USC’s Glossary of Transfer Applicant Terms

One of the most important goals in transferring is 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. While you navigate the transfer process, you may find that the classes and curricula at your current school don’t always line up with the school you would like to transfer into. Similar to receiving a set of weird assembly instructions without pictures, you suddenly find that there is a new vernacular 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.

McCarthy Quad is a favorite gathering spot for students who’d like to take a break or study outdoors.

Academic Terminology

Articulation Agreement is a comprehensive list of courses that transfer to USC from most California community colleges. Articulation Agreements indicate how a course may transfer to USC. Courses may transfer as elective credit, as courses which are equivalent to some specific USC courses, or as a course that will fulfill core requirements such as General Education (GE), global perspective, foreign language, or writing. Knowing which courses will transfer to meet USC majors and graduation requirements is important because applicants will build a stronger, more competitive application to transfer.

Articulation History is a non-comprehensive list of courses that have transferred to USC from a specific institution in past years and terms. Articulation histories list courses that are likely to transfer to USC from other institutions but are not guaranteed. This is due to our Office of Articulation being unable to completely review every curriculum at each college/university. Unlike Articulation Agreements, Articulation Histories do not show how every course offered at a school may transfer. In times where courses do not appear on an Articulation History, courses may still be transferrable after the student has matriculated to USC and their transcripts/syllabi have been evaluated by our Office of Articulation. Generally, courses that are academic in nature are likely to transfer for at least elective credit, but again, this not guaranteed. We recommend saving each course syllabi and assignments in case you want to petition a course that was deemed non-transferable.

USC does not pre-articulate any courses from schools we do not have an agreement with.

Articulation Petition is a request to change the evaluation of a transferred course. This can only be requested by a matriculated USC student. We have frequently seen students make this request 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 (GE) 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 helps to ensure professional success, personal development, as well as establish a foundation for lifelong learning.

Course Comparable means that a transferred-in class covers 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 a transferred in class covered 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 transferred in from other institutions will be counted as elective units that will contribute to the total number of units needed to earn a degree.

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. If accepted to USC, two of these courses (in any core literacy category) must be completed at USC.

Please note, that incoming USC students whose first full-time college term began in fall 2015 or earlier will be following USC’s 2015 General Education requirements.

Global Perspectives include two categories within 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 units 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-unit benchmark 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 for all current students and is a student information management system.

Transfer Credit Report officially acknowledges all transferable coursework applicable toward the USC degree, and is generated by the Office of Articulation. The evaluation is prepared for every newly enrolled undergraduate student with transfer work or relevant exams (such as AP/IB). This report is generated after students confirm their intent to enroll and is typically available within a week or two before USC New Student 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.

A grad wears USC pride in the form of a mask at USC’s 2020-21 commencement ceremony for the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, May 18, 2021. (USC Photo/David Sprague)

Application Terminology

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 and verified with an official transcript before students 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 more than 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. Please visit our website for more details.

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 USC’s cost of attendance 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.

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

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

Spring Grade Request is a request from the USC Office of Admission to review an applicant’s spring semester/quarter grades. If a student receives a request for spring grades, they will not hear an admission decision until after we receive those final grades.

Supplemental Application is part of some colleges’ Common Application. These short answer questions offer students an opportunity to further describe their interest in their major/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, and is sent from the school, not the student. 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.

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

If you want to check out some more college terms, utilize the USC Glossary of First Year Applicant Terms and/or USC Glossary of International Applicant Terms.

This blog was written in partnership with Chelsey Kaufman Senior Assistant Director, Adriana Serrano Gutierrez – Senior Assistant Director, and Rachel Cho Assistant Director.