What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

The Ultimate Guide to Applying to USC

What’s Covered:


440,000 alumni can’t be wrong: the University of Southern California is an exceptional place to get your education. Among those alumni are luminaries as varied as actor John Wayne, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Comprised of nearly twenty different schools, almost 50,000 total students, and a rich variety of traditions, USC’s resources and global network present extraordinary opportunities for its students.


Are you interested in attending USC? Read on for more information about the different undergraduate programs available, what makes it special, and how to navigate the admissions process.


Average Stats of Accepted USC College Students


The admissions process at USC is quite competitive; during the 2021-2022 application season, the university received a total of over 71,000 applications for its undergraduate programs. 8,880 applicants were accepted, making the acceptance rate 12.5%. 


  • Average GPA and rank: 3.83 average GPA with 80% of first-time freshmen graduated in the top tenth of tenth of their class
  • USC is SAT/ ACT optional, applicants decide where to submit scores and applicants without scores will not be disadvantaged/ penalized in USC holistic admission of scholarship selection process.


Great academics alone aren’t enough to earn admission to USC, but they help to ensure an applicant is considered. Highly selective schools that receive an abundance of applications use a tool known as the Academic Index to screen out unqualified applicants. Academic Index is a summation of an applicant’s entire academic performance into a single numerical score and failure to meet USC’s benchmark can rule an applicant out before their application is even read.


However, when USC evaluates your application, they do take into account your potential to be a good fit for the USC environment. Successful applicants are generally quite strong academically, but leadership and community involvement are important factors, as well as talent and character.


USC Application Process


Application Overview


USC accepts the Common Application and there is an $85 application fee. For applicants for whom the fee poses a significant financial burden, fee waivers are available.


There are two pathways to admission into USC: Early Action and Regular Decision. Early Action is non-binding and non-restrictive. However, applicants must apply EA in order to be considered for USC Merit Scholarships.


Application Path

Application Deadline

Early Action

November 1

Regular Decision

January 15


Application Components


  • Transcripts
  • Letter of Recommendation (1)
  • Standardized tests (optional)
  • USC- specific essays


Supplemental Essays


  1. Required: Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (Approximately 250 words)
  2. Optional: Starting with the beginning of high school/secondary school, if you have had a gap where you were not enrolled in school during a fall or spring term, please address this gap in your educational history. You do not need to address a summer break.


USC applicants are also asked to answer the following questions:


  • Describe yourself in three words. 
  • What is your favorite snack?
  • Best movie of all time
  • Dream job
  • If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
  • Dream trip
  • What TV show will you binge watch next? 
  • Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?
  • Favorite book
  • If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?


USC has a few supplemental essays and creative short answers that students must complete that are a valuable tool for students intent on standing out. How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays provides valuable insight into how to craft attention-grabbing responses. CollegeVine Essay Review can provide free feedback from other students or paid feedback from experts to those who’ve already begun crafting their responses. 


When Will You Hear Back?


Early Action applicants will receive their admission notifications by mid- to late January. Early Action applicants who are not admitted in January will be able to defer their application to the Regular Decision round. Regular decision applicants will receive their admissions decision by April 1.


Application Path

Application Notification

Early Action

Mid-to late January

Regular Decision

April 1


USC Financial Aid


Financial Aid Generosity


About two-thirds of USC’s undergraduate students receive some kind of financial assistance, need-based or merit-based, to cover the cost of their education. Need-based financial aid options include grants, loans, and work-study. Merit-based scholarships include a number of different scholarship programs, and about 22% of students at USC receive some kind of merit-based scholarship. Athletic scholarships are also offered to some incoming students, and may be awarded either as a specific dollar amount or as a percentage of the cost of attendance.


The sticker price of USC is $85,648.



Cost (On/ Off Campus)

Cost (With Parents/ Relatives)










Dining/ meals



Books and supplies



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Admissions to USC is need-blind for students from the United States, meaning that neither a student’s indication that they will apply for financial aid, nor the amount of aid they require, will affect that student’s admissions decision.


For international applicants, admission to USC is need-aware, and international applicants will need to submit documentation certifying that they have the funds to pay for college. Need-based financial aid is not available for international students. However, international applicants are still considered for certain merit-based scholarships, and may have other options to privately finance their education.


Applicants who are undocumented students living in the state of California have some additional funding options. Under the California Dream Act, these students may be eligible for certain California state grants if they have attended a California high school and will be attending a California college. Students who receive these grants may also gain access to additional funding from USC, though the amount of funding available is limited.


How to Apply for Financial Aid/ Merit Based Scholarships


Domestic students can apply for need-based financial aid by submitting the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, both of which are due by January 9th for Early Action applicants and February 10th for Regular Decision applicants . Residents of California should also apply for the Cal Grant state financial aid program by March 2nd.


Merit-Based Scholarships


A number of merit-based scholarships are also available to USC students, whether or not they receive need-based aid. (Need-based aid may be reduced if a student receives a merit scholarship as well.) These scholarships range from awards of $1,000 to full-tuition coverage. Some scholarships are open to transfer applicants as well as first-year applicants. However, students must apply EA in order to be considered for USC Merit Scholarships, unless their intended major does not participate in Early Action.


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?


CollegeVine’s free Chancing Engine can help applicants better understand their odds at this super-selective school along with hundreds of other colleges and universities across the nation. The possibility of admission at USC varies from student to student and our chancing engine considers numerous unique factors—like academics, extracurriculars, and demographics—to estimate an applicant’s individual odds of college admission while also providing valuable insight into their profile!


Learn more about USC, including its diversity, the majors offered, and how long your application should take.

Short Bio
Bijal is a senior at UCLA studying Anthropology with minors in Global Health and Gerontology. Working as a Bruin Ambassador in the Undergraduate Admissions office throughout college and having gone through the application cycle again for graduate school, she is eager to share her knowledge!