What We Look For

A Holistic View

We look for those students we believe will thrive at USC. Our application process is designed to discover your individual story, so that we might see how you would take advantage of the many opportunities available at USC.

Like many highly selective universities, we conduct a comprehensive, holistic review of your application to consider academic and personal characteristics. We will review your performance in school, the rigor of your program, your writing skills and any test scores you choose to submit. We also consider personal qualities, as revealed in community involvement, leadership and achievements.

Student speaking with microphone in USC lecture.

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.

“Remember, there’s a person on the other end of your application; we’re just trying to get to know you.”

—Becky Chassin, Assistant Dean of Admission


Successful USC Students

USC students pursue ambitious intellectual and professional goals by studying across disciplines and taking advantage of the diversity of programs available. They are willing to venture outside their comfort zones. They are interested in the world, in other peoples and cultures, and enjoy examining important issues from a global perspective. USC students are unafraid to speak up in class to make others think or fight for a cause. They get involved by participating in student organizations and connecting with others. They seek to grow to their fullest potential, and they work to serve others in the community along the way.


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, if submitted, 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.

Accessibility and Financial Aid

USC is need-blind in its admission process—a student’s financial need will not influence an admission decision. In fact, nearly two-thirds of undergraduate students at USC receive financial aid.

First-Year Student Profile

Fall 2023

New students 3,633

Application Process

Fall Applicants 80,808
Fall Admits 8,094 (10% admitted)
Fall Enrolls 3,633 (44.9% yield)

Race, Ethnicity & Background

White 23%
Asian / Asian American 22%
Latine / Hispanic 20%
International (student visa holders) 17%
Black / African American 8%
Multiple Ethnicities 8%
Not reported 1%
Native American / Pacific Islander 1%

Most Represented Geographic Areas in U.S.

New York
New Jersey

Most Represented Geographic Areas Outside U.S.

United Kingdom
South Korea
Hong Kong


Financial Aid

Almost 21 percent of the 2023 entering first-year class received a merit-based scholarship from USC. Approximately two-thirds received some form of financial assistance.

Download the First-Year Student Profile

Transfer Student Profile

Fall 2023

Applications 9,488
Admits 2,310
Admit Rate 24.4%
Transfer Class Size 1,335
Average College GPA 3.71 – 4.00


Our Transfer Students Come From

California Community Colleges 52%
Colleges Outside California 24%
UC or CSU 13%
California Independent Institutions 6%
Colleges Outside U.S. 5%
European Institutions with USC Articulation 4%


Download the Transfer Student Profile