I Wasn’t Named a Scholarship Finalist…Now What?

USC will admit some of the first students of its class of 2026 today! Approximately 1,000 first-year students will be notified that they are admitted to USC and invited to interview for merit-based scholarships. The majority of applicants, however, will be notified that they are no longer in the running for these merit-based scholarships but are still being considered for admission to USC. This can raise many questions, and we’d like to help you sort through what it all means.  

Q: I wasn’t admitted during the scholarship round. Does that mean I’m not going to be admitted to USC?  
A: We admit a very small percentage of our class as scholarship finalists. Most students admitted to USC are admitted by April 1, and not being admitted at this point is not indicative of your likelihood of admission. Your application is still very much under consideration.  

Q: Why wasn’t I named a scholarship finalist?  
A: The process for selecting scholarship finalists was very competitive. Over 39,000 students applied by the scholarship deadline, and fewer than 3% were invited to interview. We use both quantitative and qualitative factors  to consider who to invite and there are simply a limited number of awards.  

Q: I was not named a scholarship finalist. Is this because I didn’t submit a test score (or because of my test score)? Can I change my testing plan at this point? 
A: We take many things into consideration when deciding who to invite for scholarship interviews. We do not disadvantage students who choose to apply test optional and, given the nature of our holistic review, decisions are based on a combination of factors. At this stage in our review process, we cannot change your testing plan.  

Q: Can I submit additional materials and have my application reconsidered for merit scholarships?  
A: Our decisions on who to admit during our merit scholarship process are final and cannot be appealed. You are still under consideration for admission to USC and will receive an admission decision by April 1.  

Q: If I am named a National Merit Finalist but wasn’t admitted during the scholarship round, do I still receive USC’s Presidential Scholarship?  
A: Yes, if you are ultimately admitted to USC as a first-year student, are named a National Merit Finalist, and selected USC as your first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).  Finalists will receive the Presidential award notification after their name is confirmed on the official roster from NMSC in the spring. Finalists have until May 31 to notify NMSC of their first-choice college.  

Q: Am I still eligible for financial aid?  
A: Financial aid is need-based (rather than merit-based), and eligibility is separate from the merit scholarship process. Please apply for financial aid as soon as possible by submitting the FAFSA and CSS Profile if you have not done so already. You can learn more here.

Q: Are there any merit scholarships available to students who aren’t invited to interview?  
A: Yes, there are some still available! These scholarships tend to have smaller monetary values, but we know that every bit counts. Please review the list of scholarships here.     

Q: I applied to Thornton/Iovine & Young/Kaufman. Am I still eligible for major merit scholarships?  
A: Yes! Those departments integrate their scholarship selection into their admission process. These departments have already notified their applicants whether they will be moving forward in their admission process. If you were invited to audition or to interview for one of those programs, you are still being considered for a merit award*. Final decisions regarding merit awards will be released by early April. If you were not invited to audition or to interview and have chosen to keep your application in the pool, you will be considered for admission to your second-choice major or to begin at USC as a “Undecided Major.” 

*Music Industry and Music Composition applicants do not require an audition or interview, but they are still being considered for scholarships and admission to those programs at this point.


We wish you all the best of luck with the application process!