How to Write the USC Short Answer Supplement 2018-2019

The prestigious University of Southern California is a private school located in the heart of Los Angeles. In 2018, USC admitted just 13 percent of applicants. 

The USC supplement is an interesting one. It results in some of the best (and worst) supplement answers in the whole Common Application, because, on the one hand, who cares what hashtag describes you and it’s not going to get you into college, but on the other, it provokes thoughtful answers. Going back to the hashtag thing: It’s really tripping kids up. In fact, we, at TKG get the most emails of all about this short answer question. One note: Don’t ask us what yours should be or if yours is a good hashtag. There is no wrong answer. This one is just meant to humanize you.

Most of the below short answer questions have a minimum of 1 word and a maximum of 250.

Describe yourself in three words.  

If you have been reading our blog at all, you have these answers. If not, text your friends and ask them to describe you (in one word-answers). Don’t write down the first three that come to their minds. Use 4,5, and 6. Also, avoid being self-aggrandizing, even if you are Mother Theresa, herself.

What is your favorite snack?

Lean into the weirdness on this one. We once had a kid whose favorite snack was to stick her fingers in peanut butter, so she wrote, “peanut butter fingers.” Something like that is a perfect response.

Favorite app/website

Connect this answer to an interest. So, if you’re saying that you want to be an engineer and that you want to buildings, don’t say your favorite website is There must be some continuity between your answer and what’s demonstrated elsewhere in your application.

Best movie of all time 

There are two ways to answer this question: the serious way and the “why does this determine whether or not I get into your college?” way. We’ve always wanted a student to write down “Shrek 3” and so far, no one has yet. Just know that you could also go the humorous route on this one.  If you don’t have opinions on movies, go for the humor.

Hashtag to describe yourself 

Go with humor on this one, but not cringy humor.

What is your dream job?

Tie this one back into an interest. If you say you want to study anthropology and literature, don’t write down, “my dream job is to play Jean Valjean…” just don’t.

What is your theme song?

Much like the movie answer, if you don’t have a lot of opinions on music, go the funny route.  Just DO NOT write down “the Trojan Fight Song.”

Dream Trip

We don’t have much advice on this one, except don’t make it ritzy or show off your wealth. In other words, St. Barts, Anguilla, and Turks and Caicos are out. You can, however, write down “Greece.” There is a line. One gives off colonial vibes and the other gives the impression that you like the ocean. Also, don’t say Bali.

What TV show you will you binge watch next?

There’s no wrong answer here, either. There is a difference between saying “Chopped” and a Ken Burns’ 10-part series on the Vietnam War. Err on the side of the innocuous. If you say “the Office,” there’s no real conclusion they can draw about you and that’s fine for this answer.

Place you are most content

Lean into sentimentality, here. One of our kids was indecisive about every other aspect of her application, but when it came to this question, she immediately said “my bed.” Don’t be pretentious. Your happy place is not a homeless shelter where you volunteer.

Need some help with your Common App? Contact us here. We are great at helping students develop standout essays.