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How to Write the USC School Essays

Updated for 2023-2024

USC asks students to write a 250-word essay about how they will explore their interests at USC before posing short answer questions about students' interests and personalities. Find out how to showcase your quirks with this guide!

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)

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Explanation:

The key to writing this essay is doing ample research on the departments and resources available for your intended academic interests. USC’s website has information on your intended major’s department page. Which resources or extracurricular programs interest you? Are there generous research or study abroad opportunities? Specificity is key when writing this essay. Include at least one professor that you are interested in working with by name and the type of work that you would be interested in doing. Get as specific as possible—this essay should be one that only you could write.

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Sample:

At the age of 5, every so often, a kind neighbor would pay me $20 for my childhood drawings in exchange for the simple assurance that I would continue to be colorful and bold. While these works were not conventional masterpieces, her unwavering support inspired me to create despite the lack of support from others. Since childhood, I have transitioned from drawing on computer paper to creating acrylic portraiture and painting murals. The Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California (USC) stands out as the ultimate community in which to hone my skills and grow as an artist and a scholar.

USC’s flexible curriculum and distinguished faculty within Watt Hall provide an exceptional platform to explore diverse mediums and gain proficiency with 3D artwork. USC faculty will challenge me to expand my work from aesthetically pleasing visuals to historical interactive art installations. Working with Professor Ava Thompson will provide valuable exposure to technology and traditional artistic practices in mixed media installations and encourage me to experiment beyond my current practices.

As an Art major, I look forward to dabbling in different mediums and techniques, thereby developing a well-rounded artistic portfolio. My second-choice major, Art History, will deepen my appreciation and grow my artistic literacy by unraveling the historical and cultural contexts of artworks. This interdisciplinary field complements my curiosity about the evolution of artistic movements and art’s enduring societal influence.

At USC, I will transform my childhood drawings into a legacy of innovative installations.

Prompt 2:

Describe yourself in three words.

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Explanation:

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 who know you well say you are thoughtful and caring, combine those into one idea, such as “empathetic.” Choose words that are highly descriptive and avoid clichés as much as possible. You should also view this as an opportunity to highlight a new quality you have not yet demonstrated in another part of your application—the admissions officer might know you are creative if you are applying as an arts major, for example, but might be surprised to learn that you also view yourself as persuasive and audacious or that you are a bibliophile or a yogi.

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Sample:

First Word: Imaginative
Second Word:Yogi
Third Word: Empathetic

Short Essays:

For the following nine prompts, you can input a maximum of 100 characters. Be sure to make complete use of the character count you are allotted, as this is enough space to both provide an answer and briefly describe it and/or offer a reason that sheds light into who you are.

1. What is your favorite snack?

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Explanation:

Showcase your personality or background by being specific. We all have strange snacks that hit the spot or remind us of a favorite family recipe, restaurant, or trip. If there’s an unconventional food you enjoy, this is your time to shine.

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Sample:

Fried plantains, a traditional Caribbean snack that my mom would make every Sunday.

2. Best movie of all time?

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Explanation:

For this response, make sure that your movie choice is appropriate. Steer clear of any controversial picks. This is also a great way to shed light on how you have connected one of your academic interests to non-academic material.

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Sample:

The Price of Everything, which questions where the value of art comes from.

3. Dream job?

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Explanation:

Make sure that this response aligns with your intended major. Try to think as creatively and ambitiously as possible and consider your long-term goals. Be specific and add details so that your answer stands out.

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Sample:

An art therapist that helps children with their emotional wellbeing.

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

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Explanation:

Choose a song with a title that makes a point and make sure that the title can’t be misunderstood. Try to think of a song title that is not overplayed and keep the title choice appropriate!

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Sample:

“Positive Vibration” – Bob Marley’s words remind me to choose to remain positive and help one another

5. Dream trip?

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Explanation:

Be imaginative and specific with this answer. Your answer can include destination and experiences as well as the person with whom you may want to go on this dream trip.

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Sample:

Visiting ARTECHOUSE in New York City to inform my own future technologically immersive artwork.

6. What TV show will you binge watch next?

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Explanation:

Pick a show that highlights an interest or passion you don’t write about in the rest of your application. Narrow your options down to your favorite genre first, then list the reasons why you enjoy each show and choose the one that has the most unique and honest answer!

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Sample:

The Great British Baking Show, to get tips and tricks for my own experimental baking.

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

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Explanation:

Who can you see yourself living with on a daily basis? Make sure that whatever fictional character you choose can display something positive about you and your character. Tie your choice back to your own interests!

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Sample:

Jean-Michel Basquiat; he could teach me to master graffiti technique and expand my art practice.

7. Favorite book?

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Explanation:

Make sure that your choice is appropriate and leaves a positive impression on the USC admissions committee—steer clear of books that may be controversial. Additionally, avoid picking titles that appear as if you are trying to show off—be authentic with your answer.

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Sample:

Octavia Butler’s Kindred inspired me to take further interest in Black history.

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

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Explanation:

This is the perfect opportunity to share an academic topic that you are passionate about. Your answer does not have to be related to your major but it should be as specific as possible and something that you are knowledgeable about.

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Sample:

Kara Walker and Alma Thomas: Women of Color’s Legacy and Impact in the Field of Muralism.