International Admission at USC: Off to Europe with Nathan Mack!

My name is Nathan Mack and my role at USC is to serve as one of our International Admission Officers. The big picture of what I do is ensure that the university recruits (and enrolls) amazing, bright, and best fit students from one of the world’s most dynamic regions: the United Kingdom and Europe (including Turkey). I have always been interested in international education – through studying multiple languages as a high school student, majoring in Linguistics as an undergraduate, and traveling abroad as often as I can. It’s nice to come full circle and help students pursue their international dreams – I see a little of my high school self in students I work with.

As I think about the benefits of being an undergraduate student at USC, the conversation definitely includes discussion of the global connections that students develop during their time on campus. Everything from internationally-focused coursework to our vibrant and diverse international student community – USC is really quite a global institution!

So what does an International Admission Officer actually do? A sizable chunk of my job involves traveling to the UK and Europe to recruit future Trojans. On any given day, I might be in London, or Paris, or Geneva, or Madrid…or anywhere else future Trojans can be found. And when I’m back in Los Angeles, I evaluate applications from my territory and execute many of the other responsibilities that an admission officer has.

I’m about to head out on my fall recruitment trip, which includes 9 countries and 13 cities, and I thought I might share a typical day for me while recruiting in England. Most days, I wake up at 6:30am, gather my USC brochures, grab a coffee at a Caffè Nero and then head out on the Tube. Depending on the day, I might find myself in Waterloo station to catch a train out to Surrey, or perhaps I stay closer to stop by a school in central London. I typically go to three or four schools in a day with loads of train time in between (and sometimes busses, Ubers, taxis or a crazy combination of them all). I always say that in a week, I’ve probably seen ¾ of London out of a window! If I’ve planned my day appropriately, I’ll have time to sit down for lunch somewhere but I often grab a sandwich at Pret a Manger as I’m typically on my way to my next visit. I wrap up my last appointment around 8pm and then head back to my hotel. I speak to between 10-15 students at each appointment, meaning a normal day is conversations with close to 60 potential USC applicants. It’s really exciting!

When I’m at a visit, I usually conduct a 20-25 minute presentation about USC and then leave about the same amount of time for questions. And as I think about it, I almost always get the same two questions. Maybe you’ve wondered about the same things!

  1. What do I do if my grades aren’t on an American 4.0 scale, such as A-Levels, International or French Baccalaureate, the German Abitur, etc?
  2. How can I stand out in the application process?

For the first question, I want students to know that it is my responsibility to understand the various educational systems represented in European countries and to advocate for students. Your application will be evaluated fully, fairly, and within the context of your curriculum and educational environment. Nobody from any country should ever worry about converting their grades to a 4.0 scale or if they will be evaluated any differently from US students – I am here to advocate for you in our admission process. We want the best and brightest from a diverse set of backgrounds – I know and understand what success means in your context and I can bring that expertise to the table during application review. Simply have your marks, or grades, or predictions, or whatever else you may have, sent to us and it is our responsibility to make sense of it – not yours.

The second question – how do I stand out in the admission process?  Remember that as a selective US university, we evaluate applications holistically and we care (a lot!) about more than just your academic interests. In my experience, admission to most European universities focuses exclusively on your curricular interests and goals. My recommendation to students that want to stand out: do not apply that same logic to your application to USC. While we care about your grades, your intended major, and your ACT/SAT scores, we also focus our review on your essays, your involvement, your letter of recommendation. We want you to tell us why you are a good fit for USC. What about the USC experience, our curriculum, our environment is right for you? Why will you thrive here? We are building community as we work to admit our next class of students and we care about your values and beliefs and the impact you make in your community. Tell us about that in your application!

The other great news for any students in the UK and Europe is that we just opened a new office in the heart of London! We have staff there that are able to answer your questions in your time zone and connect you to the Trojan family. They also host monthly Introduction to USC events for prospective students and have lots of social media platforms that you can follow (see links below!). I hope that you can see that all students, no matter where you are from, are encouraged to consider USC and that we are here to help you. I hope to see you in Europe or on campus very soon and please reach out should you ever need anything. Fight On!


Nathan Mack

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