Aug 01

How do I get into USC? Admissions Tips and Tricks

USC campus

The University of Southern California (USC) holds the distinction of being California’s first and oldest private research university. However, the school’s ideal environment in Los Angeles, its stunning campus, and its excellent academic programs are what entice prospective students to apply to the institution.

Do you want to improve your chances of getting into a top-tier university? Schedule your consultation with Tokyo Academics today!

How Competitive Is the Admissions Process at USC?


The admissions process at USC is competitive. The university received a record-breaking number of 70,971 applications for the class of 2025, while only selecting 8,804 students for admission, representing an acceptance percentage of under 12 percent.


Your individual chances of admission to USC rely on the strength of your profile; this is despite the fact that USC has a very low acceptance rate. This tool takes into account aspects such as your grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to determine your likelihood of acceptance at USC and offers advice on how to improve your profile.


Standardized Test Scores of Accepted Students at the University of Southern California




The Class of 2025 at USC has a high school grade point average of 3.96 on average.




The SAT and ACT scores that correspond to the middle 50 percentile for USC’s class of 2025 are 1360-1510 and 30-34 respectively.


Rank in Class


USC did not report the average class rank for its graduating class of 2025; however, you should be aware that you will need a strong performance in the classroom to gain admission. In the class of 2025, 26.52 percent of students graduated high school with a 4.0 grade point average, and 47.97 percent graduated with a grade point average between 3.75 and 3.99.


How the University of Southern California Evaluates Applications


The University of Southern California identifies the following aspects as “extremely significant” in its 2020-2021 Common Data Set:

  • Course rigor

  • GPA

  • Test scores

  • Essay

  • Recommendation letters


These considerations deserve the label “important”:

  • Extracurricular activities

  • Talent/ability

  • Character/personal qualities 


These things are “taken into account”:

  • First generation

  • Legacy

  • Racial/ethnic status

  • Volunteer work

  • Work experience


And the following are “not taken into consideration”:

  • Class rank

  • Interview

  • Geographical residence

  • State residence 

  • Religious affiliation/commitment

  • Applicant interest 


How to Boost Your Admissions Odds at the University of Southern California


1. Maintain a grade point average of at least 3.96 despite enrolling in the most difficult classes possible.


The Class of 2025 at USC has a high school grade point average of 3.96 on average, and just over a quarter of them graduated high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA. In addition, the rigor of one’s coursework is considered “extremely crucial” for admission to USC. In order to submit an application that is competitive, you will need all A’s or almost all A’s, and you will need to take the most difficult classes that are offered. It is normal practice for applicants who are accepted to top-tier colleges such as USC to have completed anywhere from five to eight AP classes.


The admissions process at highly selective colleges that get a large number of applications can be streamlined with the help of a technique known as the Academic Index. The applicant’s complete academic performance is summed together and given a single score that is known as the Academic Index. This value is used to eliminate applicants who are deemed to be intellectually unqualified. The academic benchmark required for entry into USC is the first requirement that prospective students must fulfill.


Check out our suggestions for raising your grade point average if you’re still early in your high school career and your GPA is lower than what USC requires. If you are a junior or senior in high school, it will be more difficult for you to raise your GPA, but increasing your test score will be the simplest way for you to raise your Academic Index.


2. Aim for a SAT score of 1510 and an ACT score of 34.


The admissions procedure at USC places a “very high” priority on applicants’ test scores; the middle 50 percent SAT and ACT scores for USC’s class of 2025 are respectively 1360-1510 and 30-34. If your score falls within the middle 50 percent of the range, you have a reasonable chance of being accepted; but, the higher up the range you score, the better your chances will be. Even if the SAT and ACT scores were acquired in separate sittings, USC nevertheless records the greatest scores for each part of the SAT and ACT. In light of this, you ought to think about taking the SAT or ACT not once, but twice or even three times.


In light of the difficulties created by COVID-19, USC has implemented a test-optional admissions process for the class of 2025, and the university plans to continue with test-optional admissions for both the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 admissions cycles. Although USC does not require applicants to submit test scores, Tokyo Academics recommends that applicants take the SAT or ACT if they are able to do so without undue risk. Applicants who include their scores have a greater chance of being accepted compared to those who do not.


3. Write intriguing essays


After you have satisfied USC’s academic requirements, the greatest method to differentiate yourself from the other applicants is through your essays, which USC deems to be “extremely crucial.” The application to USC requires a writing supplement, which consists of two required essays and one additional essay that is optional.


An attention-grabbing essay is one that is written in your voice and creatively frames your experiences while highlighting how you will fit in as a student and on campus at USC. USC is looking for applicants who have interesting stories and unique perspectives, so if you want to be considered for admission, you should submit an essay. 


4. Recommendation Letters or Letters of Support


Another component of an application to USC that is considered “extremely crucial” is the recommendation letters. The letters of recommendation that you submit reflect your academic performance and talents in the classroom, and they also hint at how you’ll fit in at USC. With the exception of applicants to the School of Cinematic Arts, who are required to submit two recommendation letters, the University of Southern California suggests that applicants provide one letter of recommendation from either a high school counselor or instructor. Because your letter of recommendation has a significant amount of weight with USC, you should strive to receive the very best one that you can. 


5. Develop at least one extracurricular activity at the Tier 1-2 level (find your “spike”).


When applying to highly sought-after programs at USC, such as the university’s film school, extracurricular activities are considered a “essential” component of the admissions process and can carry significant weight. Your application can be strengthened by having one or two extracurricular activities that exhibit high levels of success or leadership, in addition to having a highly developed interest, often known as a “spike.” Spikes are supported by highly developed interests.


Not all extracurricular activities are created equal, and some carry more weight than others when it comes to college admissions decisions. It’s easy to understand how a college like USC appreciates your activities outside of the classroom when you look at it through the lens of the four categories of extracurriculars.

  • Activities that fall within Tier 1 are considered to have the most impact. These are extremely uncommon and serve as evidence of extraordinary achievement and leadership, such as being recognized on a national level for one’s athletic prowess or triumphing in a highly regarded national competition.


  • Activities in Tier 2 are more prevalent than those in Tier 1, yet they nevertheless demonstrate a high level of achievement and leadership. These accomplishments can include winning a sports competition at the state level, coming in first place at a regional competition, or serving in a leadership role in a well-known group.


  • Extracurricular activities that fall under Tier 3 are a demonstration of your interests but do not carry the same weight as those in Tiers 1 and 2. For instance, participating in a sport on the varsity level or holding a minor leadership position in a club that has a long history.


  • Playing a sport or joining in a club are examples of activities that fall into Tier 4, which is the lowest tier in terms of distinction and influence.


6. Make use of early action and early decision measures


The University of Southern California does not have an early action or early decision admissions program. This is a common strategy that many applicants use to try to get an advantage in the admissions process. However, the University of Southern California has two application deadlines: December 1 and January 15. Those who submit their applications before the due date of December 1 are eligible for consideration for scholarships, but those who submit their applications by the due date of January 15 are not eligible for consideration. On the other hand, a 6–8 percentage point increase in the acceptance rate is given to applications that are received on December 1. Even if you are not interested in receiving financial aid, submitting your application to the University of Southern California before the first of December is still a good idea.


How to Apply to USC




Application Timeline


Scholarship Deadline

December 1

Regular Decision

January 15


*On December 1st, applications must be submitted to a select few USC programs in order to be considered for admission; these include the Dramatic Arts, Cinematic Arts, and Music programs; the Kaufman School of Dance; the Iovine and Young Academy; and the World Bachelor in Business (WBB) program.Application Requirements

The Common Application is one of the applications that USC will accept, but in addition to that, you’ll need to have:


  • USC Supplemental Essays

  • Transcript from the high school

  • Recommendation letter(s): at least one letter is necessary, and it must come from either your guidance counselor or a teacher (applicants to the School of Cinematic Arts must submit two letters of recommendation)

  • Report on the half-progress year’s

  • Additional writing examples, a portfolio, and/or a résumé may be required (depending on program)


These are some of the optional materials:

  • SAT/ACT scores

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