Apply: First-Year Students

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.

Outside of mathematics, no specific curriculum is prescribed or required, though students offered admission typically pursue the most rigorous program available to them in English, science, social studies, foreign language and the arts. Students are expected to have earned a grade of C or better in at least three years of high school mathematics, including Advanced Algebra (Algebra II). 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/Exploratory.

Personal Characteristics

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.”

—Joy Ofodu. San Ramon, California.


International applicants: Please refer to the International Students page for Additional Requirements.

Common Application

• Optional: Official Test Scores. For students who submit test scores, USC records the highest scores for those who have taken tests more than once. For the SAT and ACT, the highest scores for each section of the exam will be recorded, even if achieved in different sittings. USC does not require the writing section for either the ACT or the SAT.

More information about our 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 two 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 your applicant portal 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.

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 2023-2024 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.

If the application fee poses a financial burden, you can request a fee waiver in the Profile section of the Common Application.

The USC Office of Admission reserves the right to make admission decisions with unofficial documents and may collect official documents post-admission or enrollment.

Additional Application Requirements

If you are applying to a 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 page. Be sure to obtain any required supplementary forms and to fulfill all departmental requirements.

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

USC School of Architecture

Roski School of Art and Design

Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation

Marshall School of Business (World Bachelor in Business)

USC School of Cinematic Arts

Kaufman School of Dance

USC School of Dramatic Arts

Viterbi School of Engineering

Thornton School of Music

USC Alfred E. Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

“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.”

—Burton Chaikin. Highland Park, California.


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 learn more, please visit our Find Your Counselor page.

International students interested in providing additional evidence of English language ability should visit our Additional Requirements page for more information.

“Let your voice shine through your application, and don’t be afraid to share your strengths, passions, and experiences in your own distinct way. Simply put, your application should reflect the unique and interesting person that you are!”

—Rocco Blum, Assistant Director of Admission

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. Please visit the First Generation Plus Success Center  for more information.

California residents may qualify for additional assistance under AB540 (the “California Dream Act”). For more information, please visit

To apply for need-based financial aid, undocumented or DACA students should submit the following materials:

  • CSS Profile
  • 2021 Tax Return (for academic year 2023-24)
  • Third-Party Letter Confirming Undocumented Status

Test Optional Policy FAQ

Find answers to questions you have about how our test optional policy will affect your application.