College Essays

University of Southern California Supplemental

Prompt: The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and their 14 Grand Challenges go hand-in-hand with our vision to engineer a better world for all humanity. Engineers and computer scientists are challenged to solve these problems in order to improve life on the planet. Learn more about the NAE Grand Challenges at and tell us which challenge is most important to you, and why.*


According to Einstein’s E=mc2, the energy stored within a penny could power NYC for two years. Nuclear energy, particularly fusion, possesses unworldly potential (just ask our sun), so as an aspiring engineer I’m interested in Providing Energy from Fusion

Policymakers misunderstand nuclear energy. Fears that endure from Cold War arms races and meltdowns like Chernobyl have triggered the stagnation of nuclear energy development in recent decades. This complex intersection of scientific and political spheres fascinates me. Once breakthroughs occur in the lab, without proper communication between scientists, engineers, government officials, and their constituents, nuclear fission will never be applied on a large-scale. Innovation is much different than implementation. During high school, I recognized this evolving multidisciplinary role of engineers and refined my skills in English, history, and student government alongside those in math and science. Looking forward, I hope to both develop nuclear fusion technology and convey its importance to the public. 

Nuclear fusion excites my optimistic side that hopes to solve pertinent global issues with engineering. The side of me that believes that our sun’s core can be replicated on Earth. However, I don’t avoid pragmatism. Nuclear energy currently possesses obvious drawbacks, like the dangers of nuclear waste and uranium mining. Fusion looks to tackle all of these, so I hope to pursue it and power our world sustainably. After all, it’d be pretty cool to see the Big Apple light up with the same energy that powers the orange ball in our sky. 

Tips for writing 

For some essays you will feel like you need three times the word limit and for others you’ll be scrambling just to fill up the word limit. Try not to let this bother you. If you start early enough (a few months ahead for the main essay and at least a few weeks ahead for supplements), you’ll give your brain sufficient time to really think and fill out the word count with the best information. For me, I have random epiphanies throughout the day where I stumble upon ideas that help me add complexity to my writing. Also, I know that the biggest thing in college admissions these days is having a “spike” but if you are given multiple supplemental essays I wouldn’t repeat the same “spike” over and over just to emphasize something unique about you. Instead, use supplements to bring in peripheral themes about who you are. Try your best to be authentic: think of it as having a conversation with the admissions counselor. If you try to be too flashy, it comes off as unrealistic. Finally, DON’T LET PERFECTION BE THE ENEMY OF GOOD ENOUGH. Edit your essays to a place where you and a FEW (not everyone in the whole school) thinks they’re good, and then move on.

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