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University of South Carolina – Acceptance Rate, GPA, and Requirements
Located in South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia, the University of South Carolina is one of the top 60 public institutions in the country.
In addition to having an outstanding business school, UofSC’s nursing and engineering programs have also received top accolades.
More than 30,000 students enjoy a challenging academic environment, notable athletic scene, and fun college town experience.
Outdoor enthusiasts can visit the nearby Congaree National Park for free, sunbathe and fish at Lake Murray, or exercise at various city parks.
Museums and concert venues are abundant, as well as the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden.
Undergraduate students often take weekend jaunts to coastal cities like Charleston and Myrtle Beach or mountain retreats like Greenville.
Of course, the University of South Carolina has so much more to offer than a stimulating environment. Read ahead to learn about the school’s acceptance rate, admitted student statistics, admissions process, tuition, and exceptional programs.
University of South Carolina Acceptance Rate
The UofSC has an acceptance rate of 68 %.
Exceeding 8,000 new undergraduate students, the most recent incoming class of 2021 represented the second-largest group of new enrollments in the school’s history.
Of this cohort, 53% came from the state of South Carolina.
University of South Carolina Out-of-State Acceptance Rate
The University of South Carolina’s most recent first-year class had an out-of-state population of over 40% .
According to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, out-of-state students only made up 19% of the UofSC student body in 1997, while in 2016, that number had reached 42%.
What makes UofSC such a welcoming choice for non-South Carolina residents?
The institution uses a sliding scale to calculate out-of-state tuition. Some admitted students invest over $16,000 per year, while high-achieving out-of-state admits can pay at discounted rates that parallel what South Carolina residents pay.
Along with a rise in out-of-state student enrollment, UofSC has also observed an increase in the diversity of its overall student body.
African-American enrollment has grown by 85% since 2016 and Hispanic enrollment has increased 53% in the same time frame.
For the incoming class of 2021 , 75 new admits were high school valedictorians and over 16% were first-generation college students
GPA for University of South Carolina
UofSC’s incoming class of 2021 averaged an impressive 4.4 GPA – a record for academic excellence.
Of this cohort, 596 students enrolled in the Honors College with an average GPA of 4.9, and 1,400 additional first-year students enrolled in the Capstone Scholars Program with a 4.55 average GPA.
While UofSC does not stipulate a minimum GPA for admittance, applicants should expect to submit a competitive GPA.
When analyzing the middle 50% of the University of South Carolina’s recent freshmen class, admitted students maintained a GPA between 4.1 and 4.7 and ranked in the top 7 to 28% of their senior classes.
Within that middle 50% range, Honors College students held a GPA between 4.5 and 5.0 and ranked in the top 1 to 5% of their senior classes.
Additionally, Capstone Scholars maintained a 4.2 to 4.8 GPA and ranked among the top 4 to 18% of their graduating class groups.
SAT & ACT Requirements
After testing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of South Carolina campus at Columbia no longer requires first-year applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores – this policy will hold until at least the fall 2022 term.
Still, many applicants choose to offer their standardized score results.
Let’s look first at the middle 50% of scores for South Carolina residents versus out-of-state residents.
For the incoming class of 2021, SC admits scored between 1100 and 1300 on the SAT and 23-30 on the ACT. Nonresidents’ scores were notably higher, with an SAT window of 1250-1380 and an ACT composite score ranging between 28-32.
We can also break down SAT and ACT averages by special programs. The middle 50% of Capstone Scholars, for instance, scored between 1340 and 1420 on the SAT and a 29-32 on the ACT.
Honors College admits within the same 50% window were the most high-achieving, with SAT Superscores between 1430 to 1520 and an ACT score of 32-34.
Other Requirements and Admission Tips
Candidates seeking admission to the University of South Carolina are expected to meet the minimum college preparatory high school course curriculum designated by the S. C. Commission on Higher Education.
These classes include four English units, four mathematics units, three laboratory science units, three social studies units, two foreign language units, one fine art unit, and two academic electives.
Eligible students may then submit four components : a Common App or Coalition App (including a completed essays and activities section), a school report form (submitted by a high school guidance counselor), an unofficial high school transcript, and a $65 fee (or fee waiver).
For regular decision applicants , the application deadline is December 1, with all credentials provided by January 15. Typically, this cohort of applicants can expect to receive their admissions decisions by mid-March.
Those interested in applying to the S. C. Honors College or Top Scholars program are advised to submit their materials by October 15, the early action deadline.
In addition to the general application materials, these students should also complete the Honors College/Top Scholars application, which prompts the applicant to complete two essay prompts and one short-answer question (more on those in the following section).
Additionally, these students should coordinate with their high school guidance counselor(s) to submit two letters of recommendation.
Honors College applicants should anticipate an admission decision by mid-February, while Top Scholars candidates will be invited to participate in a mandatory interview weekend (usually hosted in late January).
Students who are awarded merit scholarships can expect to receive them around mid-March.
Essays for University of South Carolina
Applicants may submit one of three items to meet the supplemental material requirement : (1) SAT or ACT scores, (2) three alternative exam scores from a list of approved exams , or (3) a graded writing assignment.
Those who choose to submit a writing assignment should make sure to include their full name, the date the paper was turned in, the grade received, and any available teacher comments.
The paper should have been written during the applicant’s junior or senior year in high school, and UofSC recommends that students submit an English/social studies paper, essay exam, or research paper written in English.
Students wishing to share more information about what makes them stand out from other candidates need not despair – there is a separate essay section that affords students space to share more information about themselves.
The Office of Admissions advises students to reflect on an experience, tell a story, and allow their personalities to shine through.
Is the University of South Carolina Right for You?
As previously mentioned, the University of South Carolina is an appealing option for SC and non-SC residents.
Many tout their affordable tuition scale as one of their deciding facts for applying to the university.
97% of UofSC first-year students received some form of financial aid in the 2020-2021 academic year.
The following price tags for tuition and technology fees are not necessarily set and do not take into account the financial awards that most students receive, which significantly lower their school attendance costs.
Without financial assistance, SC residents can expect to pay $12,688 per year for tuition and technology, while out-of-state residents contribute $33,928.
When housing, meals, books, and supplies are factored in, the SC resident cost increases to $26,822 annually, while the non-resident costs jump to $48,062.
Regardless of tuition cost, the value of a University of South Carolina education seems to be worth the expense.
UofSC has held the number 1 ranking for international business for 23 consecutive years ! The most recent graduating class of the Darla Moore School of Business earned an average starting salary of $58,251 and a 90% job placement rate.
According to the U.S. News and World Report, UofSC also offers the top first-year student experience of any public college in the country.
Indeed this guarantee of support is a decisive factor that attracts incoming students from all over the state and country. University 101 is a first-year seminar experience that is designed to help freshmen transition to college life.
Students enrolled in University 101 experience a higher first-to-second year retention rate . Syllabus topics include fostering academic success, connecting with the university, and promoting personal development, wellbeing, and social responsibility.
The University of South Carolina is an excellent choice for students looking to attend an elite Honors program housed in a diverse, best-value school– future entrepreneurs are especially advised to look more into UofSC’s business programs.
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- Graduate with Honors
One element that sets the Honors College apart from the rest of the university and other honors colleges is our thesis requirement. Your senior thesis allows you to complete a substantial academic project, applying knowledge you've acquired in your course of study. You'll be able to demonstrate a practical command of research techniques and writing skills and showcase your ability to work independently.
Follow Your Passion
In order to graduate from the Honors College, students are required to complete and successfully defend a senior thesis paper or project. Honors students consult with a faculty mentor and the Honors College Thesis Coordinator to plan a thesis project based on their academic and creative interests, not necessarily their major. Options include an analysis of a controversial social issue, research in an academic discipline, scientific research, a service-learning or pro bono project, and a creative project such as a play or series of short stories.
You will build up your thesis throughout your years in the Honors College by completing coursework in our diverse curriculum, participating in research, engaging with faculty and narrowing your areas of academic and professional interest. By the end of your junior year, you will have a well-developed thesis plan that you can implement in your senior year.
Sample Honors Thesis Topics
Many students spend their college years searching vainly for a passion without fully discovering one until much later in life. Not Samantha Crandall. The Honors College senior found not only one passion, but two early in her college years: homelessness and music.
Crandall, a soprano, combined her passions to create a unique joint senior thesis and senior recital project. “Giving Voice to the Unheard,” a recital she gave in February, included a mixture of music and lecture that presented an emotional journey of homelessness.
For those drawn to literary puzzles, 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns offers a wealth of riddles. While he’s famous for his poems about love and friendship, a current debate in academic circles involves his beliefs about slavery. Was he or wasn’t he an abolitionist?
Joseph DuRant, a 2015 English Honors graduate, found himself intrigued by the question during his three-year research work with Patrick Scott, distinguished professor of English emeritus and editor of Studies in Scottish Literature. In 2012, DuRant began researching and editing letters written to Burns — about 500 of them, from 1779 until his death in 1796 — stored in the G. Ross Roy collection in the Thomas Cooper Library. While some were fragments and others pertained to the everyday business of farm upkeep and payment for work, the letters show a more complete side of the internationally loved poet, honored by more than 700 Burns clubs in the world.
Zach Miller knew two things about his senior thesis: He didn’t want to write a paper, and he wanted it to help someone else. To decide, all he needed was to feel his own pain.
“I had torn my hip flexors, my adductors on both sides of the groin, and my right hamstring three times,” the 2014 graduate recounted, and kept on going. “I partially tore two ligaments in my left shoulder and I broke my left arm.” A devoted lacrosse player, Miller had so many injuries several doctors told him to be happy to walk without limping.
Determined to keep playing, he found one doctor in Charlotte with a little more optimism. Dr. Nevin Markel, a chiropractor and physical therapist with expertise in nutrition, lifting and rehabilitation, studied Miller’s body mechanics and encouraged him to train with weight sleds. For Miller, 6’3” and not limping, the training worked. And the accounting/finance major found the inspiration for his thesis.
“The Diesel,” a Prowler-type weight sled Miller built with 4 x 4 railroad ties, provided some of the carpentry skills he wanted. It also gave him a mental break from academic work, something he wanted from his thesis. Most importantly, it allowed him to give Markel a thank-you gift for helping him continue being active. Named for his lacrosse nickname and painted garnet and black, The Diesel is at Markel’s gym in Charlotte, where Miller now works as an investment banker.
“I figure I’ll use it there,” he said. “Why can’t I share it with others?”
Miller spent four months building The Diesel, first attempting to weld a metal version. Finding that too difficult, he followed a plan using the railroad ties, making countless trips to the hardware store and having his roommate help.
“My neighbors were ready to kill me because of all the noise I made with power saws,” he said, confessing a new respect for carpenters. “It was tough but cool to do.”
After surveying more than 1,000 USC students about their use and misuse of stimulant medications, Kari Benson learned two important things: These “smart drugs” are more common on campus than people think, and there’s nothing smart about them.
“Most students claim they use them for academic reasons, but misusers have significantly lower GPAs and experience more difficulties with attention,” Benson said of her three-year research as an Honors experimental psychology major. “I also found how common misuse of stimulant medication is. Students talk about how they use it or ask other students for it casually on campus, as if it is completely normal and okay.”
While it’s okay for students diagnosed with ADHD and other attention disorders to take Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin and Vyvanse as prescribed, it’s not okay for them to misuse them or give them to their friends. Benson learned many students misuse those drugs to improve focus or stay awake to study or complete an assignment, and a smaller number take them recreationally. They’ll crush and snort them, or mix them with other drugs, including alcohol. Snorting them results in a cocaine-like high; mixing them makes the high last longer. Benson, who knew of one student who had to be helicoptered from the Carolina Cup to a hospital after mixing alcohol with Adderall, found 23 percent of USC’s student population misused the drugs last year. “Chances are everyone knows someone who has misused stimulant medication.”
Her research brought an invitation for publication as first author in Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. It also earned her the first William A. Mould Outstanding Senior Thesis Award, which recognizes a graduating Honors senior whose work would make “a significant impact in their field of study and on their larger community.” Named for the late USC French professor and cofounding dean of the Honors College, the award, which includes a $1,000 cash prize, is given by Mould’s family.
Associate Professor Kate Flory nominated her student researcher for the award. “Kari is the most talented undergraduate researcher I have worked with in my 10 years at USC,” she wrote in her recommendation letter to the Senior Thesis Award Committee. “Her Senior Thesis and related program of research is exceptional.”
Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” has been adapted for film more than 50 times since 1900, Wikipedia reports. But it’s not likely any of them did what Alexander Jones did for his Honors senior thesis. In “Hamlet from Stage to Screen,” Jones took the famous tragedy and turned it inside out, letting its many other characters more clearly expose one of the playwright’s themes. That theme is the danger of revenge — how it backfires on those pursuing it — and harms others in its path.
“I think it’s a very important message, and I think a lot of people don’t really get it,” said Jones, ’16 English. His adaptation, 130 pages long, with production notes and a critical detailed analysis of each character, won the 2016 William A. Mould Outstanding Senior Thesis Award. Given annually by the family of the late Mould, one of the Honors College’s founding deans, the award includes $1,000, and is considered by judges to make a significant impact on the student’s field of study and larger community.
After two sports-related injuries in six months, former USC soccer captain Kevin Stam had to accept that his dream of playing five years of professional ball wasn’t coming true. But he’s lucky, he says, to have played six months on a professional team in Sweden, and to have other dreams. Two of them are becoming an international mediator and teaching people how to resolve conflict. His years as an Honors student in the College of Social Work, plus the leadership and collaborative skills honed on the field, should serve him well.
“Resolving conflict is a universal skill,” he said. “Conflicts happen all the time. They come in all shapes and sizes, all levels of intensity.”
For his Honors thesis, Stam created an hour-long online conflict resolution course for college students. College, he says, is often the first time people need to resolve conflicts.
“It’s a totally new living and learning environment. There are conflicts with roommates, professors, advisors. They’ve been at home where an adult has resolved conflicts, and sometimes students don’t have the skills. They have to learn to take matters into their own hands and stand up for themselves and resolve conflicts in a non-aggressive, non-avoidant manner.”
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 10 best honors colleges and programs.
College Admissions , College Info
For students who are really set on enrolling in a quality honors program, it's important to learn about some of the best honors colleges before making that big decision. That's especially true because your honors program will dictate how difficult your classes are...and the perks you get from doing well in them!
We're here to help you get all the information you need about the top honors programs in the country so you can pick the program that's right for you. In this article, we'll:
- Explain what an honors college is
- Provide our research-based ranking of the ten top honors colleges and programs at U.S. colleges and universities
- Give you five tips for applying to top college honors programs
Ready? Let's dive in!
Feature Image: slgckgc/ Flickr
What Is an Honors College?
Honors colleges and honors programs are supplemental and/or alternative learning programs that undergraduate students can complete while pursuing a traditional bachelor's degree.
Honors colleges typically function independently within a larger university system, similar to the college of business or the college of arts and sciences at a big university. Additionally, honors colleges typically come with their own funding, facilities, faculty, course offerings, and perks for their students. In many instances, honors colleges can offer their students more rigorous educational opportunities since they serve fewer students and often have better funding than the bigger colleges within a university system.
College honors programs , on the other hand, function like an academic track. Eligible students can follow honors programs' guidelines to receive a more rigorous education and an honors distinction at graduation. At many universities, these honors programs are managed by individual departments. While honors programs aren't usually big enough to constitute a college within the university system, honors programs can still offer students the opportunity to take special courses and participate in extracurricular activities that aren't open to "regular" students.
If honors colleges and honors programs sound similar...that's because they are! They both give qualifying college students the opportunity to pursue a more challenging educational track and graduate with honors. Even more importantly, honors colleges and programs provide students with the opportunity to get an elite education at colleges and universities of all kinds.
While honors colleges across the U.S. are pretty similar in terms of their rigor and individualized attention, some honors colleges stand out from the rest . The best honors colleges support and reflect their universities' mission and identity, create ties to their community, and offer top-tier resources to support their students' career goals. Enrolling in an honors college can help set you on the path to long-term success.
If you're still curious about honors college and want to learn more, check out our introductory guide to honors colleges in the United States .
We considered many different factors, like academic rigor and funding opportunities, when deciding which schools to put on our list.
Our Methodology for Choosing the Best Honors Colleges
Now that you know a little more about honors colleges, it's time to look at the best honors colleges in the US. Here's our methodology for our honors college rankings.
To put together our list, we evaluated honors colleges based on admissions requirements, curricular and extracurricular program offerings, community, financial aid opportunities, and innovative approaches to the honors educational experience. The colleges that made our list offer rigorous coursework, tailored learning plans, excellent funding opportunities, and unique or out-of-the-box learning experiences.
During our research, we found that there are many different types of honors colleges and programs out there, and every honors college is unique. And you know what? That's a great thing! Every student is different, so our goal is to include a diverse array of honors colleges so you can find your perfect fit.
Now that you know how to navigate our list of the nine best honors colleges, let's look more closely at our picks for the ten best honors colleges and programs in the U.S.
Barrett College at Arizona State University tops our list of best honors colleges in the United States.
The 10 Best Honors Colleges
We've divided up our list of the ten best honors colleges into three main categories: the best honors colleges, best honors programs, and best affordable honors colleges.
The Best Honors Colleges
These are honors colleges that are stand-alone schools within a university. They can have the benefit of additional funding, school-wide extracurriculars, and sometimes even additional distinctions at graduation!
Here are the honors colleges that are at the top of PrepScholar's list.
Barrett College, Arizona State University
- Location: Tempe, Arizona
Barrett College, the honors college at Arizona State University, is a stand-alone college within the ASU system. Ranked #1 among honors colleges in the United States , Barrett College has a presence on ASU's four campuses in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, and Glendale, Arizona
In the 2021-2022 academic year, Arizona State had an 88% acceptance rate, which means it's an accessible school for many students. Though Barrett College doesn't publicize its acceptance rate, it does provide other stats that can help prospective students know where they stand as applicants. For example, the average unweighted high school GPA of students admitted into Barret in 2021 was 3.81 . In terms of test scores, the average composite score on the SAT was 1347, and the average composite ACT score was 29. If your GPA and test scores are above average, you have a better shot at getting into Barrett.
Despite the large number of students attending Barrett College, honors class sizes are still small. In addition to offering a required sequence of signature honors courses (the central theme being "The Human Event"), Barrett College allows students to conduct research and thesis projects , has a private writing center for Barrett students, and offers many global internship, study abroad , and real-world service opportunities. Barrett College also provides quality housing facilities for the majority of its nearly 7,100 first- and second-year undergraduate honors students.
Barrett is nationally prestigious, and is among the top 20 universities in the US for recipients of the Fulbright fellowship . It's also the only honors college that has a Nobel Prize recipient teaching undergraduates.
Schreyer Honors College (SHC), Pennsylvania State University
- Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
Schreyer Honors College is Penn State's honors college. Considered one of the top honors colleges in the nation , Schreyer provides approximately 2,000 honors college "Scholars" with an educational experience that is dedicated to academic integrity, fostering a global perspective, and rich opportunities for leadership and civic engagement.
The acceptance rate to Penn State is about 54% , but the average acceptance rate to Schreyer Honors College is between 8-10% , making this one of the more competitive public university honors colleges. Another unique feature of Schreyer Honors College is it doesn't consider SAT/ACT scores or high school GPA as part of the application process . Instead, the Schreyer admissions committee is interested in the creative thinking and authenticity applicants demonstrate in their admissions materials.
Schreyer also offers an abundance of honors-specific courses for admitted students. In fact, Schreyer offers over 300 smaller-sized honors courses to its students , usually taught by senior faculty members. Schreyer students also have the benefit of access to priority registration and living learning communities (LLCs) in residence halls that primarily house honors students .
One stand-out offering at Schreyer Honors College is the Integrated Undergraduate Graduate (IUG) Program . The IUG program allows exceptional students to complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees concurrently, or at the same time. Eligible students will be able to meet the requirements for this accelerated program by completing an honors thesis that meets both undergraduate and graduate standards and taking a series of cross-listed undergraduate and graduate courses. If you're interested in enrolling in an honors college and completing an accelerated graduate degree program, Schreyer could be a good fit for you!
Clemson Honors College at Clemson University offers honors students a rigorous academic experience. ( Spyder_Monkey /Wikimedia)
Clemson Honors College, Clemson University
- Location: Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University's honors college is called Clemson Honors College. Clemson’s acceptance rate is 62%, and while Clemson Honors College doesn’t publish its admissions rates, it’s likely that getting in is more challenging. That’s because the honors college has more rigorous GPA requirements: the minimum required GPA for the honors college is a 3.7, but most students accepted to Clemson Honors College far exceed that minimum.
There are plenty of benefits to being an honors student at Clemson. Honors students receive priority registration, extended library privileges, and are eligible to apply for research grants to support their Departmental Honors research projects at the beginning of both the fall and spring semesters.
Another stand-out feature of Clemson Honors College is the brand new Honors Residential College (HRC) facility , which includes housing and dining for honors students, administrative offices, a library, study rooms, classrooms, and a kitchen. These facilities are available exclusively to honors students, so you'll have the space you need to study (and have fun, too).
Clemson Honors College also offers many unique academic opportunities, including the highly selective EUREKA! Program . The EUREKA! Program invites 50 incoming honors freshmen (25 in person, 25 online) to participate in research projects over a five week period before the start of the fall semester. Many EUREKA! Program participants go on to receive elite scholarships and fellowships , such as the Rhodes, Fulbright, Goldwater, Marshall, and Truman scholarships.
Rutgers University Honors College
- Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey
The Honors College at Rutgers University is both a stand-alone school and a student living-learning community . The goal of the honors college is to blend the classroom and the community to create a transformative learning experience for its students.
The Rutgers acceptance rate is 67% , and while the honors college doesn't publish its admissions rates, it's safe to assume that getting in is more competitive. The test scores of accepted students reflect that idea: the median SAT score for the Honors College class of 2022 is 1530 (the composite SAT score for non-honors students is 1300).
Luckily for incoming students, there isn't a separate or additional application for the Honors College. The Honors College admissions committee uses the general Rutgers application to determine who will be admitted into the honors program.
Once admitted into the college, honors students have access to top-notch facilities and academic resources . The Honors College at Rutgers has its own state-of-the-art building, which is the hub for honors courses and seminars, research opportunities, an Innovation Lab, on-site academic advising, and lounges where honors students can build community and even get to know live-in faculty.
One of the best things about the Honors College at Rutgers is that all honors students receive a four year renewable scholarship . The Honors College also provides additional scholarship opportunities for study abroad, research projects, and even has an Honors College Student Emergency Fund for students who encounter unexpected financial hardship.
The University of Texas at Austin takes the top spot in our list of the best honors programs in the United States. (Kumar Appaiah /Flickr)
Best Honors Programs
The biggest difference between an honors college and an honors program is that honors colleges are stand-alone schools within the university system, and honors programs are not. For our list, we focused on finding the best university-wide honors programs in the United States.
Plan II Honors Program, University of Texas at Austin
Location: Austin, Texas
The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin offers the Plan II Honors Program, which is an interdisciplinary arts and sciences major with a core curriculum. Unlike stand-alone honors colleges like the ones listed above, the Plan II Honors Program is housed within UT's College of Liberal Arts .
Sometimes called a "public Ivy," UT has a 32% acceptance rate. Plan II, however, usually receives around 1400 applications every year and only admits around 175 freshman honors students every fall. (In other words, getting into Plan II can be a little tough!)
Plan II Honors is a prime example of the difference between an honors college and honors program . As an honors program, Plan II Honors doesn't have its own housing, nor are its programs consolidated in one stand-alone honors college. However, Plan II does have its own scholarship and grant programs, study abroad opportunities, and student clubs.
A major perk of the Plan II Honors Program at UT is its flexibility. For students who are interested in double majoring, combining multiple UT honors programs, or even getting a second degree concurrently, Plan II Honors is a great choice. Over 70% of Plan II Honors students complete the requirements for a second, third, or fourth major , and close to 35% complete the requirements for a second degree. That makes the Plan II honors program great for ambitious students who are pursuing a more interdisciplinary course of study!
Echols Scholars Program, University of Virginia
- Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
The honors program at the University of Virginia (UVA) is called Echols Scholars Program. UVA's Echols Scholars Program is housed within the College of Arts & Sciences at UVA.
The acceptance rate to UVA is around 23%, making it one of the most competitive schools on our list. Luckily, all applicants to the College of Arts & Sciences first-year class are automatically reviewed for admission to Echols. Each new class of Echols students typically has approximately 200 students, so if you want to get into Echols, you'll need to make sure your UVA application stands out from the crowd .
The key value that defines the Echols is that students get the opportunity to shape the program. For instance, the Echols Council is a student-led governing body that represents Echols students and works with the honors program's administration to design and implement initiatives that give students the best learning experience.
Another unique opportunity that the Echols Scholars Program offers is the Echols Interdisciplinary Major . The Echols website explains, "The principle underlying the Echols Interdisciplinary Major is that no existing major, or combination of majors, fully satisfies a student's broader interests." This means that Echols students have the chance to create their own course of study that best fits their future career goals. If you want the chance to chart your own course in college, you may be a great fit for the Echols Scholars Program.
University Honors Program, the University of Kansas
- Location: Lawrence, Kansas
The University of Kansas Honors Program, which is more commonly referred to as "University Honors," is a campus-wide honors program open to students of all majors.
The acceptance rate to KU is about 91% , but acceptance to the University Honors Program is highly competitive. The average GPA for freshmen entering the honors program is 3.95, which is much higher than the average GPA of all incoming freshmen, which is 3.6. To get into the honors program, students have to apply to University Honors as part of the KU admissions application, which requires you to submit an additional essay and short answer response.
The University Honors program at KU is built on the concept of experiential learning . To graduate from University Honors, students are required to earn "Honors Experience" units by engaging in Enhanced Learning Experiences (ELEs) . ELEs at KU include opportunities in public service, cultural literacy and social justice, global citizenship, aesthetic engagement, professional development and social entrepreneurship, leadership, and research. Honors students can even propose alternative experiences of their own design to meet the ELE requirement.
Honors College, University of South Carolina
- Location: Columbia, South Carolina
The Honors College at the University of South Carolina is one of the larger honors college programs on this list, with roughly 2,300 students, but that doesn't mean they receive fewer resources. In fact, the honors college offers nearly 600 honors courses, as well as the option (only available to honors students) to design your own major. Average class size for honors college classes is only 16, so students there also get more one-on-one interaction.
The acceptance rate to the University of South Carolina is roughly 68%, with an estimated SAT midrange of1100-1300 and an estimated ACT midrange of 21 to 29 for South Carolina residents, and an SAT midrange of 1250-1400 and ACT midrange of 28-32 for nonresidents. For the honors college, the SAT midrange is 1410-1520, the ACT midrange is 32-34, and the average weighted GPA of admitted honors students is 4.77.
Honors college students benefit from additional perks like honors-specific living communities in particular dorms and strong financial aid packages. The Honors College at the University of South Carolina has also received the highest ranking among public school honors programs for the fifth straight time by the publication Inside Honors.
An impressive 87% of Macaulay Honors College students graduate debt free! Beyond My Ken /Wikimedia
Best "Bang for Your Buck" Honors Programs and Colleges
If you're looking to get the most out of your educational dollars, you might consider enrolling in an honors college or program that offers financial assistance. Here are two honors colleges that can give you a top-tier education without breaking the bank.
Macaulay Honors College, City University of New York (CUNY)
- Location: New York City, New York
Macaulay Honors College is the independent honors college housed within the City University of New York (CUNY). Macaulay is affiliated with eight senior colleges within the CUNY system and has a presence on the following CUNY campuses: Baruch College, Brooklyn College, City College, Hunter College, John Jay College, Lehman College, Queens College, and the College of Staten Island (CSI). And guess what? All of these campuses are located in New York City!
CUNY is pretty selective—the university's acceptance rate is about 51%. Macaulay itself is also competitive, offering just 520 seats to incoming students across all eight campuses each year. To apply to Macaulay, prospective students must submit a high school transcript, resume, two letters of recommendation, and two maximum 500 word essay responses.
While Macaulay scholars will spend most of their time studying at their home campus, they will have the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars, and even take courses at the other CUNY campuses in New York City. In fact, Macaulay makes learning about New York City a key feature of its honors education. To that end, Macaulay students receive free admission to hundreds of the city's cultural institutions, and participate in required honors seminars that use New York City as a teaching tool.
Besides its exceptional honors education, perhaps the most appealing thing about Macaulay Honors College is its financial aid package . Macaulay offers all of its students a merit scholarship package that includes tuition and a laptop computer, plus access to funding to support study abroad, research, and internship opportunities. Most impressively, 87% of Macaulay students graduate debt-free!
Macaulay's excellent academics—they even have a Nobel Prize winner on faculty— and its generous financial aid package makes it an excellent value. High-achieving students who have limited funds (but want to get a top-tier education!) should definitely consider CUNY's Macaulay Honors College.
The University of Alabama Honors College
- Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
The honors college at the University of Alabama, which enrolled students call "UA Honors," is a stand-alone college within the larger University of Alabama campus.
Admissions into UA Honors is equally competitive : applicants must have a minimum ACT score of 30, minimum SAT score of 1360, and a 3.5 high school GPA or higher to get accepted to UA Honors. There is a fast track into UA Honors for certain students: National Merit Finalists and National Achievement Finalists are admitted automatically once they complete the honors application.
UA Honors offers admitted students tons of academic opportunities . One of the most prestigious is the Randall Research Scholars program , which is the first interdisciplinary research program in the United States. Randal Research Scholars learn how to combine computing skills with their academic interests to perform high-level research in their field.
UA Honors also offers top-tier leadership and service opportunities through the University Fellows Experience . This four-year program allows students to develop elite leadership skills while empowering them to give back to the community around them through service and mentorship. The combination of academics and service offered by UA Honors helps honors graduates stand out as they embark on their future careers.
The amazing academic and extracurricular activities available through UA Honors comes at a reasonable price, too. That's because UA Honors offers some of the most generous merit aid packages in the country to its students . At least eleven different types of merit and need based scholarships are available to UA honors students. On top of those scholarships, UA Honors students are eligible for study abroad scholarships and research fellowships.
5 Tips for Applying to Top College Honors Programs
Applying to college is already a demanding task. If you're planning to apply to honors colleges on top of that, you've got your work cut out for you!
Our list of five tips for applying to top honors colleges can help simplify the honors application process.
Tip 1: Do Your Research Before You Apply
Lots of prospective honors students consult the annual honors college rankings to help them decide which honors colleges to apply to. But rankings are just the tip of the iceberg! You can—and should!— learn a lot about college honors programs just by browsing university websites before you make any decisions about where to apply.
Honors college applications can be long and involved. You want to make sure you know that an honors college is a good fit for you before you dump your time and energy into a secondary application. By doing a little research up front, you'll save yourself precious time during college application season.
Tip 2: Learn How You're Being Evaluated
You can almost always find out the average SAT/ACT scores and GPA of students who are accepted to a school's honors college before you apply. Many college honors programs have higher requirements for standardized test scores and GPAs that determine whether an applicant qualifies for admission.
Though you shouldn't necessarily let your GPA, class rank, or standardized test scores deter you from applying to honors colleges, these numbers can help give you an idea of where you stand going into the application process. If your scores and GPA are a lot lower than the honor program's stated requirements, then you may have a hard time getting in.
On the other hand, some schools no longer take SAT/ACT scores and GPA into account as a part of their honors college applications. These schools are more interested in learning about who you are through written essays and short answer questions. If you're applying to these schools, you can't plan to simply rely on a perfect SAT score or 4.0 GPA—you'll need to make sure you're a well-rounded candidate before you decide to apply.
The bottom line? Go into the application process knowing how different honors colleges are going to evaluate you and what qualities they're looking for. This will help you know which components of the application to focus your energy on.
Tip 3: Brush Up on Your Writing Skills
We've already mentioned that honors college applications are more demanding than regular college apps, usually because they ask you to write additional essays as part of the application process.
Also, the essay prompts usually require you to think creatively about yourself, your intellectual interests, and global issues. While some honors colleges ask standard questions like "why this school," most are going to ask you to think way outside the box. (For examples of essay questions like these—and to prepare yourself for what you may see on an honors college application— check out the University of Chicago's essay prompts .)
You'll also want to apply for special scholarships or fellowships available through your selected honors programs. Most merit-based scholarship applications include a required essay section that asks you to explain what experiences, achievements, or goals make you the best candidate for the scholarship. That's right— more writing!
Are you starting to see how the essays can add up if you plan to apply to an honors college? Don't worry, though! If you're prepared to write persuasively about your skills and achievements, you're prepared to show that you're an amazing honors college candidate.
Tip 4: Be Ready for an On-Campus Interview
Sometimes (though not always) honors colleges will narrow their applicant pool by inviting select applicants to visit their university's campus for an in-person interview . There are some great things about being invited to an on-campus interview: you get to meet faculty and current students, and you'll get to tour the college's facilities.
There are also some scary things about an interview: namely, it will help admissions officers determine whether you'll be invited into the program or not.
Does this sound nerve-wracking? Don't worry: you can take a lot of the anxiety out of the interview process with a little preparation. Our guide to conquering the college interview is a great place to start !
Tip 5: Be Yourself!
It may sound cheesy, but honors colleges want to get to know you through your application. Don't lie or exaggerate to try and impress the admissions committee! You're already a great student: all you have to do is put together an equally great, authentic application .
Keep in mind that creativity and curiosity are two of the qualities that honors colleges desire the most in potential students. If you can demonstrate what makes you a creative thinker and what intellectual topics get you excited in your application essays, you'll be more likely to stand out to the faculty and staff members who evaluate your application materials!
If getting into an honors college your goal, then you need to make sure you're setting yourself up for success. This starts with having a solid GPA . First, make sure you're calculating your GPA correctly . Once you figure out what your current GPA is, you can focus on raising it as quickly as possible !
Once your GPA is looking good, it's time to start focusing on your test scores. Having good test scores is one key to getting into the honors program of your dreams! The first step is deciding whether you should take the SAT or ACT . Then it's time to start studying. Check out our expert SAT study tips and expert ACT study tips to make sure you're studying smarter and harder.
But like we mentioned earlier, the best honors programs know that you're more than just your grades and test scores. Honors colleges want to see that you're involved in things beyond school, which is where extracurriculars come in . This article will teach you everything you need to know about writing about extracurriculars on your college applications so that you stand out from the crowd.
Want to build the best possible college application?
We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies . We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.
We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools .
Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.
Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.
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How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays 2023-2024
The University of Southern California has a few supplemental essays and creative short answers that students must complete. Your essays are one of the only opportunities you’ll have to show an admissions officer who you are beyond the numbers, and with USC’s many different prompts, it’s clear this school wants you to seize that opportunity.
Here are our tips for responding to the USC essays in a way that will help your application stand out!
Read this USC essay example to inspire your own writing.
USC Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 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 (250 words).
Prompt 2 (Optional): 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 (250 words).
Short Answer Prompts: Respond to all the prompts below (100 characters unless otherwise specified)
- Describe yourself in three words (25 characters each)
- What is your favorite snack?
- Best movie of all time
- If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
- 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?
Viterbi School of Engineering Prompt: The student body at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering is a diverse group of unique engineers and computer scientists who work together to engineer a better world for all humanity. Describe how your contributions to the USC Viterbi student body may be distinct from others. Please feel free to touch on any part of your background, traits, skills, experiences, challenges, and/or personality in helping us better understand you. (250 words)
Engineering and Computer Science Prompt: The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and their 14 Grand Challenges go hand-in-hand with our vision to engineer a better world for all humanity. Engineers and computer scientists are challenged to solve these problems in order to improve life on the planet. Learn more about the NAE Grand Challenges at http://engineeringchallenges.org and tell us which challenge is most important to you, and why. (250 words)
Dornsife Applicants Prompt: Many of us have at least one issue or passion that we care deeply about — a topic on which we would love to share our opinions and insights in hopes of sparking intense interest and continued conversation. If you had ten minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your talk be about? (250 words)
Prompt 1 (Required)
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 (250 words)..
The tricky bit about this prompt is that it essentially combines the “ Why This Major ” and “ Why This College ” essay archetypes into one essay with a strict cap of 250 words. That’s a lot of information in not a whole lot of space, which might feel overwhelming. The first thing you should do is figure out the content of your essay.
Step One: Think about your academic interests (i.e. your majors).
- How did your interests develop?
- Why are you passionate about your interests?
- What are your goals within your interests?
- How will pursuing your major help you achieve your goals in life?
Step Two: Think about the answers to those questions in relation to USC.
- How will USC help you to further develop your interests?
- What resources does the university have that will help you achieve your goals?
While your essay should explore resources that will aid in your academic pursuits, you should also keep it as specific to USC as possible—this essay should not be able to be copied and pasted for any other university! Here’s an example of how to achieve the specificity you need:
Bad: USC is a great school, located in the beautiful city of Los Angeles, with unparalleled academics and renowned instructors.
Why is this bad? This sentence could just as easily apply to UCLA. Without the bit about Los Angeles, the reasoning could even apply to any decent school in existence.
Good: At USC, I plan to participate in the Joint Educational Project (JEP) to find a community of students who, like me, are passionate about the intersections of teaching and social justice. Through JEP, I will be able to actively use the teaching principles I learn in my classes about the Dynamics of Early Childhood.
Why is this good? It references a unique resource at USC and relates to the student’s academic interests.
The Final Step: Write a cohesive essay that tells admissions officers why you are pursuing your field and why USC is the right place for you to pursue it. Some examples could include:
- An Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering student who was obsessed with the launching of the Antares rocket, movies like Gattaca and The Martian , and their physics summer camp as a middle schooler. They could describe their goal of working for NASA, then discussing their interest in the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL).
- An English student who ultimately wants to write romance novels discussing the Creative Writing Hour series that is hosted by English faculty. They might want to reference some of the big-name professors at USC—like Maggie Nelson, Aimee Bender, Dana Johnson, and T.C. Boyle—who have inspired their love of writing.
- A Fine Arts applicant mentioning the Fisher Museum of Art that is on USC’s campus. It was after a school field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) that they first tried working with graphite and learned of their life goals. They know the power of art museums for inspiration and are excited to have a constant source of inspiration just minutes away.
If you are worried about the word count, one way to maximize the little space you have is to find a way to relate your first- and second-choice majors. This way, your explanations of each wouldn’t read like separate essays; rather, they would be telling different parts of the same story. A student with a first-choice major in Physics and a second-choice major in English might want to write about their ultimate goal of writing Science Fiction novels. A student with a first-choice major in History and a second-choice major in East Asian Languages and Culture might write about their goal of curating Asian American history museums.
Make sure you focus on your academic interests/goals and tell admissions officers the ways that USC will help your academic dreams come true, and you will be set!
Prompt 2 (Optional)
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 (250 words). .
USC’s second prompt is optional and won’t apply to most students. However, if you do have a gap in your educational history, then be sure to use this space to address it. Give a brief explanation of the reasoning for the gap—be it illness, a move, etc.—as well as an overview of how you spent this time outside of school.
For example, let’s say your family moved across the country and you took a term off during the transfer. You can describe your role in the move (perhaps you were in charge of organizing a yard sale), why the circumstances warranted an educational gap (maybe the new school doesn’t allow mid-term transfers), and any other projects or commitments to which you dedicated your time.
Ideally, you want to demonstrate how you made the most of this time off and why the time off was necessary.
Short Answer Prompts
Required: respond to all the prompts below (100 characters unless otherwise specified), 1. describe yourself in three words (25 characters each), 2. what is your favorite snack, 3. best movie of all time, 4. dream job, 5. if your life had a theme song, what would it be, 6. dream trip, 7. what tv show will you binge watch next, 8. which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate, 9. favorite book, 10. if you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be.
In this section, USC lets you have a little fun. The questions ask for short, rapid-fire responses that give you the opportunity to let your individuality shine.
The most important thing to keep in mind with the short answer supplements is that USC is asking you to provide new information that sheds light on different aspects of your personality.
Don’t repeat tidbits you’ve already mentioned, although you can and should develop new angles of themes you’ve already established. Most importantly, have fun in this section! If you’re having fun writing it, chances are your admissions officer will have fun reading it.
You can leave descriptions or notes in your responses, though remember that you have 100 characters max. If your choices are more offbeat, we recommend giving a brief description, as your admissions officer certainly won’t have the time to look things up. If your choices are pretty well-known, you can still leave a note about why you chose them (as in the sample response to #8). It’s another opportunity to share your personality, which is valuable!
- Describe yourself in three words (25 characters max each).
Example: Cinephile. Cynophile. Logophile.
Tip: Be creative!
Example: My Gram’s Lebuchken, tiny gingerbread-esque German cakes that my family devours each holiday season.
Tip: This is an opportunity to show your roots or quirky favorites. Make your response more interactive by including descriptive words that appeal to the senses, especially taste and smell. Also, if you’re using another language or describing a less common food, feel free to provide a short description or explanation so that someone who’s never heard of it before can still imagine it.
Example: October Sky; Homer’s rockets remind me of my own homemade science creations, like my DIY lava lamp.
Tip: A lot of applicants will write Harry Potter . Be genuine in your response, but take this opportunity to stand out rather than providing a generic answer.
Example: A math professor; sharing my love of topology to positively shape students’ view of the subject.
Example: Crossword Puzzle Writer; my mornings aren’t complete without a cup of OJ and my daily brain teaser.
Tip: If you go with a serious answer, make a clear connection to your major to show that you’re focused on your academic path. Don’t give a generic answer like “doctor” or “lawyer;” talk about what specialty or subfield interests you most. That said, you could also go for a more lighthearted answer, like a crossword puzzle writer, to use the space to show personality.
Example: The [TV show] Intro; I’d like to think of myself as a [character], but I have to admit I’m more of an [character].
Example: Happy Birthday by AJR – a catchy tune with funny/sarcastic lyrics about the reality of modern life.
Tip: Just as with the best movie prompt, you may want to avoid mainstream selections and instead put forward a title that says something about you. What song would you want the admissions officer to play while reading your application? Make sure the song you choose is appropriate.
Example: Road trip around Iceland’s perimeter; stops include Thingvellir National Park and the Geysir Springs.
Tip: Be more specific than simply “Hawaii” or “Europe.” Also, just as with all the prompts, you want to convey something about yourself in your response, so avoid mainstream or overly luxurious answers.
Example: Aggretsuko (anime about a red panda who relieves job stress by singing death metal at karaoke bars)
Tip: Follow similar guidelines to the theme song prompt—mainstream selections are fine and are potentially relatable to the reader, but that quirkier show you have your eye on might make for a more fun response. If your selection is lesser-known, consider adding a brief description.
Example: Rory Gilmore – there definitely won’t be a shortage of coffee or good conversation.
Tip: It’s okay to go with a more well-known character here, since that will allow the reader to relate. It’s just important to use that extra space to elaborate on why you’d want to live with this person.
- Favorite book
Example: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – I read the entire book in my favorite pair of Air Max 97s.
Tip: Follow the same advice for best movie of all time.
Example: SETI: Using the Drake Equation to Find E.T., complete with a field trip to outer space!
Tip: You can have some fun with this prompt; try thinking outside the box of the generic “Intro to Calculus.” You can also have the class relate back to your intended major, though that’s not absolutely necessary.
Viterbi School of Engineering Prompt
The student body at the usc viterbi school of engineering is a diverse group of unique engineers and computer scientists who work together to engineer a better world for all humanity. describe how your contributions to the usc viterbi student body may be distinct from others. please feel free to touch on any part of your background, traits, skills, experiences, challenges, and/or personality in helping us better understand you. (250 words).
USC’s engineering school is extremely competitive to get into, forcing admissions officers to choose between many qualified applicants who look relatively similar on paper. This essay wants to get down to the heart of why they should pick you over others.
The most important word in this prompt that should job out to you is “contributions”. In this essay, you need to convey what you will bring to the engineering community that is unique. You might be saying to yourself “what can I contribute to an established university?”, but there’s actually a lot to work with here. The prompt gives suggestions of sources that could contribute to your uniqueness so let’s look at some examples of traits and how they relate to contribution to USC.
Trait: You’re from a coastal town in Florida that is experiencing flooding.
Contribution: You plan to join the Structures and Material Lab in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to discover which materials are erosion-resistant.
Trait: You’re the only daughter among four brothers.
Contribution: Since you’re no stranger to asserting your voice as a woman in a male-dominated setting, you want to become a mentor through the Women in Science and Engineering’s Young Researchers Program and encourage female high schoolers to pursue STEM.
Trait: You have OCD.
Contribution: Rather than being a hindrance, you channel your obsessive tendencies into meticulously completing complex calculations which you are excited to do as an Aerospace Engineering major.
Trait: You started an iPhone repair business out of your garage in high school.
Contribution: Your experience working with technology has given you insight into specific aspects of hardware design that could be improved that you plan to experiment with under the supervision of X professor.
As you can see from these examples, there are many ways to approach what you can contribute to the Viterbi community. When it comes to actually writing this in your essay, you should start by highlighting the unique aspect of yourself that you are choosing to focus on with a short anecdote. For example, the student writing about being from a coastal town might open with a vivid description of the damage caused by erosion from the most recent flood.
Once you’ve caught the reader’s attention and communicated what your unique background is, explain how that has positioned you to bring something special to the USC community. It’s important to be as detailed as possible by including specific programs or institutes, professors, classes, or research projects you are interested in. You can also mention more than one way that you will contribute—just ensure that each one is fully fleshed out.
Finally, end your essay with a concise conclusion. This might look like returning back to your anecdote from the beginning, talking about your future plans and how USC will get you there, or something else entirely.
Engineering and Computer Science Prompt
The national academy of engineering (nae) and their 14 grand challenges go hand-in-hand with our vision to engineer a better world for all humanity. engineers and computer scientists are challenged to solve these problems in order to improve life on the planet. learn more about the nae grand challenges at http://engineeringchallenges.org and tell us which challenge is most important to you, and why. (250 words).
Before you can start answering this prompt, you need to do a little research! Once you go to the website linked above, click on the Challenges button at the top of the page and it will take you to the 14 Grand Challenges that engineers across the globe are committed to addressing. These challenges are broken up into four categorical themes (Sustainability, Health, Security, and Joy of Living) and they range from providing access to clean water to improving urban infrastructure to engineering better medicines to preventing nuclear terror attacks.
Your job is to pick one of these challenges that speaks the most to you. Keep in mind, we didn’t say pick the challenge you think is the “trendiest” or the admissions officers would be most impressed by; in order to write a successful and engaging essay your genuine passion and fascination with the issue has to come through.
Once you have a challenge in mind, now you have to connect it to you. This is where you will bring in your previous experiences, your academic interests, and personal anecdotes to demonstrate why that particular issue resonates with you. For example, maybe you picked Manage the Nitrogen Cycle because your favorite memories from when you were little were gardening with your grandma which started your fascination with how plants sustain themselves and interact with the environment.
It’s important to connect to the challenge with both past experiences and future goals. So, continuing the nitrogen cycle example, maybe your dream one day is to own your own farm that is pesticide-free, so you are passionate about engineering nitrogen-free fertilizers. They don’t all have to be this personal—it’s just as valid to say you are committed to providing clean water because you dream of a world where no one is denied basic human rights like water—but you should have some explanation of the impact overcoming one of these challenges would have on you and the broader community. This helps demonstrate to the admissions officers that you appreciate the weight of these issues.
One thing to remember that trips up some students: you aren’t asked to solve the challenge in this essay. Although you can definitely contribute ideas you have, especially if you have previous experiences that relate to addressing the issue, it’s not required. The major point of this essay is to learn more about global issues you care about and why you are choosing to address them through an engineering perspective.
Dornsife Prompt (Required)
Many of us have at least one issue or passion that we care deeply about — a topic on which we would love to share our opinions and insights in hopes of sparking intense interest and continued conversation. if you had ten minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your talk be about (250 words).
This prompt requires less deep thought than the former. The “education” prompt asks students to think deeply about a question they have probably never thought about before, while this prompt asks you “what are you thinking about all the time?”
If an idea comes to mind when you first read this prompt, that’s probably where you should start. USC is not looking for wild answers where students turn the holes in swiss cheese into a complex metaphor—they really just want to hear what you care about. That being said, what you care about can totally be weird or nuanced, as long as your interest in the subject tells admissions officers something about you.
Some examples of how you could work this prompt:
- Writing about a social justice issue. Introducing a specific anecdote (that you would introduce during your hypothetical talk). Providing insightful and unique commentary on the issue—whether that be how we got here or where we should go from here.
- Writing about a school of thought in science or philosophy. Explaining the importance of certain types of questions. Giving specific examples (historical, fictional, and anecdotal) that show that you have thought through the importance of rationalism, taoism, sensationalism, or any other school.
- Writing about a lecture on a specific book. Discussing how White Teeth, Giovanni’s Room, or Moby Dick tells multiple important life lessons in one pretty package. Drawing connections between the fictional world and the real world.
- Writing about the valuable lessons that can be learned from another culture. Introducing stories from your past that show the value of Japanese respect, Persian hospitality, or Indian selflessness. Recognizing negative aspects of cultures, but recognizing the lessons that can be learned when you take the time to learn them.
While these are just some examples, this prompt leaves the door open for you to explore whatever you care about. Because this essay is the simpler option, make sure that your writing is impeccable if you choose this second prompt. Engage with anecdotes and a unique personal voice to keep your essay engaging. Don’t give the reader the option to stop reading!
Where to Get Your USC Essays Edited for Free
Do you want feedback on your USC essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
Related CollegeVine Blog Posts
Honors Program Essay Prompts
Since I have not seen these posted, here are the honors essay prompts (for applicants looking to also apply to SCU honors)
Write one from each of the two category of prompts
Choose one (300 words): How would you like to change Santa Clara University during your time here?
What gives you hope for the future, and how does the University Honors Program fit in with it?
By joining the University Honors Program you join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, experience, and story that will enrich the University Honors Program community?
Choose one (300 words): In your opinion, what are some marks of an educated mind?
If you gave a presentation to University Honors Program students about anything of your choosing, what would you talk about and why?
What word in common usage is the most versatile and why?
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University of South Florida | USF’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts
Common app personal essay.
The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don‘t feel obligated to do so.
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you‘ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.