Application Components

First-year applicants are evaluated on the content and rigor of their high school coursework, their grades, standardized test scores, activity summary, essay, short answers and counselor/teacher recommendations. There are no absolute “cutoffs” or minimums for grades, rank in class, or test scores. We are interested in the interplay of these elements as well as your personal accomplishments and potential for success.

Some majors such as architecture, cinematic arts, fine arts, journalism, music, and dramatic arts have additional requirements. These may include an audition, portfolio, additional essays or writing samples, and/or additional letters of recommendation. See Additional Major Requirements for information about your intended program.

Academic Expectations

The most fundamental expectation of each entering student at USC is that she or he will have completed a rigorous high school curriculum in English, mathematics, science, social studies, foreign language and the arts. We realize, of course, that individual talents, circumstances and opportunities vary greatly. Therefore, there is no prescribed curriculum. However, we do expect that prospective students will take advantage of the highest level of classes offered to them in their secondary school.

Grade Point Averages

When assessing grade point average, consideration is also given to class rank (if available) and to the rigor of your curriculum, including the number of advanced courses taken (if offered by your school). Naturally, we are interested in consistently strong academic performance throughout your four-year high school record. However, we realize that some bright students, for one reason or another, may struggle in ninth grade. In these cases, special attention is given to steady and substantial improvement throughout the sophomore, junior and senior years.

Standardized Test Scores

USC requires either SAT or ACT scores from:

  • All first-year applicants.
  • Transfer applicants who have accumulated fewer than 30 transferable semester units since graduating high school.

For students who take the SAT more than once, USC records the highest scores for each section —even if achieved in different sittings — but will not combine section scores from the old SAT (prior to March 2016) and the redesigned SAT.

For students taking the ACT, USC will record the highest composite score.

The essay portion of the ACT is optional. The essay portion of the SAT will be optional for students taking the redesigned test in March 2016 or after.

Activities Summary

We are particularly interested in learning about our applicants' activities outside the classroom. The application's activity summary gives you the opportunity to highlight special skills or talents, interesting experiences and personal accomplishments. When reviewing activities, the admission committee is looking for those experiences that might suggest your potential for leadership and involvement at USC. We are interested in seeing activities that show passion, potential and a significant investment of time; an activity summary listing a large volume of cursory involvement is often much less impressive than one showing ongoing commitment to, and leadership in, a smaller number of activities.

Essay, Short Answers, and Quick Takes

These written elements give you the opportunity to speak directly to the admission committee in your own voice. USC carefully reads and considers everything submitted, so make sure to use a style and vocabulary with which you are comfortable. Content, organization and thoughtfulness are just as important as grammar, spelling and diction.

School Report

All first-year applicants should submit the Common Application School Report by providing the name and e-mail address of a recommender.

Personal Interviews

Personal interviews are an optional part of the first-year application process. We offer on- and off-campus interviews throughout the fall. Students can choose to interview with the Office of Admission or one of our academic units.

The size of our applicant pool precludes us from interviewing every applicant; therefore, this element of the application is strictly optional. Appointments are limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis. History has shown no appreciable difference in the admission rates of students who are not interviewed.

To sign up for an admission interview, please click here.