University of Southern California

Academic Policies


Registration Procedures and Current Course Offerings

The Fall, Spring and Summer issues of the Schedule of Classes contain details describing registration procedures, including the Web registration process, courses offered, course descriptions, faculty listings, time and meeting place of classes, textbook information and course syllabi. The Schedule of Classes is available before registration each semester at It is recommended that students register as early as possible using Web registration to save time and avoid inconvenience. Registration appointment times and permit to register information are available to continuing students in October and March at and on OASIS. New students will receive their permits to register during their orientation sessions. Open registration for all students continues the week prior to the start of the semester.

Enrollment Status

A student is considered to be enrolled full time in a semester when the student has registered for 12 or more units as an undergraduate student, eight or more units as a master’s level student or six or more units as a doctoral level student. All graduate assistants are classified as full-time students during the semester(s) of their appointments as long as they are enrolled for the minimum units required for their assistantship. The number of courses for which a student has registered is not a basis for determining full-time enrollment status. Units taken for audit do not apply to enrollment status calculation. Other than units, there are additional circumstances that confer full-time enrollment status. These include enrollment in: 594 Master’s Thesis, 794 Doctoral Dissertation, GRSC 800 Studies for the Qualifying Examination and GRSC 810 Studies for the Master’s Examination, as well as other courses and programs as determined by the Dean of Academic Records and Registrar. Verification of student enrollment status is provided by the Office of Academic Records and Registrar (Trojan Hall 101), Third-party requests for degree and enrollment information are provided by National Student Clearinghouse, Enrolled students can also obtain verification on OASIS by logging in to, clicking on OASIS and clicking on Record Ordering Services.

Extra Units

A normal academic load is 16 units per semester for undergraduate students and 8 units (500‑level) for graduate students. The university recommends that undergraduate students register for no more than 18 units and graduate students for no more than 16 units. Permission to enroll in more than 20 units requires written approval from the school or home department of the student’s major.

Declaration of Major

All undergraduate students must record their primary major by the start of their junior year (on completion of 64 semester units). All major and minor programs of study should be recorded three semesters before the intended graduation date. Undergraduate academic departments can also perform changes of major for their students.

Declaration of Minor

Application for a minor must be made to the department or professional school offering the minor.

Classification and Numbering of Courses

The first digit of the course number indicates the year level of the course: 000 — non-credit preparatory courses, 100 — first undergraduate year, 200 — second undergraduate year, 300 — third and fourth undergraduate years without graduate credit, 400 — third and fourth undergraduate years with graduate credit for graduate students, 500 — first graduate year, 600 — second graduate year, 700 — third graduate year.

Upper-division courses (300- and 400-level courses) are generally more sophisticated and demanding. They may have prerequisites or other limitations on enrollment and are usually intended for students who have some preparation, either in the specific discipline or more generally in academic study. They tend to concentrate more narrowly and intensively in scope than lower division courses in the same discipline.

The lowercase letters ab, abcd, etc., indicate the semesters of a course more than one semester in length. In such courses the semester is prerequisite to the semester, and so on. Courses designated g are available for general education credit. Courses designated m for multiculturalism meet the diversity requirement. Capital L indicates that all or part of the work is supervised laboratory or other work. Courses designated x are restricted in some manner. The course description will specify the restriction. Courses designated with a z are for repeated registrations for 0 credit, for which 2 units of tuition are charged.

The following are not available for graduate credit: courses numbered 000–399 and 490, courses designated g (general education), Senior Seminar courses, courses designated x where the description specifically excludes graduate credit.

Unit Value

The unit value of courses is indicated for each term of the course by a numeral in parentheses after the course title. All courses are on the semester unit basis. It is the student’s responsibility to verify with the instructor that the number of units in which he or she has registered in any variable unit course is correct. If the units are incorrect, the student must correct them through Web registration or in person at Trojan Hall 101.

Repeating Courses

Ordinarily, courses may not be repeated for credit. For courses that may be repeated for credit, the maximum amount of credit is indicated after the unit value. Courses that may be repeated for credit reflect instances in which the subject matter is progressive in nature, or where special topics or directed research offerings exist, all reflecting unique course work.

Appropriate Course Enrollment

It is recommended that students register in courses appropriate to their academic standing — lower-division students in courses below 300, upper-division students in courses below 500, graduate students in courses numbered 500 or higher.

Preparatory Courses

Preparatory courses (course numbers below 100) impart the minimum skills required for college-level work. Students completing preparatory course work may receive unit credit toward enrollment status but do not receive degree credit.


Prerequisites are courses that must be passed and/or specific background that must be demonstrated prior to advancing to the next course in a prescribed sequence of courses. Passage of appropriate examinations or consent of the academic unit offering the course will waive prerequisites. However, a prerequisite course within the same discipline taken after the higher level course has been passed will not be available for unit or grade point credit.


Corequisites are courses that must be taken at the same time as, or passed prior to, the designated course. Passage of the appropriate examinations or consent of the academic unit offering the course will waive corequisites. However, a corequisite course within the same discipline taken after the designated course has been passed will not be available for unit or grade point credit.

Recommended Preparation

Recommended preparation indicates course work or specific background that is advisable but not mandatory in preparing the student for the designated course.

Guaranteeing a Space in a Class

Registration in a class does not by itself guarantee a space in that class. An instructor may replace any student who without prior consent does not attend these class sessions: (a) the first two class sessions of the semester, or (b) the first class session of the semester for once-a-week classes. It is then the student’s responsibility to withdraw officially from the course. Any class added, whether by Web registration or in person, after the first week of classes should receive the approval of the instructor.

Pass/No Pass Enrollment Option

Students may enroll for courses with the Pass/No Pass grade option on Web Registration. USC allows students to decide the grade option for any course up until the 20 percent mark of the session in which the course is offered. For the specific deadline to change the grade option of a course, click the Calendar icon next to the course on the Schedule of Classes.

As of fall 2015, students who register for a course on a Pass/No Pass basis may request to change the grade option to letter grade 45 percent into the session in which the course is offered. For the specific deadline to change the grade option of a course, click the Calendar icon next to the course on the Schedule of Classes.

Certain undergraduate courses (e.g., courses offered by the WRIT department) must be taken for a letter grade. Graduate students must receive departmental approval to enroll in a graduate course on a Pass/No Pass basis. Refer to the Pass/No Pass Graded Work section in the USC Catalogue for details on degree credit restrictions on courses taken on a Pass/No Pass basis. Students should consult an academic adviser before enrolling in any course on a Pass/No Pass basis.

In cases where a student has registered for a course on a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis and an academic integrity violation has occurred, a penalty letter grade may be assigned (i.e., “F”), rather than assigning a mark of Pass or No Pass.

Credit/No Credit Courses

Certain courses have been authorized by the University Committee on Curriculum to be graded Credit/No Credit. Students may not enroll in a course on a Credit/No Credit basis unless the course is listed as being offered as Credit/No Credit.

Courses Numbered 490x and 390

Many academic units offer courses numbered 490x and 390. These courses are offered on a letter-graded basis only and carry certain restrictions that are uniformly applied throughout the university.

490x Directed Research (1-8, max 12)

Courses numbered 490x are open to students who have demonstrated the ability to do independent work in the discipline. The courses require consent of the instructor and a written contract of course requirements signed by both the instructor and department chair. They are not available for graduate credit and are not open to students with less than 2.0 GPA overall or with any academic holds that restrict registration. A student may accumulate a maximum of 12 units of 490x in any one department and 16 units toward the degree.

390 Special Problems (1-4, max 4)

Courses numbered 390 are available only to seniors in their last semester who are made aware of a unit shortage after the enrollment period for that semester has passed. Students notified of a unit shortage prior to the close of the enrollment period are expected to register for regularly scheduled classes. Enrollment in a 390 class is available only by petition to the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures (CAPP). A 390 is a supervised, individual studies course. The student and instructor must prepare a written contract of course requirements for presentation with the petition to CAPP. The petition must be recommended by the dean of the academic unit in which the student is seeking a degree. Evidence must be provided that the unit shortage was the result of circumstances beyond the student’s control. Credit for only one 390 registration is accepted toward the student’s baccalaureate degree.

Audited Courses

Students may elect to audit courses during the first three weeks of the semester (or the third week equivalent for any session that is scheduled for less than 15 weeks). Consult the Schedule of Classes for the deadline to select the audit grade option for a specific course. A course taken for audit (V) will be assessed at the current tuition rate. A course taken for audit (V) will not receive credit and will not appear on the USC transcript or grade report. A course taken for audit is not included in enrollment for purposes of receiving financial aid.

Limited Status Enrollment

Limited status enrollment allows persons who have not been admitted to the university to take a limited number of courses at USC.

Eligibility for Limited Status Enrollment

Students who have not yet completed a bachelor’s degree are not eligible for limited status enrollment if they have been denied admission to USC or if they have been academically disqualified or suspended from any community college, college or university.

At the post-baccalaureate level, limited status enrollment is not available to students who have been denied admission to the department offering the course unless prior approval is granted by the department and the appropriate dean.

International Students

Limited status enrollment does not fulfill requirements for issuing a student visa. International students (students studying or wishing to study in the United States on a non-immigrant visa) must have the approval of the Office of International Services (Grace Ford Salvatori, Room 120) before registering for classes.

Limited Status Enrollment Eligibility for Non-immigrant Visa Holders
  1. F-2, B-1 and B-2 status holders are not eligible for Limited Status enrollment at USC.
  2. F-1 status applicants who are on another institution’s I-20 are eligible for Limited Status enrollment if they will concurrently enroll at the I-20 school and USC. A letter from the international office at the I-20 school verifying enrollment will be required when submitting your Limited Status application. F-1 status applicants who are currently not maintaining immigration status/or will not be enrolled at the I-20 school are not eligible for Limited Status enrollment at USC.
  3. Individuals on other visa categories such as A, E, H, J, etc. and TN are eligible for Limited Status enrollment if maintaining status on that visa category. A copy of the passport and I-94 card will be required when submitting the Limited Status application.
Restrictions on Limited Status Enrollment

A pre-baccalaureate limited status student may not register for more than 16 units; a post-baccalaureate limited status student may not register for more than 12 units.

Exceptions to this policy will be considered by the Office of Admission for USC employees and for post-baccalaureate students who submit a disclaimer of intent to pursue a USC degree.

Prior approval of the department offering the course is required for all limited status enrollment. If a limited status student is subsequently admitted to regular standing, no more than the first 16 undergraduate or the first 12 graduate units taken through limited status enrollment can be applied toward a degree. In very rare situations, individual undergraduate exceptions may be approved by the dean of the degree-conferring unit. For graduate students, the rare exception must be approved by the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs. International students must show proof of proper visa type and demonstrate English language proficiency prior to enrollment in the Limited Status program.

Dropping and Adding Courses

Courses may be added only during the 20 percent mark of the session. After registering, it is the student’s responsibility to officially drop from a course if he or she decides not to continue in a course. All such changes must be processed by Web registration or through the Registration Department. Failure to withdraw officially will result in the mark of “UW,” which is computed in the GPA as zero (0) grade points. A student may drop a course without academic or financial penalty up until the 20 percent mark of the session in which the course is offered. If the course is dropped after the 20 percent mark and before 45 percent of the session, the course does not appear on the academic transcript, but the course tuition and fees will be assessed to the student’s account. If the course is dropped after the 45 percent mark, it will be recorded with a mark of “W.” No course may be dropped after the 80 percent mark of a session. A student may not withdraw from a course in which he or she committed or was accused of committing an academic integrity violation. Please refer to the Schedule of Classes to see session dates.

Registration in Graduate-Level Courses by Undergraduate Students

Exceptional undergraduate students may enroll in a graduate course. In order to do so, students must receive approval of the instructor. Students must have prior approval from the chair of the major department to count the course for undergraduate credit or audit the course. The student’s major department will notify the Degree Progress Department regarding the manner in which the graduate course will be used. In no case will a student be allowed to enroll in and receive credit for a graduate course if the student’s cumulative USC GPA is below 2.0.

USC-UCLA Cross-Registration for Graduate Students

As part of an academic resource-sharing program, USC graduate students have an opportunity to take a portion of their program at UCLA. This cross-registration opportunity is only available for courses or seminars not offered at USC and only to selected students. For further information on requirements, contact the USC Graduate School office (Grace Ford Salvatori Hall 315).

Credit (CR) will be granted only for work completed with a grade of B (3.0) or higher. The student’s transcript will show that the course was taken at UCLA and also record the name of the course. Units attempted at UCLA are on the quarter system. USC students who complete course work at UCLA will have those units converted to semester units for each unit completed at UCLA. Library privileges will be extended at UCLA but other privileges or services cannot be offered.

Conversion of Non-Degree Option Course Work

A student may file a Request for NDO Course Conversion form with the Registration Department to have USC courses previously taken under a non-degree option (NDO) converted to unit credit and thus appear on the USC transcript. Such a request must include all NDO courses previously attempted; requests for partial conversion will be denied. Conversion for credit requires retroactive registration in the term in which the course was attempted, including payment of the tuition differential between the NDO rate originally paid and the tuition rate in effect at the time of conversion. As in all USC courses taken in Limited Status, converted courses may not be considered for degree credit at USC unless the student is formally admitted to full standing at the university. Upon formal admission, only the first 16 NDO units taken that are available for credit toward the intended degree may be applied for baccalaureate credit, and only the first 12 NDO units taken that are available for credit toward the intended degree may be applied toward a graduate degree. Degree credit for units beyond the first 16 undergraduate or 12 graduate available units will not be allowed. All courses converted will appear on the USC transcript and will be included in the calculation of the USC GPA, regardless of whether they are being applied specifically toward the degree being pursued.

Permission to Register at Another Institution

Students who wish to take course work at another institution while continuing as enrolled students at USC will be required to obtain various levels of permission to do so. For details, see the Course Work Taken Elsewhere section here (undergraduate) or here (graduate).