Graduate Admission

Students FAQ

Attention, international students!

Please see International Students FAQ for additional information.

Preparing to Apply
What graduate programs does USC offer?
USC offers over 300 graduate and professional programs, with more programs added every year. To begin exploring USC’s graduate offerings, please visit our Graduate Programs page.
Do you offer online programs?
Yes. For more information, please visit USC Online.
What are the requirements for graduate school admission?
At a minimum you must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution, with an overall GPA of at least 3.0 (“B”) on a 4.0 scale. If your previous studies were done outside the United States, please visit the International Student web page for more information about degree equivalency.

Please be advised that many USC graduate programs have their own set of admission criteria, in addition to the minimum eligibility requirements noted above. For more information, please refer to the homepage of your intended graduate program or contact them directly.
Do you accept transfer students from other graduate programs?
Yes. USC accepts transfer applications from students enrolled in graduate programs at other universities. The process is exactly the same as for all other graduate applicants. No special forms or procedures are involved.
I am currently enrolled in the last year of my undergraduate program. Can I still apply for graduate admission even though I have not yet earned a bachelor's degree?
Yes. As long as your bachelor's degree is conferred before the start of your intended first term at USC, you are eligible for graduate admission. When you apply, you will simply need to provide the most recent transcript available, showing all coursework you have completed to date.

If you are admitted, you will need to verify the completion of your undergraduate program and conferral of your bachelor's degree when you come to USC. Detailed verification instructions will be included in your official USC admission letter.
Can I take graduate classes at USC without enrolling in a degree program?
Students not enrolled in a USC degree program may be able to take classes through our Limited Status option. Contact the academic department or school offering the course you would like to take and obtain their permission to take the class. Register in-person on campus and pay in full at the time you register.

Please note that the Office of Graduate Admission does not handle Limited Status enrollment. Limited Status enrollment is offered at the discretion of individual departments, and some may not able to offer seats to non-degree students. It is up to you to make arrangements with the department. International students and applicants who have previously been denied admission to USC are not eligible to take classes on a Limited Status basis.
Does USC offer information or recruitment events for prospective graduate applicants?
Yes. We strongly encourage applicants in the Los Angeles area to attend one of our Spotlight USC sessions, which are held on-campus during the fall semester. Spotlight USC prepares participants to successfully complete the graduate application process and avoid common mistakes.

In addition to Spotlight USC, the Office of Graduate Admission participates in a number of off-campus events for prospective graduate applicants. For more information, please visit our Graduate Admission Events page.

Many USC academic departments and schools also hold their own events for prospective graduate students across the United States, around the world and online. For more information, please visit the home page of your intended graduate department(s) or contact them directly.
Can I visit the campus?
Yes. We encourage prospective students to visit our campus to learn more about our programs and to help decide if USC is right for you. For more information, please click here.
Can I meet with an admission officer in person?
In addition to our Spotlight:USC events, a graduate admission officer is on call from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Monday through Thursday at the campus Admission Center. Please note that this service is available only from April to December. All in-person counseling is walk-in only and subject to staff availability.

Additionally, USC graduate departments may be available to meet with prospective graduate applicants. Please contact your intended graduate department or school for details.
How does the admission process work?
The Office of Graduate Admission conducts a standardized academic evaluation using your official transcripts and other academic records, ensuring that your previous education meets USC’s basic eligibility requirements. Meanwhile, your program conducts a departmental review that takes into account other elements of your application portfolio (statement of purpose, recommendations, writing samples, etc.) as well as the academic evaluation provided by our office. These two components of the process are separate and independent, but both must be completed before you can be officially admitted to USC.
What is the basis for an admission decision? Who decides?
Graduate applicants are evaluated on a number of criteria: academic performance, test scores, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, other supporting materials, and whether or not their academic and research interests are an appropriate fit with the degree program to which they are applying.

Admission decisions are made by a committee consisting of departmental admission officers and faculty members specializing in your field of study. The Office of Graduate Admission administers the overall process but our office does not make final admission decisions. Any questions or concerns regarding your admission decision should be addressed to your intended graduate department only.
Will I be automatically denied admission if my overall GPA is less than 3.0.?
The 3.0 GPA rule is not absolute, and a lower GPA does not automatically exclude you from consideration. Graduate departments can and do sometimes admit students with lower GPAs who demonstrate compensating strengths in other areas.
What do I need to do if I would like to return to my graduate studies after a leave of absence?
Please contact the department in which you were enrolled.
How can I best prepare to apply?
We recommend you carefully read the information published on both the Graduate Admission website and the homepage of your intended graduate program. We have done our best to provide a clear and comprehensive overview of the admission process. Virtually all the information you need is available on the Graduate Admission website.
How can I contact USC if I have further questions?
You are welcome to e-mail our office with any questions regarding general admission policies and procedures. Specific questions about a particular graduate program should be addressed to that department.

Please note that during our peak admission season (November-April) our office receives hundreds of messages every week, so it may take us some time to respond to e-mails. Your patience and understanding are appreciated.
Applying to USC

Basic Application Issues

How do I apply?
To begin the application process, please visit USC's online application system.
When is the application deadline?
PhD applicants: To grant priority consideration for fellowship funding, most USC programs with fall-semester start dates require PhD applicants to submit their applications by December 1 of the preceding year. (For example, applicants to fall 2015 who wish to be considered for fellowships must submit their applications by December 1, 2014.)

All other applicants: Deadlines for USC graduate programs are set by individual academic departments and schools, not the Office of Admission. Deadlines vary by program and are subject to change. Please refer to the homepage of your intended graduate department or contact them directly for deadline information.
Can I apply to multiple programs? If so how?
You can apply to a maximum of five separate graduate programs for a single term. You will need to complete and submit a separate online application (with separate PIN and password) for each program. (Please note that you will be assigned only one 10-digit USC ID number.)

You will need to submit only one set of transcripts and test scores to the Office of Graduate Admission, regardless of the number of programs to which you are applying.

All other materials (personal statement, recommendations, writing samples, etc.) are reviewed by graduate departments only, not the Office of Graduate Admission. Please contact the graduate departments directly with any questions or concerns about these supplemental materials.
How do I get help with technical issues?
Please use the Online Technical Support section of the online application. You will find a Technical Support link on the lower left-hand side of the page.

If you are logged in to your online application, click on the Tech Support button at the top of the page.

If you are experiencing technical issues with the USConnect site, please refer to the USConnect FAQ or contact USConnect technical staff here.
What are the most common mistakes made by applicants?
Please be sure that your first and last names appear in the appropriate fields. (It is very common for applicants to accidentally reverse their name order.)

In the secondary name fields, indicate any alternate names that might appear on supporting materials (transcripts, test scores). Otherwise, it may be very difficult for us to match your materials to your application file.

Be sure that you have selected the correct program and term (fall, spring, summer) before you submit your application.

Finally, please double-check your school and transcript information. Make sure you have provided a complete list of all the schools you have attended and be sure to mail your transcripts to the correct address.
I attended a school for only one term or class. Do I still need to list it in the application?
Yes. You need to list all colleges, universities, and post-secondary institutions you have attended. No exceptions.
I applied to the wrong program by mistake. How do I correct this?
Please contact us directly. We will be able to correct the program code for you.
How do I re-apply if I am a previous applicant to USC?
If you were accepted to a program and wish to be considered for a later term OR if the department did not render a decision on your file, please refer to the Can I move my application? question in the Other Application Issues section of this FAQ.

If you have been denied admission and wish to re-apply, you will need to create and submit a new online application, with a new PIN and password. Transcripts and test scores already received by the Office of Admission will be kept on file and do not need to be sent again. You will, however, need to send us any new test scores and transcripts for coursework you have completed since your last application. All other materials (personal statement, recommendations, etc.) are reviewed by the department only. Please contact your intended graduate department with any questions or concerns regarding these materials.
Does USC admit students to only the fall term?
This depends on the program. Some USC graduate programs have fall-only start dates, while others admit students for spring and/or summer. Please refer to the homepage of your intended graduate program for more information.
Do some programs use a different application form?
Yes. For more information about programs requiring a special application form, please visit our application instructions.
Should I use a special application form if I'm an international student?
No. The graduate application form is the same for all U.S. and international applicants.
What is a 10-digit USC ID number? How do I get one?
Your USC ID number is assigned after you apply online and your application is uploaded to USC's Student Information System. This 10-digit USC ID number allows us to process your materials more efficiently, and it will become your student ID number if you are admitted. (Please note that your 10-digit USC ID number is not the same as the PIN you use to access the online graduate application.)

After submitting your application, you should receive a confirmation e-mail with your 10-digit USC ID number within four to five business days. If you do not receive this e-mail, please contact us and provide the following information:

  • Full name (last, first and middle).
  • Date of birth.
  • The program to which you are applying.
  • The term (fall, spring or summer) to which you are applying.
  • We will locate your file and send you a response with your USC ID number.
You should not mail any supporting materials until you receive your USC ID number. Be sure to include it with any correspondence with USC.

IMPORTANT: If you have previously enrolled at or applied to USC, or if you are a USC employee, please be sure to include your USC ID number in the appropriate application field. This will help prevent the creation of a duplicate file, which can cause considerable delays in the processing of your application.

Fees and Waivers

How much is the application fee?
The graduate application fee is $85 for most USC graduate programs.
The application fee for all programs in the Marshall School of Business is $150.
The application fee for all programs offered through the USC International Academy is $175.
Is the application fee refundable?
No. USC does not refund the application fee for any reason.
Does USC offer fee waivers?
USC offers fee waivers under the following circumstances:
  • You are a USC alumna/alumnus or are currently enrolled in a USC degree program.
  • You are a permanent, full-time USC employee or dependent of an employee in this category.
  • You are a U.S. citizen/permanent resident and can demonstrate that paying the application fee would cause you a financial hardship by providing either: 1) a letter from the financial aid office of your previous school; or 2) documentation from a state unemployment agency verifying that you are currently unemployed.

We do not accept tax returns or any alternate type of documentation to verify financial hardship. - You are a participant in the McNair Scholars program. - You are a Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) fellow. - You are a participant in the IRT program.

How do I indicate on the application that I believe I am eligible for a fee waiver?
Select the appropriate option from the fee waiver pull-down menu in the application. This will allow you to submit the application without paying a fee. Once your application has been successfully submitted, you will receive an automated e-mail with instructions on how to verify your fee waiver.

Please do not send us any type of fee waiver documentation until after you have submitted your online application and received the automated e-mail. As a matter of policy, we do not review any documentation before a student has applied.
I have requested a fee waiver but am unable to provide the required supporting documentation. How do I pay the application fee?
Please contact us and we will provide you with payment instructions.
Will you review my file without fee waiver documentation?
No. Before we begin reviewing your file, the fee must be settled either by payment OR by the receipt and approval of appropriate fee waiver documentation.

Supporting Materials

What materials does USC require for admission review?
At a minimum, you will need to provide official transcripts from all colleges, universities, or other post-secondary institutions you have attended. Most USC programs will also require test scores (GRE or GMAT depending on the program) and additional materials such as a personal statement, recommendations, etc. Please refer to your department homepage or contact them directly for a list of supplemental materials.

International applicants should also carefully review the information provided in our International Student Section.
Should I send supporting materials before I apply?
No. We strongly advise you not to submit any supporting materials (transcripts, recommendations, etc.) before you have applied and received your 10-digit USC ID number. Without an application already in our system, these materials could be be misfiled or misplaced, thus delaying the review of your application.

If a testing service sent your official test scores (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, etc.) before you applied, you should follow up with us after you submit your application to verify that they have been matched to your file.
Do you need to receive all my materials by the deadline?
No. The deadline refers only to the date by which the application must be submitted. It does not refer to the supporting materials, unless your department has explicitly stated otherwise. We understand that some supporting materials will arrive later, and this will not be a problem as long as they arrive within a reasonable time frame.
Do you need transcripts from every school I have attended?
Yes. Even if you were enrolled for only one class or term, you will need to have transcripts sent from that school.
Is it okay if I just upload my transcripts to the online application?
No. Transcripts uploaded by students to the online application are considered unofficial. While some USC graduate departments may use them for an informal, preliminary review, the Office of Graduate Admission does not evaluate them. Only official transcripts submitted per the instructions posted on the Graduate Admission website are acceptable for evaluation purposes.
Where do I send official, hard-copy transcripts?
To send transcripts by regular mail:
University of Southern California:
USC Office of Graduate Admission
3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915

To send transcripts by courier service, such as DHL or FedEx:
University of Southern California
USC Office of Admission and Financial Aid
3601 South Flower Street, TYL 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
(213) 740-1111

IMPORTANT: Some USC graduate departments (including most of our online programs) prefer that transcripts be sent directly to them, rather than the Office of Graduate Admission. To verify your department's policy, please refer to the homepage of your intended graduate program. If this is your department's policy, you are responsible for confirming receipt by the department and ensuring that copies have been routed by the program to the Office of Graduate Admission.
Do you accept electronic transcripts?

USC now accepts electronic transcripts, provided that they meet the following guidelines:

- The transcript originates from a secure site formally linked to the sending institution.
- The school is located in the United States. We do not accept electronic transcripts from overseas institutions.

Please instruct the vendor to e-mail the transcript to admscan@usc.edu.

Do not send any materials or correspondence to this e-mail address yourself. Electronic transcripts e-mailed to any other address will not be downloaded, resulting in a delay of your file review and an extra expense to you because the transcript will need to be re-sent.

What do you mean by "official" transcripts and test scores?
Hard-copy transcripts and other academic records are considered official when they arrive in a sealed, stamped, official envelope from the originating institution, with the seal and all security marks intact. Electronic transcripts and test scores are considered official when we receive them from a secure site formally linked to the sending institution or testing service.

Paper copies of test results are not considered "official" by USC, nor are academic records received in any other condition or via any other means other than those mentioned above (in other words, transcripts that arrive in an unsealed envelope, are scanned and uploaded by a student to the online application, etc.).
How do I send my test scores to USC?
GRE or TOEFL scores should be transmitted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to USC's official school code: 4852. No department code is required. If you are sending GMAT or IELTS score, please select "University of Southern California" from the list of schools available for official score submission.

If you are applying to multiple programs, please note that scores need to be sent only once. Test scores are posted to our central information system and can be viewed by all departments.
How do I submit a revised statement of purpose or CV?
You are welcome to submit a revised copy of either of these elements by e-mailing the document as an attachment to gradadm@usc.edu. Please use PDF, JPEG or Word format only and be sure to include your 10- digit USC ID number.

Any other materials (writing samples, scholarly articles, etc.) should be submitted directly to your intended graduate department.
How do I submit recommendation letters?
Recommendations are submitted via our online application system. Please navigate to the recommendation section of the online application, where you can designate your recommenders. They will receive an automated e-mail with instructions on how to submit the recommendation.
What if my recommender wants to submit a hard-copy letter of recommendation?
Some (but not all) USC graduate departments will still accept hard-copy recommendations. Please contact your intended graduate program for more information.
Will you notify me when my materials are received?
Due to the volume of applications and materials we process, we are unable to notify students when supporting materials are received.
How long does it take for materials to be processed and uploaded to my application file?
During our peak season (November-April), we receive thousands of documents every day, so it typically requires about 7 to 10 business days from the date of receipt for materials to be processed.
Will you return my materials?
All materials submitted for admission consideration become the property of USC. The university is unable to return or duplicate materials for any reason.

Other Application Issues

How do I let you know if my mailing address, telephone number or e-mail address has changed?
Please contact us and we will update the information in USC's Student Information System.
Can I move my application to a later term?
Yes. If you have been admitted or have not yet received a decision, you may move (“update”) your application to a term within one year of the original application. If you have been previously admitted, an application update is not a guarantee of re-admission, but rather a request that your original application be evaluated for admission to a subsequent term. You do not need to pay the application fee again, and all documents already on file are kept in our system. However, you must inform us of any additional coursework you may have completed in the meantime and send us transcripts when they become available. If you are an international student, you will also need to inform us of any changes in your residency status.

Please note: Applicants who have been denied admission must reapply to USC by submitting a new graduate application. If you would like to update your application, please contact us and we will move your file to the appropriate term.
Do you offer interviews for graduate applicants?
This depends on the program. Please contact your intended graduate department for more information.
Who do I contact regarding a performance audition?
Please contact your intended graduate department. Our office is not involved in the audition process.
How do I apply for fellowships or assistantships?
Fellowships and assistantships are determined by individual programs. Please contact your intended graduate department for more information.
How do I check the status of my application?
You may contact us anytime via e-mail to check the status of your application. Graduate admission staff are also available via Skype! from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM Pacific Time, Monday-Thursday. Please add graduate.admissions.usc to your contact list.
When will I receive my admission decision?
Due to the many factors involved in the departmental review process, we cannot estimate when decisions will be made.
How will I be notified of my decision?
Applicants for most USC graduate programs can receive decision letters online via the USConnect website. Once your department renders a decision, your official letter will be posted to USConnect. If you are admitted, you can also certify your enrollment via USConnect.

To request your USConnect password, please visit the Request Password page and provide the e-mail address you used on your Apply Yourself (AY) application. (To use USConnect, you need to have submitted an application and received a 10-digit USC ID number.) A temporary password will be e-mailed to the address provided. If you have any questions about logging in to USConnect, please refer to our FAQ.

Please note: Not all graduate programs use USConnect to notify students of their admission decisions. If you have been notified of a decision but your decision letter is not available on USConnect, please contact your department directly.

ENROLLING AT USC

I have been admitted to a USC graduate program. How do I let you know that I intend to enroll?
You can certify your intent to enroll via USConnect. A link will be provided in your official online admission letter.
I have been admitted to a USC graduate program. How do I let you know I have decided not to enroll?
You can withdraw your application via USConnect. A link will be provided in your official online admission letter.
Can I defer my admission?
USC does not offer deferments in the traditional sense of the term. (In other words, we do not guarantee re- admission.) However, admitted students do have the option to update their file. For information about updating your admission, please refer to the Can I move my application? question in the Other Application Issues section of this FAQ.
Why was I denied admission?
Due to the large volume of applications we receive and the limited number of places in each program, we are often unable to offer admission to applicants who are nonetheless highly qualified. Graduate-level admission decisions are made by individual programs, not the Office of Graduate Admission. Please contact your intended graduate department with any questions or concerns regarding your admission decision.
How do I verify my previous degree(s) if my admission letter says I’m required to?
Admitted graduate students must provide verification that they have been awarded a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States, or an equivalent foreign degree. If your degree could not be verified during the initial admission review process, it will need to be verified before the end of your first term at USC.

The Office of Degree Progress is in charge of the verification process. If you hold an undergraduate degree from a U.S. institution, you may verify your degree by bringing a final, official transcript to Degree Progress, located in Trojan Hall. The transcript must specify the degree(s) conferred, date(s) of conferral and be enclosed in the sealed, original envelope with security marks intact.

Students who hold degrees from overseas institutions will need to have their previous degrees verified through the International Education Research Foundation (IERF). For detailed information on how to obtain an IERF verification report, please refer to the Degree Progress website.

Other Services

Does USC offer orientation programs for admitted graduate students?
Yes. For information about graduate orientation programs, please visit the Office of Orientation Programs website.
How much will my program cost?
Expenses vary widely by program and are subject to change. Please contact your intended graduate department for the most up-to-date information or refer to the Financial Aid website for estimated costs.
How do I arrange for payment of tuition and fees?
Please contact Student Financial Services.
Does USC offer resources for students with disabilities?
Yes. Please contact our Disability Services & Programs office for more information.
Does USC offer resources for veterans?
Yes. Please contact the Veteran Certification office for more information.
Can I receive transfer credit if I was previously enrolled in a graduate program at another institution?
Transfer credit from other graduate programs is possible but not guaranteed. After you are admitted and enroll at USC, you may request a transfer credit evaluation from the Office of Degree Progress. Coursework is subject to the approval of both your USC academic department and Degree Progress (or the Office of Graduate Admission if the courses were taken outside the United States). We do not conduct pre-admission transfer credit evaluations for prospective graduate applicants.
What housing options are available to graduate students?
Please visit the USC Housing homepage or contact them directly for more information.
Where can I find information about transportation options and parking at USC?
Please visit the USC Transportation homepage.