Undergraduate Admission Blog

Follow the Official USC Undergraduate Admission Blog for information, advice, and a behind-the-scenes look at our process

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Welcome to the Undergraduate Admission Blog

Follow the Official USC Undergraduate Admission Blog for information, advice, and a behind-the-scenes look at our process. Interested in viewing past posts? Visit our blog archives.

August 16, 2018

What Should My College Essay be About?

Students frequently ask what they should write about–there is really no way for an admission counselor to answer this question. You know yourself best and you know what is important to share. All college essays must contain two elements, however: the illustration and the insight. The illustration element can take many shapes, but most students use an anecdote or series of moments to illuminate their personality and experiences. The insight element can be separate or intertwined, but a strong college essay always includes some type of analysis. Your goal in a personal statement is not only to introduce us to yourself but to show us how you think. That all sounds very heady, but your high school career has prepared you to write a good essay. Now the trick is to make it personal…which is usually where students start to panic.

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August 9, 2018

If Goldilocks Gave Essay Advice

The most important part of your essay is the content. Your experiences, your thoughts, your understanding of your world—that’s what we are looking for. Style, however, can either elevate an essay or make it practically unreadable. I often find that my advice on style is met with quizzical expressions. My points, to be frank, are often conflicting, and it is obvious that the students I speak with are looking for a clear guideline—a guaranteed how to—on writing a memorable and successful college essay. I don’t blame them. The college process has many unknowns, and it’s natural to want a concrete piece of advice that will improve your application. While there is certainly guidance I can provide on essay writing, each tip often comes with a qualifier. I often find myself sounding a bit like Goldilocks as she sampled the bears’ porridge and beds: this essay is too “x,” this essay is too “y.” The purpose of this post is to try to help you find the sweet spot for your essay. We want it to be “just right.”

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