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August 17, 2017

How to Transfer to USC

Transfer students are important to USC, and the Office of Admission is here to help you navigate the application process. This guide will provide a breakdown of how to present a strong transfer application to USC. We’re sharing this information with you now, at the onset of the academic year, so that any prospective transfer student can develop a course plan and prepare themselves to apply to USC for the fall of 2018.

But, first, it’s important to acknowledge that transferring to USC is very different from the first-year application process. While our evaluation of first-year applications centers on gauging the extent to which high school students will be successful in college, strong transfer applicants have already demonstrated this ability. Therefore, the evaluation of a student’s transfer application is based primarily on their academic performance. However, the non-academic components of a transfer application – especially the supplemental auditions or portfolios required by some majors – can also play a significant role, so make sure not to overlook those!

To present a strong transfer application to USC, you should focus on these three areas.

1. Maintaining full-time enrollment

Unlike some other institutions, USC accepts transfer applications from students in their first year of college. Many students transfer to USC as sophomores after demonstrating strong academic preparation during their freshman year. A significant aspect of demonstrating preparation for USC, where nearly all students are restricted from part-time enrollment, is showing that you can handle full-time college coursework over a full academic year.

For students attending semester calendar schools, this means the completion of around 30 transferable semester units between the fall and spring terms. For students at quarter schools, full-time status requires completion of roughly 45 transferable quarter units across the three terms that make up the academic year: fall, winter, and spring. A rule of thumb is that, in most cases, you should be completing four courses per term (excluding summer).

There are exceptions, though. We understand that some students are unable to maintain consistent full-time enrollment due to obligations at work or home. These students should explain their part-time status (along with any other necessary context, such as gaps in enrollment) somewhere within their application. As with any question related to your application, if you aren’t sure about your enrollment status, you should reach out to your admission counselor for clarification.

2. Taking the right courses

There are a few resources that you should utilize in selecting your courses.

Articulation agreement: a document that lists the courses that are transferable to USC from California’s community colleges and specifies certain requirements those courses can fulfill.

Articulation history: an unofficial breakdown of courses that have previously transferred from four-year institutions and out-of-state community colleges to USC; there is no guarantee the courses listed as transferable will continue to be in the future, and if an institution hasn’t had many students transfer to USC, its articulation history likely won’t be very comprehensive; however, this document can still be a very useful resource.

Transferring to USC brochure: a detailed overview of the process of transferring to USC, particularly useful for its list of recommended and required courses by major on pages 12-15 and its explanation of USC’s transfer credit policies on page 16.

Transfer Planning Guide: a tool that provides students attending California community colleges or a select few four-year institutions with a transfer course plan.

Here’s what your course priorities should be (in order of importance):

  1. Math and lower-division Writing requirements
  2. Courses required or recommended for your major
  3. General Education and foreign language coursework
  4. Transferable courses that would earn elective credit

Math and lower-division Writing requirements

All students interested in transferring to USC should ensure they are, first and foremost, meeting our minimum admission requirements. We have two: lower-division Writing and Intermediate Algebra, both of which must be completed with a grade of C or higher. You must satisfy both of these requirements by the conclusion of the spring in which you apply in order to receive transfer consideration.

You should refer to your institution’s articulation agreement or history to see which English or Writing course can satisfy our requirement (see below). It’s possible you will have multiple options to choose from; you only need to complete one of the listed courses. If you attend a four-year institution or out-of-state community college that does not offer a course equivalent to USC’s lower-division Writing course, this requirement will be waived for admission purposes.

Our math requirement can be satisfied through completion of Intermediate Algebra in college (or any higher level college math course, such as Pre-calculus). However, students can also meet this requirement through their high school math courses. If you earned a C or better in each term of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, then you are not required to take additional math before transferring, unless it is specifically required for your major.

Courses for your major

After ensuring you’ve met our minimum admission requirements, your next priority should be completing courses recommended or required for your major. The Transferring to USC brochure lists these courses.

You should use this information in conjunction with your institution’s articulation agreement or history. For example, while most transfer applicants do not have an additional math requirement, the Marshall School of Business states in the brochure that transfer applicants are required to complete either Math 118 or Math 125 (Business Calculus and Calculus I, respectively). By referencing the course-to-course equivalencies section of their articulation agreement or history (see below), a Business Administration applicant may find there are courses at their institution that are granted equivalency to USC’s calculus courses.

This cross-referencing should be done for all courses recommended or required for your major. If your institution does not offer an equivalent course, you should take the course that most closely aligns with the recommendation or requirement described in the brochure.

General Education courses, foreign language, and electives

After ensuring you have met our minimum admission requirements and completed the right courses for your intended major, you should prioritize the completion of additional courses that would provide progress toward your eventual graduation at USC. For most students, this means first taking courses that can be applied to USC’s General Education requirements. We want our students to graduate on time, and transfer applicants can stay on track by mirroring the academic experience of a USC student as closely as possible before transferring. Taking GE-applicable courses is a great way to accomplish that!

If you attend a California community college, your articulation agreement will provide a clear list of the various courses available at your school that can be applied to a GE category at USC (just make sure you’re looking at the right GE requirements, as students who began college prior to fall 2015 have a link at the top of the document to view their GE courses).

If you don’t attend a college with an articulation agreement or comprehensive articulation history, it’s a bit trickier for you to determine which courses to take for GE credit. The Transferring to USC brochure lists examples of acceptable courses by name for USC’s GE categories (see below); so, if you’re able to complete a course that mirrors one listed as acceptable in the brochure, there’s a good chance you would receive GE credit, if admitted to USC. Generally, though, applicants from four-year institutions are encouraged to follow the guidance of their academic advisor at their current institution, while simultaneously doing their best to make progress on USC’s GEs.

Foreign language courses can also provide degree progress and help a transfer applicant stay on track to graduate on time. If you’ve completed all the available courses at your institution to meet our requirements and the recommended courses for your major, you should make sure your remaining courses are transferable for elective credit – check your articulation document and the Transferring to USC brochure for further detail on our transfer credit policies.

3. Earning strong grades

Our average admitted transfer student’s cumulative GPA is a 3.7, which means that, to present a competitive application, you should be earning mostly A’s (and avoiding any grades lower than a B). However, we do not have a minimum GPA requirement, and every year many transfer students with a positive grade trend are admitted to USC who fall under that 3.7 average. Finally, make sure to avoid course withdrawals resulting in W’s and pass/no pass grades; you should always take a course for a letter grade if that is an option.

I hope this guide has been helpful. For further guidance, you should check out this Transfer FAQ and reach out to your admission counselor – we’re happy to discuss your situation in depth and help you develop a plan to transfer to USC. Good luck!


  1. Jaycie says:

    I am currently a student at the University of Portland and I would like to apply to USC for fall 2018, however, if I were to be accepted, would I be placed as a freshman again or will my credits be transferred over as my school is not in the Articulation Agreement?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Jaycie. Competitive applicants attempting to transfer after their freshman year will generally have completed enough transferable coursework to earn (or be close to) sophomore class standing at USC. For more information, I’d encourage you to reach out to your admission counselor.

  2. Katelyn Carpio says:


    I have a few questions, I am currently a community college student.
    I have a 3.8 GPA, extra-curricular activities pertaining to my major (volunteer work, clubs etc), 30 units done, I have also taken 6/8 GE courses including one for my major (psych 100), but I read above usc likes to see that you’re also doing courses for your major. For psychology, it says to also to take stats but I have not will that bring my application down… if I have not taken stats?

    Also, for Math do you need a year or just a semester? As for English do you need a year or a semester?

    Laslty, If my college offers winter classes how do I input it into the common app, if there is only a tab for first semester & second semester?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Katelyn. Statistics is not required for your major, but it is highly recommended. Generally, students are able to meet our math and writing requirements via a single semester-long course, however, you should reach out to your admission counselor for guidance on your specific situation.

  3. Kenneth Cruey says:

    Hi, I am currently attending UNLV, would it be possible to transfer into the spring, second semester if I obtained high enough grades in the Fall?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Kenneth! We do not accept transfer applications directly to the spring semester, however, we will sometimes admit students to the spring semester if we can’t find space for them in the fall. The next term to which transfer students are eligible to apply is the fall of 2018.

  4. Aaron says:

    Hi, My name is Aaron, and I attend Fresno City College. I expect to complete 33 units by the end of my first year at community college. I noticed that counselors preferably want students applying for the Marshall School of Business to complete the school’s required prerequisites in the fall. If we plan to take them in the spring will that affect our chances?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Aaron! If you’re on track to complete required courses during the spring, it won’t impact your overall chances of receiving an offer of admission. But, it means you might have to wait a little while longer for your final decision, as we will need to see your official transcript from the spring to confirm you have met our requirements.

  5. Celine says:

    Hi, I am a freshman student from Pasadena City College. I heard that if I don’t have 60 units completed by the deadline for transferring, I would need to report my high school GPA, transcript and SAT scores. I have 14 units from AP tests which my scores are above 4. And this semester I took another 14 units from my school (which I think should also be transferable according to the transfer guide). I tried emailing the counselor for my school but haven’t gotten any response. Thank you in advance for the help!

    • Hillary Higgins says:

      Hi Celine, We review high school coursework when a student has completed below 30 units of college level coursework. Please refer to our Transferring to USC Brochure for a detailed explanation of our transfer process.

  6. Gabby Magana says:

    I am on my second year at Pasadena City College. I have maintained a 4.0 GPA for 30 units during my time at PCC. However, prior to PCC I attended Fullerton College. I was put on Scholastic Dismissal from Fullerton due too many withdrawals and I earned no credits from my time at Fullerton. This was due to health reasons and always having to do treatments. But after I got well, it was too late and I had been dismissed. I have gotten nothing but A’s at Pasadena, but I’m afraid that my large amount of withdrawals from Fullerton will hurt my chances of USC. My GPA is still a 3.9 (Beause of an F from a 1 unite class at Fullerton), But will USC even consider me even though I have very high grades now?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Gabby. All students’ applications are considered thoughtfully and in context. I’d encourage you to discuss your situation within your application so that we can understand the reason for your withdrawals, and you may also want to reach out to your admission counselor.

  7. Haley says:

    I’m currently at my third year of a CC. I took 24 units last semesters and got a 4.0 but before that my GPA was very low. My question is how does USC consider recent grades as opposed to grades earned 2 years ago? Also, how poorly does withdrawals look on an application? I had to withdraw from classes because I needed surgery twice. Thank you!

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Haley. We’re primarily focused on transfer applicants’ most recent coursework, however, all of your college grades will be considered as part of your application. You should discuss your personal situation within your application — this context is necessary in order for us to understand your withdrawals.

  8. Jason says:


    Can I send my high school and college transcripts after the February first deadline? If so, when is the deadline?

    Also, how do I indicate that I am a sophomore transfer instead of a junior transfer on the common application?

    Thank you.

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Jason. It’s okay if we receive your official college and high school transcripts shortly after the Feb. 1 deadline, but you should make sure to get those to us as soon as possible. Our office will evaluate your class standing based on the number of transferable units you have completed.

  9. Brittany says:

    Hi, I received a score of 3 on my AP English Language & Composition exam in high school and took one course in English (English 2) at my CC. Would this satisfy USC’s language requirements?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Brittany. AP exam scores can’t earn equivalency for USC’s lower-division writing requirement. If your community college offers a course that is approved to meet that requirement, you should definitely take that course. If you aren’t sure whether your college has an approved course available, I’d encourage you to reach out to your admission counselor for clarification.

      Additionally, here’s some information on how AP credits at USC work: https://arr.usc.edu/services/articulation/adv_placement_exam_credit.html

  10. Kim Julian Atienza says:


    I heard that the Marshall School of Business is very competitive. I have 3.7 and had two Ws because I was working full-time and going to school. I have professional work experience, extracurricular, and volunteer activities. What are my chances and what is the average/minimum GPA for Marshall? I’m really nervous. Also, How do I send recommendation letters to USC?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Kim! We don’t have a minimum GPA requirement. The average GPA is roughly 3.7 for students admitted to Marshall. You can have letters of recommendation mailed to this address:

      USC Office of Admission
      University Park Campus
      Los Angeles, CA 90089-0911

  11. Jason says:

    I received a 5 for my AP Calculus AB test during high school and I was able to take Calculus 2 (USC’s equivalent Math 126) at my community college. I was wondering if the USC AP credit guidelines apply to transfer students? If so, would I be able to continue where I left off if I do transfer or would the AP credit not count?

    Also, am I required to submit AP scores to USC before the admission notification?


  12. Meg Von says:

    I just sent in my application for USC as a sophomore transfer! I took 19 credits first semester and am currently taking 21 credits for spring semester. The USC guide states that if you have less than 30 credits, you need to send in your high school grades and test scores. My high school stats were poor so I made it a point to take a lot of classes in college. Since I will have 40 credits by the end of the semester, do I still need to send my high school stats?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Meg! Since you’ve maintained full-time enrollment status, we won’t be evaluating your high school academic performance or your SAT/ACT scores as part of your transfer application. However, you’re still required to submit a final high school transcript, so we can validate that you have graduated from high school.

  13. Sokunthary says:

    Hi, I am a freshman at CSU-Fresno and I would like to transfer in the fall of 2019, but I would like to know if certain colleges at USC require their own application basing on our major.

    Thank you

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Sokunthary. When applying to USC through the Common App, you will designate your intended major. You are not required to separately apply to a specific school at USC. However, certain programs do require a supplemental portfolio application through SlideRoom. For detail on applying to your intended major, I’d encourage you to check out their website.

  14. Ivy says:


    I am currently taking classes at a community college and i am looking to apply in the Fall for an undergraduate program. The only problem is that because of work and home responsibilities i will have to keep working and schooling at the same time. Will USC let me be a part-time student? I usually take about 11 units per semester. Thank you.

    • Hillary Higgins says:

      Hi Ivy, USC does not have a part-time program for undergraduate students. Very few students are enrolled part-time and it’s usually in unique circumstances.

  15. Jeniece says:

    My name is Jeniece and I will be attending my local Community College this fall and plan to take 15 credits my first semester and 15 credits my second. Originally I was planning to apply as a sophomore transfer to USC, however, my high school stats are really bad. Really bad! I wanted to know if I would have a chance applying with just my first semester of college grades or should I just wait until I have enough credits so high school doesn’t matter.

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Jeniece. It sounds like you plan to maintain full-time enrollment status. If you do so, we won’t be evaluating your high school grades.

  16. Katie says:

    I am a freshman at UNLV and I am an English major. I had taken Eng 205, and I did not know that it was on a pass/fail basis. I have completed 30 credits including that one S/F course. Is this the end of it all? What can I do to show I gave great effort in the class?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi Katie. I would encourage you to reach out to your admission counselor. You can find their contact information at admission.usc.edu/findyourcounselor.html.

  17. Nick says:

    Hello, I’m currently enrolled in a community college in New Jersey, I never took the SAT or the ACT but I will have 53 credits by the end of the fall 2018 semester and I plan to apply after the fall 2018 semester. Will I still be considered even though I never took the SAT or ACT? Also, will I be able to transfer as a computer science(games) major even though Im majoring in just computer science at my community college? Thanks!

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Nick. Full-time college students aren’t required to submit an ACT/SAT score as part of their transfer application. We don’t consider your current major when evaluating your application, either. As long as you’re taking the right courses, it doesn’t matter what your current major is!

  18. Ysan Taing says:

    Hello! I am currently a student at Cypress Community College. By the end of next year, I’ll be receiving my associates degree in business, which I plan to use to gain more experience pertaining to my major. I have a 3.0 gpa ( full time student and full time worker), and am involved in a volunteer organization called Circle K.

    Once I’ve completed my associates degree, would that raise my chance of transferring to USC? I would have 60+ units done by then.

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Zoey. Your associate’s degree will not have a significant impact on the evaluation of your transfer application. The most important thing is for you to follow the guidelines described within the article above.

  19. Hannah says:

    I am a freshman enrolled at my local community college, and I am a Communications major. I am a full time student, and I am in the Honors Program. I have to do three years at my community college. Will this prevent me from being admitted to USC?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Hannah. This will not prevent you from receiving an offer of admission. But, you should be aware, USC will only accept a maximum of 64 transferable units.

  20. Hannah says:

    I am a first year at my community college, and I was curious as to if the admissions office looks at Pre college level math classes when accepting students.

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Hannah. Yes, we consider all courses as part of your application, though remedial math courses aren’t transferable to USC.

  21. Carly says:

    I am going into my second year at the University of St Andrews and am hoping to apply to USC for either spring 2019 or fall 2019. Does USC accept transfers into the third year or would I hypothetically need to repeat a year and enter as a sophomore?

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Carly. USC accepts a maximum of 64 transferable units. Students who are transferring 64 units to USC will enter with junior class standing.

  22. Tyson says:

    Hello , I am going into my second year of community college and my first semester I had a strange situation with my school and they failed all of my classes . My second semester I got a 3.0 in my classes . I plan on taking 35 credits my sophomore year . I just want to know if my horrible first semester will ruin my chances of getting in to USC

    • Ryan Bouziane says:

      Hi, Tyson. We take the context of a student’s personal situation into consideration when evaluating applications, and we don’t have a GPA minimum, so this definitely won’t “ruin” your chances. However, it’s important that we have the context to understand your situation, so please make sure to include that information as part of your application.

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