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, during the summer, so that any prospective transfer student can develop a course plan and prepare themselves to apply to USC for the fall.
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):
- Math and lower-division Writing requirements
- Courses required or recommended for your major
- General Education and foreign language coursework
- 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, this is not 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 (though we will of course be flexible with students whose Spring/Summer 2020 transcripts include P/NP work due to the pandemic).
4. Additional Requirements for International Applicants
At USC, an international student is an individual of foreign nationality who will be entering, or has already entered, the United States with a student visa.
International and domestic applicants will complete the same application, but international applicants will need to submit some additional materials. The first is a financial statement and documentation of funds which will be necessary in order to issue an I-20. The second is a test score demonstrating English language proficiency (if your first language is not English). We require this score regardless of the English courses completed at your current college or university and regardless of how long you have studied in the U.S. You can read more about these requirements on our website.
I hope this guide has been helpful. For further guidance, you can register for one of our Transfer Information Sessions. Visit our website to sign up. You should also check out this Transfer FAQ and reach out to your admission counselor – we’re happy to discuss your situation and help you develop a plan to transfer to USC.
For updates regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on our community and the application process, please check the USC COVID-19 Resource Center and Admission COVID-19 page for the most up to date information. Good luck!