May 28, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2020-2021 
USC Catalogue 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Course Work Taken Elsewhere

Return to: Undergraduate Education  


Admitted students receive a transfer credit report prepared by Transfer Credit Services showing unit and subject credit granted for college courses and relevant exams, such as AP, IB and A-levels.

Students are required to submit complete, official transcripts of all course work attempted at any postsecondary institution as soon as final grades are posted. All post-secondary transcripts must be submitted regardless of the type of course(s) or the quality of the work. A student’s failure to provide transcripts for all course work attempted prior to enrollment at USC or while away from USC may result in denial of transferred course work and a charge of a violation of the university’s academic integrity policies.


The University of Southern California affirms the practice of accreditation of American post-secondary academic institutions by the six regional accreditation agencies: the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Acceptance of course work and/or degrees completed by undergraduate and graduate students applying to the University of Southern California will be based on accreditation by these six agencies. Certain graduate schools, seminaries, conservatories and professional institutions of national renown that are not accredited by a regional agency may be considered for graduate transfer work by Transfer Credit Services in consultation with the USC department or professional school to which the student is applying.

Acceptance of course work and/or degrees from post-secondary institutions overseas will be based on the recognition and approval of the college or university as a degree-granting institution by the ministry of education within the respective country.

Non-transferable Course Work

USC’s transfer policies have been established to enable students to achieve an undergraduate degree that will reflect traditional academic study and research. For that reason, the following types of nontraditional course work will not transfer to USC for undergraduate credit:

  • Life experience; portfolio work; continuing education; work experience; formally structured courses offered by civilian non-collegiate sponsors such as businesses, corporations, government agencies and labor unions, even if evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE).
  • Extension courses not accepted toward a degree by the offering institution.
  • Equivalency examinations.
  • Remedial (e.g., mathematics below college algebra), college preparatory and personal development/life skills courses.
  • Independent study, directed study, internships and correspondence courses from two-year schools.
  • Areas of study offered by other accredited institutions toward the baccalaureate but not offered by USC, such as agriculture, business office procedures, hotel management, interior design, food services, industrial mechanics, fire science, police academy and similar technical or professional programs.
  • Undergraduates will not receive credit for graduate-level transfer courses.

In addition, no more than 4 units of English as a Second Language (toward the maximum of 12 ESL/ALI units that may apply to a degree) will transfer. Also, a maximum of 4 units of physical education activity courses and music ensemble will transfer. A maximum of 8 units of dance, 12 units of physical education theory courses and 16 units of individual instruction in music will transfer.

Course Work Requiring Review

USC will determine on a case-by-case basis whether to grant credit for certain types of courses taken at accredited institutions. Courses that require review by Transfer Credit Services include:

  • Independent study, directed study and internships taken at four-year schools.
  • Courses in which the traditionally expected number of contact hours may not have occurred, including distance learning, televised, online or correspondence courses, and courses taught in non-traditional time modes such as concentrated “intensive” sessions or special weekend modules.
  • Transfer credit from studio courses in fine arts, music and theatre is limited. See articulation agreements or

Articulation Agreements

Articulation agreements with select California community colleges are issued by Transfer Credit Services and indicate courses available for transfer to USC. These agreements can be found at These agreements are revised periodically and are subject to change, depending on course content, availability and changes in USC’s academic policies. Articulation agreements are not issued for four-year colleges and universities.

Credit for Military Education

Academic credit will be awarded for course work taken at one of the regionally accredited U.S. military academies upon receipt of official transcripts.

The university will also evaluate course work/experience completed through the armed services and may award credit for such courses if they meet the following criteria:

  • Students must provide official Joint Services (JST) or Coast Guard Institute (CGI) transcripts.
  • Course work must be evaluated by ACE as upper-division credit.

USC will not grant credit for the following:

  • DD-214 or DD-295.
  • Course work not offered in an area of study taught at USC.
  • Course work/experience not evaluated by ACE.
  • Course work from the Community College of the Air Force.
  • DSST, CLEP and DLPT exam scores.
  • Other Learning Experiences (OLEs).

College Courses Taken During High School Enrollment

All undergraduate students entering USC may receive a combined maximum of 32 elective units for college courses taken before high school graduation and/or examinations (e.g., AP or IB) taken before matriculation at a two-year or four-year college. A maximum of 16 of these 32 units will be allowed for college courses taken before high school graduation. These courses must appear on the college transcript and be part of the regular college curriculum. These courses must also be taught by college faculty in a format open to regularly enrolled postsecondary students at that college. These courses will not receive course equivalence or credit toward writing or foreign language requirements, although they may fulfill general education categories where appropriate. However, departments may use them as a basis to waive prerequisites or specific course requirements on a case-by-case basis. Students who completed more than 16 units of college courses in lieu of examinations may submit an articulation petition to receive up to a maximum of 32 units for these classes.

Students may not receive credit for both an AP exam (or IB or other international exam) and a college course taken before high school graduation covering the same subject matter, nor for an AP and IB exam covering the same subject matter.

Besides earning elective units, some AP tests and international exams fulfill general education requirements. Finally, scores of 4 or 5 on AP tests in modern languages if taken in spring 2007 or later will satisfy the third semester foreign language requirement. Details will be reported on the student’s transfer credit report. A list of exams that will satisfy general education requirements is available online at under the Exam Credit link.

Students who began full-time college study at four-year institutions before completing their high school diplomas can submit transcripts for special evaluation. These programs, which typically are conducted on a college campus and are taught by regular faculty, will be evaluated on an individual basis. More than 16 units may be granted. Students entering full-time college programs at two-year colleges before graduating from high school are subject to the 16-unit maximum stated above.

Transfer Credit

Transfer Credit Report

A transfer credit report (TCR) is prepared prior to enrollment for every new undergraduate transfer student admitted to regular standing. To ensure complete evaluation of transfer courses, it is the student’s responsibility to submit complete, official transcripts from all post-secondary schools in which course work was completed as soon as final grades are posted. All post-secondary transcripts must be submitted regardless of the type of course(s) or the quality of the work. The purpose of the transfer credit report is to acknowledge officially all work transferable toward the USC degree sought by the student. The university expects undergraduate transfer students to assist in completing a final review of all transfer courses by the end of their first semester of study.

Students should review their transfer credit reports for accuracy and report any missing courses or incorrect information to Undergraduate Transfer Credit. To request a change in the way a transfer course has been evaluated, students may initiate an articulation petition at All articulation petitions regarding courses taken before entering USC should be initiated as soon as possible after matriculation, and no later than the end of the first semester of study.

Total transferable units attempted and total transferable units applied toward the degree are posted on the transfer credit report. For the purposes of making an admissions decision, all grades (including grades of D and below) are calculated into the grade point average and are used in calculating a total grade point average for graduation. Neither subject nor unit credit will be granted for courses that have been graded with less than a C- (1.7). USC does not honor other colleges’ “academic renewal” or “academic forgiveness” programs that permit students to improve a substandard grade. If you repeat a transferable course for which you earned a grade of D+ or lower, both grades will be included in your transfer GPA. If the grade on the first course was a C- or higher, only the first grade is included. Your transfer GPA is different from the GPA earned in courses you take at USC. The transfer GPA and your USC GPA are kept separate until it is time to determine if you are eligible to graduate and earn graduation honors. See the Graduation with University Honors section  of this catalogue.

For limitations on use of transfer courses to fulfill general education and writing requirements see the General Education  program.

Subject Credit and Degree Credit

Subject credit does not carry unit value toward units required for a degree but may fulfill a required or elective subject area. Degree credit is defined as units that may be applied toward the units required for a USC degree.

Transfer Unit Limitations

A student may earn a maximum of 64 units of credit toward a bachelor’s degree from other accredited institutions. The BArch degree and the Engineering “3-2” Program allow a maximum of 80 units of transfer credit, of which no more than 70 units may be from two-year colleges. Students will receive only subject credit for work completed in excess of the unit limitations.

Once a student has attained junior-level standing by completing 64 units applicable to the undergraduate degree (with USC course work alone or in combination with transfer units), transfer credit will be further limited to no more than 8 additional units. In the case of the BArch degree, no more than 8 additional units may be allowed for transfer credit after completion of 84 college-level units.

Transfer Credit for Repeated Course Work

Degree credit will not be given for a transferred undergraduate course that a student has previously completed with earned credit at USC.

Subject credit only will be given for a transferred undergraduate course previously taken at USC, under the following conditions: (1) When the student took the course at USC, he or she received a passing grade or mark that failed to meet departmental or university requirements, and (2) the student obtained prior approval from the department offering the USC course on the USC transfer course work pre-approval form at

Subject and unit credit will be given for a transferred undergraduate course previously taken at USC, under the following conditions: (1) When the student took the course at USC, he or she received a failing grade or mark, and (2) the student obtained prior approval from the department offering the USC course on the USC transfer course pre-approval form at

Permission to Register at Another Institution

Undergraduate Transfer Credit Limitations

As defined in the Residence Requirement, once students enroll at USC, only courses taken during a summer semester will be considered for transfer credit. No transfer work may be used to satisfy any Core Literacy requirements or the writing requirement if those courses are taken after a student has enrolled at USC, but transfer work may be used to satisfy Global Perspectives requirements. In addition, transfer courses taken after enrollment at USC cannot be used to fulfill upper-division requirements in the major without prior approval, using the request for exception to residence form available from the student’s major adviser or, for undecided and undeclared students, from Academic Counseling Services in the office of the vice provost for undergraduate education. Transfer courses may not fulfill upper-division requirements in the minor under any circumstances.

Students are advised to consult their major department or Academic Counseling Services before taking college course work at another institution. Students should also consult Transfer Credit Services to ensure that the work will transfer.


If students wish to take summer course work elsewhere after admission to USC, they must first obtain appropriate pre-approval. Even if there is an articulation agreement, pre-approval is necessary to assure the student’s eligibility. Most students can use the online pre-approval process available on OASIS. In some cases, the paper pre-approval form must be used. It is available at

Once the course work has been completed elsewhere, students must request the other institution to send an official transcript to USC so that the course work can be evaluated and transferred.

Students are required to provide transcripts of all course work attempted at any post-secondary institution, regardless of the type of course(s) or the quality of the work. A student’s failure to provide transcripts for all course work attempted while away from USC may result in denial of transferred course work and a charge of a violation of the university’s academic integrity policies.

Students should request an electronic transcript or a secure pdf transcript be sent to Confidential paper transcripts can be sent to the USC Registrar One Stop Center, 700 Childs Way, JHH 106, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0912. Paper transcripts must arrive in a sealed envelope directly from the issuing institution.

To avoid a possible delay in graduation, official transcripts from post-secondary institutions should be submitted as soon as the course work is completed and graded by the transfer institution. It is advisable to complete all transfer work prior to the final semester of enrollment at USC. If transcripts for transfer course work are not available during the final USC semester, it will likely delay degree posting and result in a later degree date.

Students who have questions concerning the transfer credit shown on the transfer credit report should inquire at the Registrar One Stop Center in the JHH lobby, or by email at Any questions regarding the applicability of previous course work toward major requirements should be referred to the student’s academic adviser.

Leave of Absence

Students may encounter professional, medical, legal, educational or personal reasons that compel them to interrupt their academic program. An undergraduate student in these situations should declare a leave of absence using the resources at If, as a result of the leave, the student exceeds the time limits for completion of degree or general education requirements, the student may not be allowed automatically to continue to follow the original catalogue of enrollment. Students who fail to declare a leave of absence may encounter difficulties with residence requirements and financial aid when returning to USC. 

Financial aid recipients considering a leave of absence should be aware of the financial aid implications. For more information, refer to Withdrawal Implications for Recipients of Financial Aid in the Financial Aid for Undergraduate Students  section.

A leave of absence does not exempt students from the residence requirement, nor does it automatically grant permission to transfer work from another college or university to USC. Students are discouraged from planning to study at all while on a leave of absence, but if college study is necessary, the student should apply for a Request for Exception to Residence (described under Residence Requirement below).

Consequences for a leave of absence are different for graduate students than for undergraduate students. Consult carefully. International students must follow specific steps when taking a leave of absence from the university. Contact the Office of International Services as soon as a leave becomes necessary. 

Program Reactivation

Students who have failed to attempt course work for at least one semester within an academic year without filing a Leave of Absence form will have their POST (Program of Study) expired. Returning undergraduates will be required to meet with their department adviser and complete and sign a POST Reactivation form before registration will be permitted. Graduate students who wish to return will be governed by applicable university policies, including the continuous enrollment requirement.

Residence Requirement

A minimum of 64 units toward the bachelor’s degree must be earned in residence at USC, with the following exceptions: students earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture must earn 80 units in residence; students in engineering’s “3-2” program must earn at least 48 units in residence.

Once a student matriculates at USC, all courses taken for subject or unit credit in the fall and spring semesters must be taken in residence. Only transfer work that appears on the transfer institution’s transcript for a summer term will be accepted. In addition, all upper-division units required for the major and minor must be earned in residence. However, a student’s department may apply upper-division courses taken elsewhere prior to matriculation to major requirements on a case-by-case basis.

In rare circumstances, permission may be granted in advance to take a course out of residence. This permission is documented on the Request for Exception to Residence form. The form, which is available from the student’s major adviser, is used to record major department approval to use the course toward the major. Questions about the residence requirement may be addressed to the Degree Progress Department, (213) 740-7070.

Academically disqualified students must meet with a counselor from the Office of Academic Review and Retention for advisement and forms for departmental preapproval rather than using the Request for Exception to Residence form.

After completion of 64 college-level units applicable to the undergraduate degree, no more than eight additional units may be allowed for transfer credit. In the case of the BArch degree, no more than 8 additional units may be allowed for transfer credit after completion of 84 college-level units.

Units earned in overseas studies programs approved by USC’s University Committee on Curriculum and in courses approved by consortial or other institutional agreements are considered to be taken in residence.

Residence Requirement for a Second Bachelor’s Degree

For students with their first bachelor’s degree from USC, 32 units applicable to the degree beyond the number of units required for the first USC bachelor’s degree must be completed in residence. Students who have not exceeded the transfer unit residence restriction for the first USC bachelor’s degree may apply the remaining number of units available for transfer to this 32 unit residence requirement.

For students with their first bachelor’s degree from another institution, the second bachelor’s degree requires 64 units applicable to the degree completed in residence, except for the BArch degree, which when earned concurrently with the MArch degree requires 32 units applicable to the degree completed in residence.