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The Requirements: 2 essays of 200 words each
The University of San Diego is surprisingly single-minded! Even though there are four separate prompts, and even though you have to respond to two of them, they’re all kind of asking the same thing. How do you engage with the world around you? How will you make it a better place? If you’re like most people, you’re probably drawn to one or two core issues, and that’s totally fine! You just need to make sure you budget your information and anecdotes wisely, so you can write not one, but two compelling and unique essays.
Call this a Catholic Why essay. At its core, all this prompt is asking is, “Why USD?” The Catholic affiliation is clearly a core component of a USD education, and it would have been hard to avoid mentioning anyway. So, if you’ve read any of our other guides, you already know what to do: set aside an hour and get cozy with the USD website. Read up on the school’s history and Catholic values, but don’t forget to focus on the other aspects of student life that will matter to you. What’s your department like? How engaged is the alumni network? What kinds of special programs and resources are available to undergraduates? As you draw together a list of facts and details to describe your ideal USD experience, make sure you find a way to tie each of them back to the founding Catholic principles. Perhaps your intended major in Art History will allow you to indulge your twin passions of public art and community service. You’ll be able to grapple with big ethical issues like vandalism: is it graffiti or is it the destruction of 5Pointz? By taking this approach, you’ll prove yourself to be an engaged and thoughtful candidate while also revealing something new to admissions!
USD’s take on the community essay comes with a focus on diversity, but don’t let that limit you! First of all, let us remind you that your “local community” can be just about anything from your neighborhood to your family to your dojo. Pick a community that means something to you and the diversity narrative will fall into place. Maybe your progressive church welcomes people of many different faiths, and you developed a special language for discussing religion with your childhood friends. Or perhaps your school is incredibly homogenous and isolated, and you helped your Spanish class organize Skype chats with a school in Guatemala. No matter your starting point, be sure you tell a clear story with a beginning, middle, and end. It would be tempting to pen a vivid description of your community and leave it at that, but the point of an essay like this is to tell a story about you and your personal growth.
If the religious emphasis of option #1 had you stumped, here’s your chance to take a more secular approach to community service. You’ll notice some striking similarities between USD option #3 and Common App prompt #4, which asks you to “Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve.” In other words, if you wrote your Common App personal statement on #4, you’ll want to skip USD’s #3 to avoid repeating yourself. (If not, you’re a winner of extra tips in our Common App Essay Prompt Guide!) This is your opportunity to not only show admissions how you face challenges, but demonstrate your creativity and vision. If you choose this prompt, take a little time to brainstorm a few “contemporary problems” — big and small — that bother you or affect your life. Maybe it’s rising ocean temperatures, or maybe it’s this gigantic pothole on your street. Although the scope and scale of your problem can vary, remember that USD is looking for “civic engagement, social innovation, and global perspective.” Criticizing Instagram’s new algorithm won’t win over admissions if all you care about is your own feed. If, on the other hand, you can describe how it now promotes an unhealthy version of diet culture, you could really be onto something!
From where you’re sitting 2024 might seem eons away, but here’s a reality check: you’ll be matriculating as a member of the class of 2022. Even we can do this math: Assuming your life doesn’t take any detours, you’ll be a mere two years out of college by the time 2024 rolls around. In other words, what this question is really asking you is where you hope higher education will take you. A good place to start is your major. If you plan to study Anthropology, maybe you envision yourself as a global citizen and advocate. Where do you hope to have traveled? Who will you fight for? How will you continue your work as a professional? Or perhaps you’re undecided! How do you intend to discover your passions? What array of skills and interests do you hope to combine through your studies and simply being a part of an intellectual community like USD? Although this isn’t strictly a Why question, you might want to approach it like one and do a little research about USD’s resources and alumni. (With that said, if you’re looking for a more straightforward “Why here?” prompt, you might want to skip this option and scroll up to #1.)
Although this prompt may seem unnecessarily long, the introductory sentences actually hint at what your answer should look like. USD provides a clear vision statement that admissions could easily expand on with specific examples and details. So you, dear applicant, might want to take their lead.