How to Write the University of South Carolina Essays 2019-2020

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The University of South Carolina is a public research university in Columbia, South Carolina. UofSC offers over 320 degrees of study, as well as an Honors College, the Top Scholars Program, and Capstone Scholars Program. 

 

In the 2018-2019 admissions cycle, UofSC received 30,778 applications and ultimately accepted around 63%. The middle 50% GPA of those enrolled students was 3.78-4.5, and for SAT scores, it was 1200-1350. 

 

UofSC has one required prompt for all applicants, with 3 options. Applicants to the Music Composition Program have an additional prompt, and those invited to apply to the Honors College or Top Scholars Programs will have an additional two prompts. 

 

For All Applicants

 

Required: Respond to one of the personal statement prompts. (100-500 words)

 

The most important thing here—besides sticking to the word count—is choosing a prompt that speaks the most to you. Since you have choices, your essay should be as strong as possible. Think about how you might answer each prompt, and choose the story that is the strongest and conveys the most positive qualities about yourself, especially if it’s a trait you haven’t been able to discuss at all in the rest of your application! 

 

Option 1: Who in your life is depending on you? How are they depending on you? (100-500 words)

 

To answer this question, think about the people in your life—your family, your friends, your peers. How do you interact with them? You likely depend on your parents, but do your parents depend on you too? Your siblings? Remember that there are lots of ways to “depend” on someone. It could mean depending on a person for food and shelter, or for support and leadership. 

 

  • Your sports team might depend on you to be a reliable, motivating captain who encourages everyone and pushes the team to be their best.
  • Your younger siblings might depend on you for their after-school care—like snacks, rides and homework help—if your parents/guardians work during the day. 
  • Your parents might depend on you to work hard in your education because they made sacrifices for you to have those opportunities. 

 

The best way for you to write this essay is to tell a story. Show your readers who depends on you and how they depend on you. Pick a snapshot in time and paint a picture with descriptive details and imagery. Try not to say “This person depends on me because…” It will make for bland writing, and you want admissions officers to be fully engaged in your interesting story. 

 

You have 500 words to tell this story—that’s plenty of space to not only describe who depends on you and how, but also how this impacts you. Show us your feelings and emotions; does their dependency overwhelm you? Are you honored by it? Do you feel like it has made you a more responsible person? Even though the prompt asks about someone else who depends on you, admissions officers still want to know who you are. 

 

Option 2: Tell us something about yourself that we have not already asked. (100-500 words)

 

This is a very open-ended essay, but a fantastic opportunity for you to present something about yourself that you haven’t been able to share in other parts of your application. This open-endedness means there are many different things you could write about:

 

  • You play a sport that you haven’t written about.
  • You come from a unique family dynamic (many siblings, multiple parents, same-sex parents, etc.) that has shaped you in some way.
  • You speak more than one language.
  • You have a medical condition that you have to deal with every day.
  • You once summited a mountain. 

 

To write this, you want to tell a story. Show us what we don’t know about you. Use descriptions and details to place us in the same environment as you. Avoid explicitly stating “I am…” because that becomes dull to read. You want to ensure that admissions officers will hang on to every word you say because they’re so captivated by your story. 

 

It’s very important that any trait or activity you present here does not have any negative connotations. Saying that you binge watched five different TV shows in the last two months can have negative connotations for an admissions officer, as it suggests you might be more interested in Netflix than engaging with UofSC. Discussing how you failed a class is negative if you don’t show us how you grew and learned from it, but if you show us how you became a better student because of that failure, it shows your determination.

 

Think about a story about yourself that you want to tell! This is a chance to show that you’re a well-rounded person and offer insight to a side of you that we haven’t seen yet. 

 

Option 3: What advice would you give your 13-year-old self? (100-500 words)

 

The first thing to do is think about who you were as a thirteen-year-old. Reflect on how you’ve changed since then. Is there something you wish you would’ve realized earlier? Something you did that you shouldn’t have done? Something you didn’t do that you should have? 

 

  • Maybe there was a year when you tried to do too many different activities and couldn’t devote proper time to any of them and you’d advise yourself to scale it back.
  • Perhaps you said something unkind to someone and, looking back, realized that you shouldn’t have said so. 
  • Maybe you tried to be someone else to fit in with a group of people who, ultimately, didn’t stick around. In that case, you might advise your younger self to not waste time pretending to be someone else. 

 

Avoid anything particularly juvenile or negative. Advising your thirteen-year-old self “don’t date that person” is likely to come off as trivial, unless you can back that advice up with an incredibly powerful and compelling story. Similarly, try not to be too cliche; offering advice to “study harder” is quite generic and, again, would require an extremely compelling story for an admissions officer to consider a strong essay. 

 

Whatever advice you choose to give your younger self, make sure to first give some context as to who you were as a thirteen-year-old. For your readers to understand why the advice you’re giving is important, we need to see details about who you were and how you behaved. This is especially important to show in the context of the advice—we need to see why you feel like you have to give this advice. 

 

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Music Composition Program

 

Within the University of South Carolina’s School of Music, the composition major begins freshman year with an introductory class on the development of individual work. Upper-level composition classes focus on one-on-one private instruction, and weekly composition seminars allow students to connect with professionals regularly. Applicants are also required to submit a portfolio of written musical examples.

 

The statement of purpose should take the form of a short letter addressed to the coordinator of composition, Dr. Rogers, that describes why you wish to major in composition, what you hope to accomplish as a composition major, and what you plan to do with your degree when you graduate. (250 words)

 

You have three things to discuss in this short essay: why composition, what will you do in college, and what will you do post-college? It’s possible for you to merge your answers to the first two questions by explaining how you’ll be pursuing your passion for composition in college. 

 

Additionally, it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do following graduation—most freshmen don’t! However, you should have a general idea of how you want to use your composition major after college. 

 

Be sure to open your essay with a direct address to Dr. Rogers. From there, think about why you want to major in composition, and what you ultimately hope to get out of pursuing that field.

 

  • You may have grown up surrounded by and writing music, so now you want to pursue composition as a career because you love it.
  • Maybe you struggled with finding your passion until you discovered composition, and now you dream of composing music for other people who haven’t found their passions.

 

Your essay will stand out if you are authentic and true to yourself. Think about why you’ve chosen this path and how you intend for it to shape your future. Be straightforward and honest, because admissions officers really want to see that you would be an enthusiastic fit for the program. 

 

Honors College/Top Scholars Essay Prompts

 

Beginning September 1, students who are invited to apply to the Honors College will receive an email with additional instructions after submitting the general University of South Carolina application and application fee. Students who apply for the Honors College will also be considered for the Top Scholars Program. Honors College/Top Scholars applicants are strongly encouraged to submit the general admissions application by October 15, 2019. This gives you at least one month to complete the Honors College/Top Scholars application for the November 15, 2019 deadline. 

 

Doing: How are you doing? What have you accomplished and where do you seem to be heading? We’re not looking for a particular answer. What we are looking for is a thoughtful, vivid, well-written, detailed essay that reveals you think insightfully about yourself.

 

This prompt provides you with an opportunity to showcase one of your greatest accomplishments in high school. Strong responses to this prompt will address each of the following:

 

First, why was what you did important? Including achievements that touched a lot of people or left a lasting impact helps demonstrate that your actions extended beyond your own short-term interests.

 

Next, what did you bring to the table specifically? Lots of people make some impact on their community, but a truly talented leader, artist, mentor, etc. is irreplaceable. They bring something of themselves to the role that no one else has to offer. Use this essay as a space to unpack part of what would make you a unique contributor to UofSC’s campus culture.

 

Finally—and most important of all—what does this accomplishment reveal about your long-term purpose? Admissions officers want to know who you are and who you will be as you complete your undergraduate degree. 

 

As an example, a student who’s an avid violinist and who has made all-state orchestra might share the passion and dedication they have to music. They also enjoy using music as a way to evoke emotions, promote healing, and bring people together. After starting an organization in high school dedicated to playing music to hospice patients, the student hopes to continue combining music and community engagement. Academically, they hope to study the connection between music and psychology, to discover new ways music can be incorporated into healthcare.

 

This would be a strong topic choice, as the student clearly demonstrates what they’ve accomplished, why it’s important, and how they plan to grow from that accomplishment.

 

Thinking: What’s on your mind? Pick one thing that is particularly exciting, exasperating, moving, alarming—something that has captured your attention and intellect in some strong way—and tell us about it.

 

This prompt provides you with another great opportunity to share a bit more about yourself, specifically your inner life. Topic ideas include discussing a favorite podcast, cause you care about, or cultural experience. This prompt is extremely open-ended, so you can basically choose whatever you want.

 

The one caveat: if you hold any controversial opinions, avoid addressing those in your essay. You don’t want to accidentally offend an admissions officer by stumbling upon some cultural tripwires. 

 

Overall, try to make each of your essays feature different aspects of your profile and personality. You want to seem mature, thoughtful, and nuanced no matter what your essay topics wind up being.

 

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