What are USC's admission requirements? While there are a lot of pieces that go into a college application, you should focus on only a few critical things:
- GPA requirements
- Testing requirements, including SAT and ACT requirements
- Application requirements
In this guide we'll cover what you need to get into USC and build a strong application.
School location: Los Angeles, CA
This school is also known as: University of Southern California
If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.
The acceptance rate at USC is 16%. For every 100 applicants, only 16 are admitted.
This means the school is
extremely selective. Meeting their GPA requirements and SAT/ACT requirements is very important to getting past their first round of filters and proving your academic preparation. If you don't meet their expectations, your chance of getting is nearly zero.
After crossing this hurdle, you'll need to impress USC application readers through their other application requirements, including extracurriculars, essays, and letters of recommendation. We'll cover more below.
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USC GPA Requirements
Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.
The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.
The average GPA at USC is 3.76.
(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.
With a GPA of 3.76, USC
requires you to be above average in your high school class. You'll need at least a mix of A's and B's, with more A's than B's. You can compensate for a lower GPA with harder classes, like AP or IB classes. This will show that you're able to handle more difficult academics than the average high school student.
If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.76, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.
SAT and ACT Requirements
Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.
You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to USC. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.
USC SAT Requirements
Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.
The average SAT score composite at USC is a 1400 on the 1600 SAT scale.
This score makes USC Strongly Competitive for SAT test scores.
USC SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)
The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1300, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1500. In other words, a 1300 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1500 will move you up to above average.
Aspiring Trojans who need a leg up in their USC application should use our specialty tutoring advice for the Los Angeles area in their test preparation.
Here's the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
|Reading + Writing||690||650||730|
SAT Score Choice Policy
The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.
USC has the Score Choice policy of "Highest Section."
This is also known as "superscoring." This means that you can choose which SAT tests you want to send to the school. Of all the scores they receive, your application readers will consider your highest section scores across all SAT test dates you submit.
Click below to learn more about how superscoring critically affects your test strategy.
How does superscoring change your test strategy? (Click to Learn)
For example, say you submit the following 3 test scores:
Even though the highest total you scored on any one test date was 1000, USC will take your highest section score from all your test dates, then combine them to form your Superscore. You can raise your composite score from 1000 to 1400 in this example.
This is important for your testing strategy. Because you can choose which tests to send in, and USC forms your Superscore, you can take the SAT as many times as you want, then submit only the tests that give you the highest Superscore. Your application readers will only see that one score.
Therefore, if your SAT superscore is currently below a 1500, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You have a very good chance of raising your score, which will significantly boost your chances of getting in.
Even better, because of the Superscore, you can focus all your energy on a single section at a time. If your Reading score is lower than your other sections, prep only for the Reading section, then take the SAT. Then focus on Math for the next test, and so on. This will give you the highest Superscore possible.
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USC ACT Requirements
Just like for the SAT, USC likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.
The average ACT score at USC is 32. This score makes USC Strongly Competitive for ACT scores.
The 25th percentile ACT score is 30, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 34.
Even though USC likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 30 or below, you'll have a very hard time getting in, unless you have something else very impressive in your application. There are so many applicants scoring 32 and above that a 30 will look academically weak.
ACT Score Sending Policy
If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.
Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.
This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 34 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.
ACT Superscore Policy
By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.
We weren't able to find the school's exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to USC, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 34.
Studying for the ACT instead? Want to learn how to improve your ACT score by 4 points?
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements
Both the SAT and ACT have an optional essay section.
USC requires you to take the SAT Essay/ACT Writing section. They'll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.
SAT Subject Test Requirements
Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.
We did not find information that USC requires SAT subject tests, and so most likely it does not. At least 6 months before applying, you should still doublecheck just to make sure, so you have enough time to take the test.
What are your chances of admission at University of Southern California?
Chances of admission with these scores:
Here's our custom admissions calculator. Plug in your numbers to see what your chances of getting in are.
Pick your test:
Note: Your admission decision relies not only on your GPA and SAT/ACT scores, but also on your coursework difficulty, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. This tool provides only a simplistic estimate of your chances of admission. Instead of treating this tool as a crystal ball, we recommend you consider the big picture of what your chance means:
We recommend you apply to schools across a range of chances. Applying to some safety schools will guarantee you have a college to go to, while applying to some reach schools will give you a shot at getting into the school at the top of your range.
- 80-100%: Safety school: Strong chance of getting in
- 50-80%: More likely than not getting in
- 20-50%: Lower but still good chance of getting in
- 5-20%: Reach school: Unlikely to get in, but still have a shot
- 0-5%: Hard reach school: Very difficult to get in
How would your chances improve with a better score?
Take your current SAT score and add 160 points (or take your ACT score and add 4 points) to the calculator above. See how much your chances improve?
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Every school requires an application with the bare essentials - high school transcript and GPA, application form, and other core information. Many schools, as explained above, also require SAT and ACT scores, as well as letters of recommendation, application essays, and interviews. We'll cover the exact requirements of USC here.
Application Requirements Overview
Accepted, supplemental forms required
Essay or Personal Statement
Required for all freshmen
Letters of Recommendation
Fee Waiver Available?
SAT or ACT
SAT Essay or ACT Writing
SAT Subject Tests
Scores Due in Office
Deadlines and Early Admissions
Admissions Office Information
We did more detailed research into this school's admissions process and found the following information:
USC has various majors and programs (including Architecture, Arts, Business, and Music) that require additional application compoenents. Specific information by program is available here. USC offers merit scholarships, most of which you apply for by submitting a complete USC application by December 1. For a complete list, which includes some scholarships that have additional application components, check out this page.
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