USC Application: Essay Prompts

My student would like to start working on application essays this summer. Can anyone offer insights on whether USC reuses essay prompts from year to year, or when the prompts for the 22-23 application will be released? Some of last year’s USC prompts were similar to some of the Common App options, so my student wants to avoid duplication if possible. Thanks for any advice you can provide.

Prompts will vary by college (Viterbi vs Marshall vs Dornslife etc) and they will keep the same prompts for a few cycles and then change them up. I’m not sure when the new application is posted.

My student applied in 2020 and that was the first year they asked the series of short answer questions (ex. favorite snack).

My advice (heard from USC as well as other private schools) is that schools often put more emphasis on the questions they ask over the Common App essay. Also, you don’t know in what order they are reviewing your application. Don’t assume that they read your personal statement before reading your school specific prompts. Each answer should be able to stand on its own and not be a follow up of a previous response.

Thank you, this is helpful to know.

Actually, the prompts haven’t changed for years. The short answer questions have been around for over a decade, some are just 3 word answers and for others you can use a sentence or two. Those are more fun personality type responses. Mine loved doing those - don’t overthink them and try to decode what they want, just be yourself!

The following prompts have a 100 character limit:
What is your favorite snack?
Best movie of all time:
Dream job:
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
Dream trip:
What TV show will you binge watch next?
Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?
Favorite book:
If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

They rarely change the big essay prompts, these have been around since at least 2010:

USC believes that one learns best when interacting with people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Tell us about a time you were exposed to a new idea or when your beliefs were challenged by another point of view. Please discuss the significance of the experience and its effect on you.

USC faculty place an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic opportunities. Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning.

What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you?

Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections.

Then the various schools have shorter essay questions unique to them, but they have pretty much stayed the same year after year as well.

Maybe they will change it up this year, but in the last decade, they have not. And if they did, it would just be an update of the same basic question because this is what they need to know, regardless of the times. It would not be wasted time to get rolling - often the same answer can be applied (in whole or part) to other school apps as well.

Thank you for your very detailed and informative response! Much appreciated.

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Really? They told us that it was the first time they added those questions. I’ll have to go back and watch the video from Explore to see if I misinterpreted what they were saying.

ETA: I stand corrected. They said 2020 was the first year they added the question asking which class you would teach if you had the choice.

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Ya I remember those from years back because for the 3 words to describe yourself, my first Trojan, who was also an athlete, answered: Not a Bruin.
:grin: :v: :v: :v: