USC, or the University of Southern California, is California’s oldest private research university. The university enrolls 19,500 undergraduate students and 26,500 graduate and professional students. It has a student-faculty ratio of 8:1. The selective university has an acceptance rate of 16.1%.
USC is known for its prestigious academic programs, sunny location, strong athletics programs, famous alumni, and more. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what USC is known for and why it’s a university worth considering.
Your college experience is shaped not just by the university itself, but by the school’s location. USC is located in Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the United States. Los Angeles is considered the entertainment capital of the world and has over 300 days of sunshine every year.
While USC’s University Park campus can be found in the heart of L.A., its Health Science campus is northeast of downtown L.A. Both campuses place students near excellent shopping, dining, clubs, bars, and other forms of entertainment. It’s also a place with ample opportunities to network and gain real-world business experience.
USC is consistently ranked among the top 30 universities in the nation. The university offers a total of 126 undergraduate degrees. It is divided into 23 schools: the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, and 22 graduate and professional schools.
USC’s highest-ranked undergraduate programs include Game/Simulation Development (1), Real Estate (7), Accounting (9), International Business (12), and Engineering (31).
Highly ranked graduate schools include the Marshall School of Business, Rossier School of Education, Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering, Gould School of Law, Keck School of Medicine, School of Social Work, and Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The prestigious School of Cinematic Arts is perhaps the best-known school at USC. It’s the oldest film school in the United States and boasts numerous Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winning graduates and faculty members.
Interdisciplinary, Student-Centered Learning
At USC, students have the freedom to create interdisciplinary programs suited to their personal interests and career goals.
Initially, students complete eight General Education courses in the Arts, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Humanistic Inquiry, Social Analysis, and Quantitative Reasoning. After that, students have the option to study new combinations of major/minor.
The Thematic Option is an honors alternative to USC’s General Education program. Freshmen from any major complete interdisciplinary courses centered around themes that develop critical thinking skills and an understanding of history and society.
USC’s signature program is Renaissance Scholars, which honors students who study majors and minors in widely different fields of study. USC’s website states, “If you can dream it, chances are we have the programs, the resources, and the flexibility to help you put together the program of study that’s ideal for you.”
Naturally, universities with top-notch academics are typically more selective. As mentioned above, USC’s acceptance rate is about 16%. The average SAT score for students admitted to USC is 1440. The average GPA is 3.79.
USC’s freshman retention rate is 97%. The four-year graduation rate is 77%, and the six-year graduation rate is 92%.
USC has countless famous alumni, with the largest percentage being entertainers.
Famous alumni include:
- Neil Armstrong
- George Lucas
- Judd Apatow
- Will Ferrell
- Forest Whitaker
- Tom Selleck
- Dave Franco
- Penn Badgley
- Regina King
- Demar DeRozan
- Reggie Bush
- Carson Palmer
- …and many, many more!
Who knows? The next famous USC alum could be you!
Another USC claim to fame is the fact that numerous famous movies have filmed scenes on campus, including Forrest Gump, Legally Blonde, Matilda, and The Social Network.
Extracurricular Activities/Campus Life
USC freshmen are not currently required to live on campus. Still, about 98% of USC students live in the 40 residence halls and apartment buildings available on campus.
Living options include special-interest communities, such as Latinx Sol y La Luna Floors; Women in Science and Engineering Floor; Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American Leadership Community; Rainbow LGBTQ+ Community; and Somerville Place, which strives to build a sense of family and community while fostering respect and understanding for Black culture.
With so many students living on campus, USC offers a thriving campus life and a wide variety of extracurricular activities and organizations for students to enjoy.
The university is known for having over 1000 student organizations, including cultural and religious groups, organizations related to degree programs and career interests, arts clubs, and recreational athletic teams. USC also offers a very active Greek life, with more than 50 Greek chapters and about 25% student participation. The abundance of Greek life at USC gives the campus a bit of a “party school” reputation.
USC is also home to several libraries and museums, including the Fisher Museum of Art, which holds over 1,800 items. Students also receive discounts at famous attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm and the San Diego Zoo.
USC is also known for its strong athletics program, which competes in the Division I Pac-12 Conference. The university’s teams are known as the USC Trojans and wear cardinal and gold. Together, USC teams have won a total of 131 national championships.
The football team is especially well-known, with 11 national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners. Over 300 USC alumni have won Olympic medals, more than any other university in the nation!
Diversity is another quality USC is known for, and it’s ranked among the Top 10 universities in the nation for diversity by the data website Priceonomics.
27% of USC students are White, 15% Hispanic, 5.8% Black/African American, and 8.4% Other. 23.8% of USC’s population is comprised of international students.
USC is ranked #60 nationally for Best Value Schools and #169 for Social Mobility, meaning it educates economically disadvantaged students and graduates them into higher-paying jobs. Admission is need-blind, and about two-thirds of incoming freshmen receive some form of financial aid.
USC is perhaps one of the most spirited schools in the nation, and its traditions reflect this enthusiastic sense of pride. Because sports are a huge part of student life at USC, many of USC’s most beloved traditions are related to athletics.
For instance, students walking from campus to the football stadium (the Coliseum) kick one of the flagpoles on Exposition Boulevard to ensure good luck for the football team. USC’s most popular traditions take place the week before the annual football game with the rival UCLA Bruins, known as Troy Week.
Troy Week includes the CONQUEST Bonfire and the CONQUEST celebration, which consists of a spirit rally, carnival, and live performances. It also features vigils to protect campus and campus landmarks from the UCLA Bruins. (The vigils began after several UCLA students threw paint on the Tommy Trojan statue in the early 1940s.)
Another USC tradition is Songfest, an annual event showcasing student talent and performances from the university’s sororities and fraternities. The winner receives the coveted Songfest trophy, plus a year of bragging rights!
How to Apply to USC
If USC sounds like the university for you, apply through the Common Application. Commonly known as the Common App, this application is accepted by 900 colleges and universities, including the entire Ivy League. Like most applications, it requires basic info, GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, and two recommendations.
In addition to the Common App, USC requires supplemental questions: two essays of up to 250 words and two short-answer lists. All applicants must respond to the following question in 250 words or fewer: Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections.
You will also answer one of the following questions in 250 words or fewer:
- USC believes that one learns best when interacting with people of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Tell us about a time you were exposed to a new idea or when your beliefs were challenged by another point of view.
- USC faculty place an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic opportunities. Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning.
- What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you?
Finally, you will describe yourself in three words and answer each of the following questions in 100 characters or fewer:
- What is your favorite snack?
- Best movie of all time
- Dream job
- If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
- Dream trip
- What TV show will you binge-watch next?
- Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?
- Favorite book
- If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?
Final Thoughts: What Is USC Known For?
Ultimately, USC is known for its famous and sunny location, its high-quality and student-centered academics, notable alumni, thriving campus life, diversity, dominant athletics, school spirit, and fun traditions.
If you’re interested in a school that combines quality academics with a classic college experience and powerhouse sports teams to cheer for, USC may be the place for you!