How to Write the University of San Diego Essays 2021-2022

 

The University of San Diego has two supplemental essay prompts. The first prompt asks you to discuss one of the five themes that reflects the liberal arts tradition: Advocate, Collaborate, Cultivate, Illuminate and Innovate. The second prompt allows you to choose from three options that focus on community, challenges that face humanity, and faith or spirituality.

 

The University of San Diego receives thousands of applications from students with similar profiles, so you want to make sure your essays will get noticed by an admissions officer. In this post, we’ll discuss how to write a thoughtful response to each of these prompts.

 

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University of San Diego Supplemental Essay Prompts

All Applicants

 

Prompt 1: The University of San Diego offers diverse educational opportunities grounded in the liberal arts and sciences. First-year students are immersed in one of our five Living Learning Communities (LLC), with the themes reflecting the vitality of the liberal arts tradition: Advocate, Collaborate, Cultivate, Illuminate and Innovate. Select one of these five themes and describe how it resonates with you and why. (350 words)

 

Prompt 2: Now choose one of the three prompts below to write about. Essays should be approximately 200 words in length. 

 

Option 1: Here at USD, we believe that our campus community and the communities we engage with are integral parts of who we are as a university. Our newly launched Horizon Project is a call to action, ensuring that we are dedicating the time, energy and resources necessary to build an ever more diverse and inclusive campus community. We value the fact that our students come from all walks of life, have experienced different realities and bring with them an array of unique perspectives, including some that have often been underrepresented and underserved by higher education. With that context in mind, what contribution have you made to your current school and/or local community that best exemplifies your awareness of and commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable community?

 

Option 2: USD is a proud Changemaker Campus, as designated by Ashoka U. As such, the USD experience emphasizes changemaking through social justice efforts, civic engagement, social innovation, creativity and a global perspective. Use this space to write about one of the challenges facing humanity today. Why does it matter to you? What experiences or insights have you had that speak to the urgency of this issue?

 

Option 3: Because USD is a contemporary Catholic university, we welcome and celebrate students from every background and faith tradition, including those who do not identify with a faith tradition. We devote great time and energy to ensuring all students feel connected to the vibrant USD community, including opportunities to grow in their relationship with God while considering who they are, what they believe and who they are called to become. Share some of your ideas about the role of faith or spirituality in your life or the life of someone you know.

 

Prompt 1

The University of San Diego offers diverse educational opportunities grounded in the liberal arts and sciences. First-year students are immersed in one of our five Living Learning Communities (LLC), with the themes reflecting the vitality of the liberal arts tradition: Advocate, Collaborate, Cultivate, Illuminate and Innovate. Select one of these five themes and describe how it resonates with you and why. (350 words)

 

This prompt gives you an opportunity to show the admissions officer something unique about yourself. Because the prompt is so broad, it’s important to remember some of the main hallmarks of a good essay:

Meets the basic requirements

 

The essay stays within the prompt word count, responds to the prompt, and doesn’t repeat information that’s already in your application. It’s also important to be mindful of your audience—in this case, the University of San Diego is a Catholic University, so they may be more conservative. 

 

Highly personal

A highly personal essay will share your thoughts and feelings and make it clear to the admissions officer what matters to you. By making it highly personal, your authenticity will come through.

 

Focused

 

With a broad prompt like this one, it’s easy to get caught in a surface level exploration of the theme, rather than going deep. Make sure you stick to the theme you choose and only focus on that. 

 

Well-Written

 

This may seem obvious, but a well-written essay is a good essay.  You’ll want to be sure there’s a strong opening and ending, it flows well, avoids cliches, and shows and doesn’t tell (more on this later).

 

Overall, a strong essay will highlight what makes you stand out from the other students who resonate with the theme you choose. This includes your interests and hobbies, values, experiences, family, language, etc. It will also discuss how the theme you choose shapes your outlook and actions.

 

One hallmark of a well-written essay is to show, not tell. This means using illustrative language and immersing the reader in your experience, rather than just writing what happened. For example, you don’t want to say, “I resonate with the “collaborate” theme because I enjoy working with people in my science club.” Instead, show and vividly describe a time when you and your science club peers collaborated on something together for a positive outcome. Show us your faces deep in thought, the late nights you spent working together to solve a problem—bring the admissions officer into the story as much as you can.

 

 

Prompt 2 Option 1

Here at USD, we believe that our campus community and the communities we engage with are integral parts of who we are as a university. Our newly launched Horizon Project is a call to action, ensuring that we are dedicating the time, energy and resources necessary to build an ever more diverse and inclusive campus community. We value the fact that our students come from all walks of life, have experienced different realities and bring with them an array of unique perspectives, including some that have often been underrepresented and underserved by higher education. With that context in mind, what contribution have you made to your current school and/or local community that best exemplifies your awareness of and commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable community? (200 words)

 

This prompt is a blend of both the community focused essay and diversity focused essay and is a great option for someone who’s actively involved in their community and wants to see changes made.

 

When discussing the contribution you made to your community, make sure to avoid short-term projects, such as a one-week Habitat for Humanity trip. Instead, discuss more genuine commitments that are more long-standing. You’ll then want to consider how the values mentioned in the prompt above came through during this experience and what impact it had, not just on your community, but you as well. Keep in mind that the word count is short (200 words) so you’ll want to be clear and precise in your response while getting the message across.

 

A student who was passionate about women’s rights might discuss how she learned that in some parts of the world, girls aren’t able to go to school when they are menstruating, and she believed it was unjust that girls were denied education for something beyond their control. She would talk about how she organized a drive for menstrual products at her school and donated them to girls in other countries. She would describe how she was not only able to make a positive impact on the lives of those girls, but she helped bring an issue she was deeply passionate about to the attention of her peers. She could also talk about how she had to be organized and spread the word so others would donate, which was a learning experience for her as well.

 

You don’t need to explicitly state that your involvement in your community demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion. In fact, a good essay should be able to convey that to your readers with just descriptions. The more descriptive and anecdotal your essay is, the better you will be to show the admissions officers you are committed to diversity, rather than telling them.

 

For this diversity/community focused style of prompt, be sure to avoid using a privileged or pretentious tone and avoid a cliche conclusion such as “I learned that people can be happy with so little.” 

 

 

 

Prompt 2 Option 2

USD is a proud Changemaker Campus, as designated by Ashoka U. As such, the USD experience emphasizes changemaking through social justice efforts, civic engagement, social innovation, creativity and a global perspective. Use this space to write about one of the challenges facing humanity today. Why does it matter to you? What experiences or insights have you had that speak to the urgency of this issue? (200 words)

 

If you’re someone who’s passionate about global issues or social justice, this is a great option for you and fits into the political/global issues style of essay

 

This prompt gives you the opportunity to show that you’re an engaged citizen who cares about others and wants to make a difference. It’s also a chance to show admissions officers how you align with The University of San Diego’s values that they emphasize above.

 

As you write, keep in mind that you want to choose a challenge that is relevant and pressing to you. However, you should focus more on why it matters to you rather than the challenge itself. The admissions officers know about climate change, refugee crises, and Black Lives Matter protests. What they don’t know yet is why you care about these issues.

The structure of your essay should introduce the challenge you are passionate about (ideally through an anecdote), explain what drew you to this issue, describe how your emotions or state of mind are affected by this issue, and share what you see as a solution. 

 

Describing your emotions and state of mind when you hear or think about this issue is how you will be able to convey to admissions officers what this challenge means to you. You don’t want to say, “I am sad when I think about all the people who have died from cancer because we still don’t have a cure.” To really show admissions officers your passion and interest in this topic, you would write something like this: “An overwhelming feeling of desperation and confusion floods over me upon hearing my friend’s grandpa died of pancreatic cancer. It doesn’t make sense. We’ve cured Smallpox and Polio, we’ve developed vaccines for countless sicknesses. How can we fight off these petulant cells?”

 

Maybe the most important part of your essay is the ending. How are you going to fix this problem? Although the prompt doesn’t explicitly ask for you to propose a solution to the challenge you discuss, including this will take your essay from good to great. Admissions officers want to admit students who will change the world. Your essay should show that you are innovative and think towards the future. Just a sentence or two about how you want to improve the world will show that you are the type of student the University of San Diego wants on their campus. 

 

 

Prompt 2 Option 3

Because USD is a contemporary Catholic university, we welcome and celebrate students from every background and faith tradition, including those who do not identify with a faith tradition. We devote great time and energy to ensuring all students feel connected to the vibrant USD community, including opportunities to grow in their relationship with God while considering who they are, what they believe and who they are called to become. Share some of your ideas about the role of faith or spirituality in your life or the life of someone you know. (200 words)

 

If you are not someone who’s passionate about faith or spirituality, this may not be the best prompt for you. However, if you are someone who’s been strongly affected by faith and spirituality, this is your chance to express how those values connect with USD’s.

 

​​One essay structure approach you can take with this essay is: 

 

  • Start with your first interactions with religion/faith/spirituality
  • Tell the story of how you arrived at your conclusions about faith/spirituality and include any moments where you were challenged. 
  • Connect these conclusions with the values of USD 

 

This is an especially fitting essay for related anecdotes if they’re short enough. For instance, you might start your essay with a story of when you first wondered about spirituality. If your relationship with spirituality or faith changed over time, that would also lend itself well to a series of anecdotes. 

 

 

Where to Get Your University of San Diego School Essay Edited for Free

 

Do you want feedback on your University of San Diego essay? It’s always good to get a second pair of eyes on your writing. That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. Since they don’t know you personally, they can be a more objective judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt. 

 

You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

 

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.

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