Attending college is more important than ever. This information will help introduce you to the college application process and the classes you should take in middle school and high school to prepare. We encourage you to share this with your family so they can help you reach your goal. Remember, college admission and financial aid requirements can change from year to year, so stay in close contact with your school counselor for advice and for the most current college information.
Four facts about applying to college:
You don’t have to be rich to attend a private university.
Students eligible for need-based financial aid may find the actual costs for a private university comparable to – or less than – a state institution. In fact, two-thirds of our undergraduate students receive financial assistance. And we enroll 4,300 low-income undergraduate students (as defined by Pell Grant eligibility) — more than most other private, highly selective universities.
There’s not one ‘perfect’ college for you.
There are many colleges right for you. Research your options and you will find that more than one college can meet all your criteria. The College Board’s Big Future website provides free and accurate information about thousands of colleges and universities, and can help you prepare for your college search or explore potential majors and careers. Visit bigfuture.collegeboard.org for more information.
Applying for financial aid will not necessarily affect your admission to college.
Many colleges, including USC, do not consider a family’s ability to pay when making admission decisions. This is called “need-blind” admission. A variety of need-based aid programs and scholarships may be available to you, so you should apply for financial aid soon after you apply for admission.
Admission officers consider more than grades and test scores when evaluating an applicant.
In addition to grades and test scores, selective colleges are interested in the rigor of the subjects taken, the competitiveness of the school, and upward or downward trends in your grades. The essay, as well as your extracurricular and leadership activities, talent and personal character are also very important. You should be aware, though, that accomplishments in extracurricular activities and leadership activities cannot make up for a poor academic record.
Start in High School
To help you meet the basic entrance requirements of many colleges and universities, a college-prep schedule requires you to take at least four college preparatory classes every year of high school.
A college preparatory track should include:
• English And Literature: 4 Years
• Math: 3–4 years
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). However, we recommend that students continue taking math courses beyond Advanced Algebra when possible.
• Foreign Language: 2–4 years
• Laboratory/Natural/Physical Science: 2–4 years
• History and Social Science: 2 years
• Academic Electives: 3 years
Take courses that will challenge you:
Take the most difficult courses you think you can handle.
Develop your strengths and interests:
Take extra classes in the subjects you excel in.
Downloads & Links
Summer Programs for High School Students
Our summer programs can help you earn college credits, explore an area of interest, and get a firsthand glimpse into college life. Learn more in the USC Summer Programs website.
Preparing for USC Brochure
Our Preparing for USC brochure will help you make sure you are closely following a college preparatory track throughout middle and high school, and introduce you to the college application and admission process.
Meet Your Counselor
If you are in 9th grade or above, and you haven’t done so yet, get to know the USC counselor who covers your school. Find your counselor.
Learn About Financial Aid
The cost of college can be offset with financial aid, which can come from your home state, the federal government and even your college. USC administers one of the largest financial aid programs in the U.S. More than two-thirds of students at USC receive financial aid. Learn more about financial aid at USC.
Net Price Calculator
Find out if you might qualify for need-based financial aid. Visit our Net Price Calculator to receive an estimate of your cost, based on your family’s financial circumstances.