Advice for USC (University of Southern California) Trojan Hopefuls

Ask a student applying to USC why he’s doing so and you’ll hear a lot of passionate answers like, “I want to go to the football games!” and, “My entire family went to USC!” and, “I exited the womb chanting ‘Fight on!’”  

They’re all valid reasons.  But while a yearning to be a proud member of the Trojan family is appealing to a USC admissions officer, that dream alone doesn’t show an interest in becoming a student at USC.  Even more than your desire to go to football games or to continue your family’s Trojan legacy, your thoughtful consideration of what you would like your academic life to be like is something the USC admissions committee wants to see.  That’s why they ask the following question on their application.

“Describe your academic interests and how you plan to pursue them at USC.”

Here’s an example of a common (and pretty dry) response:

“I’m interested in business and USC has one of the top business programs in the country. USC’s location will allow me to get internships in Los Angeles while I’m in school.   Finally, when I graduate, I’ll benefit from the extensive USC alumni connections to help me start my business career.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that answer.   But the USC admissions committee is already keenly aware of the school’s academic strengths—they know what they have to offer you.  A response like this doesn’t give the committee any insight about you or your academic curiosity. It doesn’t show that you’ve thoughtfully considered why business interests you or what you would do to pursue that interest at USC. 

So how should you approach this question?

1. Do some academic soul searching and think about what subjects really interest you.

Forget about USC for a second (just for a second, we promise).  Think about your academic interests.  What are you excited to learn about in college?  How did you discover these interests?  What is it about these subjects or ideas that seem particularly fascinating to you?  Show USC that you’re a curious student who’s excited to continue learning at the college level.  You don’t even necessarily have to know what you want to major in yet to discuss your favorite subjects and how you might pursue them in college.

2. Consider what you want your academic life at USC to be like

OK, now you can think about USC again.  Imagine yourself studying and learning at USC.  How clear is that picture in your mind?  If it’s not clear, then you should think more about why you really want to be a student there.  Have you really investigated the majors that interest you?  Have you looked at what classes are required, what will be expected of you and what types of students seem to flourish there?  What do you think you will need to do in order to get the most out of the experience and be a successful student?  

We know that for many students, those questions are going to be difficult—and maybe even frustrating—to answer.  But students who take the time to give thoughtful answers are more likely to be admitted to USC.  And they’re more likely to be happy and successful once they get there.

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download HowToUse30Guides

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