The Ivy Coach Daily

September 12, 2023

2023-2024 USC Supplemental Essay Prompts

The Doheny Memorial Library at USC
USC has released its essay prompts for the Class of 2028.

The University of Southern California has released its supplemental essay prompts for applicants to the Class of 2028. In addition to the Personal Statement on The Common Application, USC applicants will be required to answer one 250-word essay and several 100-character short answers. If an applicant took a gap year or their education was interrupted, they’ll need to answer another essay prompt in about 250 words as well. So, what are this year’s USC supplemental essay prompts, and how should they be approached? Let’s dive in!

2023-2024 University of Southern California Essay Questions and Short Answers

Essay Questions

Applicants should respond to the first prompt in approximately 250 words. Applicants who have a gap in their high school education should respond to the second prompt in approximately 250 words as well (this essay should not be completed if there is no gap in a student’s secondary education).

1. Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections.

This is a hybrid essay prompt: Why Major and Why College. To address the first aspect of the essay question, it would be beneficial for applicants to express to USC’s admissions committee why they wish to study one or two particular disciplines at USC by sharing the origin story of their interest in these disciplines. The origin story should always stem from an applicant’s high school experience. Too often, students choose instead to share anecdotes from their middle or elementary school years.

For the second aspect of the essay question, applicants must capture genuine specifics about why USC is the ideal institution to pursue this course of study. So many applicants choose to list classes and name-drop professors in Why College essay prompts when they should instead capture the enduring specifics of a course of study at a school. These enduring specifics could focus on programs, institutes, lecture series, traditions, etc. And every sentence in this portion of the essay should be tailored to USC. If a sentence is generic, it should be stricken from the record.

2. Starting with the beginning of high school/secondary school, if you have had a gap where you were not enrolled in school during a fall or spring term, please address this gap in your educational history. You do not need to address a summer break.

This essay fits into the only if applicable category. So, if a student has no gap in their high school studies, the essay should be left blank. If, however, a student has a gap in their high school studies, they should articulate it here. And ideally, it will be filled with no excuses and only positivity.

Short Answers

With the exception of the first short answer, which should be addressed in three total words, the short answers should be addressed in 100 characters or less.

1. Describe yourself in three words. 

First Word:

Second Word:

Third Word:

USC truly wants three words for these answers. While applicants can theoretically include 100 characters, that would defy USC’s instructions. Hopefully a student’s answers will capture their love of learning and desire to leave a mark on the world in a meaningful way.

2. What is your favorite snack?

While this short answer prompt may seem silly, we encourage applicants to give thought to their answers so they don’t read as merely silly. It could be an opportunity for an applicant to teach admissions officers something they don’t know about food.

3. Best movie of all time:

Applicants shouldn’t just name the movie. They should explain why. And hopefully the movie showcases their passions and fits with how they think. Also, applicants should avoid movies that could rub USC admissions officers the wrong way.

4. Dream job:

An applicant’s answer should fit neatly with their hook that they’ve hopefully presented in their activities and their essays.

5. If your life had a theme song, what would it be?

Applicants will ideally choose a song that shows some intellectual curiosity and, just like with the movie choice, applicants should avoid choosing a song that could rub USC admissions officers the wrong way.

6. Dream trip:

Don’t be afraid to keep it local! Traveling around the world can be perceived as privileged.

7. What TV show will you binge watch next?

Applicants should approach this short answer the same way they approach the movie choice — show how they think, avoid mindless TV, and don’t choose a show that will rub admissions officers the wrong way. If a student is an environmental activist, Our Planet could be a good choice — so long as the applicant explains why.

8. Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?

Applicants should dare to choose someone USC admissions officers haven’t heard of and teach them something. And don’t just name the person. Applicants should explain why they’ve chosen the roommate.

9. Favorite book:

Students should avoid choosing books that are required reading in classrooms across America, are intended for younger audiences, or have been adapted into films and television series. After all, that would not demonstrate that an applicant reads for pleasure — which is vitally important to express. And students shouldn’t only name the book. They should explain why it’s their favorite book.

10. If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

The choice of topic should be consistent with the applicant’s hook as expressed in their activities section and, ideally, in their essays. Applicants should choose a pithy title for the course and, if there’s any room to explain what the course is about, by all means!

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with USC Essays

If you’d like to optimize your case for admission to the University of Southern California by submitting compelling essays, among other things, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college admissions counseling services for applicants to the Class of 2028.

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