Supplementary, My Dear Watson! Breaking Down the USC Supplement

Within the Common Application, the USC Writing Supplement is one of the best ways for applicants to introduce themselves to the University and convey their interest in pursuing their academic studies here. This blog will provide some “clues” about the different components of the USC Writing Supplement and help applicants put their best foot forward when completing this part of the application.


The USC Writing Supplement differs from the Common Application in that it enables applicants to speak specifically about their reasons for applying to USC and begin to make the case for why their academic, extracurricular, and professional aspirations would be a good “fit” for what the school has to offer. This section also allows students to show off a bit more of their personality and explore bits of passion or inspiration that may be missing from other parts of the application. The USC Writing Supplement is composed of two short answer questions (a maximum of 250 words each) and ten Quick Takes questions that ask for succinct answers to queries about interests, aspirations, and personality traits.

Short Answer #1: USC Short Answer
Similar to the Common Application essay, the USC Short Answer provides multiple different prompts to which students can respond. Unlike the Common Application essay, however, the USC Short Answer will only be seen by USC (and not the other schools you are applying to), so applicants should feel free to refer to USC in their response if it fits within the topic they are addressing. Try to choose a topic that lets us learn something new about you or your perspective and that is not necessarily reflected elsewhere in your application. Your quality of writing will be assessed along with the themes you choose to write about, so try to find a balance with your authentic voice and how you want to tell your story.

Short Answer #2: USC Essay
As difficult as it may be to answer this question in 250 words or less, the USC Essay is where we are looking for students to explain their reasons for applying to USC and the major(s) they hope to study here. Whether you have been able to visit our campus in person or done most of your research online, try to write about the unique features or opportunities that have drawn you to USC’s educational offerings. This might include things ranging from major and/or minor choices, course offerings, research interests, study abroad programs, internships and extracurricular activities, campus life and culture, sports and school spirit, and so on. Rather than simply listing features that stand out to you, try to provide some context regarding why these options or experiences are meaningful to you and how they could be the beginning of your USC story. The more you can tailor this short essay to your individual interests and values, what you want to take advantage of as a student on campus, and/or how you plan to yourself contribute to the school, the more our office will be able to envision you as a future Trojan.

Make sure to include an explanation as to why you chose to apply to the majors you did and feel free to tie this in to some of the features of USC that you may have cited above. There are many amazing academic programs at schools across the nation and the world – here at USC, we want to know why studying at our university will help you to accomplish your higher education goals! The USC Essay is one of the main ways that we try to assess a student’s genuine interest in our school and their major, so this part of your application should help us see how much you have tried to learn about USC and whether your goals and plans align with what the school has to offer to students.

Quick Takes
It seems comical, but sometimes students tell us that the Quick Takes section is the hardest part of the application to complete because they have trouble narrowing down their responses! In truth, we hope this section provides applicants with a fun and creative way to show off more of their personality and give us a sense of the things that they feel characterize them as an individual. As admission counselors, we love to see the different books, movies, music, locales, occupations and people that inspire our students and the ways in which they think about themselves on a personal level. Clearly, there are no right or wrong answers to these queries – applicants have the opportunity to take a little time to reflect on who they are and share some of the interests that might set them apart from their peers.

Helpful Tip
While the USC Supplement is a component of the Common Application, it is imperative for applicants to remember that it is not submitted automatically when the Common Application is submitted. After submitting the Common Application, applicants need to navigate back to the Writing Supplement section found again under the My Colleges tab and independently click submit on that application section as well. Please also note that some academic majors require you to answer additional supplemental questions. We highly recommend you input your first and second choice majors early on so you know exactly which essays you’ll need to write!

I hope this “investigation” into the USC Writing Supplement helps to answer some frequently asked questions about this part of the application and emboldens applicants to put their best foot forward. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions and best of luck with your application!



Wait – What Do You Mean I’m Admitted to Spring? Helpful Advice from USC Spring Admits

This coming year, USC is excited to welcome between 500 to 600 freshman students to campus in January as spring admits. Rather than instituting a waitlist that students may never get off, USC provides a guaranteed offer of admission to a small segment of our applicant pool for the spring semester each year so that we can admit even more students that we think will be a great fit on our campus. You can learn more about the different options students undertake during their fall semester at our website. In this blog, we want to introduce you to a few of our spring admission ambassadors who will share their experiences, along with some great advice as to how they made the most of their spring admission!

Lindsay Luchinsky is a sophomore from Kansas City, KS. She is currently majoring in Environmental Studies and plans to pursue a progressive degree in Public Policy (MPP). During her fall semester, she attended her local community college and interned for a congressional campaign.

Chevy Peschl is a junior from Carson, WA who is on track to graduate in December 2019 with a degree in Human Biology. During her fall semester, she enrolled at one of USC’s European partner schools, Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland.

What was your initial reaction to receiving your spring admission letter?

LINDSAY: I was so excited – USC was my first choice university, so I was relieved to get in. The confusion and questions about my spring admission were my next reaction. I was worried about making friends and feeling a bit left behind by staying home while my high school friends went off to school. However, after talking things over with my parents (and exchanging many emails with Jessica Nielsen, Director of Student Development Programs), I realized this opportunity was a blessing in disguise.

CHEVY: When I first received my letter, my mom brought it to me where I worked. I opened it and did not even read that it said spring 2017 as my admission date. Once I found out, which was probably a day or two later, I was confused as to what that meant. 

What did you do during your fall semester prior to entering USC and how did you make this decision?

LINDSAY: During the fall semester, I stayed in Kansas City. I worked as the intern coordinator and a finance deputy on the political campaign Tom Niermann for Congress (3rd district of Kansas). I had interned for the campaign during the summer after my graduation and was offered the job in August. I also took four classes at my local community college. Three of these classes transferred to USC, which I was very excited about considering that there was no previous articulation agreement between the community college and USC (meaning no one had transferred credits from the community college to USC before).

CHEVY: I attended Franklin University in Switzerland in the fall semester before attending USC. My original plan was to move to Los Angeles and live in University Gateway in order to be close with students and get accustomed to the city. After more consideration, I decided I would not enjoy attending community college in Los Angeles as I had already done two years at a community college before graduating high school. I have always known I would study abroad during my college years, so I decided to take advantage of that option. I messaged some friends I had met at spring explore and some told me they had decided to go to Switzerland, so I was excited.

Has being a spring admit had an impact on your experience at USC?

LINDSAY: In terms of my experience at USC, it’s not like you come here in the spring with a giant, red “SPRING ADMIT” label on your forehead! The first month or two was awkward, as it is for any college student, but I was still able to meet people and feel included in campus social life. Further, after gaining some independence during my fall semester at home, I was not nearly as afraid to put myself out there and try new clubs or introduce myself to people in my classes.

CHEVY: I made my very best friend through being a spring admit. I met her in Switzerland and I could not imagine not meeting her! I had the opportunity to study abroad, which may have been challenging given my major here at USC.

Were there any benefits to being a spring admit rather than a fall admit? 

LINDSAY: For one, it solidified my fascination with politics/public policy. I also believe that the experience of working and going to school without all of my high school friends still in Kansas City pushed me to become more independent. I was forced to mature quite a bit during this time. The fall semester pushed me to be more of a self-starter, in that it was up to me to build the experience and mold it to what was best for me.

CHEVY: A great thing about being a spring admit is that it makes your experience different from the majority of fall admits. It gives you an opportunity that other students did not have the choice to do.

Any advice for students considering a spring admission decision?

LINDSAY: I received the following advice from my college counselor regarding the fall semester before USC: “when else will you ever have 3-4 months to do whatever it is that you want to do?” Make the most of this experience, and try to see it as a “gap semester.” This is an opportunity to go abroad, to knock out GEs, or to work in the field you may think about going into.

CHEVY: My advice for spring admits is to look at the decision as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. It is a great way to take a break between high school and college and an opportunity to grow tremendously. Looking back, I realize I learned more about myself while I was in Switzerland for those four months than I would have without them.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave any questions you have about spring admission.

Sign Me Up! Introducing Even More USC Clubs and Organizations

As a follow-up to a blog post that was published this past fall, the Office of Admission wanted to spotlight even more of the amazing clubs and organizations that comprise campus life here at USC. Check out these diverse on-campus opportunities along with many, many more that enable Trojans to get involved, develop leadership skills and make an impact on the USC community.

Ursula Collins-Laine (Junior), Seattle, WA, Cinema and Media Studies and East Asian Area Studies (Majors)
The Juggling Club at USC provides a calming, yet challenging, outlet to reduce stress and gain new skills. Juggling connects people across social groups and disciplines in ways not many activities can with our group membership, which draws from all parts of the USC community. The club is open to all levels of experience from complete beginners who have never tried to juggle before to semi-professional performers. I personally joined the Juggling Club because I had been active in the circus community during high school and the Juggling Club was a way for me to stay connected even loosely to that community.

Cristyn Dang (Senior), Honolulu, HI, Psychology (Major), Dance (Minor), Global Medicine (Masters)
Troy Camp is one of USC’s oldest and largest student-run philanthropic organizations. We are a long-term mentorship program for elementary, middle, and high school students living in the South Los Angeles area. The Troy Camp journey begins in elementary school, where students can receive tutoring and participate in extracurricular activities such as dance, sports, and STEM workshops. In middle school, students may participate in Leaders in Training, a mentorship program focused on developing healthy study habits and leadership skills. Students then move on to TC Leads, a program designed for high school students, which offers tutoring and workshops on pursuing their passions and higher education. In the summer, we host a weeklong summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains for 200 elementary school students, who we then invite back the following year for monthly excursions, including Disneyland, the aquarium, and a sleepover. I knew I wanted to join Troy Camp because of the direct impact we can have on the community directly surrounding USC and my experience in the organization has been nothing short of incredible. The kids we get to mentor are so eager to learn and participate, and it is heartwarming to see them grow, become more confident in themselves, make new friends, and experience things they have never done before. Learn more on Instagram (@usctroycamp) and Facebook

Mirabella Vallejo (Senior), Louisville, KY, International Relations (Global Business) (Major), Spanish (Minor) 
Founded in 2006, Break Through Hip Hop is an entirely student-run, performance-based dance team. Composed of more than 30 versatile dancers, we work towards putting on a unique showcase each semester featuring student choreography and guest performances from the USC community! As a senior reflecting back on my time at USC, I am lucky to have called this team my home and family for the past four years, and I wish I could be on it for four more! Break Through Hip Hop has allowed me to continue exploring my love for the art of dance with so many talented and dynamic individuals that share that same passion, while also forming friendships that I know will be with me long after I graduate from USC. #BTLOVE [Instagram (@bthiphop)/Facebook/YouTube

Kai MacLean (Junior), Winchester, MA, Global Health and Political Science (Majors)
Did you know that USC has over 80 different religious organizations on campus, which is one of the highest numbers amongst universities across the country? I certainly did not, but after almost three years as a student, I have become very grateful for this because of my involvement with InterVarsity Trojan Christian Fellowship (IVTCF). I have identified as a Christian my entire life and, coming into college, I was looking for a community where I could both practice and grow my faith. Through weekly large groups, bible studies, and off-campus retreats (to places like Catalina Island), InterVarsity has become my safe place where I always feel loved, supported, and accepted. These are the people who are always willing to get late-night tacos from Avenue 26, play heated games of Egyptian War or Exploding Kittens, or to just stay up with you until early in the morning discussing life and its challenges. While we are a Christian organization, we welcome everyone, regardless of what you believe or where you might be on your faith journey. I am so grateful that USC is a school where many different faiths are represented through all of our religious organizations, and whether that be InterVarsity or another group, I assure you that you will be able to find a wonderful spiritual home on campus that gives you as much joy as IVTCF has brought me. Find out more on Twitter (@ivtcf) or Facebook

Garrett Nance (Junior), Modesto, CA, Political Science (Major) 
The Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics engages in multidisciplinary conversations through speaker series, volunteer opportunities, research publications, consortiums at Oxford University, and more. In this effort, it seeks to progress our understanding of human rights, local and global ethics, and moral reflection, in hopes that students make a positive contribution to their community and world. From examining medical ethics to hosting a live performance by actors from the Medea Project for Incarcerated Women, each event explores perspectives and ideas that help us challenge the status quo. I joined after one of my close friends encouraged me to attend a program, and ever since, I have been inspired to increase awareness of human rights language and make it more accessible to USC students and the American public. Moreover, thanks to Levan, I have been to the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights In and After Conflict, a weeklong seminar that introduced me to the complexities of human rights protections in war and conflict. As a Fellow, I now help oversee and create programs to capture students’ attention through meaningful, timely dialogues. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of these organizations if you are interested in learning more or getting involved!