How We Evaluate Your Application
Incoming first-year students demonstrate superior academic performance — and the potential to do more. Most admitted students are ranked in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, and their median standardized test score is in the top 5 percent.
No specific curriculum is prescribed or required, though students offered admission typically pursue the most rigorous program available to them in English, mathematics, science, social studies, foreign language and the arts. Careful attention is paid to preparation for the intended major.
The review is not formulaic — we try to envision your performance at the next level.
We are also looking for your potential to make an impact: willingness to go beyond the requirements, to dig deeply into texts, to explore ideas and become a lifelong learner.
Ultimately we look for students who will become enthusiastic partners in learning and research.
Admission to Specific Majors
Applicants to some majors must submit a portfolio or audition. In some cases, you will need to submit these by December 1. Our final decision is based in part on the feedback we receive from the faculty of these programs. Some of these programs are particularly competitive, so we will consider students for their second-choice majors as well, or we may admit them as “undecided/undeclared.”
We strive to enroll a diverse group of students who represent a vast array of perspectives and passions, who will enrich each other’s education by challenging each other, inside the classroom and out.
Your essay and short-answer responses will help us get to know your personality and your voice.
Teacher and counselor recommendations speak to your academic success and the contributions you might make to the classroom, the broader learning environment and the community at large. Your values will be reflected in those letters, as well as in your activity list.
We pay close attention to your personal narrative, background and circumstances, realizing that each student is unique and has something to offer. Your application will paint a picture of you and how you might contribute to the community, tradition and spirit that make USC the dynamic place it is.
“I chose USC because there is no better place to study the impact of digital media on entertainment... The support here is unbelievable.”
• Official Test Scores: Due to disruptions in testing schedules caused by COVID-19, prospective first-year students may apply to USC for the 2021-2022 Academic Year without submitting SAT or ACT scores, although students may still choose to submit SAT or ACT scores if they wish.
For students who submit test scores, USC records the highest scores for those who have taken tests more than once. For the SAT, the highest scores for both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and the Mathematics section will be recorded, even if achieved in different sittings. For the ACT, USC will just consider the highest composite score. USC does not require the writing section for either the ACT or the SAT general test.
More information about this test optional policy can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
• Transcripts: First-year applicants should submit official transcripts of all high school and college coursework completed.
• Letter(s) of Recommendation: One letter is required from either your school counselor or a teacher from your school. Applicants to the School of Cinematic Arts must submit three letters of recommendation.
• Portfolio, resumé and/or additional writing samples: if required by major. Performance majors may also require auditions. Refer to the Additional Application Requirements section, below, for more information.
• Submit your fall grades (when available): Use the Mid-Year Report Form included in the Common Application or visit admission.usc.edu/midyeargrades to submit your fall grades.
• Application Affirmations: Affirmations will be available in the portal after we receive your application. Your digital signature may be submitted after the application deadline.
International applicants please refer to the International Students page for Additional Requirements.
Home-Schooled applicants must also submit answers to the home-school questions on the Common Application Secondary School Report. Be sure to include information about your home-schooling philosophy, curricular choices and textbooks used. Although the application process for the 2021-2022 Academic Year is test-optional, we still find it helpful to have work from home-schooled students that is externally graded or examined. Therefore, we recommend submitting either SAT/ACT results, SAT subject exam results, AP exam results, or transcripts from college courses or other accredited online schooling programs if possible.
Additional Application Requirements
If you are applying to any major in any of the schools listed below, it is your responsibility to complete your application by the appropriate deadline. Unless otherwise noted, all deadlines are the same as those listed on the Dates and Deadlines section above. Be sure to obtain any required supplementary forms and to fulfill all departmental requirements.
“With a USC degree you can truly do anything you’d ever want to. USC is a place that really gives you the opportunity to do anything... There is an opportunity available for every type of student — it’s just up to you to reach out and make your dreams a reality.”
USC does not conduct admission interviews. However, prospective students are welcome to contact their USC admission counselor with any questions about the admission process. To find the USC counselor who covers your school, please visit admission.usc.edu/find-your-counselor.
International students interested in providing additional evidence of English language ability should visit our Additional Requirements page for more information.
“Be you. It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to be unsure. Don’t make up what you’re passionate about. It’s also okay if you choose one area to pursue and find out later on, you want to do something totally different. Focus on why we should consider you and why you want to study at USC.”
Immigration and DACA Status
USC admission, enrollment and tuition policies are not based on your immigration or DACA status. Your admission and enrollment will not be affected if you do not have, or if you lose your immigration or DACA status. Financial assistance is available for undocumented students who meet certain criteria. California residents may qualify for additional assistance under AB540 (the “California Dream Act”). For more information, please visit dream.csac.ca.gov.