How to Ace Your Town and Gown USC Scholarship Essays for 2018-19

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Applicants for the University of Southern California’s Town and Gown Scholarship must be Southern California residents who “demonstrate academic strengths, leadership, and community involvement” (among other criteria). If that sounds like you, then read on! We’re going to explore how to approach your three Town and Gown USC essays so that you can show readers that you deserve this dough!

Let’s dig into the Town and Gown USC essay prompts below.

Town and Gown Scholarship

T&G Scholarship: Describe an Activity

No word limit


Of the activities you listed above, tell us about the activity you are most passionate about and why

Ideally, you’ve enjoyed all the activities you’ve listed! So how do you identify the one you’re most passionate about?

  • For each activity on your list, think about the contributions you made; which contributions would you be most excited to talk about with a friend? Perhaps your efforts were integral to a team’s success, or perhaps you discovered a hidden talent or put a skill to use for the first time.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your options to one or two activities, ask yourself how each one relates to other interests in your life or to values and ideals you hold. You’ll want to write about the activity that you can best connect to unique aspects of your personality.
  • In your essay, give a sentence of context about the activity, but then focus on why the experience is meaningful to you, what you’ve learned from it, and how it will influence you in the future.


T&G Scholarship: Cultural Background

No word limit


How has your cultural background shaped the person you are?

You need to be a Southern California resident to get this scholarship—that’s the rules, folks—but USC knows that applicants come from a diverse range of backgrounds and communities. This is your chance to talk about what’s meaningful to you about where you come from.

  • Think about where you’ve had the most significant dose of “culture”—whatever “culture” means to you. You might focus on your family or zoom out to your wider community.
  • How have your experiences with your family’s or community’s “culture” influenced your worldview, values, passions, and goals?
  • How have you personally contributed to your local “culture” or community?
  • What have you learned from these cultural experiences, and how will you carry these lessons with you into the future?
  • The conclusion of your essay is a great place to consider specific ways that your cultural background will help you enhance the USC community.


Power to Make a Change

No word limit


If you had the power to make a change or changes at your school or in the world, what would you select and why?


First, think about the kinds of “power” you might wield. Magical? Political? Economic? Cultural? I dunno… architectural? (My school really could’ve used a skate park!) Then, decide if you want to go local—your school or town—or global.

  • You’ll want to address why this type of “power” is significant to you, and why you chose to make change(s) on either a local or global level.


Brainstorm some specific changes you might make. For each one, write down why it is meaningful to you. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How does this change connect to passions or values of yours?
  • How would this change help other people, and why is this important to you?
  • What would be some wider effects of such a change? If it’s a local change, ie. at your school, how might it have national or even global effects? If it’s global, how would it affect the life of your community?

You might want to conclude your essay by exploring how, in real life, you might be able to work towards making such a change.


The Town and Gown USC essays don’t have word limits—so how much should you write? A rough range: 300-600 words for each essay. You want to provide enough context and details to paint a vivid picture of yourself, but you don’t want to pad your writing with inessential “fluff.” So think about the most important points you want to make and express them clearly and concisely, making sure that all your specific details directly support your main ideas. 



Written by
DT Wang
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