University of Southern California


Los Angeles is the most vibrant and diverse city in America, bringing together more people from more places than any city in the world. The city is a pulsating nerve center of entertainment, commerce, culture, and ideas. The University of Southern California reads the pulse of its vibrant host city and, in many ways, is a microcosm of the urban giant. Like Los Angeles, USC offers incredible variation, not only bringing together students of diverse backgrounds, but also nurturing a strong community that encourages innovation and debate. USC offers more majors and minors than any university in the country. Disciplines intersect across campus, giving birth to many interdisciplinary programs. Each contributes to the culture of the school, making USC a melting pot of theories and principles. Coupled with low student-to-faculty ratios, small class sizes, hundreds of student organizations, and cuttingedge research facilities, USC offers the international presence that is expected of a top-tier, private research university.

Los Angeles is perhaps best known as the entertainment capital of the world, and USC contributes to that reputation. USC has a long-running commitment to nurturing growth in culture and the arts. USC offers nationally renowned cinema, theater, and music programs. These schools have trained Academy Award-winning directors, Broadway performers, and award-winning writers. USC has the only college band to have ever recorded a platinum selling album.

While often recognized for its programs in the arts, the arts programs are simply one of many outstanding offerings of the university. USC has a strong scientific research community, one of the top in the country in terms of research dollars awarded each year. Moreover, USC has forged innovative programs, encouraging undergraduate research through faculty-student collaborations. The business programs are equally well known, and USC has developed a national reputation for encouraging entrepreneurship. Likewise, USC has developed programs that combine new technology with new forms of communication, and is a national leader in multimedia and video gaming.

Despite the great academic opportunities offered by the university, USC is not just about classroom life. USC was named Time Magazine’s “College of the Year” in 2000, because more than half of the student body participate in volunteer programs that help the surrounding Los Angeles community. The city and the school have developed a mutually beneficial give-andtake relationship.

And, of course, let’s not forget sports. Like the rest of Los Angeles, known for its many sports teams with strong fan bases, USC has a strong athletic tradition. USC has produced more Olympic athletes than any other university in the country, and USC consistently has nationally ranked sports teams. The cardinal-and-gold-colored blood runs thick in the veins of proud alumni who frequent the campus to cheer on their Trojan athletes. USC is a university that is innovative and forward-looking, bringing its students the best resources to help them become tomorrow’s leaders. Yet, as the university has developed and expanded since its founding in 1880, its foundation has remained untouched. At the core of USC stands a united family—the Trojan Family.

The extended family of USC is a global network made up of thousands of alumni, students, faculty, and staff, as well as the parents of students, children, and grandchildren of alumni, the Board of Trustees, the boards of councilors, donors, athletic fans, and neighborhood partners. Indeed, no university is better known for the vastness of support that its alumni and affiliates provide far beyond the campus gates. The uniqueness of the Trojan Family isn’t due to its large numbers. Rather, it’s the extraordinary closeness and solidarity that is found in this genuinely supportive community. To its members, the term “Trojan Family” is more than a phrase—It represents a promise, a commitment to support that is lifelong and worldwide.

Perhaps it is a cliché, but the four years that constitute an undergraduate education are often the most transformative in a person’s life. College is time for learning, growing, changing, and reaching.

When I went to college, I was sure I wanted to be a doctor. Once there, I found USC’s premedical training programs to be superb, and my science classes taught me much of what I would need to know in order to pursue my goal. Yet, the classes were just the beginning. Through a hospital and clinical internship program, I got to experience what it would be like to be a doctor, spending time in the hospital, working with patients, and observing surgeries. Then, through another program, I had the opportunity to do original research in a world-class biomedical research lab. While I very much enjoyed the experiences in these programs, ironically it was precisely these programs that helped me to realize that I did not want to be a doctor. Since I was a child I had imagined myself in medicine, however, when I experienced it up close, I realized it was not for me. Yet, I was only able to learn this about myself, by having such rich and complete experiences in medicine, the kinds of experiences that few places offer undergraduates. Most students have to wait until medical school to find out if they really will enjoy medicine or not.

The change in my perspective largely came from exposure to the abundance of other opportunities available at USC. Things suddenly became interesting to me that I could never have imagined as a high school senior, simply because I did not know that such opportunities were available and viable. Classes in leadership and entrepreneurship opened a whole new perspective of the world to me. Meeting and actually talking to such leaders as former Massachesetts governor Michael Dukakis, former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, businessman Eli Broad, and director Robert Zemeckis helped me gain a perspective on how I myself thought about leadership. Working with professors in business classes who were not simply theorists, but practitioners, helped bring the business world alive.

When I think about the transformations I went through at USC, those transformations were not just intellectual, but personal and social as well. When I think of the close friendships I developed at USC, I marvel at their diversity. My close friends included a video-game journalist who was syndicated in many languages, an all-American volleyball player, a keyboard player in the jazz band, a first-generation Indian immigrant, an aspiring orthodox rabbi, a cinema student who had traveled the world, and others who, like me, had grown up in several different countries. Our backgrounds were incredibly diverse, as were our interests. USC fostered an environment where we could learn from each other and enjoy each other, where we came to see our very diversity as a gift in itself.

Each student’s journey through USC is different. Some students come to USC and find that the goals they had in high school are the goals they do pursue, with USC providing a rich and complex background for them to do it. Others, like me, discover that our goals change in response to the abundant intellectual and social opportunities USC affords. USC offers many paths, all of them potentially rewarding.

At USC, I learned that I could make a difference. USC’s emphasis on community service motivated me to volunteer to organize youth sports leagues in disadvantaged neighborhoods. It was amazing to watch. First, there were a few kids who turned up, then more came. Finally, parents and neighbors came to cheer on the teams. It was wonderful to see people coming together, supporting the kids in their communities, and working to build something special.

USC gives its students the world. The university offers a broad selection of highly regarded academic programs taught by world-renowned faculty dedicated to undergraduate education. The student body is one of the most active in the country, with thriving on-campus organizations, a strong involvement in community service, and a broad array of social events. The sports programs are second to none—all in the most vibrant city in the world. Most importantly, once you enter USC you become part of the USC family, a network of friends and support that extend across the world, shaping you and supporting you not only in your college years, but for the rest of your life. The Trojan Family extends its arms to you. Fight On!


Information Summary

Ranks 12th in California and 165th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 93.6
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $74,825
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 34 / 1530
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 19 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 97% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 47,310


At USC, education can be as unique as you are. “What’s your major?” is a question of the past. With more majors and minors offered than at any other American university, many USC students do not settle for just one major. In fact, students are encouraged to pursue doublemajor and -minor opportunities.

Our ideal is to help students develop the kind of intellectual flexibility needed for life in the twenty-first century that the best thinkers of the European Renaissance displayed. With these words as a backdrop, President Steven B. Sample launched the USC Renaissance Scholars program in the year 2000. The Renaissance Scholars program honors students whose broad interests help them excel academically. Like Leonardo da Vinci, who was equally adept in the arts and the sciences, Renaissance Scholars are students whose majors and minors are in widely separated fields of study. Renaissance Scholars are eligible to compete for the $10,000 Renaissance Scholar Prize that has been specially authorized by the Board of Trustees. Up to ten prizes are awarded every year. (I was awarded a Renaissance Scholar Prize for my major in Business Administration with an emphasis in Information and Operations Management and a minor in Natural Sciences.) Renaissance Scholars have completed hundreds of combinations of majors and minors, ranging from a major in engineering and a minor in cinema to a double major in physics and classics.

Programs of Study

As the Renaissance Scholars program demonstrates, programs of study at USC are both abundant and flexible. With thirty academic departments in the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences and seventeen professional schools, USC has interdisciplinary programs galore—and if your dream program is not offered, create it yourself.

At the core of any program of study at USC is the general education program. In addition to major requirements, students must take a class from each of six general education categories and take at least two writing classes (one lower-division and one upper-division). The six general education categories cover broad disciplines such as literature, the arts, science, and social issues. Within each category, students may choose from dozens of classes. The program offers students flexibility on two fronts. By having numerous choices to fulfill each requirement, students can tailor their program to their interests and passions. By reducing the total number of courses in the general education program, students have more elective units available to complete a second major or minor, or to take a class for fun.

Elective Classes

When choosing elective classes, Trojan students get to select from some of the best in the country. For example, every semester, Leonard Maltin from “Entertainment Tonight” teaches a weekly cinema class in which he screens a different prerelease motion picture. Following the screening, the class conducts a question-and-answer session with a guest involved in the making of the movie—usually the director, producer, or leading actor. Every spring, President Steven Sample teams up with Professor Warren Bennis, leadership guru and author of over thirty books, to teach “The Art and Adventure of Leadership.” Forty students, hand-selected by Sample and Bennis, study leadership styles of key figures of the modern era, interact with prominent leaders in the classroom, and are challenged to begin analyzing and developing their own leadership styles.

The Art and Adventure of Leadership” was the highlight of my classroom experience at USC. Class guests included former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, film director Robert Zemeckis, former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, businessman Eli Broad, and a SWAT team commander. The papers I wrote were read personally by Sample and Bennis and then discussed over small-group luncheons. What other classroom in the country provides students such hands-on access to today’s most prominent leaders?

Upper-division Classes

Like general education and elective classes, upper-division classes are also taught by world-renowned faculty. For example, the business school features proven entrepreneurs. And a chief economist for the Securities and Exchange Commission even teaches a class. The Viterbi School of Engineering features researchers with many patents on their office walls. The biology department features key contributors to the human genome project. And the music, theatre, cinematic arts, and art schools feature award-winning faculty in their respective fields. Working directly with these distinct leaders provides students access to cutting-edge research in their field of study and connects the classroom community with the outside world.

Collectively, USC’s academic programs provide students with the skills, contacts, and knowledge to get their careers off to a running start and help them make significant contributions to their academic, professional, and business communities as they move beyond USC and into the world.

Special Programs

In addition to the broadest selection of academic programs offered by any university, USC also offers several highly selective programs tailored to students with specialized interests. Three of the flagship programs are the Thematic Option program, the Resident Honors Program, and the Baccalaureate/M.D. program.

Thematic Option (TO) has been cited by several college guides as one of the best general education honors programs in the country. Each year, about 200 freshmen participate in the interdisciplinary core curriculum. TO offers small classes with some of the university’s best undergraduate teachers and a hand-picked group of writing instructors. The curriculum is organized according to themes rather than by discipline and fulfills all general education requirements.

Resident Honors Program (RHP) allows high-achieving high school seniors to get a head start on their college education. RHP students matriculate into USC a year early and complete their senior year requirements for high school and freshman year simultaneously. Although RHP students attend classes and participate in campus activities like all other students, they are required to stay in the honors dormitory and participate in special group programs to ensure their transition into college is smooth.

The Baccalaureate/M.D. program (BMD) is an eight-year joint undergraduate/medical program designed for students demonstrating a strong interest in pursuing a career as a clinical physician. BMD students are encouraged to pursue “nontraditional premedical” majors and are guaranteed a seat in the Keck School of Medicine of USC upon completion of core classes and passing base GPA and MCAT requirements. While in the program, BMD students participate in medical research projects and attend programs sponsored by the medical school. By reducing the stress attached to applying to medical school and encouraging students to pursue a broad undergraduate education, BMD students have completed many majors in addition to their premed classes.

In addition to these flagship programs, other special programs such as undergraduate research grants and study abroad have a wider reach to students. Undergraduate research is encouraged across campus and is a major requirement in some departments. Most students engaging in research join ongoing projects in large laboratories. However, students may design their own research project and apply for a campus grant. Several dozen grants of $2,500 are dedicated for such projects. For students wishing to leave the beautiful weather of Southern California for a semester or two, USC has partnerships with universities around the world. In fact, USC ranks as the top U.S. university in international enrollment with more than 5,000 students. While most programs satisfy only elective units, some will transfer upper-division credits.

As a member of the Baccalaureate/M.D. program, I majored in Business Administration. My classmates’ majors included Theater, Classics, History, and Mechanical Engineering. As part of the program, I participated in plastic surgery and stem cell research projects. The program encouraged me to pursue my passions and build a broad foundation for medical school. The Keck School of Medicine believes such students have the best potential to be great physicians and develop strong relationships with their patients.

Faculty and Class Size

USC has the smallest average class size and the low faculty-to-student ratio (ten-to-one) expected of any top-tier private research university. In fact, while the USC faculty have great academic and intellectual horsepower and field recognition, those are not what distinguish it from other universities. What distinguishes USC from other top research universities is the faculty’s commitment to undergraduate education and the access granted to students. Most of the faculty who are in the spotlight for their groundbreaking research and best-selling books also teach undergraduate courses. In addition to the normal office hours that professors hold, several programs subsidize lunches with professors to help students build personal relationships. Meeting professors during “nontraditional” hours such as latenight coffee or weekend activities is not uncommon. In short, USC provides its best academic resources directly to its undergraduate students.

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As the Trojan Family has continued to grow and the buzz about USC has spread both nationally and globally, the number of applicants has increased significantly in recent years, making USC one of the “hottest schools in the country” according to Newsweek Magazine. In the fall of 2008, the school received 35,901 applications, and was able to admit only 7,876 students, or just about twenty-two percent.

Grades, Test Scores, and Requirements

The median composite SAT score for the 2008 freshman class was 1910–2190. The average GPA was 3.7 (unweighted). Admission to USC is highly competitive. Successful candidates for admission to USC will have completed a rigorous college preparatory curriculum in high school and will have availed themselves of every academic opportunity open to them.

Application Filing

USC does not use any system of Early Decision, Early Action, or Early Notification in its admissions process. There are three deadlines for filing applications:

  • December 1: Deadline for freshmen or transfer students applying for merit scholarship competition of the Baccalaureate/MD program.
  • January 1: Final deadline for freshman applications.
  • February 2: Final deadline for transfer student applications.

Application forms are available from the USC Admission Office, or prospective students may apply on-line at The application cost is $65. All freshman applicants are notified by March 31.


Another way to get into USC is by transferring from a community college. Many partnership programs are in place between USC and community colleges that help facilitate the transfer process.

Financial Aid

With the cost of tuition, room, and board rising, it is not a surprise that more than sixty percent of USC students receive some form of financial aid. According to the Office of Admission and Financial Aid, all students applying for aid at USC are required to fill out both the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile to establish eligibility for need-based federal, state, and USC grants as well as federal loans and work-study. USC operates one of the largest financial aid programs in the country.

USC has a long tradition of meeting one hundred percent of the USC-determined financial need for those undergraduate students who satisfy all eligibility requirements and deadlines. Entering students are admitted to the University based on academic achievement, test scores, leadership, and community involvement. Financial need is not a factor in the admission decision for freshmen.

I held three part-time jobs during my four years at USC: sports clinician with “Kids In Sports,” laboratory instructor for Statistics, and grader for Information Technology classes. These jobs helped me earn several thousand dollars a year for my school costs, enabled me to apply skills learned in the classroom, and provided a great break from studying. While working these jobs, I averaged eighteen units a semester, played a club sport, and maintained a healthy social life.

For those students who apply for financial aid, need is determined by families’ income and assets information, collected through the federal FAFSA, the CSS profile, and other required forms. In 2005–2006, the average freshman need-based financial aid award was $29,256. Such awards are made up of grants, work, and student loans. Students are encouraged to apply for merit-based awards. The most notable are the Trustee (full-tuition), Presidential (half-tuition), and Dean’s (quarter-tuition) scholarships. More than five hundred of these scholarships are awarded annually, providing one of the largest meritbased scholarship programs in the country. In addition to these programs, USC alumni groups and other organizations provide scholarships for our students.

Part-time jobs are also a good way to manage school costs. Working too many hours is discouraged as it distracts from academic focus, but most students can fulfill their work-study requirements with ten to fifteen hours of work per week.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 1719th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in California.


USC’s rigorous academic programs are accompanied by equally vigorous social activities. On campus, over six hundred organized clubs support interests ranging from archeology to waterskiing. These clubs compete for students’ time with conferences, concerts, and special speakers. An extensive Greek system draws participation from approximately seventeen percent of students. Across campus, hundreds of volunteer opportunities await Trojan students in the heart of Los Angeles. Slightly further away, students can choose from basking on Southern California’s sunny beaches, partying in the Hollywood nightlife, or snowboarding on local slopes. In addition to all of these activities, school spirit runs high as the Trojan faithful swarm in masses to cheer on USC’s championship sports programs.

Campus Life

USC has on-campus dormitories and off-campus apartments that house nearly 7,300 students. In addition to these, thousands of students live in apartments and houses in the streets surrounding the campus. During the day, hundreds of students ride their bicycles around campus, and at night the occasional house party can be found. Several blocks from campus are dozens of large Victorian-style houses that have been converted into student housing. My sophomore and junior years, nine of my friends and I teamed up to rent a ten-bedroom house.

Campus is always buzzing with activities. Two attract the most attention—the President’s Distinguished Lecture series and the student-sponsored Program Board concerts. These bring today’s most prominent leaders and most popular bands directly to campus. Hence the saying, the world comes to USC.

During my four years, campus speakers included George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Madeline Albright, Margaret Thatcher, and Rosa Parks. Campus concerts included Blink 182, Nelly, Naughty By Nature, Wyclef Jean, and Smash Mouth.

Community Service

More than half of USC students volunteer in community service projects each year. This dedication to the betterment of its surrounding communities earned USC College of the Year honors from Time Magazine in 2000. One of the most popular volunteer programs is the Joint Educational Program (JEP). Students participating in JEP teach in local schools once a week, often teaching simplified versions of the material learned in their col

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


Athletic excellence makes the Trojan mascot one of the most recognized in collegiate sports. Trojans have won team national champion ships, 352 individual NCAA titles, and more Olympic medals than students at any other American university. Football is perhaps USC’s most decorated program: eleven national championships; fifteen unbeaten seasons; seven Heisman Trophy winners (most recently Reggie Bush in 2005); and representation in all but two Super Bowls. One football star even won an Oscar for Best Actor! In 1925–26, Marion Morrison played tackle for USC. After graduating, he changed his name and went on to win the award for his performance in True Grit. This was none other than screen legend John Wayne.

In baseball, USC has won twelve national championships (no other school has more than five), and produced more than ninety major-leaguers, including home-run specialist Mark McGwire and strikeout ace Randy Johnson.

The women’s basketball team has produced many stars including Cheryl Miller, Cynthia Cooper, Tina Thompson, and Lisa Leslie, the first woman to slam-dunk in a professional basketball game.

These championship teams are supported by perhaps the most recognized collegiate band in the country. The Trojan Marching Band has performed nationally and is the only collegiate marching band to have corecorded a platinum album: Tusk with Fleetwood Mac.

My dream of playing varsity volleyball faded when I developed a chronic knee injury in high school. Unwilling to completely abandon the idea of playing competitive volleyball at the collegiate level, I teamed up with seven other freshmen to form the USC men’s club volleyball team. That year, we scheduled only a few games and had a mediocre record, but we made progress with every season. By my senior year, we had over twenty games scheduled, were sponsored by Nike, traveled Cross-country to nationals, and were ranked in the Top 25 by the governing body of club volleyball.

These achievements help explain why the cardinal-and-gold-colored blood runs thick in the veins of proud students and alumni who fill up stadiums and gymnasiums to cheer their Trojan athletes. On Saturday afternoons in the fall, five generations of Trojans can be found tailgaiting on campus before a football game.

For those wishing to compete on the field, varsity athletics is not always an achievable goal. Two alternatives, intramural and club intercollegiate sports, provide opportunities to play competitive sports. Club sports offer great opportunities to play intercollegiate sports without the demand of varsity schedules. USC has forty-eight official club teams including crew, rugby, softball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, equestrian, and polo. But if your favorite sport is not available, form a new team just like we did!

Local Community

Los Angeles Life

USC’s backdrop is Los Angeles, perhaps the world’s most diversified and exciting city. The opportunities for fun are endless—the Hollywood nightlife, Santa Monica and Venice beaches, Big Bear and Snow Summit ski slopes, museums, concerts, professional sport teams, and shopping just to name a few. So pick up a map or a travel guide and start exploring!


Many extraordinarily bright people have attended USC. The school has had more than its fair share of successful entrepreneurs, award-winning artists and performers, politicians, and athletes. Simply providing a long list of USC’s all-time stars would be interesting, but probably would not tell much about how the average graduate fares. USC students pursuing postgraduate education have high acceptance rates into medical, law, and other graduate programs. Those entering directly into the business world are highly sought out by both local and global businesses. USC’s career advisement centers orchestrate career and job fairs for the more than 600 companies that recruit on campus. In fact, many Trojan students receive job offers before they graduate from USC. By the end of the fall semester my senior year, I had more formal job offers than I could count on one hand.

In fact, USC graduates are often better candidates than their counterparts at other top schools because of their internship experience. A benefit of attending school in a large urban setting is that many internship opportunities are available with local companies. These internships are either paid or taken for class credit and often lead to full-time job offers. Regardless of the paths USC graduates choose to take, the Trojan Family is always there to support them. From mentorship and coaching to interviews and job offers, the Trojan Family is an extraordinarily strong network that is genuinely supportive.

Prominent Grads

  • Herb Alpert, Musician, Cofounder of A&M Records
  • Neil Armstrong, Astronaut (First Man on the Moon)
  • Art Buchwald, Pulitzer Prizewinning Columnist, Author
  • LeVar Burton, Actor
  • Sam Donaldson, Television News Anchor
  • Frank Gehry, Architect
  • Pat Haden, NFL Quarterback, Rhodes Scholar, TV commentator
  • Ron Howard, Film Director
  • Robinson Jeffers, Poet
  • Swoozie Kurtz, Actress
  • Marilyn Horne, Opera Singer
  • George Lucas, Filmmaker
  • Mark McGwire, Baseball Legend
  • John Ritter, Actor
  • Norman Schwarzkopf, General (Persian Gulf)
  • Michael Tilson Thomas, Worldclass Conductor, Music Director of San Francisco Symphony
  • John Wayne, Actor
  • David L. Wolper, Film, Television Producer

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