USC Class of 2025 — Regular Decision

Class of 2024, please continue to use the 2024 class thread for questions and comments regarding your upcoming start and first year at USC!

Thought this was news worthy enough to kick off the 2025 thread, per USC:

• Official Test Scores: Due to disruptions in testing schedules caused by COVID-19, prospective first-year students may apply to USC for the 2021-2022 Academic Year without submitting SAT or ACT scores, although students may still choose to submit SAT or ACT scores if they wish.

For students who submit test scores, USC records the highest scores for those who have taken tests more than once. For the SAT, the highest scores for both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and the Mathematics section will be recorded, even if achieved in different sittings. For the ACT, USC will just consider the highest composite score. USC does not require the writing section for either the ACT or the SAT general test.

More information about this test optional policy can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

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Does USC change their supplemental essays on a yearly basis? Should I wait until later to start drafting them, or is it okay to start now?

They actually have changed over the years, I have seen several updates to them, but never a major overhaul. More like they replace one or update one kind of thing. With this whole covid thing and a lot of the social issues currently being addressed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something update. Having said that, if you have time to work on them, why not, it gets you in the “college essay” mindset. If something ends up changing, my guess is what you wrote will apply to a question on some application somewhere! (Once you start doing several applications, it is amazing how much repetition there is!) I don’t think working on them would be time wasted in any regard. Good luck!

These two are classics and likely to stay in, been around forever:

Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (250 word limit)

Describe yourself in three words (25 characters).

While #1 below is newer, it does fit the times we are in, so I think it will stay:

  1. USC believes that one learns best when interacting with people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Tell us about a time you were exposed to a new idea or when your beliefs were challenged by another point of view. (there may be one on common app similiar to this, so consider this when choosing topic on common app so you don't send in same essay twice)

This is a classic, likely to stay - tells a lot about you…

  1. USC faculty place an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic opportunities. Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning.

These are the trademark of a USC application - individual questions have updated at times, but they are fun to do anyway:

The following prompts have a 100 character limit:
What is your favorite snack?
Best movie of all time:
Dream job:
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
Dream trip:
What TV show will you binge watch next?
Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?
Favorite book:
If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?

My main advice to future college applicants is to start the application process early and ask the important questions now and up to the time that you actually submit the application. Over the years, it seems instead that far too many applicants first submit their application and then start discussing things, in sort of a post-mortem fashion, on forums like this one. But the time to gain some potential insights and to wok out your own unique and specific approach to applying is now and up to your submission date… and not thereafter.

Every year, many applicants come to CC asking about their application’s chances for success only after actually applying. But it is instead much more important to think about those chances and what USC is actually seeking from you before you apply and hit send within the Common Application.

And in terms of getting “Chanced” for USC, or for any elite college or university, it is virtually impossible for others to predict what may or may not occur in your specific case. With recent USC admit rates in the range of 11-16% (it was 11.4% in 2019 but rose to 16% in 2020), and with 4K+ applicants with 4.0 unweighted GPAs and test scores in the 99th percentile among those not gaining admission each year, your success will instead likely depend on too many potential factors for anyone to correctly evaluate… making predicting admission nearly impossible. But this also shows that they admit many without perfect grades or test scores. They are after all seeking to craft a well-rounded and diverse freshman class comprised of those who actually have a strong affinity for or connection to USC. They do aim to admit those who they project will thrive well at USC and bring something unique to the campus environment.

It is not the case that USC is looking for a freshman class of circa 3K comprised necessarily of well-rounded students. They are instead looking to craft a well-rounded class comprised of unique individuals who might bring something interesting and specifically needed to campus. So use the admission process to demonstrate that. Let the readers understand what USC may be gaining by admitting you specifically.

Your individual admission decision will likely come down to a composite and holistic analysis of your stats coupled with writing ability / essays, ECs, potential leadership roles, potential other unique qualifiers (URM, First Gen, geography, demographics, etc.), your Why USC? explanation/reasoning, etc. And that “Why USC?” explanation is likely the most important single component of your application. You do need to provide a well-thought out and well-researched answer as to why attending USC is truly significant and important to you specifically. And moreover, USC does want to gain a sense as to what you will be uniquely contributing to the greater USC community if admitted.

Before applying, I suggest reading through the very helpful insider’s guide to USC admissions…

Both of my daughters gained admission to USC and attended. One remains there as a rising senior. So if you have questions about the process or anything USC, feel free to ask. @CADREAMIN has had even more attend USC, so also an excellent resource in this process.

Good Luck…

@WWWard Excellent post, fab advice - as always from you!

Thanks to both of you!

If I were to write about something “outside my focus” I would like to learn more about, does it necessarily have to be something academic, or can it be something more for personal value like, say, learning how to sing?

It can be anything! Seriously cows, planes, singing, cooking or something academic - whatever! This is to show another side/interest of you.


You’re welcome.

Yes… it can literally be anything. But - in a perfect scenario, tying that interest or special element of your personality into also being at USC or you needing to be in L.A., etc. may be advantageous to your ultimate goal of convincing admissions that you belong at or need to be at USC. You should emphasize your unique and individual personality, and to genuinely stand out, but doing so in a manner that suggests the need or strong desire to do so there at USC or within that specific greater college community is even better.

The key thing is to carefully review what you have written and in a # of ways… with one key way being as they will see you. Put yourself in the role of the reader(s) who will be reviewing your application. Ultimately, the goal is to set yourself apart and then have them thinking that you would be a good fit there at USC or that you represent someone that they would be foolish to not admit. Of course… be honest… but also keep in mind the goal of standing out in a good way.

Every spring, many post here on CC citing their GPAs, test stats, etc. and how based on such they are astonished that they did not gain admission. The cruel reality is that 84-89% of the tens of thousands of talented young people applying will be turned away without gaining admission. And the vast majority of them are clearly qualified. We who have been here on CC for years of course hate to see the disappointment, but there is no escaping it. More and more, those who do accomplish gaining admission are doing so because they have succeeded in identifying themselves in a manner that sets them apart. My advice is to not hit the submit button until you are yourself convinced that your application packet in its totality has accomplished that important goal. Showing that you are clearly qualified academically is no where near enough these days. It takes more… it takes that extra element.

Why U for USC? and Why USC for U? In my opinion… that’s where your ultimate focus should be.

Good Luck…

What is USC looking for when writing the personal essay questions? Are they looking for personal experiences, growth, and leadership skills?

@jlee415 It depends on the prompt. Try to answer it honestly, but do so in a manner that highlights what you are trying to best to get across to them. Find an inner voice that sets you apart. Ultimately, they want to feel inspired about their decision to admit you. Getting the decision-makers to that point is the goal.

Hey Class of 2025! I’m a Class of 2024 student who’s starting USC in the Fall, and I didn’t think I was going to get into USC at all, let alone for the Viterbi School of Engineering. I had a 3.72 UW High School GPA that discouraged me in the college admissions journey, but I showed my authenticity in my application, specifically through my essays, and that’s the lesson I want to share with you guys. If you feel like you have a subpar GPA, don’t feel like your selling yourself short. You have a plethora of ways to demonstrate yourself as an individual and how you can contribute to the USC community! For me, I talked about all these research projects I would want to pursue, how I would want to enhance the evolving Augmented Reality, and hone in on Machine Learning, using my hackathons that I would go to as a High School student as proof of those aspirations. As long as you demonstrate your authenticity in the manner that you want to, then USC will really appreciate that and it will benefit you immensely if you’re suffering from a low GPA. I hope this sheds some light on prospective applicants and I wish everyone the best in their college admissions journey!


@CarBarlos Excellent post. Exactly the right approach and recommendation. Congrats again and good luck at USC.

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I couldn’t find it on the website and don’t remember from our tour, so sorry if this question was answered somewhere else. What is the notification timeline for those applying on 12/1. It seems that they notify people about interviewing for scholarships in Feb, so I assume it’s around then? Thanks in advance!

Yes, if you are selected for scholarship interview, they notify by end of January (which also means you are accepted into USC). Otherwise you get the notification by 3rd week of March like those of RD. All the best!

@nanosec ^This but you’ll also get an email if you have not been selected for a scholarship that IIRC includes information on how many people applied/finalists selected and about the NMF Presidential Scholar which is automatic if admitted and list USC as your first choice w/NMSC.

This is helpful bc my daughter is NMSF. So she could also get notification early Jan if she is getting accepted bc of this? I guess if she doesn’t get notified then it means she is denied or waitlisted?

Thanks - there is little documentation around this timeline and she was trying to figure out.

@nanosec No, if NMSF, you will ONLY be notified of acceptance in January if you are being considered for full-tuition IIRC b/c there’s no point in considering you for USC’s half-tuition scholarships that are meant for non-NMS. The email you are sent if not selected to interview for full-tuition will include information referencing that NMFs can still receive half-tuition, but there’s no early notification of admission for them. You also won’t see the scholarship referenced in your acceptance letter: it’s contingent on you selecting USC as your first-choice with NMSC by the May 31st deadline, and decisions release in late March.

USC does not wait list students, they only accept students for the Fall and the Spring semesters (to account for Fall students being offered admission from the wait list at other schools.)

Hope that helps!

@PikachuRocks15 - that is helpful - thanks so much! I don’t know what I was thinking - I knew USC didn’t waitlist. Thanks for the reminder.

The early acceptances notifications start around page 22 in last year’s thread.

Regardless of whether you are NMF or not, if you are accepted early, you are interviewing for Presidential, Trustee and Mork scholarships.