My name is Nathan Mack and my role at USC is to serve as one of our International Admission Officers. The big picture of what I do is ensure that the university recruits (and enrolls) amazing, bright, and best fit students from one of the world’s most dynamic regions: the United Kingdom and Europe (including Turkey). I have always been interested in international education – through studying multiple languages as a high school student, majoring in Linguistics as an undergraduate, and traveling abroad as often as I can. It’s nice to come full circle and help students pursue their international dreams – I see a little of my high school self in students I work with.
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.
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.
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.”
It seems almost impossible to encapsulate everything your first year of college teaches you about adulthood in one blog (which is great, because it should be). For awhile, I put off even trying–until I realized that, 12 months ago, I was exactly you. I didn’t care whether the author of the content I was reading felt self-conscious about the quality or relevance of her words. I needed answers, and I needed them before I spiraled into a black hole of doubt and what-ifs.
So without further ado, the following are four takeaways from my experience, yours to leave or take.
This week’s student blog comes from Nisha Malhotra, a rising senior at USC from Glendale, CA. Nisha is majoring in Narrative Studies with a double-minor in Cinematic Arts and Screenwriting. She is involved in various organizations across campus, including being a writer for the TrojanVision show, “The Breakdown,” a member of the Women’s Leadership Society, and a tour guide in the Admission Center. Nisha was recently accepted to a progressive degree program here at USC and is sharing her journey through this process in her blog.
USC Pre-Law Advising offers academic guidance and programming for both USC students and alumni across all academic units in their exploration and pursuit of a legal education. We help students navigate the law school admissions process and are a resource in enhancing Trojan applicants’ candidacy for law school admission, as well as determining whether or not law school is even right for them. There are no requirements and there is no distinction that appears on a student’s degree or transcript that identifies him/her as pre-law, rather the program allows you to utilize our pre-law advising services and resources that are designed expose you to the realities of the legal profession and help you make the most of your undergraduate years to strengthen your candidacy for law school admission.
Growing up, my parents taught me that there were three topics you should never broach at the dinner table: politics, religion, and football. These three things, they claimed, were so sensitive and so entrenched in personal opinion that to bring them up when there were forks and knives at hand’s reach would trigger an inevitably decline into awkward tension soon to be followed by bloodshed. While I appreciate my parents’ desire to put mild manners on the menu, I have to admit that I’m very encouraged by the willingness of our applicants to discuss difficult–and sometimes controversial–topics. College applications often provide insight into students’ values, opinions, and identities. There are many students out there who want to broach these subjects but may be confused about how to do so appropriately. Perhaps it’s something you’ve been interested in writing about, but you are concerned about being disadvantaged in the college admission process if you do. Let me set down my knife and fork for a moment so we can talk about it!
As I was cleaning out my apartment to move across town to start medical school, I came across my first notebook from general chemistry. Sifting through the pages, I’m brought back to the long nights in Fluor’s 7th floor lounge studying for midterms and finals, emailing professors for research, running late to club meetings, and waking up early Saturday mornings to volunteer at California Hospital in that forest green polo that singled out you out as the “pre-med.” In light of all this, it’s no surprise that if you type “pre-med” lifestyle into Google, the results are filled with countless guides on “surviving” pre-med. I want to do something different: I want to show you how pre-med can be a time of exploration.
From what I have been told, I am now a grownup, and with that, I no longer get the glorious 2 ½ month summer vacation I so much enjoyed when I was a teenager. Nevertheless, even for those of us who work in college admission, the summer months of June, July, and half of August provide some time to relax, reflect on the year that was, and start setting the table for what we hope is another fruitful admission cycle. And while we here at USC certainly admit that campus is a bit less exciting with all our students out and about for the summer, we would be lying if we said we didn’t enjoy the slightly shorter lines at the many eateries around campus, but that is beside the point.