Then, model your USC essays after our USC supplemental essays examples. Remember, the USC essays are a way for USC admissions to learn more about your unique experiences. By reading your USC essays, USC learns who you are beyond the numbers and why you belong on campus. 

As of this year, USC admissions is test-optional . This means that the SAT/ACT is not part of the USC application requirements. If you don’t submit test scores, writing strong USC supplemental essays is even more important. So, make sure you understand why these USC supplemental essays examples stood out. Read these USC essay examples of USC essays that worked to learn what will make your USC essay shine.

What are the USC essay prompts?

Usc supplemental essay requirements for 2022-2023.

  • 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. (Approximately 250 words) (REQUIRED)
  • 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. (OPTIONAL)

The second USC essay prompt listed above is optional and is not included in the USC application requirements. So, we have not included it in our USC supplemental essays examples. If this prompt applies to your experience, you should answer it. Try to be straightforward and honest about your personal reasons for having a gap in your educational history. 

USC Short Answer Essays

For the USC application requirements, applicants are also asked to complete 10 short-answer questions. These are not the same length as the USC supplemental essays or the other USC supplemental essays examples. They have a 25-100 character limit. 

The short answer USC supplemental essays are:

  • Describe yourself in three words. 
  • What is your favorite snack?
  • Best movie of all time:

If your life had a theme song, what would it be?

Dream trip:, what tv show will you binge watch next, which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate, favorite book:, if you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be.

These short answer USC supplemental essays, or “ short takes ,” are designed to help USC get to know you personally. These are more straightforward than the longer “Why USC” essay examples that we’ll look at. So, don’t stress yourself out trying to choose the perfect answer! This could be a chance to showcase parts of your personality that aren’t clear from the rest of your USC application. 

When reading this article on USC essay examples, keep in mind that the USC essay prompts are subject to change. That means the USC essay examples below will not match perfectly to the USC essay prompts above. They also might not match USC essay examples from other previous years.

However, these USC essay examples that worked can still provide insight into what makes USC supplemental essays successful. This can help you learn how to make your USC essay stand out to the USC admissions committee. 

USC essay examples

usc essay examples

First, we’ll go over the two longer USC essay prompts. Then, we’ll analyze some USC essay examples—not just any examples, but specifically USC essays that worked. 

The first of our USC essay examples answers a USC essay prompt from a previous year. Though this question is not available this year, it can still be helpful. Remember, the USC supplemental essays give you the chance to highlight aspects of your identity and beliefs. As these USC supplemental essays examples demonstrate, when writing your USC supplemental essay, you should reveal something unique about your experiences. 

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)

Usc essay examples #1.

“Maybe I’m playing the devil’s advocate here, but rural white Americans have been marginalized by our economy. Think about coal-miners whose livelihoods depend on this job. Imagine how threatening global warming policies would be.” Silence. Shock was discernible in the sideways glances of my peers, who like me, were processing this statement.

I attend a private Christian high school. Located in the heart of Hollywood, it has exposed me to diversity of many kinds: religious, racial, and socioeconomic. However, the majority of us hold the same political views, hence our aforementioned reaction. Here he was– teaching at a liberal L.A. high school– asking us to consider the opposing perspective. In this climate of increasing political polarization, his proposition was refreshing. I found solace in this newfound ability to analyze current issues through an academic lens and explore different perspectives in the safety of our classroom. These discussions helped me recognize and overcome my own unconscious bias for the sake of learning, which ultimately expanded my worldview.

At a crossroads to either remain happily entrapped in the bubble of my beliefs, or expose myself to new perspectives, I chose the path of most resistance, bursting the bubble of political ignorance that threatens to divide people. Rather than delegitimizing different outlooks, I will embrace diversity at USC, listening to every perspective with an open mind. Though I initially misunderstood him, I realize now that my teacher had the right mentality; we could all stand to play the devil’s advocate once in a while.

Why did this USC essay work?

To write one of the many USC essays that worked, you must tell a concise and thoughtful story. Your essay should highlight aspects of your personality not seen elsewhere in your application.

As the first of our USC supplemental essays examples demonstrates, many successful USC supplemental essays also describe a personal change. This USC essay example shows the admissions committee that this applicant is a critical thinker with the ability to self-reflect. 

Of course, we don’t know who the writers of these USC supplemental essays examples are. Still, this essay discusses a piece of the writer’s experience likely not clear from their extracurriculars or intended major . Successful USC essay examples, however, should highlight a student’s character. Whether the author is a pre-med student or a history buff, their understanding of political polarization adds depth and to their profile. In this USC essay example, we don’t just learn who the author is. We also learn how they think and how they would operate on USC’s campus.

Growth narrative

Crucially, this USC essay example does not just describe an experience. It also focuses on the personal growth the student underwent. When thinking about what experiences to write about for your USC supplementals, ask yourself: how did this experience change me? What were my views on myself and the world before this experience, and what were my views after? As shown in the best of our USC supplemental essays examples, this essay demonstrates that the student has undergone a change in perspective. 

Additionally, our USC supplemental essays examples are well-structured and concise. This essay is no exception. When you only have 250 words to tell a story, a clear structure is paramount. By choosing to start with a quote from a teacher and moving into an anecdote, the writer immediately puts us, the readers, in their place. In this USC essay example, an anecdote serves as the “hook” for the essay. It engages the reader and makes them listen to what the author has to say.

As the author of these USC supplemental essays examples demonstrates, you should “hook” your reader with an attention-grabbing statement. Then, use the rest of your essay to tell your story. The writer’s use of an anecdote in their USC essay example grabs our attention. It makes us want to finish reading their USC supplemental essay—and offer them a spot at USC.

Why USC Essay Examples

The next two USC supplemental essays examples are examples of the “Why USC?” essay. The “Why USC” essay serves to convey to the USC admissions committee why you belong at USC. It does so through two “whys”: first, why you would like to go to USC, and second, why USC admissions should accept you.

In these USC supplemental essays examples, the writers detail their academic plans. They also highlight why USC is the best place for them to pursue those plans. Read these two USC essay examples to see how these students used their USC supplemental essays to enhance their USC applications. 

Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (Max 250 words)

Why usc essay examples #1.

Eleven years of dancing have given me a unique fascination for human biology. With each grand jeté and every pirouette, the biological systems in my body—circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and skeletal—operate together in their own constant dance, their harmonious movement choreographed by the brain. I am amazed by our bodies’ complexity, present even in the simplest of acts (it takes just eight muscles to point my toes). I’ve chosen to major in Human Biology, confident it will satisfy the insatiable curiosity I developed in dance class. Not only would its core requirements build upon what I’ve already explored in high school, it would allow me to delve into topics that pique my interest: genetics, evolutionary medicine, and neurobiology. 

While Human Biology would stimulate my intellect, my second choice major—Global Health— would challenge me to apply biology to the real world. Through this interdisciplinary major, I would be expanding various science-based courses to the humanities through electives like AIDS in Society and Cultural Competence in Medicine. Both of these majors are career-oriented and excite me to be a Trojan.

Although my ultimate goal is to become a doctor (possibly a neurologist), I am very passionate about doing missionary work in Peru after I finish pre-med. Applying my medical studies to serving impoverished Peruvian communities would give purpose to my family’s sacrifices for my education, and it would answer the question I have always asked myself: How can I make the greatest change in the world?

Let’s take a closer look at the second of our USC supplemental essays examples. As one of our “Why USC” essay examples, it focuses on specific majors and courses that will help the applicant achieve their career goals. When writing a “why USC” essay, or any “Why this college” essay, consider specificity . This student could study biology anywhere, so why should they study it at USC?

Their answer in this USC supplemental is clear, thoughtful, and well-explained. In the first of our Why USC essay examples, the student highlights USC’s majors of Human Biology and Global Health . It shows how these programs would provide the interdisciplinary education that this student is looking for. The unique electives will not only help the student on their way to becoming a doctor; they would also contribute to their humanitarian passions. 

usc essay examples

A great hook

The “hook” of this why USC essays examples also makes it special. The student weaves dance,  one of their extracurriculars, into why they want to study human biology . In number two of our USC supplemental essays examples, this student employs a creative tactic to uniting two seemingly disparate interests: dance and a career in medicine. If the USC admissions committee were just reading this student’s resume and intended major without their USC supplemental, they would have no idea how this students’ hours of dance practice related to their dreams of becoming a doctor . Compared to other Why USC essay examples, this essay adds crucial information to the student’s USC application. 

Why USC Essay Examples #2

Captivated by connections between biology, public policy, and the social sciences, I hope to pursue a career in healthcare leadership that, uniting these fields, enables me to enhance the health and wellbeing of broad populations. USC’s strong focus on interdisciplinary exploration within and outside the classroom would encourage me to develop the necessary capacity to collaborate across multiple pathways, while building a deep understanding of the systems and complexities underlying the challenges of managing population health.

The Global Health and Health Promotion & Disease Prevention majors would allow me to explore these complexities through courses such as Case Studies in Global Health, which surveys different international responses to healthcare crises. Through Behavioral Medicine and Biological & Behavioral Basis of Disease, I could pursue my interests in psychology and study with faculty who focus on systemic connections, like one professor’s investigations into the overlap between behavioral health and biological stress responses. 

USC’s interconnectedness extends beyond pure academics—working with the Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, particularly the Ensuring Human Rights in Family Planning & Contraceptive Programs initiative, could provide valuable hands-on experience navigating social issues in a medical context. Similarly, the USC Inter-Health Council would provide unique opportunities to interact with diverse groups within a healthcare framework.

Increasingly, healthcare advances come with pressing questions about how to most efficiently and equitably manage them for the greatest public impact. USC’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning offers the perfect environment to develop the multifaceted knowledge and creativity needed to successfully address these challenges.

Similar to the previous example, the third of our three USC supplemental essays examples shines in its specificity. The student who wrote the second one of these Why USC essay examples clearly has done their research. They list multiple unique opportunities that only USC could offer. They have gone further than only looking at class listings and professors. In fact, they specifically address the organizations that they could only access at USC. 

Moreover, the third of these USC supplemental essays examples strikes a great balance . First, it shows that the student has done research about USC for their USC application. However, it does so while showcasing the student’s personal passions and goals.

In this USC essay, the student first details their own desire to “pursue a career in healthcare leadership” that would affect broad change. They also explain their need for an interdisciplinary course to achieve this goal. Then, finally, they explain how USC offered the best possible education for their personal purposes. 

How do I write a USC supplemental essay?

Now that you’ve read some USC essay examples that worked, you might wonder about your own USC essay. So, how can you write a USC essay that is as successful as these USC supplemental essays examples?

The key to supplemental essays is in the name: they should supplement your application materials. Your USC supplemental essays should add depth to your USC application. In doing so, they should help the USC admissions committee understand who you are. We can assume that our USC essay examples each added a piece to the puzzle of the writer’s identity. For example, the student who wrote about how dance inspired their interest in Human Biology. 

Three key criteria to keep in mind while considering how to write your USC supplemental essays are:

  • Personality

In the USC example essay about different perspectives, we see how structure plays a role in how we read an essay. The essay had a clear beginning, middle, and end. It started with a particular experience, told us how that experience changed the student, and ended with how the student would act at USC given the lesson they had learned. 

When writing a USC supplemental, content means: what is this essay about? No topic is off-limits (though we would discourage you from choosing overly-done topics like winning the big game, overcoming a sports injury, going on a mission trip, or dealing with a loss). Overall, whatever you choose should be meaningful to you. Writing about something that matters to you will automatically make your essay stronger. It will also demonstrate that you are a passionate individual. In the third USC essay example, you can tell that the writer cares deeply about pursuing a career in health leadership. The USC essay is focused and clear. 

Personality in your essays

When thinking about how personality factors into your supplemental, think about authenticity. What are the things that make you, you? Think of the author of the second USC essay example. In their USC essay, they combine their dance extracurricular with their desire to study medicine. Then, they close the essay with a statement of their desire to make a positive impact on the world.

At first glance, these are all unrelated ideas. However, by using a comprehensive structure, the writer showcases many aspects of their personality in only 250 words. As long as you steer clear of anything too personal (ask yourself: would you discuss this at the dinner table?), you are free to highlight your unique strengths and traits in your supplemental.

USC states on their website that they look for “a diverse group of students who represent a vast array of perspectives and passions, who will enrich each other’s education by challenging each other, inside the classroom and out.” They expect your essay and short answer responses to help them “get to know your personality and your voice.” So, use your USC essays to showcase your unique perspective. Throughout your USC application, try to show USC admissions how you would contribute to the community. 

Additional Tips to Write the USC Supplemental Essays

usc essay examples

Let’s break down this USC supplemental essay. This USC essay prompt asks you to explain your academic interests and how you plan to pursue them at USC. The USC essay can include your first and second choice major selections. Though this is seemingly optional, it is recommended. In fact, both of the USC essay examples detailed in this article list multiple major choices. 

Of course, a plan to pursue your academic interests must involve choosing a major. So, you should first reflect on what major you want to pursue at USC. If you’re not sure how to choose, USC has its own suggestions on how to select a major . Remember, whatever major you choose, you can always change it once you are admitted to the school. The USC admissions team just wants to understand how your academic interests will manifest at USC. So, you need to detail specific programs and majors that you are interested in. Look at our Why USC Essay examples above if you need inspiration for your USC supplemental.


Once you have decided on your intended USC major, you can begin brainstorming for your USC essay. Think long term—what do you hope to achieve with your USC education? How can USC help you not only follow your academic interests but, more importantly, achieve your larger goals? Remember the second of our “Why USC” essay examples: without knowing the author’s goal of becoming a leader in healthcare leadership, we wouldn’t understand the importance of pursuing an interdisciplinary education. 

Also, always remember to highlight your personality. If you don’t share your unique story in your USC supplemental, your essay won’t enrich your USC application. If the USC admissions committee comes away from your USC essay learning more about USC than they do about you, then you haven’t done a thorough job with your USC supplemental essays.

USC Short Answer Essay Examples

When writing your short USC supplemental essays, don’t overthink it! Have fun with these ones. As long as you don’t say anything offensive or inappropriate, you can answer honestly. 

Remember that even though these questions are short and fun, you’re not answering them in a vacuum. Each of these questions still contributes to the story your USC application tells. For example, if you have a long list of TV shows to binge-watch, pick the one that best adds to your application– someone interested in animation might pick Bojack Horseman instead of Grey’s Anatomy .

If you need more prompting to spark your creativity, check out our more detailed review of these short USC supplemental essays from a previous year’s guide . 

University of Southern California (USC) Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

How to craft original short answer responses

We’ve gone over some USC essay examples and what made them shine. Now, you might be wondering how to write unique, original short answer responses with only 100 characters. These short answer questions aren’t unlike the other USC supplementals. All USC essays that worked will highlight what makes a certain student unique. For these particularly short USC essays—as with the longer USC essay examples—the most important aspect is that you are true to yourself. 

The second piece of advice to consider when crafting these short answer USC supplemental essays is to pick the most creative choice. As long as you’re answering honestly, you have a lot of room to pick the answer that you think is the most fun or tells the most about how you view the world. But remember: the goal is to create the best possible depiction of yourself, not to be the “perfect” applicant. 

Here are some short USC essay examples to get the brain juices flowing. 

Let’s say I’m a student who is passionate about theater and want to go into K-12 education:

“Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl

Watching an original production of Shakespeare in the Globe Theater

Abbott Elementary

Mrs. Frizzle

The BFG by Roald Dahl

“‘Vocal Adrenaline’? The Science of Singing as Depicted in 21st Century Popular Media”

So, why did these essays work?

As this hypothetical student, I’ve:

  • Listed things that I genuinely care about 
  • Tied my answers into the story of my application ( Abbot Elementary is a show about teaching, The BFG is a well-known children’s book, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” is a musical theater song where the character won’t be stopped from achieving her dreams)
  • Showed creativity and personality in my answers (traveling back in time to see Shakespeare, using the show choir team from Glee as the title of my class on vocal science). 

USC Supplemental Essay Top 5 Tips

With such a low USC acceptance rate, your supplemental essays are crucial to impress the admissions committee. Now that you have read and analyzed these USC essay examples, you are far better prepared to write your USC supplementals. That way, you can create the strongest possible USC application. 

Top 5 Tips for crafting your USC essay prompts:

✔️three key facets.

Remember the three key facets of a good supplemental essay: structure, content, and personality. In USC essays that worked, you’ll find that the author uses a strong structure to convey their ideas. They also make sure their character shines through. Strong USC essay examples paint a vivid picture of who the writer is and how they’d contribute to campus life.

✔️Focus on what matters to you

If you write passionately about something that matters to you, the essay will automatically be more effective. All of the USC essays that worked embody this perspective. So, use our USC essay examples as inspiration. Then, apply what you’ve learned from our Why USC essay examples (and other USC essay examples) to your own writing.

✔️Be detailed and specific

Be specific and do your research—take points from the Why USC essay examples. The more specific you are in your USC essays, the stronger they’ll be. The USC application process is competitive, so you should do all you can to stand out.

✔️Authenticity is key

Be vulnerable —let the USC admissions committee get to know you. As with all aspects of the college admissions process, authenticity is key. Be yourself in your USC supplementals.

✔️ Fill in the gaps

Use your essays to cover any gaps in knowledge that USC might have from the rest of your USC application. 

USC Essay Examples – Final Thoughts and Tips

The best way to become a writer of one of the few “USC essays that worked” is to study USC essay examples. The USC essay prompts change over the years. Still, how to get into USC despite the low USC acceptance rate always depends on the same factors.

Those factors are:

  • Meeting the USC application requirements
  • Crafting strong essays
  • Doing all you can to help the admissions committee paint a comprehensive, compelling picture of who you are

So, use our USC essay examples to jump start your writing process. We hope they help you write clear and compelling USC essays. Finally, for more advice on how to write the best supplemental essays for USC, check out our blogs from previous years.

how to write the usc essays

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College Essays


So you have your heart set on going to the University of Southern California . That's great—it's one of the best schools in the country ! Unfortunately, that makes it tough to get into: only 12% of applicants are admitted each year .

But don't worry. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to write an outstanding USC Writing Supplement .

We'll answer all of your questions, including the following:

  • What is the USC supplement?
  • What are the questions, and how do I answer them?
  • Are there tips and tricks for knocking your USC essays out of the park?
  • What steps do I take to finish my USC application?

Let's get started!

What Is the USC Supplement?

The USC Writing Supplement is an additional part of the USC application that you fill out on the Common App website.

The supplement itself consists of two writing prompts (250 words each) and 12 short-answer questions (100 characters each) . The word limits mean you'll have to cram a lot of information into a small amount of space.

Great USC essays are going to be concise, honest, creative, and engaging . Remember, USC designed the supplement to help admissions counselors get a better sense of your personality. Don't be afraid to embrace your individuality here! It's your chance to share aspects of yourself, your life, and your goals that aren't captured by the Common App.

In other words: this is your time to shine.


Where Can I Find the USC Supplement?

The writing supplement is part of the USC Common Application. Once you've selected USC as one of your colleges, it should pop up in the application portal. If you're not exactly sure how to find it, don't worry ... here's a step-by-step guide!

  • Log into the Common App website using your username and password.
  • Click on the "College Search" tab and look for "University of Southern California."
  • Select the search result and then click "add" to add it to your profile.
  • Return to your dashboard and look for "University of Southern California." Click the label below the school that reads "Show more details."
  • From there, click on the link titled "Writing Questions."
  • You can also access the supplement by clicking on "University of Southern California" and scrolling down the school's home page on the Common App to find a link labeled "Writing Questions."

How Do I Answer the USC Essay Prompts?

The writing supplement contains two short writing prompts designed to showcase both your writing skills and your personality. But because you're limited to 250 words, you need to make every word count .

Here are some general strategies to keep in mind.

#1: Use a Standard Format

It's important that you aren't wasting precious space. A good strategy is to limit your intro/thesis statement and your conclusion to one sentence each . That lets you use the rest of the space to answer the prompt.

#2: Show, Don't Tell

Instead of giving run-of-the-mill answers, use stories and anecdotes to illustrate your point. Paint a picture for your audience when you can!

For example, say you're talking about your love of photography. Instead of writing, "I love to photograph people," see if you can capture the feeling of taking someone's picture.

A better sentence might read, "I love trying to capture people's personalities through my camera lens." The first answer tells us that you enjoy photography, but the second response shows us why you love it .

#3: Edit, Edit, Edit

Don't be disappointed if your first attempt at answering these prompts goes over the word limit. That's OK! Keep cutting and revising until you end up with something great.

Here are a few examples of how you can edit a sentence to make every word work:

  • OK: "It was the very best experience of my whole life."
  • Better: "It was the best experience of my life."
  • Best: "The trip was transformational."
  • Passive: "Geology would be my preferred major."
  • Active: "I plan to major in geology."
  • With "is": "Researching cancer treatments is my ultimate career goal."
  • Without "is": "I plan to pursue a career in cancer research."

#4: Don't Wait Until the Last Minute

The USC supplement is short, so it's tempting to tackle it at the end of the application process. Don't! Writing short responses is harder than it looks, so give yourself plenty of time .


The USC Essay

USC is making things more streamlined this year: everyone answers the same question! Here's the prompt: 

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. 

What Is This Question Asking You to Do? 

No option here: you're stuck with this prompt and limited to 250 words in your response. But that's OK because this is the "Why USC?" question. (It's a version of what we call the "why this college" around here.)

Why do you need to go to USC to fulfill your dreams? Or, put another way: why is USC the only school for you?

This means choosing and discussing your major (and your second-choice major if your program is very competitive). Remember that you're not committed to the major you pick . You can change majors after you've enrolled.

How Do You Answer This Question? 

Research, research, research. Visit the USC website and get to know your college, your department, and the classes offered. Also, take a close look at your major's course of study. If you're going to take classes from other departments, figure out which ones and why. For example, if you're majoring in international relations and want to work in China, you'll probably take foreign language/culture courses (like Advanced Modern Chinese) and political science courses (like Chinese Foreign Policy). Research the professors in the department and mention them by name.

  • Seize the day. There's more to college than going to class. Making the most of USC means getting involved and taking advantage of opportunities such as internships and study abroad programs. There are over 100 international fellowships and programs available through different colleges, so be sure to look into them . Mentioning programs like the Global Fellows Internship (available to all students) or the Maymester , which is a major-specific opportunity, shows that you're serious about making the most of your education at USC.
  • Focus on USC. Your job is to show why USC and nowhere else can help you achieve your dreams.


Optional Essay: Explaining Your Education Gap

Who is this question for.

First thing's first: not everyone needs to answer this question. Only respond to this prompt if you took a semester or more off between high school and enrolling in college, or if you took time off while enrolled in high school.

So if you took a gap year (or two, or three), you should answer this question.

What Is This Question Asking You to Do?

This isn't a trick question. Admissions counselors genuinely want to know why you took time off between high school and starting college. And don't worry if your reason isn't "sexy," like you were rescuing sea turtles off the coast of Argentina or teaching English to underprivileged students in Iowa. For most people, the answers will fall along the lines of getting a job, financial difficulties, or helping out their family.

In short: this question is asking you to honestly explain your education gap so that admissions counselors have a better idea of you and your story.

How Do You Answer the Question?

  • Keep it short and sweet. It's tempting to give admissions counselors every detail of your situation. But the truth is, they only need to know the most pertinent information while still being honest. Remember: you only have 250 words!
  • Explain why you're choosing now to return to school. Counselors are also going to be interested in why you want to go to college now. Be honest about this, too! It's okay to say that you wanted to take some time off to really figure out what you wanted to do with your life, and now you're prepared and excited to throw yourself into your studies. Whatever the case may be, make it clear that you're ready to be an engaged and dedicated student regardless of your education gap.
  • Don't make excuses. This isn't a "woe is me" section. While taking time off between high school and college may have been out of your control, this isn't the time to air your grievances. The best answers to this question will keep things as honest and positive as possible.


Freddie Alequin /Flickr

The USC Short-Answer Questions

On the surface, the short-answer questions seem simple, but many students find this section the hardest part of the supplement . That's because these responses are limited to 100 characters or less—shorter than a tweet!

Here are some general tips to make tackling the USC short-answer questions a breeze:

#1: Maximize the space you have. There's room to elaborate on your answers a bit, and you should.

#2: There are no right answers. Admissions counselors don't have specific responses in mind. This is their way of trying to get to know the person behind the application.

#3: You're more than a major. It's tempting to make every answer tie into your major or future career in some way; instead, your answers should capture who you are as a person and hark back to your academic goals only if it makes sense for them to.

#4: Don't be afraid of a little humor. Embrace being funny but not at someone else's expense. 

#5: Avoid clichés.

#6: Keep it tasteful. If you wouldn't say it to your parents, don't say it to an admissions counselor!

Now that you have some solid strategies, let's look at each question individually.

Questions 1-3: Describe Yourself in Three Words

A good way to tackle this question is to ask your friends and family to text you their responses, and look for patterns . For example, if five people say you are nice and caring, combine those into one idea, such as "empathetic."

Adjectives are the most common words to use, but you can pick nouns, too! Just stick to ones with personality (like "bookworm" if you love to read, or "shutterbug" if you're a photographer). Choose words that are highly descriptive (e.g., "enthusiastic" instead of "fun") and avoid clichés as much as you can.

Oh, and the supplement breaks this response into three separate fields , so make sure you don't type all three words on one line ! Also, note that there's a 25-character limit per word, so think "antidisestablishmentarian" or shorter.

Here are some sample responses:

  • Whimsical, artistic, collaborative
  • Competitive, thoughtful, engaging
  • Loquacious, jovial, encouraging
  • Reserved, compassionate, giving

Question 4: What Is Your Favorite Snack?

Here's a chance to showcase your personality by being specific . Let's say that you love peanut M&Ms. A specific answer might say, "Eating peanut M&Ms while watching a scary movie."

You can also touch on your personal history , especially if you come from a diverse background. You could say something like "My abuela's enchiladas" or "Almond Crush Pocky" as a nod to your heritage.

Finally, lean into your weird . We all have strange snacks that somehow hit the spot (we're looking at you, hot dog buns dunked in hot chocolate). If there's a bonkers food you enjoy—such as dipping tater tots in soft-serve ice cream—this is your time to shine. An added bonus? It will definitely make an impression.

  • Perfectly toasted marshmallows while sitting around a campfire.
  • A hot dog and soda from Fenway Park.
  • Homemade apple pie with melted cheddar cheese on top!
  • A package of Digestive Biscuits (they're cookies!) and a glass of milk.

Question 5: Best Movie of All Time

This question can make applicants anxious because people are passionate about the movies they love ... and the movies they love to hate! That's why we recommend that you either give a serious answer or embrace your silliness.

This goes without saying, but make sure your movie choice is appropriate . If you wouldn't watch it with your family, don't list it here. Also, steer clear of any super-controversial picks—don't pick a film that's clearly discriminatory, such as Birth of a Nation.

  • Serious: Blade Runner because of its influence on sci-fi film.
  • Serious: Saving Private Ryan . It reminds us that war is hard, dangerous, and tragic.
  • Silly: The Lion King . We should all "hakuna matata" a little more!
  • Both: Legally Blonde —I love stories about women chasing their dreams.


Question 6: Dream Job

Obviously, this answer should roughly align with your major . (Don't say your dream job is to play Aaron Burr in Hamilton if you're majoring in computer science.)

You should also think big and think ahead. For instance, if you're a computer science major, maybe you want to start a company that develops assistive AI for people with disabilities. Embrace big goals!

The more specific you are, the better. Don't just say you want to be a veterinarian. What kind of animals do you want to work with? Will you specialize in something? Do you want to own your own practice? Adding detail will make your answer stand out.

  • A large-animal veterinarian that helps rural farmers care for their livestock.
  • The owner of a non-profit that helps women of color succeed in corporate America.
  • A judge appointed to the US Courts of Appeals.

Question 7: If Your Life Had a Theme Song, What Would It Be?

Everyone needs a little walk-in music. As you think about yours, choose a song with a title that makes a point . It's tempting to pick a song with a specific lyric that speaks to you, but your admissions counselor might not be able to make the connection. Think more along the lines of "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty or "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" by Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics.

Be careful that your song title can't be misconstrued. "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred might seem like a funny choice to you, but it could also come across as cocky or overconfident.

Additionally, keep your choice appropriate . Look through the song lyrics to make sure they aren't offensive.

And whatever you do, don't say the Trojan Fight Song . That's probably the most popular—and most clichéd—answer you could possibly give!

  • "Beautiful Day" by U2
  • "My Shot" from the Hamilton soundtrack
  • "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey


Question 8: Dream Trip

There's no special trick to answering this question. Just be honest and specific! And feel free to focus on experiences as well as destinations. Maybe you want to snorkel with stingrays in the Caribbean or visit the Lord of the Rings set locations in New Zealand. Share that here!

  • Letting a lantern go during the Floating Lantern Festival in Thailand.
  • Hiking to the top of Machu Picchu.
  • Driving from California to Illinois on Route 66 with my best friends.
  • Eating paella from a street vendor in Barcelona.
  • Visiting Zimbabwe and bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge.

Question 9: What TV Show Will You Binge Watch Next?

This is another question designed to reveal something about you, your likes, and your dislikes. We suggest that you pick a show you like, as long as it isn't completely without substance. If you're having a hard time choosing, try narrowing it down to your favorite genre first.

  • I'll binge Making a Murderer because I'm interested in how the justice system works (and doesn't work).
  • The Good Place because it combines comedy and philosophy!
  • Friends because it helps you understand interpersonal relationships.

I'm binging RuPaul's Drag Race and learning a lot about drag culture and inclusivity.

Question 10: Which Well-Known Person or Fictional Character Would Be Your Ideal Roommate?

This question essentially wants to know who you could see yourself living with on a daily basis , whether it's a fictional character from a TV show or book you love, or a real-life celebrity, such as a movie star, singer, scientist, activist, writer, or historical figure.

The prompt doesn't limit you to living celebrities, so feel free to write about somebody who passed away recently (think Stephen Hawking) or even centuries ago (such as Jane Austen).

Make sure that you're choosing a person who will reveal something positive and/or unique about yourself. It's also OK to throw in a little humor! For example, if you're a huge Renaissance-period buff, you could talk about how you'd love to live with King Henry VIII because he'd entertain you every night with stories of his marriages.

Regardless of who you choose to write about, remember that the admissions committee wants to learn something about you through the person you pick to be your roommate , so be sure that you can clearly tie them back to yourself and your own interests somehow.

  • Marie Curie because we could conduct experiments together after class every day.
  • Hermione Granger! She'd be a great study buddy and could teach me magic on the side.
  • David Sedaris. We could write stories together and he'd never fail to make me laugh!


Question 11: Favorite Book

This is a pretty straightforward question that's similar to the "favorite movie" one above. Be honest— don't try to pass off a book as one of your favorites just because it sounds impressive or is highly intellectual . The admissions committee will likely be able to tell if you're trying to show off!

At the same time, don't write about a book that's overly childish or inappropriate , or that fails to reveal anything interesting or impressive about you. For instance, even if you really love Twilight , unless you can say something a little more intellectual about it, such as how you enjoy analyzing its portrayal of codependency in teenage relationships, this book likely won't leave much of a positive impression on the USC admissions committee.

  • Wild because this book inspired me to be courageous and go on a three-day hike by myself.
  • Lolita is my favorite book because it's downright disturbing yet hauntingly beautiful.
  • Definitely The Hobbit . It was the first book I read that showed me the power of taking risks.

Question 12: If You Could Teach a Class on any Topic, What Would It Be?

This final question from USC is truly a thought-provoking one. Basically, the admissions committee wants to know what kind of class you'd teach if you could choose any topic of interest to you .

While the topic you write about doesn't need to directly relate to your major, it should definitely be something you're deeply passionate (and, ideally, fairly knowledgeable) about . Are you really into horror movies and enjoy dissecting their depictions of female characters? Then perhaps you'd like to teach a class on women in horror.

Be as specific as you can be. Don't just say you want to teach a class on the environment because you're committed to combating climate change. What specific topic concerning the environment or climate change would you like others to learn more about, and why?

  • A creative writing class that would focus on writing stories from the perspective of children.
  • Women of color in astronomy. Too few know about the accomplishments of Beth Brown and Mae Jemison!
  • The Navajo language. Not enough schools teach it and we Native Americans must strive to preserve it.


Next Steps for Your USC Supplement

Even once you've finished and submitted your Common App and USC essays, you're not quite done. Most of USC's colleges require you to submit additional materials, such as portfolios or writing samples, before your application is considered complete.

Visit the links below to view each college's supplemental application requirements and submission deadlines:

  • USC School of Architecture
  • Roski School of Art and Design
  • Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation
  • Marshall School of Business (World Bachelor in Business)
  • USC School of Cinematic Arts
  • Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • Kaufman School of Dance
  • Ostrow School of Dentistry (Junior Transfers Only)
  • USC School of Dramatic Arts
  • Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Thornton School of Music


Need Some Extra Help?

The USC application process can be overwhelming, but PrepScholar is here to help you succeed ! Check out our resources below for more information about how our experts can help you achieve your dreams.

Haven't started your Common Application yet? No problem! We've got you covered with tips and tricks to make your application stand out from the crowd .

Start learning more about USC! Check out their admission requirements , mission statement, admission website, and this great blog post about getting to know USC without leaving your couch.

Still stressed about your supplement? Get in touch with PrepScholar's college admissions team !

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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USC Essay Examples

The USC essay examples show you how to write a college essay to convince the University of Southern California that you are a good fit for them. These essays are meant to probe into your personality and find out more about you and why you would be a great addition to the USC campus.  Let’s review some of the top USCE essay examples so you can write your own!

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 7 min read

Usc essay prompts.

USC has three prompts and a section for short-answer questions. The first and second prompts are required, while the third one is optional.

The second prompt also has three optional sub-prompts, and candidates need only choose one to answer.

There are then a series of ten questions, also required, that are to be answered with 100 characters or less.

Check out how to write your essay:

It is time to delve into each prompt and have a look at some USC essay examples that you can learn from.

Prompt 1 (Required): 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).

Ever since my parents bought me my first computer at the age of 6, I’ve been fascinated by what happens inside these machines. That’s why I want to be a computer programmer – to understand the inner world of computers.

My journey into coding started when I realized I could write programs to make the device perform tasks I wanted done. Soon, I was reading every single book I could get my hands on about programming and spent my days watching YouTube videos about writing machine-level code.

Within two years, I’d become the go-to kid in my high school regarding computer issues. Topics like new gadgets and software releases were all I was interested in.

I want to build on my self-developed knowledge by attending the Computer Science program here at USC. The university’s well-known for its research in this field. I want to understand the inner logic of computers and USC will help me plant deep roots in science – I want to possess in-depth knowledge and understanding behind the 0’s and 1’s.

USC also offers a chance for students to delve into the entrepreneurial aspects of Computer Science. I intend to pursue these classes to gain knowledge on how to use my education to create the applications of the future – for my own and the public’s welfare.

Electronics, my second-choice major, will also help me achieve the same goals, albeit with a slightly different approach. Studying the underlying technology will give me a deeper insight into realizing my digital dreams. (250 words)

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As you have probably grasped by now from the USC essay examples above, the prompts are intended to bring out as much information as possible about you. They are questions that you answer in the first person.

Now, although the prompts may seem easy, you always need to make sure that you have the best essay before you even think of submitting it. Give yourself at least 6 weeks to plan and write your essays.

The best way to do that is to either learn how to write an essay yourself or find college essay advisors who can help you with your submissions.

Want to learn more about college essays?

USC is one of the leading universities in America and a highly ranked one in the world. This means it is also one of the toughest universities to get into.

But that shouldn’t concern you too much. You need to instead focus on creating a complete application package, writing all required essays, and sending in your application on time.

If you find it overwhelming, you can also find college advisors who can guide you through the process.

You better get good at it – and fast. Applying to top universities like USC means you need to be on your toes all the time. The reason they – and all other top-ranked universities – are selective is because they want to make sure they take in students who will keep up with their intense course flow.

And the scrutiny begins at admission time – with your application.

Alternatively, if you think your essay isn’t up to par, you can use college essay review services to help you with your submissions.

They are very important. The universities use essays as a way of collecting information about you. The admissions committee members pore over the essays to get a “feel” of the kind of person you are. They gauge you as they read each word. And if they find you lacking, your application could be rejected.

Therefore, make sure you invest time and effort into writing each of the college essay topics .

Please use the academic essay structure, with an intro, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

The most important thing to focus on is the story itself. It should make the admissions committee members take notice of what you are trying to tell them.

Dig deep to find that story, tell the truth, and make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors, and you should have an essay that stands out.

The values and traits that the university is looking for include bright students who can cope with the curriculum, integrate into the diverse student body with ease, and contribute positively to the college community as a whole.

The best way to go about it is to find a balance between both. It shouldn’t be so casual that it makes the readers wince, and it shouldn’t be so formal that it would look like it was written in Olde English.

Use short sentences to convey clear, concise ideas and cut words that add no value to the sentence or story and you should have a great essay.

The USC prompt has been pretty standard over the past few years – with just a question or two being changed. With that being said, the important thing is check for the prompts on the official USC website the year you are applying.

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how to write the usc essays


The Admissions Strategist

How to write the usc supplemental essays 2020-2021: the perfect guide (examples included).

University of Southern California (USC) is a private university located in downtown Los Angeles, California.

With its warm weather and beautiful campus, USC has been a prime film location for many films and television shows.

  • If you’ve seen Forrest Gump, Legally Blonde, Love & Basketball, The Social Network , and the C ., you’ve seen USC.

Boasting over 21 colleges, academies, and schools of study that offer hundreds of majors, and thousands of courses, USC offers plenty of variety for even the most curious students.

USC’s acceptance rate has been sitting at a thin 13% for the past few years.

With such a low acceptance rate, you’ll need to write excellent essays to be considered for admission at USC.

USC uses the Common App , which means you can access all essay questions on the Common App portal.

Though you’ll need to make these essays count, you shouldn’t worry. This guide is here to help you through the entire process, so you can show the USC admissions team that you deserve to be a part of their upcoming class through thoughtful and well-written supplemental essays.

What Are USC’s Supplemental Essay Requirements?

USC requires that students answer multiple prompts as part of the application process. You will find both on the Common App.

USC Supplemental Essays: How to Write Them!

Click above to watch a video on USC Supplemental Essay.

For the first prompt, students must choose one of three potential essay questions . These questions assess the student’s diverse experiences, interests, and characteristics. This type of question is also commonly referred to as the “diversity essay.”

The prompts for essay #1 include:

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. Please discuss the significance of the experience and its effect on you. USC faculty place an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic opportunities. Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning. What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you?

For the second prompt, students must describe their intended major and what motivated them to make that choice.

The question is as follows:

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.

USC also has a short answer section, in which you are expected to write extremely short, 1 sentence (or even 1 word) answers. These questions are designed to better showcase your personality.

These questions are quite random, so prepare yourself to answer with authenticity and a bit of thought, so the best version of yourself is represented.

Creating a compelling application to USC requires well-written essay responses that reflect critical self-reflection and self-understanding.

On top of perfecting your mechanical skills, work to condense and hone your writing so that every word adds to your main point.

In addition to helping admissions counselors get to know you better through writing, you should pay attention to your organization, spelling, and grammar.

Simple mistakes in those areas can outshine your true potential.

We’ll look into each of the prompts in detail below, to help you submit the best version possible

Get personalized advice!

Usc supplemental essay prompt #1: new ideas.

“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. Please discuss the significance of the experience and its effect on you.”

In this prompt, USC tells you that they value diversity.

Not only do they value diversity, but they also value people who can appreciate diversity and are open-minded to new ideas, experiences, and perspectives .

First, it’s vital that you truly understand what diversity means.

  • According to Merriam-Webster, two definitions are “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization” and “an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities.”

To answer this question, you will have to reflect on past experiences during which you faced a different idea or belief that somehow challenged yours.

  • You will then have to tie your experience and lessons learned in with USC’s values.

USC’s values are found underneath the Applicant Admission Process tab on their website.

In the Personal Qualities section, USC states: “We look for students who possess the potential to contribute to our diverse and vibrant campus life, who represent a vast array of interests and passions, and are leaders unafraid to speak up in class or fight for a cause.

We value students who make us think….”

  • In other words, not only does USC want you to be open-minded and appreciative of diversity, they also want you to be a leader and contributor to their community. They want you to own your uniqueness and share it with others in a way that is mutually beneficial to the community and to you.

Before you begin generating ideas, let’s take a deeper look at the question to fully understand what USC is asking for without going overboard in your response.

  • “Tell us about A TIME you were exposed to a new idea OR when your beliefs were challenged by another point of view.”
  • Your essay response only needs to include one story and does not need to include both components mentioned in the prompt.

To start brainstorming, think of a few times where you heard something or had a conversation that introduced you to a new perspective, changed your perspective, or called it into question.

  • How did you feel?
  • Why did you feel that way?

Once you have generated a list of experiences, pick the one you feel offers the deepest experience with diversity in your life.

Reflect on this experience and discuss how it affected you in a positive way.

  • How did those experiences change your thinking or your outlook on life for the better?
  • Did the experience cause you to question or reflect on other beliefs you possess?
  • If your perspective didn’t change, what did you appreciate about the other perspective on the issue/idea/belief?

It’s helpful to write down thoughts and notes before you begin crafting your actual essay.

After doing this, take what you have written and summarize that into a brief thesis statement.

  • Then, expand to help the reader to understand your challenge just as you were experiencing it.

Your telling of the experience can flow similar to how you would tell someone out loud, but you’re limited to 250 words.

  • For example, “My discussion with Person X did not change my views on the problems associated with income inequality, but it did help me to better understand and sympathize with some of the issues self-made wealthy individuals face…etc.”

Pick your most poignant experience and make a story out of it.

Help the reader to experience your challenge just as you were experiencing it.

Be sure to showcase your individuality and your open-mindedness. Once you’ve written your personal statement, be sure to have someone read through and edit your response.

This will help make sure your point was made and avoid spelling/grammar errors you may have overlooked.

USC Supplemental Essay Prompt #2: Outside of Your Academic Focus

“USC faculty place an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic opportunities. Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning.”

With this prompt, USC wants to see that you are able to demonstrate open-mindedness.

  • It’s great that you want to study mathematics, but are you open to learning from the field of music?
  • What about psychology?
  • Maybe you want to be a doctor and are inspired by literary doctors like Oliver Sacks and William Carlos Williams. In this case, you’d explain how you plan on studying literature in addition to pre-medical courses.

They want to know that you care about things outside of your immediate focus.

Having more than one interest makes you more well-rounded on a personal level, and it can help you on professional and academic levels as well.

  • For instance, USC wants to produce skilled doctors, and they would prefer to produce good doctors who also understand the healing power of narrative. You’ll want to have a focus but also a breadth of diverse interests.

For this question, you will also need to be genuine.

Even if your other interest is not an academic field or major offered at USC, it’s okay.

  • The prompt doesn’t state it has to be an academic interest – it just has to be outside of your intended academic focus.
  • You may decide to minor in another area, but you should not feel restricted to discuss academics only.

Consider writing about opportunities offered at the university that exist outside of the classroom.

You could try researching the different clubs, activities, or events that exist or happen around campus.

  • For example, you may major in political science but also want to become a better musician.
  • You might sign up for a voice class at the university and join choirs and singing groups to improve your musical ability.

Or, maybe you are a STEM major, but you’ve also been learning ASL. You could write about your interest in USC’s American Sign Language Club, as it would help you better practice your sign language.

  • What are your other interests?
  • Try writing them down and writing about the one that means the most to you (or shows a side of you that is not yet on your application).

Here is another example:

  • If you plan on majoring in bioengineering, you’ll want to think beyond biology and engineering, as this is implied in the name of the major. You could be interested in a humanity like anthropology, which works to explain how human cultures work – an interest that may inform and enrichen your primary focus.

If you can’t think of a particular interest that would be completely new to you, consider a topic outside your academic focus that you want to become better versed in.

In this case, you’ll express why you want to continue learning more about that interest. In other words:

  • What is something you want to learn more about?
  • Why do you want to learn more about it?

While there’s no wrong way to answer the question, a great way to approach the question is using your interest to unconventionally further your understanding in your academic focus.

  • For instance, if you’re a physics major with a passion for music, you might write about using music as practical applications of some physics principles regarding vibration and sound transfer.

If there’s a particular story behind your interest, share that in a way that helps the reader connect with you.

Telling a short story about your interest will help you effectively use more of your 250-word limit.

Overall, try to be authentic and show USC that you’re a well-rounded individual who will add to their campus community in more ways than one.

USC Outside of Academic Focus Essay Example

“Hi. My name … is Bobby … and I will be playing Fur … Elise … today.” The audience sat still as I stuttered through my introduction, approaching the lavish grand piano for my freshman-year recital. As chords flowed through my hands, my fingers began to slip, missing notes along the way. My stage fright had gotten the better of me. When I enrolled at GSA the next year, my friends dragged me to drill practice in preparation for the Clash of the Halls dance competition. I was reluctant, but upperclassmen convinced me to represent my hall at the most popular event at school. Although I had performed at multiple piano recitals, participating in choreographed dancing was a new challenge. Passion gradually outweighed my fear as I became more comfortable with the challenging choreography. Dancing became less of a commitment. I slowly became obsessed with making sure our team hit every note, rhythm, and beat. When I began leading practices, rising from apprentice to teacher, the moves became muscle memory and excitement pumped through my veins. After months of practices, I led my hallmates into the gym, exuding hall spirit and assuming our formation. The fear that once possessed me completely vanished. We went on to give an unforgettable show. Having discovered my newfound passion, I went on to choreograph my school’s Diwali dance for the next two years. I look forward to pursuing my love for dance by joining the USC Zeher Bollywood fusion team in the near future.

USC Supplemental Essay Prompt #3: Essential to Understanding You

“What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you?”

This is the equivalent of the “tell me about yourself” question; the same one that you will be asked during almost every interview.

This question is broad, so you want to be particular.

The best way to be particular is by utilizing a story you haven’t already told in another part of your application. This story should also highlight one of the characteristics you feel is essential to who you are as a person.

  • Think of a story that demonstrates your values, a perfect day, an activity you enjoy, or an important relationship.

You’ll want to be able to pinpoint that one thing throughout your story.

  • The key is to answer the question concisely (within the 250 word count maximum) and genuinely.

Another great way to approach this question is to ask yourself a question and answer through a free-write.

Examples of questions you could ask yourself include:

  • What do I value?
  • What does my perfect day look like?
  • What could I do every day and not get tired of?
  • Who are the most important people in my life?
  • What’s my ultimate life goal?
  • What motivates me?

Write whatever comes to mind for your questions.

Don’t be afraid to include a negative experience if it significantly affected your life, goals, or personality.

This is where you can find beauty in the darkness to show how you’re unique.

Do the same free-write exercise with these questions.

  • What struggle do I work most to overcome?
  • What is something only those closest to me know about how I’ve become who I am?
  • What do I avoid at all costs?
  • What am I terrified of?

You are not being asked to share your most tragic story or deepest darkest secret, but it’s important to appreciate that we don’t only grow from positive experiences.

We grow from all experiences, so write about one (positive or negative) that has shaped you most.

The next step is to ask yourself why. This is very important.

USC wants to know what is important to you and why it’s important.

  • If your answer is “I don’t know,” take some time to think about it or move on to the next idea on your list.
  • Ask friends and family for their thoughts (but remember that you have to create an essay with your own thoughts and not those of someone else).

Here’s an example of breaking down a meaningful story to pinpoint the specific characteristic that is essential to you being you.

  • Interest: I love traveling by train.
  • Why? I like the rhythm and cadence of the wheels on the tracks, the sound of the whistle, watching the diversity of the landscape as I travel in and out of urban centers.
  • What does it say about me? I pine for a quieter, slower time and love to find ways to balance the rush and grind of the city with habits of slow living.
  • What characteristic does this give me? This says something about how I’m contemplative.
  • How do I use this characteristic? I spend time contemplating choices longer than most and dislike being rushed to make a decision.

When you’re able to come up with the answer to “Why?” write down as much as you can without judging yourself. You’re the only person who knows the truth about what is essential to understanding you.

When you’re able to identify what you would like to write about, frame it within a story.

Remember you only have 250 words to spare, so it won’t be a full-blown story.

However, two to three sentences about the background behind your topic will be helpful to the reader.

  • For example, if you want to write about your involvement in sports as an important part of who you are, write about how you became interested in sports in the first place.
  • Maybe your grandfather taught you how to throw a football. Maybe he came to all your games.
  • Let the reader know the story behind what you’ve chosen to write about.

As always, have someone read your essay to ensure that it is error-free and genuinely reflects you.

USC Essential to Understanding You Essay Example

My grandmother likes to tell the story of three-year-old me in the grocery cart, screaming in Vietnamese the names of passing vegetables, much to the amusement of shoppers. Back then, Vietnamese was enough. In kindergarten, I faced my first language obstacle. At the toilet, I couldn’t undo my double-ring belt. How embarrassing would it be to interrupt the teacher in the middle of class and silently point to it, hoping she would get the message? I chose to sit on the toilet and cry. That was the first day I peed my pants in class but the last time language would ever come between me and going to the bathroom. I made learning English my mission. By third grade, I was reading stacks of books almost as tall as I was every week. Language is meaningful to me. While volunteering in the hospital, when I ask a lost elderly couple if they speak Vietnamese, their eyes light up in relief. When a Spanish-speaking woman hurriedly calls her child over to translate, I tell them in Spanish not to worry, empathizing with the child who has the same role I once did. Language doesn’t just communicate information. For me, it has been a tool for insight, allowing me to connect with others. Throughout my schooling, I’ve taught my parents a lot of English, and I still teach them new words every so often. When I make the occasional error, I jokingly but affectionately blame it on English as my second language.

“Why USC?” Supplemental Essay: How to Answer The Intended Major Question

“The intended major question states: Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections.”

This is another version of a “Why This College” essay .

Sometimes when high school students are asked about their major, they get overwhelmed because they aren’t 100% confident about what they want to study.

Consider major selections to be a road trip, not a death sentence.

You are allowed to change your mind, but it helps if you know what you want and why. So, take some time to think about it:

  • What do you enjoy studying?
  • Why do you enjoy studying it?
  • Are there other subjects you enjoy as well?

Think about your experiences in school up until this point.

Sure, interests change, but, often, there are things within our lives that remain constant.

Maybe you never cared about history class, but you enjoyed reading novels and analyzing characterization and plot techniques.

  • Or, perhaps you hated having reading assigned for class but enjoyed acting out scenes from different novels and plays.

These are things to take note of.

Another way to help you figure out your intended major is to look through USC’s website.

  • Remember, this question functions as both a question about your intended major and a question about your intentions for applying to USC. Your answer is best suited when tailored to USC’s unique features that other colleges may not offer.

Does Biomedical Engineering sound interesting to you? Check out USC’s Biomedical Engineering program. Look at the courses you will have to take. See what excites you.

Still struggling to come up with your intended major?

Working backward is another helpful strategy.

  • Think about where you will want to be 5 to 10 years from now.
  • What do you want to be doing every day?
  • Are you passionate about reading and analyzing large amounts of information and communicating it in a way that makes sense to other people?
  • Do you want to teach people how to handle their finances?
  • Are you interested in helping other people live healthier lives?
  • Do you want to develop your passion for writing into a career?

Look at careers that match the types of things you will want to be doing every day. Then, look at the type of knowledge that will be required to get those jobs.

That knowledge may be found in more than one major. If that’s the case, you will need to look through the department websites for your intended majors.

  • Once you’ve done the necessary background research, tell your story.
  • Lean into a story of what your major will be and own it, but, remember, it’s not binding or contractual.

The more you learn about different majors, the clearer your intended major may become, so spend a couple of hours clicking deep into the website:

  • Start with the programs related to a chosen field.
  • Then, look at the types of courses that are offered and learn about some of the professors teaching the courses.
  • You’ll also want to look at news or research coming out of the department.

Consider ways in which you will grow and flourish academically and programs to which you might contribute as a student at USC.

If you have a career goal, it can help.

  • Describe how your major in narrative studies will help you realize the goal of becoming a documentary filmmaker.
  • Explain how you will be prepared in a program that balances traditional studies in English literature with film theory, writing classes, as well as the study of popular culture and ethnicity.
  • Write about how a degree in social work will help shape you into the type of politician you want to be in the future.

Write the vision for your life and write how your first (and/or second-choice) major will help you get there.

It would be an added bonus if you can talk about extracurricular activities you might be interested in joining to further supplement your learning.

Remember, learning takes place outside the classroom as well.

Take time with this essay to make sure you’re confident in your future goals, and then share them with the admissions team. When you’re authentic and have a plan for the future, you’re sure to write a compelling essay.

Why USC and Why This Major Essay Example

8 p.m. – I sat in the peer tutor room, waiting for underclassmen to approach me for academic help. An hour-long shift passed without any students stopping by. At this moment, I realized the immense lack of organization within the peer tutoring program at GSA. Students could neither find available tutors nor schedule time with them despite needing support for challenging courses. I knew there had to be a better way. I spent the next few months teaching myself Android Studio programming and developed EngTutor, an app that streamlines the process of finding academic help connecting students with available tutors. I will use the resources available at USC to turn EngTutor into a commercial venture. In the classroom, I aim to take advantage of USC’s advanced computer science program to broaden my knowledge of robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. I am excited to take courses such as Advanced Natural Language Processing to understand AI concepts. At USC, I intend to take advantage of the focus on interdisciplinary studies and enroll in elective courses at the Marshall School of Business to complement my skills developed at USC’s LavaLab. By receiving mentorship from professionals in entrepreneurship and computer science and gaining experience pitching my ideas to judges, I will be ready to participate in the Blackstone LaunchPad. Here, I aim to collaborate with like-minded individuals to enhance my entrepreneurship capabilities. Through these academic and extracurricular programs, USC will provide me with the resources necessary to embark on my entrepreneurial journey.

The USC Short-Answer Questions

The USC Short-Answer Questions include:

  • Describe yourself in three words.
  • What is your favorite snack?
  • Best movie of all time:
  • If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
  • Dream trip:
  • What TV show will you binge watch next?
  • Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?
  • Favorite book:
  • If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

While most universities that include a short answer section limit your word count to 100 words, the USC short answer questions only require one or two sentences to fully answer them.

  • Be sure to answer the “why” implicit in the question.
  • Treat it more like a conversation or an interview – monosyllabic responses don’t bode well for a conversation, and they don’t look great on your application, either.
  • Instead, add a little context to your answers.
  • After all, the USC admissions department should better understand you after reading your short answers.

There are two kinds of questions – Listing something that you feel describes yourself, and answering generic “break the ice” questions.

  • For the questions in which you describe yourself, try asking friends or family for some perspective.
  • Most importantly, make sure that you don’t choose vague adjectives – Each word should reflect a specific part of your personality.

If you are having a lot of trouble thinking of words that best describe you, don’t be afraid to get creative. For example, if you are a Harry Potter fan, consider using traits that describe your favorite Hogwarts house.

  • For instance, if you consider yourself a Ravenclaw, you might use the words “analytical, quizzical, and creative.”
  • A Slytherin may use “ambitious, hardworking, and clever.”
  • Whatever method you use, make sure that these words tell USC about you.

For other questions, begin with the answer, then explain the why.

Also, remember that the admissions team at USC is not looking for the most sophisticated student, they just want introspective students.

  • For instance, don’t just say that your favorite movie is Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Twelve Angry Men – explain why (briefly).
  • Perhaps you’re interested in the themes of privacy versus security, or the film made you interested in the law or political science.

With every question, bring along a little insight into your life, your beliefs, and your ambitions.

USC Short Responses Examples

1.Describe yourself in three words.
2. First Word: Self-motivated
3. Second Word: Analytical
4. Third Word: Mindful
5. What is your favorite snack? Raisins and almonds: nutritious, portable, and delicious
6. Favorite app/website: Spotify
7. Best movie of all time: Avengers: Infinity War
8. Dream job: Founder/CEO of my assistive robotics technology company
9. What is your theme song: Believer – Imagine Dragons
10. Dream trip: Road trip on historic Route 66 from Chicago to LA with my friends
11. What TV show will you binge watch next: The Office
12. Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate: Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings
13. Favorite book: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
14. If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be: Facing Your Fears: Public Speaking

Conclusion: Writing the USC Supplemental Essays

As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, well-written responses to those prompts require self-reflection, critical self-analysis, and research.

Start early to give yourself enough time to research your intended majors, write high-quality responses, and have time for revisions.

You have a 250 word limit for each of the supplemental essays, so use them all to create a lasting impression on the admissions officer reading your application.

By following the above guidelines, you can create a shining admissions package that will set you apart from other applicants.

Don’t forget to have fun, be a little creative, and show the USC admissions team who you really are. Your best chance to get into USC depends on it.

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how to write the usc essays

4 University of Southern California (USC) EssaysThatWorked


Applying to USC in 2023 means that you are facing a lot of competition.

Luckily, one of the most effective tools you have to stand out from the crowd is your essays and responses to USC's writing supplement.

In this article, I've gathered 4 of the best essays from students admitted into the University of Southern California so that you can get inspired and improve your own USC essays.

What is University of Southern California's Acceptance Rate?

This past year, a record 70,971 students applied to USC and only 8,804 students were offered admission. That means USC had an overall acceptance rate of only 12.4%.

If you're trying to maximize your shot of getting into USC, writing essays that show why you should be accepted is one of your best strategies.

USC Acceptance Scattergram

The more competitive a school admissions is, the more heavily your essays are weighed. Let's check out the USC prompts for this year.

What are the University of Southern California Supplemental Prompts for 2022-23?

For its application this year, USC requires students to respond to three short essay questions and ten short answer questions.

USC has an intensive writing section, which means its even more important for you to make your responses the best they can be.

Here are the University of Southern California prompts for 2023:

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. (Approximately 250 words) (1-250 words)

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. (0-250 words)

Describe yourself in three words.

What is your favorite snack?

Best movie of all time:

If your life had a theme song, what would it be?

Dream trip:

What TV show will you binge watch next?

Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?

Favorite book:

If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

4 University of Southern California EssaysThatWorked

Here are 4 of the best USC essays that worked for this years writing supplement.

Below you can read how admitted USC students answered the short essay and short answer questions. In addition, I've included some Common App personal statements examples recently accepted students.

See exactly how students got into USC and get inspired:

USC Essay Example #1

Usc essay example #2, usc essay example #3, usc essay example #4.

Prompt: What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you? (250 words max)

If I had a fatal flaw it would be loyalty. Of all the things I value, the one thing I value the most is my family. Coming after family is my friends; I consider my friends to be an extended branch of family. My close friends know that I value my friendship and that I would do almost anything for them if they asked me. I am very trusting with my friends, because I know that if I am there to support them, they will be there to support me. Without my friends, I would not be who and where I am now, as they have helped me through my years and shaped me to be the trusting and loyal person I am.

Very often, I put my friends before me, and this is because I know that if I were in the same situation as them, they would opt to help me. My loyalty to my friends helps them understand why I do what I do, and it helps me make even more friends. Wherever I go, I want to go with friends, because I believe that I can go farther when I have others with me rather than going fast and alone, but not as far.

The sounds of my knife striking kale unnerves my cat asleep in the corner. He quickly runs over to examine the situation but becomes instantly uninterested when he sees green and smells bitterness. Unfortunately, my family has this same reaction every day of every week.

They question, “It’s bad enough that you’re going to eat kale, but do you really have to massage it?” I respond with a deep breath, during which I recall information from I begin to explain, “Well you see, it takes away the bitterness, because kale is composed of cellulose, so when you massage it with a strong acid–”but as I continue to delve into my rather scientific and oftentimes molecular rationale behind transforming myself into a masseuse to make a salad, everyone begins snoring. I guess no one has ever understood my immense love for the science behind cooking (and probably never will).

Sure, my family, friends, small, undiverse and traditional high school all look at me like I am crazy, but I guess that is because I am. I do not look at kale and think “dark green, bitter, disgusting plant.” Instead, I see proteins and anticarcinogenic properties--analyzing the anatomy of food seems to occupy my mind.

Cooking is an art, visual, creative and instinctive. My favorite nights are spent with knife in hand and sweet potatoes in the oven. Food is my artist outlet, and one of the few things to feed my soul (and my stomach, too).

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Prompt: 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 max)

All throughout my life, I always loved doing math no matter what the concept. My love for math led to me taking advanced math classes for my grade. I even had to take a bus to a high school when I was in middle school to take an advanced math class. I always knew that I would want to pursue a career dealing with mathematics, but I was not really sure until my junior year. I had not decided what I wanted to be in the future, so my uncle suggested being a CPA, and I looked into it. When I did my research, it interested me as they made a decent amount of money and they worked with numbers.

At USC, I would like to major in accounting and gain the opportunity to possibly receive an internship at one of the big accounting firms in Los Angeles through the networking of USC. If I were able to get an internship, I would be able to gain experience for when I graduate and search for a job. I would also consider going for a Masters of Business Administration as I know that USC has one of the best business programs in the country.

I had never considered traveling across the country to pursue an education. In fact, living in Pittsburgh all of my life and growing up with people who are so adamant about staying put, forced me to believe that I too had to box myself into this small, yet evolving city. However, now I can confidently tell my friends and family that I want to travel to California for college (and ignore their odd looks).

What strikes me most about USC is its ability to maintain uniformity despite its diverse student body--in interests, ethnicity, and opinion. There are not many schools where I could be best friends with filmmakers, artists, photographers, chemists, potential CEOs, and writers. Although all of these people are spread across different schools, they still seem to maintain a cultural unity. Being surrounded by such a distinct trojan pride combined with the ambitious atmosphere would be both inspiring and propulsive.

At USC, I would not have to confine to merely one of my interests. I have always had aspirations of becoming a doctor and pursuing neuroscience, but have never felt comfortable ignoring the humanities. As a Trojan, I could pursue research at the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center or even take part in PIBBS, while also honing my writing skills through the intricate Writing Program.

Much like the students, my interests could somehow be molded into a diverse uniformity, and I could prove my fellow Pittsburghers that perhaps they need to move around more.

What Can You Learn From These USC Essays?

If you want to get into the University of Southern California, you'll need to answer the USC writing supplement questions as best you can. To help improve your essays, you can read these 6 essays that worked for USC and see how students got accepted.

Let me know, what did you think about these USC essays?

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Princeton Admitted Essay

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

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MIT Admitted Essay

Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture. Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could....

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UPenn Admitted Essay

A cow gave birth and I watched. Staring from the window of our stopped car, I experienced two beginnings that day: the small bovine life and my future. Both emerged when I was only 10 years old and cruising along the twisting roads of rural Maryland...

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Blog > Essay Advice , Private University , Supplementals > How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays

How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

When you apply to USC, you’ll have to write one supplemental essay and several short-answer questions. In this post, we’ll cover both.

Let’s dive in.

Prompt #1 :

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. (required, approximately 250 words).

In this take on a “why us” and academic interest essay, you’ll need to address several topics: your academic interests, how you plan to pursue them, and what about pursuing them at USC is appealing to you.

Before you start writing, you’ll want to do some research. Go in-depth on USC’s website and the webpages for the specific program you’re applying to. In particular, be on the lookout for specific details that relate to your academic interests. Is there a professor who specializes in the area you’re interested in? A particular study abroad program that would be enriching? A state-of-the-art facility or awesome internship?

As you write, remember to address all three areas laid out in the prompt. Draw on specific details to connect your experiences to what USC has to offer. When you’ve done that, you’ll have made a strong case for your school fit.

Short-answer prompts (required, approximately 100 characters each)

These short answers seem like a bunch of mind games. Why does an admissions officer care what your favorite movie is? Are they just looking for new TV shows to binge watch? Well, I’m sure they appreciate the recommendations. But no, these questions aren’t mind games. They’re opportunities to establish your personality, make yourself memorable, and set yourself apart.

Here are the questions in full:

  • Describe yourself in three words.
  • What is your favorite snack?
  • Best movie of all time:
  • If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
  • Dream trip:
  • What TV show will you binge watch next?
  • Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?
  • Favorite book:
  • If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

Remember from the USC Common Data Set that USC receives over 70,000 applications each year. That’s…a lot! And a good portion of them have near-perfect GPAs and exceptional extracurriculars. Questions like these short answers help admissions officers learn a little more about you and your fit for USC.

The more memorable you can be with your answers, the better. But there’s a fine line between answering in an authentically humorous or creative way and coming across as overly quirky. In short, you don’t want to seem like you’re trying to hard. It’s all about finding a balance between authentic and memorable. Here’s an example for #8: I’m 5’1”, so my ideal roommate is Taylor Swift—someone to reach high shelves, plus a little music. It’s humorous, creative, and revealing, but not too over the top.

If you haven't already, be sure to check out our USC Common Data Set and How to Get into USC posts for more admissions insights.

And now it’s time to get to writing! If you’re ready to take your supplemental essays to the next level, consider signing up for the Essay Academy, our all-in-one digital college essay writing course. ✏️

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University of Southern California (USC) 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Early Action: 

University of Southern California 2023-24 Application Essay Questions Explained 

The Requirements: 2 or 3 essays (depending on major selection) of up to 250 words; 2 short-answer lists.

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why , Oddball , Short Answer , Community

Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (250 word limit)

This is USC’s take on the classic Why essay. In asking how you plan to pursue your interests, admissions is really trying to suss out your core reasons for choosing USC. While college will offer you a wealth of social and professional opportunities, its primary function is academic — and your primary role is as a student. So, what kind of student do you hope to be? Where do you hope your studies will take you? What resources and opportunities does USC offer that will meet your needs and guide you towards your goals?

To answer these questions, set aside an hour or two to pore over the USC website (there’s no hack, you’ve just got to put in the time). Beyond the basic departmental listings, look up information about news and research coming out of your department, the kinds of courses available, the opportunities that other undergrads have had studying in your area of choice. Even if you have a wide array of interests, consider explaining how two to three departments might complement each other or foster your interest in a larger idea or theme. Your ultimate goal is to show that your interest in USC (just like your intellectual curiosity) runs deep!

Describe yourself in three words (25 characters).

Your answers do not need to be so outlandish that admissions needs a thesaurus to look them up, but they should avoid the generalities that so often populate these questions: loyal, kind, smart… you get the idea. We’re sure you are all of these things — and they are lovely qualities to showcase in the stories you tell elsewhere in your other written responses — but these sorts of terms can ring hollow. Think about how different people in your life would describe you. Though this assignment is short, you may need to spend some time wordsmithing different combinations. When the prescribed format is a list, order matters just as much as content, so use every element of the assignment to your advantage!

The following prompts have a 100 character limit:

What is your favorite snack, best movie of all time:, if your life had a theme song, what would it be, dream trip:, what tv show will you binge watch next, which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate, favorite book:, if you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be.

Behold! USC’s attempt at being quirky! You’ve been limited to less than the length of a tweet for each answer, so you’d better make every word (and character) count! These prompts don’t have time for generalities or gentle introductions, so you’ll have to cut straight to the point. The more specific your words are, the more memorable your answers will be. Favorite snack? Don’t just say, “popcorn and Junior Mints.” How about, “A box of junior mints melting over hot popcorn as I watch a horror movie” (72 characters). If you can paint a funny picture or display a knack for wit, take this chance, but don’t force it. You also don’t exactly have to think of this as filling in the blanks, but more as filling in any blanks in your application. Anything that doesn’t feel like it merits a full essay can go here as a tweet, hot take, punchline, or elegantly-worded sentence.

USC Dornsife Applicants: Please provide an essay of no more than 250 words on the topic below. In your response, we encourage you to write about something that you haven’t already discussed elsewhere in your application.

For more information, please click here ., many of us have at least one issue or passion that we care deeply about – a topic on which we would love to share our opinions and insights in hopes of sparking intense interest and continued conversation. if you had ten minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your talk be about (250 words).

We at CEA love this question because it’s a unique way of asking applicants: what do you care about and why? What’s important to you? What information do you wish other scholarly minds had access to? Start by making a list. Maybe you’d like to use your ten minutes to speak about media literacy and how we can and should consider what we see online through the lens of the powers that dictate how and when we receive information. Perhaps you’d want to spread the word about the dangers of climate change and the irreversible impact it will have on the planet if we don’t take action swiftly. What keeps you up at night? What kind of positive effect do you want to have on the world? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when brainstorming for this prompt. Bonus points if you can speak to how a USC Dornsife education will prepare you to address this issue head-on in the future! 

USC Viterbi Applicants:

The student body at the usc viterbi school of engineering is a diverse group of unique engineers and computer scientists who work together to engineer a better world for all humanity. describe how your contributions to the usc viterbi student body may be distinct from others. please feel free to touch on any part of your background, traits, skills, experiences, challenges, and/or personality in helping us better understand you. (250 words).

USC Viterbi School of Engineering wants to accept students who will contribute to diversity on campus. When considering an aspect of your identity or background to expand upon, we recommend choosing one that has had the biggest impact on the way you experience and interact with the world. Ideally, the unique aspect you select should come with a couple anecdotes. Maybe you want to write about your experience as a person living with a disability and how this has shaped your interest in engineering, design, and accessibility. Perhaps you embody #BlackGirlMagic and will bring a fresh perspective to a field in which women of color are underrepresented. Regardless of the part of your identity you choose to address, be specific about how it impacts your worldview and how it will add a distinct perspective to USC Viterbi.

The Engineering Grand Challenges (for USC Viterbi Applicants):

The national academy of engineering (nae) and their 14 grand challenges go hand-in-hand with our vision to engineer a better world for all humanity. engineers and computer scientists are challenged to solve these problems in order to improve life on the planet. learn more about the nae grand challenges at and tell us which challenge is most important to you, and why. (250 words).

Strong responses to this prompt will showcase self-reflection, care for the greater good, and ambition. Review the fourteen Grand Challenges and see which you connect with the most. Maybe you’re passionate about providing access to clean water, since you know firsthand what it’s like to not have that access in your hometown in Michigan. Perhaps you hope to engineer better medicines in honor of a loved one you lost to illness prematurely. Maybe you’ve always been fascinated with outer space and would jump at the opportunity to engineer new tools of scientific discovery. Make sure to relate your own life experiences and/or interests to the challenges the world is facing and emphasize how you’d like to be part of the solution.

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  1. What Matters to Me and Why (USC Personal Statement) Admission

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  2. College Essay Format: Simple Steps to Be Followed

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  3. How To Write Usc Application Essay

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  4. College Essay Examples

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  5. The Video of the USC Essay Example

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  6. 021 Usc Essay Prompt Example Sample Transfer Essays Uc Berkeley Prompts

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  1. 15 Tips to Help You Write a Stellar Essay

    Essay-writing can be easier than you might think if you have a grasp of the basics and a willingness to engage with the subject matter. Here are 15 top tips for writing a stellar essay.

  2. How an Essay Checker Can Help You Improve Your Writing

    Writing essays can be a daunting task, especially if you are not confident in your writing skills. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you improve your writing. An essay checker is one such tool that can help you write better ess...

  3. 10 Great Essay Writing Tips

    Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses.

  4. How to Write the University of Southern California Supplemental

    Your answer should be cohesive and articulate no matter how you go about writing your essay. How do all the things you've learned inform one

  5. How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

    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

  6. USC Supplemental Essay Examples

    To write one of the many USC essays that worked, you must tell a concise and thoughtful story. Your essay should highlight aspects of your personality not seen

  7. 4 Tips for Writing Perfect USC Essays

    The USC Writing Supplement is an additional part of the USC application that you fill out on the Common App website. The supplement itself

  8. How to Get Into USC: Strategies and Essays that Worked

    USC supplemental essay ... Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please

  9. USC Essay Examples for 2023

    The USC essay examples show you how to write a college essay to convince the University of Southern California that you are a good fit for

  10. How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

    Do you need help finding best-fit colleges or writing essays? You can sign up for a free consult here. University of Southern California (USC) is a private

  11. How to Write the USC Supplement 2022-2023

    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

  12. 4 University of Southern California (USC) EssaysThatWorked

    Getting into the University of Southern California requires writing supplemental essays. Here's what it takes to write great USC essays, with examples.

  13. How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays

    We list all of the USC supplemental essay prompts and the USC short answer questions. We show you how to answer them to make your

  14. 2023-24 University of Southern California Supplemental Essay Guide

    Our experienced Essay Advisors provide the tips you need to write strong 2023-24 University of Southern California (USC) Supplemental Essays.