Graduate Admission

International Student FAQ

IMPORTANT: International students should also review the general Graduate Admission FAQ as most information there applies to both domestic and international applicants.

Who is considered an international student?
If you will be entering, or have already entered, the United States with an F-1 or J-1 student visa, you are considered an international student. Students who already reside in the United States and hold other non-immigrant visas (E2, H2, or L2, for example) are also considered international students.

U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents of the United States are not considered international students. This holds true even if all of your previous studies have been done outside the United States.
What are the academic eligibility requirements for international students?
You must hold a degree considered equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's degree, as determined by the USC Office of Graduate Admission.
Does USC consider my degree to be equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's degree?
Admission requirements for all countries can be found here.
What are the English proficiency requirements for international students?
International applicants are required to demonstrate their level of English-language proficiency during the application process. For detailed information about our English proficiency criteria, please visit our Proficiency in English web page.
What are the visa requirements for international students?
To study at USC, students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents must have an appropriate non-immigrant visa. For detailed information about this topic, please visit our Obtaining a Visa web page, by clicking here, or refer to the Obtaining a Student Visa section of this FAQ.
Do you offer any preparatory programs for international students who wish to pursue a master’s degree?
Yes. A Master’s Preparation program is offered through USC’s International Academy. For more information, please visit the International Academy website.
Do you offer conditional admission to international students without TOEFL/IELTS or GRE/GMAT scores?
Conditional admission is possible through the Pre-Master’s program offered through our International Academy. For more information, please visit the International Academy website.
English is not my native language. Do you offer an English as a Second Language (ESL) program?
Yes. For information about the Intensive English program offered through our International Academy, please visit our International Academy website.
Are there many international students at USC?
Yes! USC enrolls more international students than any other university in the United States. Well over 50 percent of our graduate student body comprises international students.
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 contact us with any questions regarding general admission policies and procedures. Specific questions about a particular graduate program are best addressed to that department.

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

For information about other ways to contact us — including telephone, Skype!, our Twitter account, and the on-campus Admission Center — please visit our Contact Us web page.
Applying to USC

Basic Application Issues

Do international students use a special application form?
No. The graduate application form is the same for all U.S. and international applicants.
Does USC offer international students application fee waivers for financial hardship?
No. Financial hardship fee waivers are available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

International students are eligible for application fee waivers in the following cases:
  • 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 Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) fellow<./li>
Please refer to the fee waiver section of our General FAQ for more information.

Academic Records

My previous studies were not conducted in English. Do you need academic records in the original language of instruction?
Yes. You need to provide both the original-language academic records and a full, word-for-word English-language translation issued by the academic institution you attended or a professional translation service.
My school issues transcripts only in dual English/original-language format. Will you accept this?
Dual-language transcripts are acceptable provided that this is the only format in which your school issues academic records.
Can I translate my records myself?
USC accepts English-language translations only from academic institutions or from professional, certified translation agencies. Translations done by applicants themselves are not acceptable.
Do I need to have my academic credentials reviewed by an outside agency?
Unfortunately, USC does not accept or recognize credential evaluation reports from outside agencies for purposes of admission review. Only records issued by your previous institution are acceptable.
How do I enter my GPA in the online application if my studies were not graded on a 4.0 scale?
Please enter your overall average on the scale used by your school. For example, if your school gives marks on a 10-point scale and your overall average is 8.9, enter “8.9” in the GPA field.
I am currently enrolled at another school in the United States but previously studied overseas. Can I send you just the transcript from my U.S. school?
No. You need to submit transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, without exception. If you anticipate difficulties or delays obtaining academic records from your home country, you should make arrangements to have them sent well in advance of applying to USC.
Do you offer financial assistance for international students?
International students are eligible for academic department fellowships, teaching and research assistantships, and merit-based tuition waivers. For more information, contact the department to which you are seeking admission. The Office of Graduate Admission does not offer or arrange financial assistance for international students.
Enrolling at USC
How do I verify my previous degree(s) if my admission letter says I’m required to?
Admitted graduate students must provide verification of a bachelor’s degree earned 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 (TRO 101). The transcript must specify the degree(s) conferred, date(s) of conferral, and be enclosed in the sealed, original envelope with security marks intact.

For students who hold degrees from institutions outside the United States, Degree Progress accepts only verifications processed 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.
My admission letter says I need to take the ISE. What is this?
The International Student English Examination (ISE) is a placement examination that determines the English proficiency of admitted international students. It is administered by USC’s American Language Institute during International Orientation. Your ISE results will determine if you need to enroll in ALI courses concurrently with or before your regular graduate enrollment. There is no charge for the ISE.
What does it mean if my admission letter says I have been admitted "without advanced standing"?
Students admitted without advanced standing are not eligible to receive graduate transfer credit for their previous studies.
When should I arrive at USC?
When scheduling your travel plans, please keep in mind:

  • U.S. immigration regulations state that new students entering on an F-1 or J-1 student visa can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 calendar days prior to the program start date, as stated on the SEVIS I-20/DS-2019. For new F-1 students, this reporting date is indicated on Section #5 of the I-20. For J-1 students, the program start date is indicated on Section #3 on the DS-2019.
  • You should make sure you arrive early enough to participate in International Student Orientation.
  • Graduate students living in USC housing should contact USC Housing directly to ask about the possibility of moving in early.
Does USC have an orientation program for international students?
Yes, international students must attend Orientation prior to registering for classes. For more information, please visit the Office of Orientation Programs website.
Would I be able to receive transfer credit for a graduate program I was in enrolled in overseas?
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 the Office of Graduate Admission (if the courses were taken outside the United States). You are not eligible for graduate transfer credit if you have been admitted without advanced standing.

Please note: We do not conduct pre-admission transfer credit evaluations for prospective graduate applicants.
Does USC offer special services for international students?
Yes. Please visit the Office of International Services website for more information.
How can I learn more about American culture while I'm at USC?
Please contact the Office of Orientation Programs for information about enrolling in The United States: An American Culture Series seminars. This series is designed to introduce new international students to the culture of the United States and the surrounding region. It will also introduce students the campus resources available to them and help connect them to the Trojan Family.

Obtaining a Student Visa

What is an I-20?
U.S. schools issue I-20 documents so that admitted international students can apply for and obtain student visas. USC will issue an I-20 after: 1) you are admitted to your intended academic program; 2) you provide proof of sufficient financial support for your first year of studies; and 3) you certify your intent to enroll at USC.
What is "proof of financial support"? When and how should I submit it?
The U.S. government requires that you provide proof of your ability to pay tuition and living expenses for yourself (and your dependents, if applicable) before a formal letter of admission and an I-20 or DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility can be issued.

We strongly advise that you submit proof of financial support as soon as possible after applying. It is not necessary to mail the documentation. You can e-mail scanned copies to Be sure to include your 10-digit USC ID number.
What sort of documents are acceptable as proof of financial support?
For detailed information, please visit our Submitting Financial Documents web page.
Will you review my file without proof of financial support?
Yes. Proof of financial support is not required for us to complete an academic review of your file. Your department may even issue a provisional decision without it. However, we strongly recommend that you submit proof of financial support as soon as you can. You cannot be fully admitted to USC, nor can we issue I-20/DS-2019 documentation, without it.
What is the difference between the F-1 and J-1 visa?
For a detailed explanation, please visit our Obtaining a Visa web page. Please note that most international students at USC are on F-1 visas.
Will I be able to study at USC if I'm currently in the United States on a non-student visa?
That depends on the type of visa you hold. Students (and their dependents) already residing in the United States on other non-immigrant visas that permit study (such as the H1B or H4) may remain on their current visa. The student must abide by the terms of their current visa to maintain their immigration status.

IMPORTANT: B1/B2 tourist visas do not permit study in the United States under any circumstances.
How do I request an I-20 or DS-2019 if I am an admitted international student?
It is not necessary to request an I-20 or DS-2019. The I-20 or DS-2019 will be issued after you have been admitted to a graduate program at USC and you have certified your enrollment. You will be notified via e-mail if any additional documentation or information is required.

Please ensure your mailing address is up to date well before you certify, as the I-20 or DS-2019 will be couriered to the current mailing address we have on file.
I am an international student currently attending another U.S. university and have been accepted to USC. How do I transfer my I-20 or DS-2019?
Please take your admission letter to the international services office at your current school and request a transfer of your SEVIS record to USC. Please note that USC does not require a transfer-in form to complete the process.
How do I obtain an I-20 for my family members?
When you fill out your online application, please enter information for each dependent (spouse or child) you wish to bring. You will also need to provide scanned copies of their passports and demonstrate additional funding for each dependent ($7,200 for your spouse and $3,200 for each child).
Once my I-20 is issued, can you e-mail me a scanned copy?
It is our policy to provide only the original hard-copy document. We cannot make exceptions.
I have contacted the Office of International Services (OIS) regarding my I-20 or DS-2019 but have not received a response. Why have I not heard back from them?
It is possible that you may need to contact our office instead. The Office of Graduate Admission handles I-20 matters for newly admitted students who have yet to arrive on campus. You can e-mail us at

The Office of International Services (OIS) administers immigration matters for current USC students who are already in the U.S. Once you have arrived in the U.S. and/or if you have questions regarding Passport Verification (PPV), please contact OIS at
Which USC office will issue my I-20?
If you have been admitted directly to a graduate program, your I-20 will be issued by the Office of Graduate Admission. If you have been admitted to a program operated by the USC International Academy, their office will issue the documentation.
How will the I-20 be mailed to me?
I-20 packages with an international mailing address will be sent via DHL Express. Packages with an address in the U.S. will be sent via Fedex. You will be e-mailed a tracking number when the package ships. If your package has already shipped and you have questions about delivery, please contact the local office of the delivery service.
Can I pick up my I-20 myself?
Yes. Please contact our I-20 coordinators at to make arrangements.
May I have a detailed cost breakdown for my program?
Please contact your department for details about the cost of your program. It is important not to confuse your I-20 financial statement requirements with your actual costs. An I-20 is not a bill for attending USC. Rather, it demonstrates to U.S. immigration authorities that you have sufficient funds to pay for estimated education and living expenses in the United States.

A student’s actual costs may be higher or lower depending on individual living expenses and course load. Therefore, it is not appropriate to view the I-20 as a cost guide or a reference to obtain loans.
Is it a problem if my scholarship is not mentioned on my I-20?
Your department most likely sent your scholarship documents to our office after your I-20 had already been issued. It will not impact your visa application and you will still receive the funding you have been awarded, even if it is not noted on your I-20.
Will my I-20 be valid for the next admission cycle if I cannot attend USC this year?
No. The I-20 is valid only for the term for which it has been issued. If you update your file to a later term, a new I-20 will need to be issued once you are re-admitted