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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays

Key Takeaway

We walk you through the USC supplemental essay and short answer prompts, and we give you advice about how to answer each effectively.

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:

  1. Describe yourself in three words.
  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?

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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