October 27, 2011
The infamous college essay. For most colleges, this is a required part of the application. For some of you, this may be a major source of stress within the application process. While there’s no perfect essay, topic, or approach, there are some general tips that may be helpful when writing your college essays.
Admission counselors at USC view the essay as our opportunity to get to know applicants better. Since we use a holistic review process, we hope to gain more insight into who our applicants are beyond just grades and test scores. While it is not about the topic you choose to write about, it is more about how that topic is relevant to your life. We realize that you may have many different people providing input and helping you edit your essay, but we are genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say and what you want to write about. Your essay shouldn’t be what your friend’s parent’s cousin’s dog’s owner wrote for their college application; your essay should reflect your voice, interests, and individual personality.
Another general tip is knowing your audience. Although you can’t anticipate the sense of humor of who will read your application, you can use common sense. I’ve read essays in the past that use slang, swear words, or internet and text abbreviations. These are not appropriate for the standard college essay! While we like to see students who try something different in their essay, just keep in mind that you also don’t want to offend someone who reads your writing. At the very least, you know that the audience for your college essay will not be your peers.
This may be obvious advice as well, but spelling and grammar can make a difference. It’s so easy to use spell check these days that I’m often surprised when I find students who haven’t mastered how to spell words like “definitely.” Although we are looking at the college essay more for the content than anything else, it can be hard to ignore multiple glaring mistakes in one essay or application. Writing is an important part of being a college student, thus we want to make certain that students have the ability to write an essay with a solid structure while paying attention to spelling and grammar.
At the end of the day, it’s important to follow your heart and write about what comes naturally to you. We read many different types of essays and many essays that have a similar theme. What we’re most interested in reading is the essay that you want to write, that reflects your voice, and tells us more about what makes you special.
With so many options at USC, it might be a little overwhelming to choose a major let alone know how to pursue it. CollegeVine is here to help you narrow down your interests and find ways to express them at USC.
Before we dive in, here are a few facts about USC that will help you get started:
- USC is located in metropolitan L.A., the home of many large companies such as Deloitte, Bank of America, and Paul Hastings.
- USC has its own medical school, the Keck School of Medicine.
- USC has its own buisness school — the Marshall School of Business — that offers programs for undergraduates.
To approach this prompt, you should first evaluate your academic interests and your selected major. Next, you should ask yourself, “Why USC?” What does USC offer in your major that no other college offers? If you are interested in medicine, you might discuss the practical experience that the Keck School of Medicine can provide you. Perhaps you have a strong interest in stem cells, and will pursue this by conducting medical research at Keck. Or maybe you are more interested in clinical experience and are hoping to shadow doctors at the medical school’s hospital.
If you are interested in business economics, you can analyze USC’s optimal location in downtown Los Angeles, discussing how the school’s geography gives you access to internships with the nation’s top corporations. You can include a brief paragraph on the strengths of USC’s Marshall School of Business, raving about how an education there will provide you with the necessary leadership skills to succeed in business.
Avoid vague and cliché answers such as “USC has a good business school,” or “USC is prestigious and highly ranked.” These types of responses don’t particularly answer the question, nor do they show that you have done your research on the school.
No matter what subject you intend to pursue, the most important thing is to show the school what you will do at USC if you are accepted.Which professors do you look forward to working with? What special curriculum path do you hope to head down? What resource do you plan to take advantage of? There is no right or wrong answer; USC just wants to understand the academic path you intend to follow. You don’t have to be too creative or try to think of an outside-the-box answer. For this prompt, simple and straightforward is better.