Last Minute Application Tips!

         Grades and test scores are important in the admission process; there is no doubt about that. However, while we are looking for students who have challenged themselves academically and who have performed well in school, we rely on the qualitative factors of the application  to arrive at a decision. At this point in the process, high school seniors should focus their attention on the presentation components of the application: the essay, short answers, extracurricular activities, and the letter of recommendation.

The Essay

The essay is a student’s opportunity to tell us who they are, not only as a person but also as a student. The most successful essays are the most authentic essays. We are truly trying to get to know who our applicants are. The best advice I can give to students is to “be yourself”.

Short Answers

They are called short answers, buuuut they shouldn’t be too short of an answer. The short answers are taken very seriously in our review process. They give us valuable insight in to a student’s academic interest as well as their commitments outside of the classroom.

Extracurricular Activities

We are looking for students who are going to be active members of the USC community. I always recommend that students list any commitments they have outside of the classroom. This includes traditional clubs, sports, volunteer organizations, work experience etc. But it also includes, non-traditional activities such as taking care of siblings or other family members, productive hobbies like photography, marathon training or climbing Everest.

Letter of Recommendation

Students often feel like they do not have control over their letter of recommendations; yet, students do have control over whom they approach to write a letter of recommendation on their behalf. We require that at least one recommendation come from someone who can comment on the student’s academic character and potential (i.e. counselor or teacher).

Activity Summary Tips

With USC’s first-year application deadline for merit scholarship consideration coming up on December 1st, many students are putting the finishing touches on their application.  The Common Application provides a section for students to discuss their principal extracurricular, volunteer, and work activities.  As admission counselors we know that every student is going to spend their time outside the classroom pursuing different activities, so we thought it was important to share with you some tips and misconceptions regarding this part of the application.

Tip: Focus on the activities that are the most important to you.  We’re most interested in what has influenced you and your life, whether it’s taking care of your younger siblings after school, submitting poetry to be published, or playing on your school’s soccer team.

Misconception: “Applicants need to have a certain amount of community service hours to be competitive in the college admission process.”

The truth is that it’s ok if community service plays a huge role in your life or a minor one.  We’re not focused on making sure applicants meet a certain checklist of types of involvements.  At the end of the day, we’re most interested in that you are pursuing your interests and passions in some capacity.

Tip: Explain the organizations with which you’ve been involved!  Although some acronyms are widely known, such as ASB for Associated Student Body, we may not be familiar with every nickname.  Don’t assume that the people reading your application are familiar with every activity offered at your school or in your community.

Misconception: “Colleges are just interested in knowing that students keep busy.  As long as you join lots of different types of organizations, you’re set.”

We hope to see applicants who have dedicated themselves to a few activities that interest them, rather than a laundry list of lots of involvements.  It’s not important how many organizations you join, but what you did as a member or leader in that organization

Tip: While we are looking for students who are well-rounded and will contribute to our campus, we understand that students are going to have varying amounts of time to dedicate to different things.  High school students have a lot on their plate: challenging courses, family responsibilities, trying to maintain a balanced life and hopefully have some fun at the same time!  Make sure you and your interests come through in the application so that we can better understand what experiences have had an impact on you and played a role in your life.

Family Weekend

          This past weekend, USC hosted its annual Family Weekend to welcome parents and families of current students to campus. Guests were able to attend classes with their student, hear from President Nikias, cheer on the Trojan football team, and take part in many other events throughout the weekend.

One special program showcased a conversation with Gary Tuchman, a CNN National Correspondent. We are fortunate to have him provide his perspective on being a proud parent of two USC students as a guest blog contributor this week.  Keep reading to hear a USC parent’s perspective.

When my son Daniel started kindergarten, my third grade daughter Lindsay was thrilled. She was excited she and her brother would be going to school together. 13 years later, Daniel and Lindsay are experiencing deja vu; but this time at the University of Southern California. My daughter is a senior in Annenberg; my son is a freshman in the School of Cinematic Arts. They are happy to be in college with each other and my wife Kathy and I are delighted and proud to have two kids in the Trojan Family.

However, they are not the only ones in our house who are part of that Trojan Family. It has been made clear to us from the beginning that as parents we too are members of the family. The kindness, friendliness, and helpfulness we have experienced from people affiliated with the university has been wonderful.  Just this past weekend, we attended our fourth annual USC Family Weekend. It is great being with your children as we all experience the fun activities that are offered. But it’s also inspiring to experience the care and meticulousness that USC exhibits in putting the elaborate weekend together. It shows the respect the university has for its students and the parents of the students.

Our children are far from home. We live in Atlanta, Georgia; 2200 miles away. But we love to visit and know they’re in good hands when they are in LA.  After all, they are Trojans.