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October 16, 2015

Mythbuster: I need to show the admission counselors that USC is my top choice

The Myth: Attending college fairs, visits and tours will increase my chances of admission.

The Verdict: Not at USC.

Every late August/early September, there are 5 or so emails in my inbox every morning with the subject “Introduction to USC.” These emails usually have the same general format. “Hello Jessica- just wanted to let you know that I go to ABC High School, I play baseball and I can’t wait to apply to USC. I’ve always wanted to be a student in the Marshall School of Business.” Ok great, but what am I supposed to say? Good luck with your baseball season? Every winter, I get similar emails with the subject “Update.” Students tell me how their first semester went, they got the lead role in the spring musical, and that USC is still their first choice. Awesome, but chances are I already saw your senior year grades (or will soon).

At USC, we do not track a student’s interest outside of the actual application for admission decision purposes. Attending our programs is a wonderful way to learn more about USC, but going to an event or sending emails like those I described will not increase your chances of admission to the university.

As admission counselors, it is true that we are your main contact as you go through the admission process at USC and we are happy to assist you with any help you may need. However, students only benefit from reaching out to us if they have specific questions- especially questions to which they can’t find the answer online. I think students often confuse this role and make the assumption that they HAVE to email us and initiate a conversation in order to have a shot at admission.

So how do you show us that you’re interested in USC? Instead of spending your time emailing us with updates, it is in your best interest to use that time to work on your response to the application question “Describe your academic interest and how you plan to pursue them at USC.” You should discuss specific resources and opportunities you would like to take advantage of at USC. Rather than emailing us your list of activities, fill out the Activity Summary thoroughly. A thoughtful and carefully assembled application stands out much more than an introduction email or an invitation to coffee.

Keep in mind that some schools may track demonstrated interest. Some colleges may expect all students to reach out to them, while others may expect students in the local area to visit campus. The idea of demonstrated interest varies, so you should always ask a school if and how they track interest and if it is factored into an admission decision.

At the end of the day, we do want to see that you are interested in USC and that you are seriously considering being a student here. The best way for you to articulate this interest is through your application.

Until next time,

J. Frey


  1. Tristan Graney says:

    Thank you for the transparency. Refreshing.

  2. Avijit Singh says:

    Thank you for addressing this ‘myth’! This has been on my mind over the last few weeks as I often hear that applicants should reach out and start a conversation with their admissions counsellors, even when they may not have specific questions. While the wait to hear back from my top-choice is long, this gives me hope that I have demonstrated a lot of interest through my application!

  3. Kimberly S Villard says:

    If we have specific questions regarding a particular department or major what is the best means of contact?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Kimberly! Your territory manager can answer many questions, but if it is very specific, you can go to that particular college’s (e.g., Thornton, Marshall, Dornsife, etc.) website, and you’ll find their contact information.

  4. Angel Ahabue says:

    Thank you for this post!

    The word limit was a concern of mine, so I had to compress what I wanted to say in my application. I was wondering if I needed to show my interest in ways my response would not allow. But thanks to this post, I believe that my passion is obvious and prevalent in my application!

    Again, thank you!

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