Transfer Lingo 

A couple of your most important goals in transferring are staying on track for graduation while meeting major requirements. But transferring between two higher education institutions is sometimes, for lack of a prettier analogy, like trying to fit two plumbing systems together. As you try to navigate the process, you find the classes and curricula at your current school and the one you want to transfer to don’t always line up and suddenly there is a new vernacular, similar to a set of weird assembly instructions without pictures, that you must grasp to make sure you aren’t flushing away hard-earned credits when you change schools. To help you gain more confidence and a clearer understanding of what we mean when we talk about the USC transfer process, we’ve put together an explanation of our lexicon.  

Academic terminology: 

Articulation Agreement is a list of courses that transfer to USC from another institution, indicating if they transfer as electives or are equivalent to a USC course, as well as if they fulfill general education, global perspective, foreign language, or writing requirements. We have comprehensive agreements with most California community colleges. Knowing which courses will transfer to meet major and graduation requirements at USC is important because applicants are more likely to be accepted when they can show they will graduate in a timely manner and not have to redo any coursework. We don’t want students to have to take more than 4 years to obtain their degrees regardless of where they first began their program.  

Articulation History is a partial list of courses that are likely to transfer to USC from another institution, but are not guaranteed to. Our articulation office is unable to completely review every curriculum at every institution of higher education so for many four-year colleges and two-year colleges (especially those out of state), there is only an articulation history rather than an agreement. The articulation history is based on the review of classes taken by students who have transferred to USC in the past. It is not a comprehensive list, and courses that do not appear on it may still transfer to USC after the student matriculates to USC and their transcripts/syllabi are evaluated by our articulation office.  

Articulation Petition is a request to change the evaluation of a transfer course, but this can only be requested by a current USC student very soon after matriculation and before the first semester is completed. Supporting documentation (such as the course syllabus, graded papers and assignments, and lab reports) often speeds up and increases the success of the petition process. 

Core Literacies make up the bulk of our general education program. This portion of our GE program is composed of six general education categories and students need to take 8 classes in these areas. The categories are: arts, humanistic inquiry, social analysis, life sciences, physical sciences, and quantitative reasoning. Providing students skills and knowledge in the areas of the core literacy requirements will help ensure professional success and personal development as well as establish a foundation for lifelong learning. 

Course Comparable means that the classes cover some of the same topics but are not identical, despite possibly even sharing the same course name. Equivalency will not be granted in these cases, but the course could meet a pre-requisite for another course or satisfy a requirement. 

Course Equivalent means that the classes cover nearly identical material and are similar enough that the classes would be treated the same at both institutions. This could be important in fulfilling major requirements.  

Elective Courses are not required for the major or general education but may be used to fulfill the total units required for graduation. Many courses coming in from other institutions will be counted as elective units that will contribute to the total number needed to graduate. 

General Education is a group of courses in different and varied areas required for graduation. At USC, the general education requirement includes training in the core literacies and in global perspectives. Courses taken elsewhere but are not listed in articulation histories may meet our general education requirement if they are not remedial, introductory in nature, and the knowledge and skills taught include critical analysis, cultural context, and a scientific laboratory component if applicable. 

Global Perspectives include two categories in our general education program. Classes in these categories look at worldwide problems through different lenses and students need to complete a course from each of its two areas: citizenship in a diverse world as well as traditions and historical foundations. 

Lower Division Courses are typically introductory and mostly for students in their first and second years of college, commonly designated with a 100 and 200 course number. These courses are more likely to transfer than upper division courses. 

Major Electives are upper division courses related to a particular major area but not specified by the department. They count toward the total unit hours needed to complete that major.  

OASIS is an online academic information system for students to keep track of their classes, address, grade reports, transcripts, billing system, health insurance plan and more. Students can access their OASIS account once they have been admitted and activate their USC email account. 

Prerequisite Course is usually a class to be taken before being able to move on to a more advanced course in a prescribed sequence. 

Residence refers to the number of units or the segment of a degree program that must be completed at USC. Transfer students must complete a minimum of 64 units in residence at USC, or half the units typically required for graduation. If students have more units than that when they transfer, it does not change how many units they must take at USC. The 64 units is an absolute minimum except for students in the 3-2 engineering and the Bachelor of Architecture programs. All students, however, can still obtain subject credit with their excess units. 

Upper Division Courses are primarily for juniors and seniors and commonly designated with a 300 and 400 course number. Few if any transfer for subject credit.  

STARS stands for the STudent Academic Record System. An automated degree audit that reflects students’ academic progress toward degree completion for declared programs of study. This report is accessible on Oasis, a student information management system. 

Transfer Credit Report officially acknowledges all transferable course work applicable toward the USC degree. The evaluation is prepared for every newly enrolled undergraduate student with transfer work or relevant exams (such as AP). This report is generated after students confirm their intent to enroll and is available typically a week or two before Orientation. 

Transfer Planning Guide (TPG) is a web-based tool that identifies courses at specific transfer colleges that meet general education, foreign language, lower division writing and major requirements at USC.  



Admission Condition is sometimes tied to an acceptance. Our letter of admission might specify certain grade point averages needed on courses in progress and/or in certain classes or other requirements. These must be met before student can register for classes at USC. 

Admission Counselor/territory manager are individuals in the admission office assigned to provide outreach to specific schools. That means they attend fairs and hosts visits or workshops to prospective students at that school as well as help review the applications from that institution. 

Common Application is a web-based application accepted by nearly 900 colleges and universities around the globe. It collects information about the student’s academic history, background, and engagement in activities.  

English Language Proficiency is required by the faculty of USC because your success depends on your ability to communicate effectively in English. All international students whose native language is not English must submit test scores from the SAT/ACT, TOEFL or TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, IELTS or IELTS Indicator, PTE or Duolingo English Test to show proficiency.  

Financial Statement of Personal or Family Support is documentation required by the United States government of all international applicants. USC can’t issue the forms required to obtain a visa until students provide proof of ability to pay tuition and living expenses for the first academic year. The financial statement must be signed and the supporting documents must be dated within the last year. Acceptable documentation of available funds includes savings deposits, checking accounts, investment portfolios, or a signed bank letter verifying the ability to pay educational expenses. Documentation may also include proof of any scholarships or fellowships you have received or expect to receive. 

International Student is an individual of foreign nationality who will be entering, or has already entered, the United States with a student visa. Students already residing in the United States and holding other non-immigrant visas are also considered international students.  

Legacy is a student with a sibling, parent, or grandparent who is currently attending or has graduated from USC.  

Spring Grade Request is sent to transfer applicants so the admission office can utilize additional grades for consideration. Students may upload an unofficial grade report to their USC portal to comply with this request. 

Supplemental Application is part of some colleges’ Common Application. These short answer essays offer students an opportunity to further describe their interest in the college and present additional information about themselves not otherwise covered in the rest of the application. USC’s supplemental essays vary by department. 

Transcript is a record of students’ academic performance in courses. An official transcript bears the university seal and signature of the Registrar. Students should request that their schools send official transcripts electronically or by mail directly to USC. Opening the envelopes in which they come sealed in renders the transcript unofficial. 

Trojan Transfer planning is counseling offered to some students who applied during their senior year of high school but were not accepted as first year students. These students are typically children of USC employees or legacy applicants. The counseling they receive describes the transfer planning process, but it does not guarantee admission. 

Visa is a legal travel document issued to foreign nationals who wish to study in the United States in degree- or certificate-granting programs. 

Fee Waivers to cover the cost of the application are available to students with limited financial resources. Applicants can select the fee waiver option in the Common Application.