Graduate and Professional Education
At the graduate level, admission to graduate and professional programs is granted by the dean of the school conferring the degree. However, only a letter from the university’s Office of Graduate Admission constitutes an official offer of admission; correspondence with department chairs, program directors or individual faculty members does not constitute admission.
The University of Southern California admits qualified individuals as students regardless of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, handicap, sexual orientation or status as a disabled veteran. After admission, students are accorded equal rights to participate in all university-sponsored programs and activities. The university does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, handicap, sexual orientation or status as a disabled veteran in the administration of its educational policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletics and other student activities.
The USC Application for Graduate Admission should be used by all applicants to all programs except law, medicine and some professional programs in the schools of dentistry and pharmacy. Applicants should confirm application requirements with their intended school or academic program before application submission.
Online Graduate Programs
Admission to the University of Southern California’s online graduate programs is offered to candidates meeting the university’s admission standards. USC’s online programs are designed to be as rigorous and comprehensive as their traditional on-campus counterparts. Official offers of admission to these programs will come directly from the administering school or college.
Prospective online program students must submit an application for admission, application fee, official academic records and supplemental documents as required by their intended program. Applicants are encouraged to contact the department, program or school to which they are applying for further program information and additional requirements.
Applicants with Disabilities
In compliance with the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), USC offers equal access to its degree programs to academically qualified applicants with physical, psychological or learning disabilities. Applicants will be expected to have demonstrated by their record in course work completed toward their undergraduate degree that they can perform well in a competitive academic environment. See here for a discussion of possible accommodations. USC is committed to providing appropriate, reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities.
Retention of Records and All Application Documents
All documents and credentials submitted to the Office of Admission become the property of the university and cannot be returned to the student or duplicated for any purpose.
The minimum standard for graduate admission is a U.S. bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, from a regionally accredited institution or ministry of education recognized institution. The Graduate School and some professional schools have additional minimum requirements for applicants seeking degrees. Conditional admission status is applied to those students who have not yet met all requirements for admission to full graduate status or who have not filed all relevant documents with the appropriate school or department. Students admitted in this status must satisfy their conditions by the end of the first term of enrollment, or within the time period deemed appropriate by the department, program or Office of Degree Progress. Students who fail to satisfy their conditions of admission will not be allowed to register for classes.
Students who have been conditionally admitted for academic requirements must complete at least 6 units of graduate level course work with no grade below a B in each class, and must be recommended for regular admission by a faculty committee. Once those conditions have been met, the department chair or program director can authorize registration for the second semester. If the conditions are not met, the student may be dismissed from the program.
Individual exceptions must be approved by the dean of the degree-conferring unit.
Doctoral Admission with Advanced Standing
Some doctoral programs at USC admit students with Advanced Standing (entry with an appropriate completed graduate degree from an accredited institution).
A minimum of 36 units of course work beyond the first graduate degree, exclusive of 794 Doctoral Dissertation preparation, is required for the doctoral degree if students are admitted with Advanced Standing. Additional course work may be required if deemed necessary by the student’s faculty. See the Transfer Credit page.
Admission to Candidacy
Admission to graduate study does not imply admission to candidacy for an advanced degree and gives no right or claim to be so admitted. Candidacy is determined after the student has demonstrated the ability to do graduate work with originality and independence at USC.
Faculty members shall not be candidates for degrees in the same schools in which they have appointments. In addition, assistant professors on the tenure track should not simultaneously be candidates for degrees anywhere at the university. Individual exceptions to either of these policies may be made only with the approval of the provost or of a special committee appointed by the president. Individual exceptions are considered when the individual submits a request for tuition waiver, which is forwarded for approval to the vice provost for faculty affairs. The form should be accompanied by a memo from the dean of the school. For candidacy within the same school, the dean’s memo explains how conflict of interest issues will be dealt with; for assistant professors on the tenure-track, the memo explains how pursuit of the degree will advance rather than detract from meeting the criteria for tenure.
The Graduate School
The Graduate School establishes and monitors the standards under which students are admitted for study in degree programs under its jurisdiction. An alphabetical listing of degree programs by school can be found under Degree Programs. That listing also indicates the specific degrees that are conferred by the Graduate School. Details of admission standards are provided in the Graduate School section of this catalogue and in the sections of schools and departments providing the curricula for these programs.
Professional Master’s and Doctoral Degrees
Details of admission standards to professional degrees available at USC are detailed in appropriate school listings. See here for a list of degree programs.
Dual Degree Programs
Applicants wishing to pursue a dual degree program offered by the university must apply separately to each degree program, meet the admission requirements of each school, and be admitted by both academic units. Applicants to a professional degree program should consult the particular school for information on admission requirements and programs of study.
Admission of International Students
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 Graduate 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 Graduate Admission also issues the required certificates of eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) to admitted students so that they can apply for a student or scholar visa 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 United States and holding other non-immigrant visas (such as E2, H1 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:
(1) Application for Admission;
(2) Application fee paid by credit card, 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., GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, etc.) sent to USC by the testing agency;
(4) One official copy of academic records from every postsecondary institution attended, along with certified English translation, where applicable;
(5) Documented evidence of financial support with a passport copy (see financial guarantee statement); and
(6) Letters of recommendation, as per the guidelines provided by the intended program of study.
Additional information may be required by the academic departments. General admission guidelines are available by country on the USC Graduate Admission Website and subject to change without prior notice.
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 official 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 a bank seal. It is not necessary to show proof of funding in order to be considered for admission to USC. However, it is crucial for students to submit their financial-guarantee letters once they have submitted their applications if they wish to receive notification of admission in the timeliest manner possible.
Prospective doctoral students do not need to submit a financial-guarantee letter at the time of application since most admitted students will be fully funded by the university. Applicants whose financial support will come from their home governments or other official agencies (e.g., AMIDEAST, IIE, etc.) must submit similarly appropriate documents from their sponsors.
International students cannot meet the full amount of their educational expenses by working while in the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only allows students to work off-campus under limited circumstances, and employment opportunities are further limited by legislation that requires holders of student visas to be full-time students.
Additionally, all international students must submit a copy of a valid passport.
Deadline for International Applications
Once students complete their online application and have received their 10-digit USC ID, they should send the required documents and fee to the Office of Graduate Admission. All international students must follow the deadlines in the application for their particular program of study.
Only an admission letter from the Office of Admission grants official admission; correspondence with department chairpersons, program directors or individual faculty members does not constitute 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 apply for the visa required to enter the United States. Any students entering the United States by means of these documents issued by USC must register for the semester to which they are 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 Department of Homeland Security in accordance with the U.S. government’s SEVIS regulations.
Registration Requirements for International Students
International students must maintain full-time student status as determined by the Office of International Services and the departmental adviser. 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 of International Services, Student Union Building, Suite 300.
Admission evaluations for international students are completed by the Office of Admission. Official transcripts for all previous academic work completed should be directed to the Office of Admission.
English Language Requirements
Academic success at USC is strongly dependent upon the 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 normally required to take the International Student English Examination (ISE Exam) at the beginning of the first term of study. The examination results determine whether students must take additional English for academic purposes course work.
International students may be exempt from USC’s International Student English Examination (ISE Exam) through one of the following:
- International students who have completed their entire bachelor’s degree programs at regionally accredited universities located in the United States or in another country in which English is both the language of instruction and the only official language of the country.
- Applicants to master’s programs who have attained an Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 90, with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 6.5, with no less than 6 on each band score.
- Ph.D. and undergraduate applicants who have achieved an Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 100 with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 7, with no less than 6 on each band score.
Please note that there are no minimum TOEFL or IELTS scores required for admission.
All new teaching assistants (TAs) for whom English is a second language must demonstrate their competence in spoken English before assuming classroom or laboratory duties. Normally, new international teaching assistants (ITAs) demonstrate their English proficiency by taking the ITA exam, administered by the American Language Institute (ALI) located on the USC campus.
The exam must be taken before assuming classroom or laboratory duties and no later than the first day of classes. The ITA 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 the ALI while performing their ITA responsibilities. Those who score below 5 on the exam 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 Website at dornsife.usc.edu/ali.
Those ITAs denied clearance for teaching duties may have their offer of graduate assistantship withdrawn. An ITA who is denied clearance to teach should immediately seek assistance from the chair of his/her home department or program director.
American Language Institute
Any student not demonstrating adequate English proficiency will be required to enroll in the American Language Institute (ALI) at USC. The 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 (ISE Exam).
ALI tuition units are charged at the regular university rate. Entering students who need English language classes should be aware that the ALI course requirements will likely increase 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.
USC International Academy
The USC International Academy offers four avenues of study to prepare international students for admission to USC and other U.S. universities through intensive English instruction, test preparation, and maximum academic support. Qualified students may also apply for conditional admission to select USC master’s programs through the academy’s Pre-Master’s Program. For further information about admissions, courses and program dates, visit the academy’s Website at international.usc.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org.