University of San Diego 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations
The Requirements: 2 essays of 200-300 words each
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community, Why
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.
Respond to two of the following essay prompts. Essays should be 200-300 words in length.
The year 2024 will mark USD’s 75th anniversary. In preparation for this milestone, we as a campus community are looking to grow in meaningful and impactful ways. We are looking to set the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. In what ways do you hope to grow by the year 2024? Where do you see yourself, and what type of impact do you hope to have on the world around you?
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 down to #3.)
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.
Here at USD, we believe that our campus community is an integral part of who we are as a university. Our students come from all walks of life, have experienced very different realities and bring with them an array of unique perspectives. What contribution have you made to your high school and/or local community that best exemplifies your awareness and sensitivity towards promoting a diverse and inclusionary environment?
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.
Option #3) Catholic higher education is distinctive from other educational approaches. Grounded in the liberal arts, the Catholic approach to education emphasizes the importance of compassionate service, ethical conduct, diversity and inclusion, and social justice. It is also designed to promote the holistic formation of students, attending not only to their academic growth but also their psychological and spiritual development. Knowing this, what particular element of Catholic higher education most appeals to you, and how do you envision that element impacting your experience at USD?
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!
Option #4) USD is a proud Changemaker Campus, as designated by Ashoka U. As such, the USD undergraduate experience is one that emphasizes civic engagement, social innovation and global perspective. If you had the opportunity to get involved with a project or organization that addresses a contemporary problem, what problem would you address and why?
If the religious emphasis of option #3 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 #4 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 #4 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!
If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.
The acceptance rate at University of San Diego is 52%. For every 100 applicants, 52 are admitted.
This means the school is moderately selective. The school expects you to meet their requirements for GPA and SAT/ACT scores, but they're more flexible than other schools. If you exceed their requirements, you have an excellent chance of getting in. But if you don't, you might be one of the unlucky minority that gets a rejection letter.
Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.
The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.
The average GPA at University of San Diego is 3.84.
(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.
With a GPA of 3.84, University of San Diego requires you to be near the top of your class, and well above average. Your transcript should show mostly A's. Ideally, you will also have taken several AP or IB classes to show that you can handle academics at a college level.
If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.84, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.
Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.
You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to University of San Diego. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.
University of San Diego SAT Requirements
Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.
Average SAT: 1290 (Old: 1803)
The average SAT score composite at University of San Diego is a 1290 on the 1600 SAT scale.
On the old 2400 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 1803.
This score makes University of San Diego Moderately Competitive for SAT test scores.
University of San Diego SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)
The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1190, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1380. In other words, a 1190 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1380 will move you up to above average.
Here's the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
University of San Diego SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)
The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1650, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 1960. In other words, a 1650 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 1960 puts you well above average.
Here's the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
SAT Score Choice Policy
The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.
University of San Diego has the Score Choice policy of "Highest Section."
This is also known as "superscoring." This means that you can choose which SAT tests you want to send to the school. Of all the scores they receive, your application readers will consider your highest section scores across all SAT test dates you submit.
Click below to learn more about how superscoring critically affects your test strategy.
For example, say you submit the following 3 test scores:
Even though the highest total you scored on any one test date was 1000, University of San Diego will take your highest section score from all your test dates, then combine them to form your Superscore. You can raise your composite score from 1000 to 1400 in this example.
This is important for your testing strategy. Because you can choose which tests to send in, and University of San Diego forms your Superscore, you can take the SAT as many times as you want, then submit only the tests that give you the highest Superscore. Your application readers will only see that one score.
Therefore, if your SAT superscore is currently below a 1290, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You have a very good chance of raising your score, which will significantly boost your chances of getting in.
Even better, because of the Superscore, you can focus all your energy on a single section at a time. If your Reading score is lower than your other sections, prep only for the Reading section, then take the SAT. Then focus on Math for the next test, and so on. This will surely give you the highest Superscore possible.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and SAT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
University of San Diego ACT Requirements
Just like for the SAT, University of San Diego likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.
Average ACT: 28
The average ACT score at University of San Diego is 28. This score makes University of San Diego Moderately Competitive for ACT scores.
The 25th percentile ACT score is 26, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 30.
Even though University of San Diego likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 26 or below, you'll have a harder time getting in, unless you have something else impressive in your application.
ACT Score Sending Policy
If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.
Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.
This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 28 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.
ACT Superscore Policy
By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.
We weren't able to find the school's exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to University of San Diego, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 28.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements
Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.
University of San Diego requires you to take the SAT/ACT Writing section. They'll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.
SAT Subject Test Requirements
Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.
We did not find information that University of San Diego requires SAT subject tests, and so most likely it does not. At least 6 months before applying, you should still doublecheck just to make sure, so you have enough time to take the test.