Undergraduate Admission Blog

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March 20, 2014

Curriculum Strength and Advanced Testing: Do They Matter?

I was talking with a mother of a prospective student recently. She brought up questions about our evaluation of rigor and AP/IB/SAT Subject tests. These questions have recently come up more often so I thought it would be fitting to address it in a blog. Maybe it’s because AP tests are coming up soon and students are starting to question if it is worth it to take the tests.

First, let’s address rigor. The overall inquiry seems to essentially boil down to this:

Are admission counselors able to objectively and fairly evaluate the curriculum strength of each student?

In a word, YES. At USC, we have one of the largest, if not the largest admission staff of any private university in the country. Each member is assigned to a domestic or international region, or both. We take pride in taking care of our territories. Relationships are forged and maintained with high school counselors, parents and prospective students. The goal is to have a comprehensive and detailed understanding of our territory. We are very aware of what a competitive application looks like within its proper context. Ultimately, you can consider us as context specialists. Context is especially important in our process. We understand that rigor looks vastly different and unique for every school. Access to academic and extracurricular activities in each high school, city, and region will vary.

I get it…rigor and context are important. Makes sense. So now that I’ve taken all these advanced courses, is it really worth it to take the tests?

In another word, well the same word, YES. You’ve put in so much work learning the advanced material all year. Why not just take the test?! There are other potential benefits besides the obvious financial savings you could have if you were to pass these tests. In essence, you could end up freeing some units to take on another minor or a double major. Trust me, if you put in the work now, the benefits will outweigh the costs so much more.

Generally, if you receive at least a 4 on any AP exam, or at least a 5 on any Higher Level IB Exam; then you will be able to transfer some credits into USC. For more information, please go to the USC Articulation Website.

Finally, SAT Subject Tests, what about those? Well, in short, they are not required to apply for any undergraduate program at USC. But, if you happen to be taking them for another school and you receive a great score, then go ahead and submit those scores to us. We will definitely give them a look.

Good luck on everyone taking the AP and IB exams coming up. I hope this gives some of you a little bit more motivation!

1 Comment

  1. Nannette says:

    I sure hope your world class admissions “context specialists” see the hard work done by my son. Recently my blood has been running cold when I hear about 5.0 GPA’s, which are not even possible at our HS. We thought his taking every opportunity at AP and 4’s on most of his AP tests was a demonatration of rigor until we started hearing about kids with access to more Honors credits than possible here. Strted to wory he would be out of the running.
    He dreams of a double major at USC.

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