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!