University of Southern California
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Admission of International Students

Undergraduate and Graduate

The University of Southern California has an outstanding record of commitment to international education. From a small presence during our early history, our international enrollment grew to an average of 200 students by the 1930s. After declining international enrollments in the years surrounding World War II, USC began rebuilding and in 1951 began providing specialized admission services to international students. By 1964, more than 1,000 international students were enrolled at USC. Today, the Office of Admission serves thousands of prospective students each year by providing both general and specialized information and by maintaining the expertise necessary to evaluate academic records from the various educational systems around the world. The Office of Admission also issues the required eligibility certificates for students to enter the United States.

At USC, an international student is an individual of foreign nationality who will be entering or has already entered the United States with a student visa. However, students already residing in the U.S. and holding other non-immigrant visas (such as E2, H2 or L2) are also international students. International students do not qualify for need-based financial aid. U.S. permanent residents, naturalized U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens residing abroad and attending school outside the United States are not considered to be international students and are eligible for need-based financial aid.


International applicants (those who are or will be in the United States on non-immigrant visas) are required to submit the following documents. Additional information may be required by the academic departments.

(1) Application for Admission;

(2) Application fee, a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. currency and made payable to the University of Southern California must accompany the application; the fee is non-refundable and cannot be deferred;

(3) Scores on all examinations required for admission (e.g., SAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, TSE, etc.) must be sent to USC by the testing agency;

(4) One official copy of academic records with certified English translation;

(5) Documented evidence of financial support (see financial guarantee statement);

(6) Graduate students must submit letters of recommendation directly to the appropriate academic department, if requested.

Financial Guarantee Statement

The United States government requires all international applicants to provide proof of ability to pay tuition and living expenses before a formal letter of admission or the forms needed for obtaining a visa will be issued. International students are also required to have health and accident insurance. The cost of university-provided insurance will be added to the student's fees unless he or she presents proof of adequate coverage.

Each applicant relying on personal or family support must furnish, at the time of application, an original financial-guarantee letter -- preferably a bank letter -- indicating the sponsor's name and address and verifying the ability to pay the annual cost in education-related expenses for the first academic year. This document must be verified by bank seal. It is crucial for students to submit their financial-guarantee letters with their applications if they wish to receive notification of admission in the most timely manner possible.

Applicants whose financial support will come from their home governments or other official agencies (e.g., AMIDEAST) must submit similarly appropriate documents from their sponsors at the time of application.

International students cannot meet the full amount of their educational expenses by working while in the United States. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service rarely allows students to work off-campus, and employment opportunities are further limited by legislation that requires holders of student visas to be full-time students.

Deadline for International Applications

Students should send completed applications with the required documents and fee to the Office of Admission. All international students must follow the deadlines in the application for their particular program of study.

Correspondence with department chairpersons or individual faculty members does not constitute admission. Only an admission letter from the Office of Admission grants official admission.

Official Document to Enter the United States

The Office of Admission will issue the I-20 (for the F-1 visa) or DS-2019 (for the J-1 visa), whichever is appropriate, for the student to enter the United States. Any student entering the United States by means of these documents issued by USC must register for the semester to which admitted to USC. Failure to register disqualifies the student from reapplying for one year from that semester to which admitted and the student's absence is reported to the Bureau for Homeland Security in accordance with the U.S. government's SEVIS regulations.

Registration Requirements for International Students

International students on student visas must be registered as full-time students as arranged by the Office for International Services and the departmental advisor. Such students are not eligible to be considered students without formal registration and are in violation of immigration laws when not properly registered. Any international student having questions about registration requirements should consult the Office for International Services, Student Union Building, Room 300.

Admission Credit Evaluations

Admission Credit Evaluations for international students are completed by the Office of Admission or the Office of Academic Records and Registrar. All official transcripts of previous work completed overseas as well as all requests for original and supplementary credit evaluations of overseas work should be directed to the Office of Admission. Requests for credit evaluations of course work completed at U.S. colleges or universities should be directed to the Degree Progress Office.

English Language Requirements

Academic success at USC is strongly dependent upon ability to communicate in English. Listening, speaking, reading and writing proficiency must be well developed in order to assimilate large amounts of difficult material under limited time conditions with full comprehension. Such proficiency is much greater than that required for ordinary everyday living. Therefore, every effort should be made to acquire English proficiency prior to entering the university.

Admitted international students whose first language is not English are required to take the International Student English Examination (ISE), administered by the USC Testing Bureau at the beginning of the first term of study. The results on the examination determine whether or not students must take special courses in English.

Students who score 600 or higher on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) (or 250 or higher on the computer based TOEFL test) and international students who hold a bachelor's degree from a university located in the United States or in another country in which English is the native language are exempt from having to take the ISE.

International students applying for a USC teaching assistantship must demonstrate their competence in spoken English before assuming classroom duties. Normally, new international teaching assistants (ITA) demonstrate their English proficiency by taking the ITA Oral Interview Exam, administered by the American Language Institute (ALI). The exam is graded on a scale of 1 to 7. Those who achieve a score of 6 or higher are cleared for classroom duties and have no English requirement. Those who score 5 or 5.5 are cleared for classroom duties, but are required to enroll in an English language course through ALI while performing their ITA responsibilities. Those who score below 5 on the interview are not cleared for classroom duties. These students are normally required to enroll in an English language course offered by ALI until adequate English proficiency is obtained. For more information, call (213) 740-0079 or visit ALI's Web site (

American Language Institute

Any student not demonstrating adequate English proficiency will be required to enroll in the American Language Institute (ALI) at USC. ALI provides courses designed to improve an international student's oral and written communication skills in English. The extent to which a student may be required to take courses at the ALI is determined by his or her performance on the International Student English Examination.

ALI tuition units are charged at the regular university rate. Entering students who have weak English language skills should be aware the ALI course requirements may add to the overall cost of their degree program. ALI classes can normally be taken concurrently with a student's other university classes and must be completed at the earliest opportunity.

The Language Academy, USC's intensive English program, offers full-time study in English. Applicants who wish to study English full time may apply to the USC Language Academy, 938 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0062. For further information, call (213) 740-0080 or visit the academy's Web site at