Skip to content

Sca Essay Questions

365,000 alumni can’t be wrong: the University of Southern California is an exceptional place to get your education. Among those alumni are luminaries as varied as actor John Wayne, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Comprised of nearly twenty different schools, upwards of 40,000 total students, and a rich variety of traditions, USC’s resources and global network present extraordinary opportunities for its students.


At USC, high-level technological studies and a renown business school exist side-by-side with a venerable program in cinema studies and strong programs in other performing arts.


You can even combine the two — where else could a budding innovator get a bachelor’s degree from a school founded in part by hip hop legend and entrepreneur Dr. Dre? (That would be USC’s Iovine and Young Academy, which focuses on “nurturing and developing original thought, leading to breakthrough products, systems, technologies and more.”) The sunny setting in Southern California and the amenities of the city of Los Angeles certainly don’t hurt.


Are you interested in attending USC? Read on for more information about the different undergraduate programs available, what makes it special, and how to navigate the admissions process.


Introducing USC

Located in the University Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, only two miles away from downtown LA, the University of Southern California was founded in 1880 on land donated by a number of the city’s notables. USC was originally affiliated with the Methodist Church, but it has been nonsectarian since 1952.


From its very beginning, USC has championed fair access to education, refusing to deny applicants admission based on race or gender. In fact, the valedictorian of its very first graduating class (comprised of only three students) was a woman, at a time when admission to many or most prestigious universities was restricted to men.


Today’s USC is a large, private research university with a much-expanded total enrollment of over 42,000 students, almost 19,000 of whom are undergraduates. It has also expanded in land area, including its Health Sciences Campus in Los Angeles as well as a number of other facilities, satellite campuses, offices, and a scientific research station on Catalina Island.


According to the U.S. News and World Report rankings, USC comes in at #23 in the National Universities category. Its business programs are especially well-regarded. The university is also famous for having the oldest and largest film school in the country.


The thousands of undergraduate students at USC are spread out among majors in a grand total of 16 different schools and programs, listed below:


  • Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • USC School of Architecture
  • Roski School of Art and Design
  • USC Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation
  • Marshall School of Business
  • USC School of Cinematic Arts
  • Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
  • Kaufman School of Dance
  • Ostrow School of Dentistry (Dental Hygiene Program)
  • USC School of Dramatic Arts
  • Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Davis School of Gerontology
  • Keck School of Medicine of USC (Bachelor’s Degree Programs)
  • Thornton School of Music
  • Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
  • Price School of Public Policy


Across these 16 schools, students can choose among 174 majors at last count. An exhaustive list of these majors, with links to additional information about each, is available. Since specifying your intended major is part of applying to USC, you’ll have to devote some time to researching the options before you apply. However, we can tell you that the most popular majors at USC are within the fields of business, social sciences, visual and performing arts, and engineering.


Life on the USC campus is vibrant and packed with different opportunities. Athletics are an important part of the campus culture, with a number of varsity teams (known as the Trojans) having been extremely successful in recent years. USC’s honor is fiercely defended against such traditional rivals as nearby UCLA and the further-off Notre Dame.


Even if you’re not a sports fan, with such a large and diverse student body from which to draw, USC’s student activities and organizations have something for everyone. Over 800 different student groups and organizations are officially recognized by the university. These include an engaged student government, an active fraternity and sorority scene with over 60 individual chapters, performing arts groups, cultural organizations, and volunteer opportunities. Outside of the campus,  students also have access to everything Los Angeles has to offer.


USC Admissions Information

The admissions process at USC is quite competitive; during the 2015-2016 application season, the university received a whopping total of over 54,000 applications for its undergraduate programs. 8,920 applicants were accepted, making the acceptance rate 16.2%. USC has not yet released enrollment numbers for the fall of 2016, but in most recent years, the number of students in the matriculating class has hovered around 3,000.


All applicants to USC apply through the same basic application process, but depending on your intended major, which you will be required to specify on your application, you may be asked to complete additional materials including portfolios, videos, essays, auditions, or course prerequisites. When you’re getting ready to apply, it’s important that you thoroughly research the requirements for your particular intended major so that you can make an informed decision.


In addition to first-year applicants, USC accepts applications from students at other colleges who wish to transfer to USC. In recent years, the university has received about 8,000 transfer applications per year, and has accepted approximately 25% of these applicants.


When USC evaluates your application, it takes into account both your academic and other achievements, and your potential to be a good fit for the USC environment. Successful applicants are generally quite strong academically and have taken challenging courses in high school. Leadership and community involvement are important factors, as is “intellectual curiosity.” As a university with strong programs in the arts, USC also appreciates students who will bring creative talents to the campus, whether as arts majors or in addition to their other studies.


Paying for USC

The estimated cost of attendance at USC for the 2016-2017 school year is $69,711, $51,442 of which accounts for tuition. This estimate is meant to cover the entire cost of a student’s attendance for a year, including room and board as well as books, transportation, and personal expenses, but it may vary from student to student, especially for the many students who choose to live off-campus after their first year. Also, some majors and programs require additional fees.


About two-thirds of USC’s undergraduate students receive some kind of financial assistance, need-based or merit-based, to cover the cost of their education. Need-based financial aid options include grants, loans, and work-study. Merit-based scholarships include a number of different scholarship programs, and about 22% of students at USC receive some kind of merit-based scholarship. Athletic scholarships are also offered to some incoming students, and may be awarded either as a specific dollar amount or as a percentage of the cost of attendance.


Admissions to USC is need-blind for students from the United States, meaning that neither a student’s indication that they will apply for financial aid, nor the amount of aid they require, will affect that student’s admissions decision.


For international applicants, admission to USC is need-aware, and international applicants will need to submit documentation certifying that they have the funds to pay for college. Need-based financial aid is not available for international students. However, international applicants are still considered for certain merit-based scholarships, and may have other options to privately finance their educations.


Applicants who are undocumented students living in the state of California have some additional funding options. Under the California Dream Act, these students may be eligible for certain California state grants if they have attended a California high school and will be attending a California college. Students who receive these grants may also gain access to additional funding from USC, though the amount of funding available is limited.


Need-Based Financial Aid

Domestic students can apply for need-based financial aid by submitting the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, both of which are due by February 14th. Residents of California should also apply for the Cal Grant state financial aid program by March 2nd.


After the initial application is submitted, financial aid applicants will need to provide their family’s income tax documents to USC as soon as possible. Additional documents may be requested by the Financial Aid Office under certain circumstances, and these documents should be submitted to the office within 10 days of when the request is made.   


Transfer applicants to USC who are from the United States will have to submit the same forms to apply for need-based financial aid, but their FAFSA and CSS Profile forms will be due on March 2nd along with the Cal Grant application.


Merit-Based Scholarships

A number of merit-based scholarships are also available to USC students, whether or not they receive need-based aid. (Need-based aid may be reduced if a student receives a merit scholarship as well.) These scholarships range from awards of $1,000 to full-tuition coverage. Some scholarships are open to transfer applicants as well as first-year applicants.


Students are automatically considered for some merit scholarships based upon the information they submit in their applications, but other scholarship programs require students to specifically apply to the program itself. A detailed list of USC’s academic scholarship options and requirements for the 2017-2018 school year is available, along with information about how to apply for each scholarship.


The USC Application

In some ways, the process of applying to USC as a first-year undergraduate is simpler than at many other schools. All applicants use the same application form — the Common Application — and all apply on the same timeline, since USC has no Early Decision or Early Action option. Most first-year undergraduate applicants to USC will need to submit their admissions applications by January 15th at the latest, and most applicants will receive their admissions decisions by early April.  


However, since USC is comprised of a rather large number of distinct schools and programs, application deadlines and requirements for different majors vary. You’ll need to submit your application by December 1st if you’re applying to USC’s undergraduate programs in Dramatic Arts, Cinematic Arts, or Music; the Kaufman School of Dance; the Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation; or the World Bachelor of Business program at the Marshall School of Business. Each undergraduate department may have additional admissions requirements with additional deadlines; USC’s list of additional major requirements is available for viewing.


In addition to these program deadlines, if you would like to be considered for merit scholarships, you’ll need to submit your admissions application by the December 1st deadline. Applicants selected to interview for or receive merit scholarships will be contacted by USC in February. If you apply by December 1st and aren’t selected for a merit scholarship, your application will still be considered for admission, and you’ll hear back about your decision in early April.


Students who have already completed some college courses can apply to transfer to USC. Just as with first-year students, applicants will submit the Common Application and supporting materials, which may vary depending on which undergraduate program they’d like to join. The application deadline for most transfer students is February 1st, or December 1 for transfer applicants to the School of Dramatic Arts, the Kaufman School of Dance, the Thornton School of Music, and the Iovine and Young Academy, as well as some programs within the School of Cinematic Arts.  


Again, some departments have different or additional admissions requirements and forms to fill out, and prospective transfer students can check out the requirements for their program.You’ll be contacted by USC, either with an admissions decision or with a request for spring-semester grades, by June 1st.


Now that we’ve introduced you to the USC application procedure, we’ll go over the school-specific questions that USC will expect you to answer on the Common App.

Only applicants who receive a waitlist invitation via email are eligible for the National Crew waitlist.

SCA has more National Crew applicants than positions, so there are always many strong candidates who don’t receive a placement. Any qualified applicants who haven’t been placed in a position by April 1st are invited to join the waitlist. These candidates will be considered as new positions become available in the spring, and as spots open up last minute during the summer.

Candidates on the waitlist are not rank ordered, so there’s no way to calculate where a person stands on the list. Instead, if a space opens up on a crew, SCA will consider all waitlist candidates who meet the requirements for the open position. 

For example, if a 15-year-old girl drops out of a backcountry crew, SCA will use the waitlist to find 15-year-old girls who are able to serve in the backcountry.

Last minute spots often open up during the summer, so waitlist candidates may be contacted by SCA as late as July 31st

Candidates can request to be removed from the waitlist by contacting [email protected].