Graduate Admission

Students FAQ

Attention, international students!

Please see International Students FAQ for additional information.

Academic Standards, Degrees, Degree Length
What are the requirements for graduate school admission?

The university requires a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 (on a scale in which A=4.0), a minimum Verbal GRE score of 153 and a minimum Quantitative GRE score of 144.

What is the difference between master’s and doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees?
The master's degree signifies completion of a program of study and/or proficiency in a professional field. The Ph.D. is the highest academic degree awarded, signifying mastery of a subject and development of a new body of knowledge about that subject, through research, interpretation, insight and invention. In the professional schools, the doctorate is awarded for expertise and leadership in a specialized field.
How long does it take to earn an M.A./dual degree/Ph.D.?
Each academic department, program and professional school has its own standards for degree completion. Contact your department for further information.
Academic Calendar
When do the academic sessions begin?
The USC academic calendar is divided into two terms: fall and spring semesters. The fall semester begins in late August and ends in mid-December. The spring semester begins in early January and ends in early May. There is also a summer session with four- to six-week classes, but not all courses are offered during the summer session. For the current calendar—including dates for registration, the first and last day of classes, and the final examination schedule—click here. The calendar is also published in the printed application booklet and the USC catalogue.
Admissions Process
How does the admission process work?
  • The application, transcripts and test scores you send to the Graduate Admission Office are evaluated to ensure that they meet the minimum standards set by USC and the academic department to which you are applying.
  • The application is then forwarded to your department, where it is collated with the required supplemental materials (e.g., portfolio, writing samples) you have supplied.
  • An admission committee consisting of departmental admission officers and faculty members specializing in your field of study review all your application materials and make a final decision. Decisions on the awarding of fellowships and assistantships are also made at this time.
  • You receive a letter from the USC Dean of Admission, notifying you of your admission status.
What is the basis for an admission decision?
An admission decision for master’s programs is based on possession of a U.S. bachelor's degree (or equivalent), courses and grades earned, GRE test results, letters of recommendation and your statement of purpose. For Ph.D. programs, your course work toward a master's degree is also evaluated.
How will I find out if I am admitted?
You will receive a letter from the USC Dean of Admission. Please note that official decisions are provided by postal mail only. Information about housing, orientation and the steps you need to take to prepare for your studies will be enclosed with your admission letter.
May I be admitted in spring or summer?
Spring or summer admission is available only for certain programs. Contact your academic department or professional school for more information.
When is the Graduate Admission Office open?
Our office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST), Monday through Friday, with the exception of major holidays.
The Application
May I apply to several USC graduate programs at one time?
You may apply to a maximum of five graduate programs. You will need to complete and submit a complete USC graduate application for each program and pay the $85 application fee for each submission. Unless the departments to which you are applying have other requirements, you will only need to send one official transcript from each educational institution previously attended.
I’m an international student. Should I use a special application form?
Please see the International Students section of this website for detailed application information, including information on student visas. International and U.S. students use the same application; however, international applicants must also complete the International Student Confidential Financial Statement (Form 4).
How can I apply for a waiver of the admission fee?
Fee waivers are granted only under the following conditions:
  • You are a full-time USC employee, or dependent of a full-time USC employee;
  • You are a U.S. citizen/permanent resident, and paying the fee would cause financial hardship. We do not accept tax returns or any alternate type of documentation to substantiate financial hardship. Only a letter from the financial aid office of your previous school is acceptable. Once your online application has been submitted, you will receive an automated e-mail with instructions on how and where to send the appropriate waiver documentation. Please do not send us any waiver documentation until you have received this e-mail.
  • You are a USC student or alumnus/alumna;
  • You are a McNair Scholar;
What is a USC ID number, and how can I obtain one?
Each applicant to USC receives a unique 10-digit USC ID number that enables our department to process your materials more efficiently. If you have not already been assigned a USC ID, you will receive one after you submit your online application. You will be e-mailed within 2-3 business days with your new USC ID number. If you do not receive an e-mail with your new USC ID number within 7 days of submitting your application, please Email Us with your
  • full name (last, first and middle),
  • date of birth,
  • the program to which you are applying, and
  • the term (fall, spring or summer).
We will send you a response with your USC ID number.

Where do I send my materials?

You can apply online. Transcripts and GRE scores should also be sent to this address:

USC Office of Graduate Admission
3601 South Flower Street
Room 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915

Supplemental materials required by your academic department (such as a portfolio or writing samples) must be sent directly to the department. The Graduate Admission Office does not review these materials.

How do I obtain the address of my academic department?
Click here for a directory of department addresses. They may also be found at the back of the printed application booklet. Please note that the ZIP + 4 mail code listed should be used on all correspondence with your department. Example:

Department
University of Southern California
University Park
Los Angeles, CA 90089-XXXX

How long does it take to process my application?
During the peak admission period (January through April), admission processing takes a minimum of four weeks after we receive your application. We will send you a letter confirming receipt of your application. We will also notify you if your application file is incomplete.
I’ve been informed that my application fee was not received/credit card was declined. Will you review my application anyway?
No. The application fee must be paid in full before we can proceed with our review.
I sent my materials. Why was I notified that my file is incomplete?
Our office receives more than 20,000 applications every year. Every day, hundreds of documents arrive at our office. Due to the extremely high volume of applications, it takes 7 to 10 business days to process your documents. Your transcripts and test scores should be sent directly to the Graduate Admission Office, not to your academic department. If you have sent these items to the department, call or e-mail our office to confirm that they have been forwarded.
I’m a currently enrolled USC student. Do I really need to fill out the Educational History section of the application?
Yes. All students, even those currently enrolled at USC, must fill out this section.
Costs
How much does it cost to attend USC?
Please click here for estimated costs and expenses of all USC Graduate and Professional programs. Because USC is a private university, no additional tuition is charged for out-of-state or international students.
Deferred Admission
May I defer admission for a year or two?
Although USC does not defer offers of admission, students may "update" their applications to be considered for a future term that begins within one year (two semesters) of the original application. Updated applications do not require a new fee or letters of recommendation; however, any additional academic work completed must be reported, and transcripts of this work are required.

Applicants who were denied admission may not update; they must reapply. Individuals who are granted admission and then update are not guaranteed admission to a future term.
Fellowships and Assistantships
I have several questions regarding graduate fellowships/assistantships.
These questions can be best addressed by the graduate department to which you intend to apply. Please contact your department for more information.
The GRE Exam
May I be admitted conditionally and take the GRE after I enroll?
The GRE (General Test of the Graduate Record Examination) is required, but your department may grant an exception. Programs with highly competitive admission standards are less likely to grant an exception.
I took the GRE several years ago. Do I have to take it again?
Scores from the GRE that are more than five years old at the time of application may not be accepted. Contact your academic department for further information.
May I send photocopies of my GRE scores?
We will accept photocopies for review. However, the department may require official GRE scores to be sent before making a final decision.
Housing
Does USC have housing for married students and their families?
USC provides limited housing in one- and two-bedroom apartments near campus for students with spouses and/or no more than two children. Priority is given to students who have submitted the earliest housing applications for their first semester at USC. On your housing application you must state that you are applying for family housing.
Leaves of Absence
I was enrolled in the Graduate School at USC and took a leave of absence. What do I need to do if I wish to return?
You need to contact the department in which you were enrolled.
Safety
How safe is USC?
No community is immune to crime. On any college campus, the level of crime is affected by enrollment, geographic size, location and other factors. USC is ranked among the safest of all U.S. universities and colleges, with one of the most comprehensive, proactive campus and community safety programs in the nation.

USC Public Safety Officers provide 24-hour law enforcement services on the University Park and Health Sciences campuses, as well as in surrounding neighborhoods. USC Campus Cruisers provide after-dark escorts—by foot, bicycle or car—for students whose destination is within the University Patrol area. The university also works closely with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Visiting USC
How can I arrange for a campus visit?
Fifty-minute walking tours of campus, leaving from the Admission Center, are available throughout the calendar year. Tours are held on the hour, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please note that reservations are required. Some tours are fully booked by large scheduled groups. Before making your travel arrangements, call (213) 740-6605 to check tour availability and to make reservations.

For a tour of the academic department or professional school to which you are applying, contact the department or school directly.