Undergraduate Admission Blog

Follow the Official USC Undergraduate Admission Blog for information, advice, and a behind-the-scenes look at our process

September 14, 2017

A Major Decision

Whether at a college fair, high school visit, or in our admission center, we in the Office of Admission often get the following question from students—does it matter which major I choose when I apply?  Sometimes what students are really asking is whether we have any impacted majors (the answer to that question is no).  But in some ways, it does matter which major you apply to, so let’s take a look at how major selection works in the USC admission process.

No matter what academic department you’re applying to, you will only fill out one application for USC, which includes the Common App and the USC Common App supplement (as well as the SlideRoom component if you need to submit a portfolio or audition video).  Even though you are only submitting one application, you can select both a first and a second choice major.  Students use these two slots in a variety of different ways:

  • Some students are only interested in one major, so they do not list a second choice.
  • Some students have a first choice, but if that doesn’t work out, they want to be considered for a second choice.
  • Some students want to double major or take on a minor, so they list both fields.

As we review an application, we are looking to see if the student would be a good match for USC, and their intended program of study is one of the places where fit becomes evident.  We consider students primarily for their first choice major, but if we don’t see a good match there, we consider them for their second choice major.  How do we know if a major is a good fit?  Great question!

  • We will see that a student has prepared him or herself for that field through relevant coursework.  We know that different students will have different opportunities (e.g., some schools offer AP courses, others only honors, others have no advanced courses, etc.), and we take context into mind when we review your applications.  There are many fields of study that students won’t have had the opportunity to get acquainted with quite yet (it’s pretty rare to come across a high school student who has taken a gerontology course), but we like to get a sense of how your academic background reflects your passion and preparation for your intended field of study.  Keep in mind, however, that this is a qualitative process, so simply having strong grades and rigorous coursework does not in itself indicate a perfect fit/guarantee admission.
  • We will see that a student has explored their interests outside of the classroom.  The same nuances of context also apply here.  Every student who wants to be a business major doesn’t need to join Future Business Leaders of America, but clubs and other extracurricular activities can help prepare you by giving you a better sense of what you might be studying.
  • The faculty admission committee will let us know.  If a student is interested in a talent based major (anything where you have to submit a portfolio or an audition video), their application will be reviewed by the faculty of that department.  The experts then let us know whether they think that applicant is a good match for their program.

Part of creating a class is bringing together students from different academic backgrounds—USC wouldn’t be USC if we didn’t have a good mix of chemists and filmmakers and occupational therapists and architects, so we have to make sure that we balance our offers of admission to reflect our academic diversity.  Being accepted into USC with a particular major is not a binding contract.  We know that a good number of students will change their major during their time at USC, and our University is flexible enough for students to do that.  (We also know that, because you can only be admitted to one major at first, many students will add on majors and minors once they get here).

That being said, knowing a bit about what you want to study, and why USC would be a good place to study it, will help you in our process.  Take the time to really look at our short answer section.  We ask how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC.  This is an EXCELLENT place for you to show us why you think your major is a good choice for you (and to show us more generally why USC is a good academic fit).  Do your research so you can advocate for yourself and help us see your place here—what ideas will you add to the class discussion?  How will you contribute to your group project?  What kind of research will you do?  When we read your application, we look to see whether you are you simply regurgitating factoids from our website or if you have really spent time thinking about how you can take advantage of what we have to offer?  In this short answer essay, you can tell us how you became interested in your major in the first place, why you think it would fit well with your strengths, how you would plan to use it after graduation…or even all of the above! There are many ways to approach the question, so spend some time reflecting on why you’re choosing to pursue this field of study.  The strongest short answer essays address both your interest in your major and your interest in USC.

But how do you know which major is right for you?  We have over 150 majors at USC, so you have a lot of choices!   Where do you even begin to do your research?  We are excited to announce Major Mondays (coming soon to our social media channels).  Through Major Mondays, we will explore majors that you might not have heard of before (or that might easily be confused with other majors) in order to help you find the best match for you.  We’ll post content each week, but don’t let your research stop there.  The websites and admission materials that our academic departments put out are great resources, as is coming to one of our on-campus Meet USC programs or off-campus Discover USC programs.  Don’t underestimate how much researching programs of study can help clarify your academic path and help you put together an excellent application to USC!



  1. Sophia Chi says:

    I appreciate the insightful tips and can’t wait for the release of Major Mondays! Thank you for devising helpful ways to aid uncertain students like me.

  2. AHMED says:

    I couldn’t find my chemical Engineering major, so by mistake I choose Environmental Resources Engineering. I need to change it to Chemical Engineering.

  3. Isis says:

    Can I reuse my common app personal statement for SlideRoom?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      You can, but it’s not recommended. We encourage you to maximize your application by using each piece to show us more about yourself. When you hit copy and paste, you are missing out on an opportunity.

  4. mina says:

    is it possible to make a change to supplemental essays past the due date?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Mina! You can’t actually change your application once you submit it, but you can send us any necessary corrections or changes via email.

  5. carol lee says:

    can I switch majors before starting college.?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Carol! Switching majors after you are admitted is possible, but it is at the discretion of the academic departments. You will need to reach out to the department you are interested in joining to find out their policies.

  6. Gabrielle says:

    Do you have to join a specific academic school in order to attend USC? I want to enroll in the DPT Physical Therapy program after fulfilling all mt pre reqs classes and earning my bachelors in either biology or anatomy . Would i be able to do this at USC?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Gabrielle! Graduate school application policies and procedures vary significantly, so I would recommend reaching out to the PT program for more info: http://pt.usc.edu/education/
      As for undergraduate programs, USC offers many majors (e.g., biological sciences, human biology, etc.) that could prepare you on your path to becoming a physical therapist.

  7. Kelly says:

    Does USC admit by major? For example, if I were to declare my major as Engineering on my CommonApp, and was rejected by the College of Engineering, does that call for rejection from USC as a whole?

    Which colleges/majors are the most selective?

    I am still deciding on my major, and am considering engineering. Would transferring to a different college, such as engineering, be difficult to do?

    Thank you!

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Yes, USC admits by major, though we can admit students to second choice majors and even as undecided.
      The admission rate is virtually the same across our academic departments, so you apply to the program that most interests you.
      For the most part, it is not difficult to change majors/internally transfer. The process for each school varies (sometimes all you need to do is sign a form, sometimes you need to take prerequisites and get strong grades, sometimes you need to audition), so it’s best to look at the school’s specific website to learn more.

  8. Hector says:

    Is it more difficult to transfer to USC from another 4-year institution, as opposed to transferring from a community college? Also, is it recommended to transfer upon 1 or 2 years at your institution?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi Hector,
      We have many students transferring from 4-year institutions, but it is generally easier at a community college to follow our recommendations (there are no other requirements to contend with). Ultimately, it is up to you which is the better path. With the exception of our School of Cinematic Arts, we do not have a preference for whether students apply after one or two years.

  9. Alen says:

    Does major within the department matter in terms of admission competitiveness? So is computer science more difficult to get into than chemical engineering (or the other way around) or would both majors have a “uniform” acceptance rate under Viterbi?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Alex! Our majors have close to the same admit rate across the board (things change a bit with each cycle, but generally they are quite close). You should apply to the major you wish to pursue.

  10. Christy Ly says:

    Is there an option to apply undecided? And if so, will it hurt your chances of getting accepted in any way?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Christy! Undecided can be your second choice, but you need to select a specific major for your first option. You can always change your major later 🙂

  11. Luke says:

    I intend to choose film as my major, but I am not 100% sure, so do I have to apply directly to USC Cinematic Arts or just apply via the normal process and then choose my major later?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Luke! You have to choose a major, so you should pick the one you are most drawn to right now. You can choose undecided as your second choice if you’d like, but just let us know in your short answers what your thought process is.

  12. Maggie mulvihill says:

    Hi , if you are not being offered an audition at Thornton will you be informed ?

  13. Chris says:

    Hi, if I list a first major in the school of engineering and a second major in DLAS, does that mean if I can’t get into VSE, I’ll be considered for DLAS? Thank you.

  14. Tommy says:

    Hi, I am seriously considering doing Computer Science and have done a lot of CS related stuff in high school, but in the same time I am also particularly interested in physics, so I am thrilled to find a major DLAS: Physics/ Computer Science and decided to choose this major as my first major choice. I was going to choose DLAS: Computer Science as a second major, but since I have chosen a very similar major in my first choice, do you suggest I go another direction instead in my second major? For example, I am also kind of into Engineering.

    Also, I noticed there are two extra short questions asked for a CS second major, would you take my response to those into consideration when evaluating me on my first major?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Tommy! You should select the top two majors that most interest you. We will only consider the Computer Science short answers as part of a second choice major review.

  15. Seong Lee says:

    Hi, can I still make corrections to my secondary major after submission? I accidentally chose environmental engineering, not environmental studies. Thank you so much.

  16. Ethan De La Pena says:

    If we applied for the merit scholarship deadline, should we qualify for the scholarships and receive our notification by the beginning of February, will that mean we are also accepted to our major (i.e. mine is Film) and will we be told that, or will it only be accepted to USC and not yet our choice of major? Thanks!

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi Ethan, Students will be notified by the end of this month re: scholarship decisions. If they are moving forward in the process, they will be invited to campus to interview. They will also receive a letter of admission that states which major they have been admitted to.

  17. Armando Barragan-Tovar says:

    Hi, I thought I wanted to study Music at USC but now I know that I want to do Communication and Journalism instead. Is there a way I can change my major since its now after the regular decision deadline?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Armando! Not a problem. You need to reach out to your USC counselor to let them know of the change, and they can take care of it for you.

  18. Mich says:

    I originally wanted to apply be a film major, but now I want to major in Public Relations. The California community college that I currently attend only recently started offering public relations/advertising classes, so majority of my courses are film courses offered for my film associate’s degree. It’s too late for me to switch my major to public relations at my community college, so when I apply, all that the admissions faculty will see are my general education classes and film classes.

    I selected public relations as my second choice and film production as my first choice because I wasn’t able to take any relevant classes for public relations. Would the admissions faculty look at my application and not consider me for public relations because I’ve only taken film classes and no public relations classes?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      No need to worry, Mich! We actually prefer our PR students focus on GE classes because we want them to take their PR courses at USC.

  19. Shadmaan Sabbir says:

    Hi, I want to study acting and also want to study Business of cinematic arts as I am very interested in the business aspect of the entertainment industry but I have to apply to marshal to be able to be considered for business of cinematic arts so is it possible that I get into marshal but get rejected from business business of cinematic arts program?

    Another question is that if I list Bachelor of Arts acting emphasis as my second choice will I be at a loss cause I won’t be able to submit my audition as I am listing it as my second choice so should I just list it as undecided or undeclared what’s the difference between these undeclared and undecided?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Shadmaan! You should apply to business as your first choice if you are interested in the BCA program. Only students who are admitted to business as a first choice major are invited to apply for BCA. Because it is an application only program, it is possible to get into Marshall but not be accepted into the BCA program. The BA theater major doesn’t require an audition, so there is no problem with you listing that as your second choice.

  20. Seshu Adunuthula says:

    My son had declared Computer Science as his major, but was admitted as Open. What are his chances to getting accepted into Computer Science.

  21. Oscar Foo says:

    I was admitted to USC for Spring 2020 in a business administration for my major. Recently, I heard about a major called WBB (World Bachelor in Business) which also under Marshall school of business. Am I possible to switch to that (WBB) major when I start on Spring?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Oscar! Congratulations on your admission. That is a cohort-based program, so you would not be able to transfer into it. If you have follow up questions, please feel free to reach out to Marshall’s admission office.

  22. Tanu Sharma says:

    I have a question. My first choice of major is Dance. My second choice is Biology. If I am not selected during the audition for Dance department, will I then be considered for Biology. I am wondering if the audition dates are past the deadline for second major consideration?

    Thank you,

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Tanu! Yes, you will automatically be considered for both majors. I recommend you explain to us why biology is a viable second choice for you in your short answer essay about your academic interest in USC. We only want to admit students to majors that make sense for them, so we need to understand why biology is the right fit if dance doesn’t work out.

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