For many years, USC Keck School of Medicine included an altruistic prompt that asked applicants about how they would allocate a mass amount of wealth:
But for this cycle (2022-2023), that prompt has been replaced with a prompt that goes in the opposite direction and asks applicants to name things they don’t care about at all:
This replacement in prompts is far more interesting, but it’s also far more challenging to answer. There are several reasons that it’s so difficult:
The prompt was released less than two weeks ago, so neither myself nor the pre-meds I work with have had much time to mull it over.
Every pre-med applicant I’ve talked to has been a bit baffled and unsettled by this prompt. And rightfully so.
I will do my best to provide some advice and good examples, but I wanted to start by just listing all the ideas I’ve heard from people so far.
The richest person in the world
How I am viewed by the admission committee
Correlation between personality and blood type
Fancy home decor
The texture of food (flavor > texture)
The gym (there are better forms of exercise in my opinion)
The click factor of my keyboard
My golf score
Game of Thrones
Titles or names of positions
Genetically modified foods
Being a leader in every situation
The flat-earth theory
This category will offer “safe” answers, but merely explaining some personal taste in entertainment, art, or cuisine will rarely be memorable or unique.
So, if you go this route, you’ll have the burden of finding a way to make the answer stand out with a very small amount of room for explanation.
These are nice in the sense that they make a bold statement, but at the same time, they could definitely fall into the category of “virtue signaling.”
It’s easy to see how these answers could be misinterpreted as self-righteous or holier than thou, and at worst, they might even come across as dishonest or inhuman.
I mean, do you really not care about being popular? Do you never gossip?
This category has similar benefits and drawbacks as the previous one. By choosing something trendy or social conscious, you can make yourself seem more interesting by being contrarian and giving an unexpected answer.
However, you run the risk of choosing something that people have deemed to be important, enriching, or even necessary topics. If you get the wrong reader, it might taint their entire view of you as an applicant.
OK, so what are the tips and tricks you need to know to answer this prompt?
Admittedly, I’m still wrapping my head around this question, but here are the pieces of advice I feel pretty confident about:
Moral of the story here: the humor should come at your expense, rather than by putting others down.
Bad example: Fashion–I don’t care about your Gucci belt or handbag that costs more than a Third World country’s GDP.
Better example: Fashion–Although I’m improving, I’ve sometimes been accused of dressing in the dark or having the style sense of a vagabond.
Moral of the story here: no one likes the person who tries too hard to be cool, so making yourself an anomaly should come from a place of idiosyncrasy, not self-righteousness.
Bad example: Being popular–I don’t care what other people think is cool or popular, since I know that my sense of worth comes from my own definition of success.
Better example: Being popular–I have an “old soul” and struggle to keep up with trends. I’m that weirdo who wears thrift store clothes and still uses a flip phone.
Moral of the story here: The risk of being offensive or off-putting is high, so it’s probably best to accommodate the opposition and show both sides.
Bad example: Cancel culture–People are too sensitive nowadays, and I feel like they’re just looking for reasons to be offended and silence their opponents’ ideas.
Better example: Cancel culture–I draw the line with hate speech and threats, but I champion free speech and try to understand the reasoning behind dissenting or controversial opinions.
So there you have it–a thorough breakdown and analysis of the new USC Keck secondary prompt. I hope you find it useful in tackling this tricky question!