Legacy at USC

Now that my nephew is headed off to college (whew, that was a long process!) I am turning my attention to helping my neighbor’s daughter. She is a legacy at USC as her father graduated undergrad from there. She is going into 11th grade at an elite private high school in Los Angeles. She has very good grades (above a 4.0 weighted) but has not taken any APs yet- they are not offered at her school until junior year but she’s decided to take honors classes instead this year. She is practicing to take the SAT and her score is around 1360 currently but with over a year to apply, I think she’ll be able to get that up to over 1400. She has pretty average ECs- lots of community service, National Charity League, volleyball (was varsity as a sophomore), things like that. She is half Asian and half Caucasian.
Any idea how much being a legacy will help her (or if it will at all)? Her dad isn’t in her life, except for maybe a phone call on her birthday, and I doubt he’s a big donor to the school.
She has a list of schools to which she’ll apply-she wants to stay in CA- but USC is her first choice.


USC turns away many well qualified candidates. To have a chance, I think the UNWEIGHTED highschool GPA should be at least in the high 3.7+ and SAT should around 1500+/1600. @WWWard has a good summary in this USC forum on what makes up the top 25%; the next 50% and the bottom 25% admitted students to USC. The bottom 25% generally are students having special talents such athletes, musicians, etc. Your neighbor’s daughter should try to achieve the same high stats she would have to apply to UCLA or UC Berkeley and she would have a chance. USC reviews applicants holistically (GPA, test scores, rigor of courses, extracurricular activities, adversity, etc.).

Legacy helps a little and if your neighbor’s daughter has good stats but is denied, USC may offer her the Trojan Transfer Plan (TTP). This means that she is almost guarantee admission to USC as a sophomore if she attends any college, including cc, meets certain requirements and earns at least a 3.6+ GPA in her freshman year. There are many discussions in this forum on the TTP. Good luck.

@UCBUSCalum I will encourage her to put a lot of effort on preparing for the SAT. And I had forgotten about the TTP- thanks for the info!

It will likely come down to her “Why USC” written statements and essays. She needs to actually research USC and then point to specifics related to her wants/needs. It is fine to declare a demonstrated interest in attending or confirming that USC is your top choice, but that statement needs to also be matched with solid reasoning… and the more specificity she can supply the better. USC now receives around 10K legacy applications per year. They only accept 9K in total. They are forced to routinely deny 9K of those legacy applicants (or 90%), but many do get offered TTP as an alternative to transfer in later. USC also recently denied 3K applicants in the 99th percentile in terms of test scores. So… it is not all about GPA and test scores. They want to build a well-rounded and diverse freshman class. ECs and essays play a key role on that front. So… in general, no - legacy means very little these days. If she really wants to attend USC, her application needs to make that crystal clear… answering why and also detailing what she can bring to USC in that process. Hopefully there is something unique about her application in total - so she can stand out among the 50K+ applications. What sets her apart and makes her someone that USC needs to admit? That is where her focus needs to be.

Good Luck

@WWWard Thank you. I think her mom may think legacy holds more sway than it actually does. I will pass along the information. I wonder how many get offered TTP? Do you have the stats on that (or know where I can find them)?

I mean, I wonder how many legacy students get offered TTP…

I heard 300 to 500 are offerred TTP this past year, majority of them are legacy students.

@Emsmom1 You’re welcome. I have also heard the same range as detailed above. When decisions were announced in March, it seemed like a ton of legacy applicants were offered the TTP route, so I would concur that TTP seems to be mainly offered to such. I do not know where the official #s may be posted.

They do not post TTP numbers, never have. Legacy does not mean nearly what it use to, certainly don’t plan on it being a hook, I personally know some stellar legacies over last few years - great kids and ECs, with 4.5+w/4.0 gpa and 33+ ACT that did not get accepted (and were shocked), so obviously legacy didn’t provide a bump. There was a blog going for awhile about those types of legacies getting rejected - people were feeling it actually hurt to be a legacy because they only accept so many. I don’t believe that conspiracy theory, but you have to stand out. I compare being a legacy to that of having a good subject test score - not necessary and more like a nice decoration than a big selling point. I do know a lot about the TTP program if that becomes an choice later - hopefully they get in the first time! Most legacy applicants with solid scores and gpa’s (overall good application 3.7+uw) are going to get offered TTP, the incorrect info out there is that you will get offered TTP just for being a legacy, even with a lower gpa and mediocre test scores. Not gonna happen. That ship has sailed in this competitive environment. TTP can save money and is a great option for some, but you are sacrificing that freshman experience. Just depends on the student and their situation as to whether it is an insult or a great option.

Thanks @CADREAMIN she for sure has. 3.7+ UW GPA-- what would you consider “solid scores?” She’s not a fantastic test taker- I can see her score going up to 1450 or so; I think 1500 would be a stretch, although she does have a year to bring it up.

For an admission… 1400 or higher on the new SAT… or 32 or higher on the ACT… should be sufficient. For TTP… maybe a little less may be deemed okay.

Even before my daughters began high school, I set out for them what I believed was the generally safe threshold for acceptance (or at least a good chance of acceptance) to the elite (top 25) colleges. I told them that if they took a challenging Honors/AP course load and managed to achieve a 3.9+ unweighted GPA and then also secured scores of 700+ on each SAT section (or 1400 or better) and/or 32 or better on the ACT… and matched those grades and scores with solid ECs and good essays that they stood a better than average chance of gaining admission to a good # of such top universities.

But… while both daughters accomplished such, the actual admission results varied widely. My older daughter went a surprising 5 and 12 in 2014, with USC being her highest ranked admission. She will be an USC senior this year. My younger daughter (this cycle) went a much better 8 and 7, with an admission to USC (where she will be attending) - but also with admissions to higher ranked schools like Princeton, Rice and Emory. To me, the only two key differences between their applications were the choice of majors and my younger daughter’s strength or quality of essays. My younger daughter also had very strong creative portfolio supplements that were not relevant in 2014. In terms of grades and scores, they were virtually identical. That is why I have emphasized the other factors that can really set you apart. Yes… it is always best to at least be in the 97th percentile or higher on all fronts related to grades and scores, if possible, but even so, an applicant better be bringing something else to the table that sets you apart and differentiates you as an applicant that they just cannot pass up on. The cruel reality is that 1000s and 1000s of applicants look good on paper when colleges only evaluate the #s. So show them more :slight_smile:

Did she try the ACT? Not that kids need more tests, but some that struggle with SAT, rock the ACT. One of mine did that. When he took them both from a test center he scored a comparable 300 SAT points higher on ACT. So he just focused on that one. Another of mine (I have 3 at USC and a 4th at another school) was SAT kind of kid all the way. The main thing is for her to be in the score/test range then to put together an app that shows why USC is such a fit for her and for them - not that she just loves it or it is her dream school (50,000 others can say that).

Where did your nephew go? I seem to remember chatting back about him in posts…

@CADREAMIN my nephew is going to attend Franklin and Marshall. In fact, I’m flying out to MO next weekend she to drive him to college since his mom has to work (she’s flying out to join us later). USC was actually his first choice, but I think his 1310 SAT was what sunk him.