How to Write the University of Southern California Supplemental Essays: Guide + Examples 2020/2021
Bonus Points: Ask yourself: How might you develop this essential part of yourself at USC? There’s a chance for a mini “Why us?” within this prompt in that final paragraph. Research a club, class, space, or speaker who will help you further engage with this identity at USC. Important: You’ll be asked to write a separate 250-word “Why us?” essay, so make sure if you do name something here that you discuss other details in that essay.
Here are three other great examples of USC essays that worked for this prompt:
What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you?
My room’s got all the necessities–bed, desk, closet, posters–but there’s another desk with a PC, a microphone, a cassette-player, and an assortment of gadgets decorated with knobs and displays. I’ve gradually put my recording studio together over the years–including building the computer from scratch and working jobs to buy sound equipment. In the process, I’ve grown so familiar with it, it’s become a sanctuary–a place where I don’t have to worry about grades, breakups, insecurities.
As for Fortaleza, Brazil–its homeness wasn’t so immediately apparent.
I once believed that despite learning English from the ground up and struggling with several Americanisms, my Brazilian identity was just a matter of geography. But returning to Fortaleza this year showed me the tethers I was blind to.
While browsing a crafts market, I met an elderly gentleman selling cordéis: booklets of long, narrative-driven lyrics musicians purchase and interpret. He told me he wrote them himself, and offered to play a song. And so, listening to this haunting, droning hymn, I looked through the various tales these authors had conceived… stories of Brazilian heroes, thieves, princesses. At that moment, I understood something—I’m not a musician for just any reason. This spirit of poetry, this faith in art and storytelling… it’s in my blood.
Even in my home studio in Washington, I feel an energy being channeled from Fortaleza, through my fingers, into the music. As sambista João Bosco puts it: “with so many leaving/on the rocket’s tail/our motherland wept/on the soil of Brazil.”
— — —
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.
Three books started the trajectory of the person I am today: Savages in the Mirror by Gunn Allen, Yellow by Wu, and Citizen by Rankine.
Gunn Allen reexamines canonical history that erased Native American voices. Wu gives a voice to my experiences being Chinese-American. Rankine portrays African-American history and identity through bursts of color, art, and poetry.
Three books. I fell in love with them after reading them in Honors American Literature. So much history, pain, celebration, power.
In APUSH, when I learned of the mass genocide of Native Americans communities, I thought of Gunn Allen’s words, condemning the “American individualism” that drove settlers to act as they did and still drive political agendas.
When I learned of the dichotomy between the Chinese Exclusion Act and the influx of Asian immigrants in top industries today, I was reminded of Wu’s words on how the Model Minority Myth that has emerged will affect my life as I prepare to head to college.
When I learned of debt peonage, the Great Migration, de facto/de jure segregation, and the Modern Civil Rights Movement, I remembered Rankine’s words— that America’s ugly history manifests itself in infrastructure and microaggressions today.
When I study economics, I think of the motives that shaped America and continue to do so. When I study politics and business, I remember the importance of bringing in the voices of history into actions of today.
Three books. They have changed the way I want to view the world and learn business.*
— — —
Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning.
I’m a history nerd. My favorite “history nerd” moments occur when I connect a modern sociopolitical phenomenon to a historical event. For my IB Extended Essay, I’m writing about the Second Amendment, hoping to elucidate the gun control debate with research surrounding the legacy of the Glorious Revolution.
My passion for history led me to an internship at the Sejong Institute, a think tank specializing in Korean diplomacy. While I translated publications on topics like denuclearizing North Korea, I drew from what I learned of the region’s past, coming to understand that international conflicts cannot be resolved without historical insight.
This notion also applies to my participation in MUN. Learning about the often-controversial past actions of nations prompted me to raise ethical questions. For instance, I was appalled to learn that the Kurdish crisis and ISIL could be traced to the Sykes-Picot agreement, which split the region into ‘spheres of influence’ in 1916. In resolving these conflicts, how do we balance national sovereignty with the responsibility of former colonial powers to stabilize the region?
This summer, I enrolled in “Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology” at UC Irvine. From tracing the African exodus of Homo erectus to examining La Bestia (freight trains used by US-bound migrants), I now understand that migration is as old as history itself.
In college, I hope to continue drawing connections between history and contemporary geopolitics. I hope to use my education to heal history’s wounds as a civil rights attorney, and potentially as a Supreme Court Justice.*
— — —