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!

345 thoughts on “How to Transfer to USC”

  1. Hi,

    In the fall at my first year at community college, I will be enrolled in 18 units, however, two of the courses I will be taking does not transfer to USC (I need those two courses to get into a pre calc class in spring), so only 12 units are transferable to USC. I know I need to take 15-16 units per semester to be viewed as competitive, but would my case still be viewed as competitive since it’s still above 15 units? Or do you recommend taking different courses instead of those two to meet the 15 transferable units?

    1. Hi, Rida! Please reach out to your admission counselor to fully explain your situation (what major you’re applying to, what classes you’re taking, etc.) and get specific advice.

  2. Hi!

    I have a question about the transfer appeals. Do you know when does the final decision of the appeals come out or is it different for everyone?

    1. Hi, Jensen! We do not have a specific deadline as appeals come in at different times and as do spring grades.

  3. Hi! I was an athlete on a scholarship at usc and left at the of my sophomore year. I have been at another college and would like to come back to USC to finish and graduate. Would that be possible?

  4. Hi,

    I was wondering if you get denied as a sophomore, is it possible to reapply as a junior? Are the chances less or is it pretty much the same? If I can become a more competitive applicant next year, will I have a better shot of getting admitted? Also is the social transition both for juniors and sophomores the same?

    1. Hi, Jensen! It is possible to reapply and be admitted, but your application should be strengthened where possible. It is also important to review the transfer requirements and recommendations to ensure you are checking all of the necessary boxes. Students enter USC at many different points in the education cycle, and we have systems in place to help with that transition (no matter when you start).

  5. Hi,

    I was wondering if you can change your first and second choice major once you get to campus and still graduate on time or do you have to stick to your first choice major? What is the flexibility of changing majors during different times for transfer students?


    1. Hi, Jason! In most cases, that is not an issue. We are generally very flexible about changing majors.

        1. Yes, though the later you change your major, the more likely it becomes that you will graduate late.

  6. Hello there,

    I am currently a freshman in college, and am completing a math course worth 5 units during the summer. Does this mean I can divide the remaining 25 units I need to transfer between my fall and spring semesters? Will I still be viewed as competitive as an individual taking 15-16 units a semester?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Christopher, We recommend being enrolled in 15-16 units in the fall as well as the spring in order to be as competitive as possible.

  7. Hello!

    I know that the fall and spring grades are extremely important for admissions process, but what about summer session grades? I’m planning on applying to USC next February for business major, however, I did not do well in this recent summer session at my cc ( I had a W and a C). If I do better and improve during the upcoming fall and spring semesters, would I still have a chance of being viewed as a competitive applicant? Or are the summer session grades critiqued hard as well?

    1. Hi, Husna! We consider all grades in our process, but please feel free to offer any context for why your summer grades look different from your fall/spring grades.

      1. Hi! For the math requirement 114 can I take psych 10(Statistics) in place of that? And can that apply to quantitative reasoning as well?

  8. Hi USC,

    I have read that to satisfy the lower-division Writing requirement, the work is required to be completed with a letter grade by the time the student submits their transfer application. I have also read that the work can be completed by the conclusion of the Spring in which the student applies, but this would be post the application deadline. Can you please clarify which it is? If it maters, my request is specific to a transfer to Viterbi.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi, Luke! You can complete that course in the spring semester. If that course is in progress in the spring and we wish to admit you, we will either admit you on condition of doing well in that course or send a request for spring grades so we confirm you did well before making a final decision.

  9. Hi USC,

    I am currently a freshman of Film&TV major in college. I am taking 16 credits for two semester. If I want to transfer to USC Cinematic Arts for sophomore year, is 48 credits a requirement for transfer? If I don’t have AP credits to fulfill the rest, am I not eligible to transfer?


    1. Hi, Xiuyuan! The 48 is more of a guideline. Because film transfer students must take a large number of film courses at USC, we would like as much of your GE and elective coursework to be complete before you start at USC.

  10. Hi,

    I was wondering if the USC Summer Program affects my decision as I received a letter grade there but didn’t transfer the college credit to the institution I am at currently. In addition, does significant improvement in grades affect the outcome of my admission?


    1. Hi, Sophia! Students can only apply for the fall term, but we admit some students to the following spring term based on space.

  11. Hi, when it says the average GPA of transfer students is 3.7, is that the GPA from their freshman year at whichever college they were at or?

    1. Hi, Jay! That is their cumulative GPA from all college courses they have taken since graduating from high school.

  12. Hi!
    I currently attend Cal State Northridge. Would I be able to transfer over from this CSU ? And how soon could I apply ?

    1. Hi, Jocelyn! Yes, you can apply to transfer from a CSU. Our deadline is February 1st for admission to the fall 2021 semester.

  13. Hello,
    I’m a first year student at a community college. Im taking 15 credits a semester that are USC transferable. I want to apply to attend USC for my sophomore year. Can I apply as an undergraduate since I’m not sure what major I want to study. Also would I just apply as a transfer applicant even though I didn’t finish all 30 credits, but do plan on finishing by spring semester of my freshman year

    1. Hi, Fatuma! You can always change your major at USC, but we do require students to apply to a first choice (your second choice can be undecided). Yes, because you are currently enrolled as a full time college student, you would apply as a transfer student.

  14. Hello.

    I am planning on applying to USC in February as a sophomore transfer, however, I did not complete the ACT in high school and the closest I can take it is in February. Do you recommend that I still apply even though I won’t be able to send my ACT score on time when transfer application deadline comes? Also, do you accept transfers with a GPA that is a little less than a 3.7?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi, Khurram! If you are enrolled full time this year, we do not need an ACT. The 3.7 is an average but not a cut off. We look at the entire application to determine whether a student is a good fit for USC!

  15. Hi, I am applying to USC for the Fall of 2021. I am a business major. For the requirements I need to take calculus and critical thinking. I am not the best at math, so what grade should I aim for is a C okay?

    1. Hi, Angelica! Our business program is very quantitative, so proficiency in math is crucial. It is rare for us to admit students to the business program who have not earned an A or B in calculus.

    1. We have many students successfully transfer from UCs and CSUs, but CCs are more flexible and better allow students to follow our course guidelines as they do not need to meet any other 4 year plans.

  16. Hi!

    I have a few concerns that I would like to clear up.

    1. I’m currently a freshman at another institution. After this semester, I should have 21 transferable credits and I will be taking 15 in the Spring. Will I still need to send my high school transcript and SAT scores?

    2. In high school, I took a few Dual Enrollment courses. I earned a B in one of them. Will the the B affect the GPA that USC calculates during the admissions process to determine how competitive I am?

    Thank you in advance!!

    1. Hi, Marty!
      1. All transfer applicants need to send their high school transcripts. You do not need to send your scores as you have been enrolled full time and will have more than 30 units by the end of the academic year.
      2. We will not consider DE courses in your college GPA.

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