The USC Graduate School
spacer Graduate School Policies and Requirements


Admission to degree or certificate programs in the Graduate School is granted through the USC Office of Graduate Admission, which receives and processes all applications, evaluates credentials and issues notification letters. The Graduate School establishes and monitors the standards under which students are admitted for study in degree programs under its jurisdiction. Admission to the university, under the standards of the Graduate School, is determined by the Office of Graduate Admission on the recommendation of the appropriate academic department. The following are the basic requirements: (1) a Bachelor of Arts degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university, comparable in standard to that awarded at USC; (2) satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE); (3) intellectual promise that indicates an ability to do acceptable graduate work; (4) strong personal qualifications, including good moral character. Credentials for admission must include a complete record of all previous college or university work.

It must be stressed that while every student must be qualified for admission to the Graduate School, the fact of qualification does not guarantee admission. Consequently, the higher an applicant’s qualifications, the better the prospects of securing a place are likely to be.

Admission documents are reviewed by the applicant’s prospective department. Applicants are advised that individual departments may establish additional admission standards, such as requiring the appropriate GRE Subject Test and letters of recommendation from professors in their major field to the chair of the appropriate department at USC. The applicant should contact the department in which graduate work is to be done for information on supplementary documents required. See the departmental sections of this catalogue.

The Graduate Record Examinations

As a supplement to other evidence of an applicant’s preparation for successful graduate study, the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is an integral part of the admission procedure. Individual departments may also require the appropriate Subject Test.

The GRE testing program changed significantly in 1997 and this change affected the graduate admissions requirements for the Graduate School. Our current requirement is that all applicants submit scores from the GRE General and/or Subject Test (as appropriate). Applicants should take the package of General Interest measures containing the Mathematical Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning Test as appropriate for their intended program.

Test scores on the GRE that are more than five years old at the time of application are not accepted. Students are advised to repeat the GRE if they have not taken the test within five years.

Students who are not residents of the Los Angeles area should inquire at their own institutions concerning times and places the examinations are given. Residents of the Los Angeles area may apply for the examinations at the USC Testing Bureau.

Deadlines and Notification

The completed application for admission and all required supporting data should be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admission early in the semester preceding that in which the student intends to register. In the case of a student enrolled in the last semester of the baccalaureate program, all credentials, including evidence of work in progress, should be submitted.

Some departments only admit graduate students to begin study in the fall semester and require completed applications as early as January 15. Departmental deadlines are listed in the Application for Graduate Admission booklet. Those who wish to submit applications after the deadline should check with the intended major department first to insure that applications will be accepted. Applications received subsequent to closing dates will be considered for the next available semester.

Notification of an admission decision depends upon the method of application review used in each department. Some departments send an informal notice of departmental recommendation for admission; official notice of admission, however, is sent only by the USC Office of Graduate Admission.

Correspondence with department chairpersons or individual faculty members does not constitute admission. Only a letter from the Office of Graduate Admission grants official admission to a degree objective in the university.

Acceptance with a Degree Objective

Students will be admitted to the Graduate School with a specified degree objective. Admission to a degree objective and permission to enroll in the Graduate School does not imply that the student is or will be automatically guaranteed the right to continue in a degree program or to be a candidate for an advanced degree.

Candidacy for an Advanced Degree

Admission to graduate study does not imply admission to candidacy for an advanced degree and gives no right or claim to be so admitted. Candidacy is determined after the student has demonstrated by work done at this university the ability to do graduate work with originality and independence.

Classification of Admission Status

Students who have met all the basic admission requirements and filed all relevant documents with the Office of Graduate Admission are generally admitted to full graduate standing. Occasionally, applicants for admission may lack one of the qualifications listed above or may have difficulty producing appropriate documentation; such students may be conditionally admitted.

Conditional Admission

Conditional admission is a status for those students who have not yet met all requirements for admission to full graduate status or who have not filed all relevant documents with the office handling graduate admissions. See conditionally admitted student.

Limited Student Status

Some students may wish to enroll in graduate-level courses for personal satisfaction or professional enhancement without at the same time wishing to seek a graduate degree. Other students may wish to enroll while the formal application for graduate admission is being completed. Such students may obtain a special form from the Office of Academic Records and Registrar at the time of registration which will permit them to register in the classification Limited. See policies governing limited status enrollment.

Doctoral Admission with Advanced Standing

Some doctoral programs at USC admit students with Advanced Standing (entry with an appropriate completed graduate degree from an accredited institution). See policies governing advanced standing.