2022-23 USC Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips
When applying to a school like the University of Southern California, it is important to grasp that their acceptance rate in 2022 is lower than Harvard’s back in the late 1990s. Last cycle, USC received roughly 69,000 applications and admitted just 12% from that pool. We don’t bring up these numbers or the Friends-era Harvard comparison to cause future applicants unnecessary fear. Rather, we want aspiring Trojans to realize that in addition to strong high school grades and standardized test scores, they need to excel in other critical areas of their application as well. This brings us to the topic of the USC supplemental essays.
(Want to learn more about How to Get Into the University of Southern California? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into USC: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)
The supplemental essay section offered by USC is a fairly epic one and presents just such an opportunity for students to differentiate themselves from swarms of other qualified applicants. In addition to one 250-word essay, you are also required to answer 10 short answer questions. Below are the USC’s supplemental prompts for the 2022-23 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.
2022-23 USC Supplemental Essays – Required 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. (Approximately 250 words)
This is part “Why Us?” and part “Explain Your Major” and your aim is to seamlessly touch on both topics in a tightly-woven 250-word composition. For a deeper dive, let’s examine a list of characteristics of a winning USC “Why Us?” essay:
- Cite specific academic programs, professors, research opportunities, internship/externship programs, and study abroad programs.
- Feel free to touch on student-run organizations related to your field of study that you would like to join.
- Describe how you take advantage of USC’s prodigious resources both inside and outside of the classroom.
- Additionally, touch on both a) why USC is the perfect fit for you and) why you are the perfect fit for USC.
- Lastly, don’t ignore your second-choice major in this essay.
In any “Why Us?” composition, you need to show that you’ve done your homework on a given school, but you don’t want it to read like a robotic list of items that you Googled ten minutes before writing the essay (even if the timing of the Google search is roughly accurate). In addition to the pure research element, a lot of the time and skill required in creating a stellar USC essay will involve connecting the classes, professors, opportunities, etc. of interest that you have uncovered to your distinct values, talents, aims, proficiencies, and future goals.
USC Short Answers
(25 characters each)
- Describe yourself in three words.
- What is your favorite snack?
- Best movie of all time
- Dream job
- 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?
It would be a bit silly to try to advise you on what your favorite snack is. Obviously, the USC admissions committee wants to hear “Pepperoni Pizza Combos” but will also accept “Ranch-flavored Bugles”. As such, we’ll keep our advice on these a bit broader:
- Similar to Essay 1, Choice 3, this is a chance to make a personal connection with an admissions officer.
- Don’t overthink these or pick movies, books, songs, or trips that you think an admissions officer will find impressive. Just be genuine.
- For #1, try to avoid words like “interesting” that are…well, not very interesting.
- For #10, don’t pick a general topic in a traditional discipline. Instead, pick something about which you are passionate. This could be a blend of pop-culture and academics or a highly esoteric topic that you happen to be obsessed with (e.g. the Beatles 1965-67 mid-career era, the history of jai-alai, or how to groom a ferret).
How important are the USC supplemental essays?
There are five factors that USC considers to be “very important” to their candidate evaluation process and the essay section is one of them. Along with GPA, standardized test scores, rigor of high school coursework, and recommendations, the Common App and supplement essays play a huge role in the USC admissions staff’s decision-making.
Want Personalized Essay Assistance?
Lastly, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your USC supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).