“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”


As I reflect on my work as the dean of admission at a highly selective university, Dickens’ words frequently come to mind. The dual emotions of of joy and disappointment aren’t experienced only by our applicants, but by admission officers as well – more on that in bit.

We have completed our review of USC’s record-breaking 2018-19 first-year applicant pool. As I write this, our team is sorting decisions for mailing. Later today, tens of thousands of items will be loaded onto trucks to begin their journeys to every corner of the world.

We read the first of 64,256 applications for USC’s class of 2022 on October 18, 2017; 154 days later we reached our last decision. Across all those weeks of reading, we came to know our applicants very well. We shared in their triumphs and challenges; we learned about their motivations and dreams; we marveled at their academic pursuits and extracurricular accomplishments; but most of all, we tried to imagine how they’d fit at USC.

I am so incredibly excited for the students who have been admitted to USC. This is a very special place—a distinctive intellectual community that promises to offer you opportunities to be challenged, to excel, and to be transformed.

But most of the readers of this post won’t be celebrating the news they’re about to receive from USC. While I am quite pleased with our admitted class, I sincerely feel for those students we had to let go. None of us on the admission committee takes joy or pride in turning away students. Selecting a class is as much art as it is science and with such an enormous applicant pool and so few spaces, we were forced to make many tough decisions. I hope that denied students don’t interpret the committee’s decision as a negative commentary on their character, potential or intelligence, but rather as the result of an extremely competitive process that is defined largely by an incredible scarcity of admission spots and truly worldwide competition.


A few numbers about this fall’s admitted class of first-year students:

  • More than 64,000 first-year applicants
  • 13% admission rate; 8,258 students admitted
  • Nearly 3,300 different high schools represented, from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Guam and 87 other countries
  • 39% from California
  • Outside California, the most represented U.S. States are Texas, New York, Illinois, Washington and Florida
  • 16% are international students. The most represented countries are China, India, South Korea, Canada and Brazil
  • 1-in-7 will be the first in their family to attend college
  • 69% are African American, Latinx, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander or of multiple ethnicities
  • The average un-weighted GPA, on a 4-point scale, is 3.86.
  • 34% of admits have perfect un-weighted GPAs of 4.0; another 10% earned only one B in high school.
  • The middle-50% ACT range is 31-35; the middle-50% SAT range is 1410-1530
  • 85% had standardized test scores in the 95th percentile or higher. Nearly 5,000 (60%) had standardized test scores in the 99th


Why don’t we just notify students online?

We are often asked why we send admission decisions through postal mail. The answer’s simple: we believe that you should receive this personal news at home, have a chance to experience it with your family, and have the space to decide who else knows the outcome. Whether it’s positive or negative, we would much rather you receive our decision by reading our letter rather than just find out “yes” or “no” on your phone, in between classes at school.

We also understand that waiting is really difficult and not all postal mail arrives in a timely fashion. Because of this, we will post an electronic version of your decision letter online, via our applicant portal, https://you.usc.edu. Your online letter will be made available Sunday morning, March 25th.


So what’s next?

If you are admitted and have applied for need-based financial aid, you’ll be hearing about that very soon. We are committed to getting this information to you quickly, since fewer than six weeks remain until you must commit to enroll.

During the month of April, we will be hosting 48(!) events for admitted students, both on- and off-campus. Check your admission packet or our website for further details – we can’t wait to meet you and your parents! And, if you haven’t visited campus yet, now’s the time to do so.

Nearly three decades have passed since I first helped recruit a class of entering USC students. A lot has changed here since then, but something has remained constant: the deep pride and satisfaction that our students, faculty, staff and alumni experience as being members of the Trojan Family.

Thanks for taking this journey with us. Best wishes to you and fight on!

Timothy Brunold
Dean of Admission