There is no perfect way to prepare for USC since each individual is unique. The following recommendations will make you better prepared and more competitive when it is time to apply to USC:
Most students don't start thinking about college until they enter high school. If you start planning now, you'll be a step ahead of the crowd.
- Tell your parents you want to attend a selective college.
- Take Algebra and a Foreign Language this year, if possible.
- Study and strive for A's. Though colleges won't see your pre-high school grades, studying hard now will prepare you for the years to come.
- Visit college Web sites for information on their requirements.
- Plan a high school class schedule that follows a college preparatory track.
- Develop skills that are valuable in high school and essential in college: word processing, online research, speed-reading.
Now that you're in high school, the job of preparing for college begins in earnest. Colleges will look at everything you do for the next four years, so consider it your opportunity to impress.
- If you haven't done so yet, get to know your school counselor. Remind him or her that you want to attend USC and that you need to schedule college-preparatory courses. Take algebra or geometry and a foreign language both semesters.
- If you attend a year-round school, make sure you are assigned to a track that offers college-preparatory classes.
- Strive for A's in all your classes; do at least one hour of homework every night.
- Form a study group with friends who also plan to go to college, and study together as often as possible. If you fall behind in a course, get tutoring.
- Create a résumé file, saving such items as report cards, diplomas and certificates; a list of awards and honors you receive; a list of all school and community activities you take part in; a list of offices you hold in these organizations; and a list of volunteer or paid jobs you hold. Update this file every semester.
- Work on a science fair or other project. Become involved in at least one extracurricular activity and, if possible, get really involved.
- Over the summer, take part in academic enrichment programs and special summer workshops and camps for music, science, engineering, writing, filmmaking, theater, language and other subjects that interest you. (Many of these are held on college campuses.) Alternatively, consider retaking a class in which you received a grade you weren't satisfied with, or take a new class in summer school.
It's a busy year. You may be learning to drive or working at your first "real" job. It's also the year you start narrowing your collegiate interests, and step up your academic efforts.
- Review your ninth and tenth grade schedules with your counselor to make sure you are taking all the college-prep courses you need for USC.
- Strive for A's in all of your classes, and do at least two hours of homework every night.
- Continue to form study groups with friends. Again, seek tutoring if you start falling behind in a course.
- Work on a science fair project or another project that interests you. Get involved in at least one new extracurricular activity. Try to take a leadership role.
- Update your résumé file.
- If you are completing any courses that will prepare you for the SAT Subject tests, sign up in March for the May tests or in April for the June tests. See your counselor for a schedule.
- Prepare for your fall class registration by talking with your counselor about the most appropriately challenging courses.
- Participate in academic enrichment programs and special summer workshops and camps, or consider registering for a community college course to enhance your record and give you a taste of college.
- If you have the time, work during the summer as a volunteer in an area where your community needs help.
This is the year you face standardized tests, take the PSAT, tour college campuses, and make important choices.
- Check with your counselor to make sure you are on a track to take the college-preparatory subjects you need to attend USC.
- Strive for A's in all of your classes. This is especially important in your junior year because this is the year that USC will examine most closely. You should also be doing at least two hours of homework every night.
- Register for the PSAT in October. The PSAT is the preliminary exam for the SAT and is required for several national scholarship programs, including the National Merit Scholarship. You can prepare for it by reviewing old PSAT or SAT exams. The results of the PSAT will also give you and your counselor an idea of your strengths and the areas you need to improve as you prepare for college admission.
- Attend college fairs and presentations by representatives who visit your school.
- Continue your extracurricular activities, and take initiative in setting up programs or planning activities. Work to improve your favorite skill, and seek out people or programs that will help you. Explore ways to help other people by pursuing your main interests.
- If you are taking any Advanced Placement courses this year, register to take the AP exams in the spring, when the material is still fresh in your mind. Scoring well on the AP exams will help you earn college units.
- If you are completing any courses that will prepare you for the SAT Subject tests, sign up in March for the May test or in April for the June tests.
- Come to USC for a campus visit! Try to attend one of our Meet USC programs. You'll be able to meet with staff from admission and academic departments.
- Start thinking about when and how often you will take your college entrance exams (SAT or ACT). Your school counselor can provide you with the necessary information. Taking the SAT or ACT in the spring will allow you to receive the results and meet with your counselor to see if you need to take the exam again in the fall. Plan to register for the tests at least one month in advance of the test date.
- Update your résumé file with new information and materials.
- In the spring, begin planning your senior-year classes, including AP courses. A fourth year of math and a lab science are strongly recommended for your senior year. If your school does not offer an AP curriculum, consider enrolling in a course at a local community college or university. Check with the USC Admission office about what transfer credit you may earn.
- In the spring, you'll begin receiving a lot of college mail. Return the reply cards to the schools that interest you, including USC. You will then start receiving view books, catalogues and applications.
- Investigate summer programs, workshops, internships and camps in your community or on college campuses, and apply to any that interest you.
- Check with your counselor to decide if you should take the SAT Subject tests in any subjects that you will complete in your junior year.
- Over the summer, prepare for the SAT or ACT by reading books with testing tips and sample questions. You can find these in bookstores or libraries and at your school, or you can access them on the Internet. There are also workshops available on how to prepare for the college entrance exams. Check with your counselor to determine which are the most credible.
- Over the summer, complete any audition tapes, art portfolios or special materials that are required for admission to such programs as fine arts, music and theater.
The final year of high school is also the beginning of your collegiate experience, from application to acceptance to planning ahead.
- Review your recent and current class schedule with your college counselor to make sure that you have taken or are taking the college preparatory classes you need for admission to USC.
- Strive for A's in all of your classes, and continue to form study groups and to do at least two to three hours of homework every night. The grades you earn in your senior year are extremely important.
- In early September, register for the SAT or the ACT. Your counselor can provide registration forms or you can register online. Plan to register for these exams a month or two before the test date.
- Continue your extracurricular activities. Find new ways to demonstrate leadership, persistence, thoughtfulness, creativity or some other special trait through your activities.
- Pay special attention to deadlines, and mark them down on your personal calendar.
- In October, ask your teachers and counselors for recommendations. Give them enough time and background information about your activities to enable them to do a good job for you.
- Apply early. Be sure you meet the deadlines for merit scholarships. December is a critical time for deadlines.
- Make a photocopy of all the forms and materials you send to USC.
- In December, check with your counselor and teachers about recommendation letters. Also make sure that your transcripts are being sent to USC.
- We will probably ask you to send us your grades from the first semester of your senior year. Remember to reply promptly and keep in mind that we will be looking to make certain you've continued to do well your senior year.
- Mail your commitment deposit check by May 1.
- Write or call any other colleges to which you were admitted but will not be attending, and inform them by May 1 that you will be attending USC.
- Take AP exams, which are usually given in May, for all AP subjects in which you enrolled and for which you have not already taken the tests.
- Be sure that your final high school transcript has been sent to USC by July. We will review it to make certain you continued to maintain a strong academic record in the spring semester of your senior year.
- After you are admitted, apply for housing and participate in freshman orientation at USC.