University of Southern California

Undergraduate Education

Requirements for Graduation

Catalogue Regulations, Policies and Procedures

In addition to degree requirements outlined below, undergraduate and graduate students are also subject to current catalogue regulations, policies and procedures. Examples include, but are not limited to, the policy on the grade of incomplete and graduation with honors. Unlike degree requirements, changes in regulations, policies and procedures are immediate and supersede those in any prior catalogue.

Graduation Date

A student will be awarded the graduation date for the term in which degree requirements, including submission of supporting documents, have been met. Although course work may have been completed in a prior term, the degree will be awarded only for the term for which all academic and administrative requirements have been fulfilled. Students wishing to change the degree date from that indicated on the STARS Report should file a Change of Information card with the revised degree date. The cards are available in the Degree Progress Department in Hubbard Hall 010. Degrees are not awarded retroactively.

Discontinued Degree Programs

Students pursuing major or minor programs that the university discontinues will be allowed to complete them within a specified time limit. The time limit will be specified at the point of discontinuance of a major or minor program and begins at that point. It is determined according to the student’s progress toward degree completion and will not exceed five years for any student.

Closed Record

The academic record of a student who has completed the program of study or ceased attendance is considered closed. Once a student’s record is closed, no further additions or changes may be made. This includes, but is not limited to, such things as registering in additional course work, resolution of marks of incomplete (IN) and missing grade (MG), declaration of minors, etc.

Degree Requirements

Undergraduate degree requirements consist of grade point averages, residence requirements, general education requirements, the writing requirement, the diversity requirement, pre-major and major requirements, and minor requirements. Undergraduate students may elect to follow (a) the degree requirements in the catalogue current in their first term of enrollment after admission or readmission at USC or (b) degree requirements in a subsequent catalogue as long as they were enrolled in a term in which it was in effect. However, students may not mix catalogues. An exception is that students may follow the requirements for a minor from a different catalogue year than the major; and students pursuing two majors may follow major requirements from different catalogue years.

While there are no specific time limits for completing the bachelor’s degree, over the years many departments change their major requirements in accordance with developments in the field and department. Occasionally, general education requirements are changed or a degree program is discontinued.

Therefore, undergraduate students who do not complete their degrees within six consecutive years from the beginning of the semester of their first completed USC course work will not be allowed automatically to continue following their pre-major, major and minor requirements as specified above. (This time limit includes semesters during which students are not enrolled.) The pertinent department chair will decide what pre-major, major and minor requirements each student must follow and communicate the decision to the student in writing.

Students who do not complete their degrees within 10 consecutive years from the beginning of the semester of their first completed USC course work will not be allowed automatically to continue their general education requirements. (This time limit includes semesters during which students are not enrolled.) The General Education Office will decide what general education requirements each student must follow and communicate the decision to the student in writing.

An appeal of a department’s decision may be made to the dean of the appropriate academic unit or the Provost’s Office for academic units without departments. An appeal of a general education decision may be made to the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures (CAPP).

Grade Point Average Requirement

A grade point average of at least C (2.0) on all baccalaureate units attempted at USC, as well as on the combined USC-transfer GPA, is required for undergraduate degrees. A minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0 in all upper division courses applied toward the major is also required, regardless of the department in which the courses are taken. The university will not deviate from policies governing the calculation of the grade point average through inclusion or exclusion of course work.

Unit Requirement

Students are required to take a minimum of 128 baccalaureate units at the undergraduate level (of which not more than four units may be physical education units). A student may earn a maximum of 16 units for individual instruction in music at the 101/201/301 levels and comparable transfer courses. No more than 8 units of dance technique courses (DANC 181 through DANC 189 and comparable transfer courses) may be applicable toward an undergraduate degree. Of the 128 unit minimum at least 32 units must be upper division course work. Students must also complete all upper division course work in the major at USC. The university will not deviate from the minimum unit requirements stated above or the additional unit-specific requirements. Some disciplines require more than the minimum requirements. Check individual department listings for specific requirements.

Unit credit indicates the number of semester units earned in the course; these units may or may not be applicable to the degree. Degree credit indicates the units are applicable to the degree.

Pass/No Pass Graded Work

A maximum of 24 units of undergraduate course work taken on a pass/no pass basis may be used toward an undergraduate degree and a maximum of 4 of these 24 units may be applied to the general education requirements. WRIT 130, WRIT 150 and WRIT 340 will not fulfill undergraduate writing requirements if taken on a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis.

Use of Pass/No Pass course work to fulfill major requirements must be approved in writing by the academic department. Course work required for a minor may not be taken on a P/NP basis. Individual academic departments may have placed further restrictions on whether a course taken on a Pass/No Pass basis can be used to fulfill specific requirements.

In cases where a student has registered for a course on Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis, and the student is subsequently found to have committed an academic integrity violation in the course, the instructor may elect to assign a penalty letter grade, rather than assign a mark of Pass or No Pass.

General Education Requirements

General education and writing requirements for all students are provided on the USC Core/General Education page. Additional specific information is included with the information on individual majors.

Diversity Requirement

The diversity requirement must be met by all students who began college at USC or elsewhere in fall 1993 or later. It can be met by passing any one course carrying the designation “m” for multiculturalism. The list of courses and further details about meeting the diversity requirement are found here and here.

Gateway Course

A gateway course is a lower division 3–4 unit course that introduces and showcases the minor or major curricula of an academic field of study. It is intended to be a student’s first exposure to a field of study.

Upper-division Major Course Work

The university requires that all undergraduate students successfully complete at USC all the upper division courses that are applied to their major. Substitution of a comparable upper division course for a required one may be entered in the STARS exception process by the departmental adviser with the support of the department. Substitutions and waivers of USC or transfer courses for upper division requirements for majors are to be limited to a combination of 25 percent. Substitution of courses with the same departmental prefix are exempted from this limit. Lower division courses cannot be substituted for upper division course requirements.

Minor Programs

Application for a minor must be made to the department or professional school and an appropriate endorsement must appear on a change/addition of major or minor degree objectives form. Students who decide not to complete a declared minor must formally drop the minor program. Failure to drop a declared minor may delay the awarding of the student’s degree.

The following guidelines apply to minor programs:

(1) Minor programs are available to students matriculated in an undergraduate degree program and must be completed simultaneously with the major degree program.

(2) Minors constituted of course work from a single department may not be earned by students majoring in that department.

(3) Students may take an interdepartmental minor in which their major unit participates as long as at least four courses (at least 16 units) required for the minor are not courses offered by the major department.

(4) Students must take at least four courses (at least 16 units) which are unique to the minor (i.e., not required to fulfill the student’s major, another minor or general education requirements).

(5) All upper-division course work required for the minor must be taken at USC.

(6) Departments at their discretion may substitute no more than 25 percent of the required units defined in the catalogue for a given minor program. Substitution of courses with the same departmental prefix are exempted from this limit. Lower division courses cannot be substituted for upper division course requirements.

(7) Departments at their discretion may waive no more than 4 units for minor programs with 17 to 20 units or no more than 8 units for minor programs with more than 20 units for each student. The number of units unique to the minor after any departmental waivers or substitutions must total at least 16 units.

(8) No course work required for the minor may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis.

(9) A minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA must be achieved in all courses applied toward the minor. A higher minimum may be required by the sponsoring department or unit.

(10) Students whose major degree programs do not include a language requirement need not satisfy that requirement to earn a minor from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences or a professional school that has a language requirement unless the minor specifically requires the language.

(11) Completion of the minor program will be recorded on the transcript. The student receives a separate minor certificate for each minor program completed.

(12) Undergraduate students may elect to follow the minor requirements in (a) the catalogue current in their first term of enrollment after admission or readmission to USC, or (b) a subsequent catalogue year if the minor was newly introduced or revised after their term of admission or readmission. This does not affect the catalogue year they follow for their major.

Honors Programs

Departmental Honors

The following departments have received approval from the university Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for their majors to graduate with departmental honors:

Accounting (B.S.); American Studies and Ethnicity; Anthropology; Art History; Biochemistry; Biological Sciences (B.A. and B.S.); Broadcast and Digital Journalism; Business (B.S.); Chemistry (B.A. and B.S.); Cinematic Arts (Critical Studies); Classics; Communication; Comparative Literature; Earth Sciences; East Asian Languages and Cultures; Economics; English; French; Gender Studies; Geodesign; Geological Sciences; History; Human Development and Aging (B.S.); International Relations; Linguistics; Linguistics/Philosophy; Linguistics/Psychology; Mathematics (B.A. and B.S.); Neuroscience; Philosophy; Policy, Planning, and Development; Political Science; Print and Digital Journalism; Psychology; Public Relations; Religion; Sociology; Spanish; and Spatial Sciences.

The minimal requirements for receiving departmental honors are that the student: (1) satisfactorily completes course work for an honors project and (2) achieves no less than a 3.5 GPA (A = 4.0) in the major at the time of graduation. Each program, department or school will designate what it considers the appropriate course work and honors project.

Departmental honors are noted on academic transcripts but not on the diploma.

Renaissance Scholar Honors

The Steven and Kathryn Sample Renaissance Scholars program recognizes select undergraduate students who have excelled in their studies while completing a major and a minor (or two majors) in widely separated fields of study. In order to be designated a USC Renaissance Scholar candidate, a student must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program and must have his or her fields of study certified to meet the breadth with depth requirement.

To be designated a Renaissance Scholar upon graduation, a student must graduate within five years of matriculation at USC, with a minimum 3.5 overall grade point average, a minimum 3.5 grade point average in each of the major(s) and/or minor(s) course requirements and with university honors. A student with multiple certified program combinations (three or more academic programs) may fulfill the 3.5 major and/or minor grade point average requirement with a minimum of two programs from one of his or her certified pairings of academic programs.

Renaissance Scholar honors are noted on academic transcripts but not on the diploma.

Discovery Scholar Honors

The Discovery Scholars program recognizes undergraduate students who have excelled in their studies while demonstrating the ability to create exceptional new scholarship or artistic works. In order to be designated a USC Discovery Scholar candidate, a student must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program and must meet the criteria established by his or her school for outstanding original research or creative work. The criteria may include submission of a research thesis, an artistic portfolio or some other evidence of original contributions to the discipline. Faculty letters of recommendation may also be required.

To be designated a Discovery Scholar upon graduation, a student must graduate within five years of matriculation at USC with a minimum 3.5 overall grade point average and with university honors.

Discovery Scholar honors are noted on academic transcripts but not on the diploma.

Global Scholar Honors

The Global Scholars program recognizes undergraduate students who have excelled in their studies both at home and abroad. Applicants must have participated in one or more international programs administered by USC or an outside institution for a minimum of 10 weeks. In order to be designated a USC Global Scholar candidate, a student must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program and must submit a capstone paper, project or research paper based on criteria established by his or her school, as well as a reflective essay. Faculty letters of recommendation may also be required.

To be designated a Global Scholar upon graduation, a student must graduate within five years of matriculation at USC with a minimum 3.5 overall grade point average and with university honors.

Global Scholar honors are noted on academic transcripts but not on the diploma.

Multimedia Literacy Honors

See here for a full description of this honors program.

Distinction in Liberal Arts Honors

See here for a full description of this honors program.

Graduation with University Honors

To be eligible for undergraduate honors at graduation, a minimum overall grade point average of 3.5 for cum laude, 3.7 for magna cum laude and 3.9 for summa cum laude is required. Students must meet these averages, both on residence work attempted and on combined transferred and residence work attempted. The honors award is then determined by either the GPA for the residence work or the GPA for the combined transferred and residence work, whichever is lower. The university will not deviate from policies governing the calculation of the grade point averages required for graduation with honors through inclusion or exclusion of course work. University honors are noted on academic transcripts and the diploma.

Graduate Credit for 400 and 500 Level Work Taken as an Undergraduate

An undergraduate student who is within 12 semester units of the bachelor’s degree and has a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 may request to enroll in and reserve for graduate credit a limited amount of work at the 400 and 500 levels during the last semester as a senior, provided that the semester program does not exceed 16 semester units. A written request should be submitted to the Degree Progress Department and should bear the endorsements of the chair of the student’s major department and of the department in which the reserved work is to be taken. The Degree Progress Department verifies that the units being reserved are not needed to fulfill requirements for the bachelor’s degree. The student must present a copy of the final action to the Registration Department at the time of enrollment.