Chances of getting into USC?

USC is my dream school and as I get further and further into this application process (even though it has literally been 2 weeks) I feel more and more like my chances of getting in are very slim. Here’s a brief overview of my stats and ECs and stuff:

  • I've taken primarily honors courses throughout HS (I took 2 AP courses Junior year and I'm taking 3 this year)
  • My GPA is 4.2l weighted and about 3.83 unweighted (my school only does weighted so I'm not sure if I calculated my unwieghted correctly, but let's just pretend I did)
  • I'm taking the SAT in October and, based on the practice exams I've been taking, I'll probably get between 1450 and 1500.
  • My ECs (which honestly kind of suck): - Chief Talent Officer of my school's podcast club (I write podcast scripts and things of that nature) - creative writing (I submit stuff to writing competitions and my school's literary magazine) - volunteering at my local animal shelter, - I worked as a concession stand manager at basketball camps during the summer - VP of my school's comic book club (though I only did it during 9th grade)

(I struggled with severe anxiety and depression for a long time, which seriously affected my ability to participate in ECs)

I think my essays will be pretty good (I’m a really good writer). I just want know know if it seems like I have at least the smallest chance of getting in. I know A LOT of factors go into admission decisions, but I just feel like I have absolutely no chance of getting in at this rate. It breaks my heart a little. I just want to know if you think there’s ANY hope for me or if I should really try not to get my hopes up. I know I don’t seem all that extraordinary, but it can’t hurt to at least try, right?

Also, in case it matters, I intend to major in creative writing/english (don’t you dare judge me. I don’t care if you don’t think I’ll be able to get a job after college. That’s not the question) and I’m an African American female.

Very important question: can you afford USC?

^^ Relating to this question: How did you do on the PSAT/NMSQT? Do you think you may have a qualifying score?

If so, then affordability may become a tiny bit less of a factor, as USC provides lots of money for National Merit Finalists. However, don’t make all of your decisions on chance. @“aunt bea” 's question is a good one.

@riverandsasha3, Our son was a NMF winner. As a URM and an NMF winner, he received ½ tuition. The other half of his tuition, along with room and board costs (~$50k), made all of the other schools, where he was admitted, with good merit, more palatable, so he went elsewhere.

Cost is going to matter, especially with Covid affected funds at the schools.

@“aunt bea” Wait, I had no idea. If you are a NMF winner, you don’t get half-tuition + aid? It’s just half-tuition? Never mind then, I might have to take it off my list.

@riverandsasha3, contact their financial aid office and fill out the NPC. My son was a merit candidate, but we were also paying for his sister at a UC, so we got a bit of a reduction in fees at the other schools. We could have paid for USC, but the other choices were better and more financially conducive for us.

@riverandsasha3 Merit aid is completely independent of financial aid. An applicant can get one, both or neither. What merit $ you get depends on you personally (application and academic record, fit at USC as they are holistic, etc.) and your financial aid depends on your family’s financial situation (or just you if applying as independent student). There are many full pays at USC and many the get financial aid, just depends. But one financial award (merit or aid) does not exclude the other.

@CADREAMIN Okay, so just to clarify, you can receive the 1/2 tuition from being a NMF and you can still receive financial aid? Do they take into account that you got 1/2 tuition when calculating what aid you receive? Or do they give you a financial aid package and then add the 1/2 tuition after?

In this case and with most USC scholarships, your financial aid is reduced by the amount of merit you receive. It does not stack as they say. So you would have to qualify for more need dollars than the amount of the scholarship.

@ssessoms21 If USC is your dream, by all means give it everything you’ve got and apply. I can definitely attest that USC uses a holistic approach when determining if the applicant is a good fit ( My daughter would not have gotten in solely based on her SAT/ACT scores). Spend a lot of time on your essays and make sure that your personal story reflects your authentic you. As it relates to affordability, get in first. I know kids who would not apply to colleges because of the sticker price of the university. We’ve had good results working with the financial aid office. Otherwise my daughter would not be attending. Good luck!

@ssessoms21 , you should certainly expect USC to regard you as a qualified applicant. Your anticipated stats are above median, and the “URM bump” offers a bit of additional cushion. That said, they reject a lot of qualified applicants. I think the appropriate way to look at it is that your chances are probably pretty close to 50:50, which is far better odds than the overall admit rate but still, by definition, could go either way.

So, rather than falling irretrievably in love with one “dream school,” it would be a really good idea to spread the love around a bit more. You’re a great candidate that many excellent schools would love to accept. What attributes of USC make it a dream school for you?

Are you a CA resident? Have you looked at the Writing & Literature major within the College for Creative Studies at UCSB? This offers a high-end small-school experience within the larger university, in a gorgeous SoCal setting.

Are you looking at East Coast schools? Emory is known for creative writing, and offers a great urban setting. It’s not a slam-dunk either but a tiny bit less competitive than USC, numbers-wise. Northwestern is another that has a lot of qualities in common with USC and has a renowned creative writing program. It’s a tad more competitive than USC unless you apply Early Decision, but I still think you could be a solid candidate. UMichigan and Johns Hopkins are worth a try too, as well as WashU (which has some big diversity scholarships) and possibly Brown. And then there are the LAC’s that are known for creative writing - Kenyon, Oberlin, Sewanee, Colorado College, Hamilton… and there’s U of Iowa, which probably wouldn’t be a tough admit for you but has a top creative writing program that attracts some of the top aspiring writers in the country.

At any rate, since USC doesn’t have any sort of early application cycle, there’s no way to “shoot the moon” there, so hopefully you can develop a list with multiple schools you’d be happy to attend. I do think you’ve got a decent chance at USC, if it remains your first choice. (Whether it’ll be a good choice from a cost point of view depends on your particular situation.) But if you can find more schools to love, and not have all of your emotional eggs in one basket, all the better.

Question for everyone: I’m a white male from the East Coast. 3.8 UW GPA, with good strength of schedule and pretty good extracurriculars, particularly internships. I have a 32 on the ACT. With USC’s optional policy re ACT submissions, would you submit that score this year? They haven’t accepted anyone from my high school in the last 3 years that had less than a 34. Thanks for any advice!

My main question is “why USC?” There are some amazing colleges out there which are better for creative writing majors than USC. Emory, Kenyon, Davidson, Bucknell, Middlebury, WashU, and Emerson are all in the top schools for creative writing. If you want some high reaches, you can look at Princeton, Yale, or Stanford.

I’ll also repeat @aquapt pitch for Iowa - I mean, they have the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Look at Adroit Journal’s list:

@Kolesar99 It’s impolite to hijack somebody else’s thread. Please start a new thread with your question.