Curious about what life will be like as a student in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences? Let us answer some of your most commonly-asked questions as they relate to:
USC Dornsife affords students a unique opportunity to experience a true liberal arts education while also enjoying the campus environment and top-of-the-line resources of a major research university. Students in USC Dornsife engage in scholarly debate with their peers, pursue a myriad of diverse interests across the spectrum of academic disciplines, and forge strong teacher-student relationships with Dornsife faculty, all while enjoying the vibrant campus life of USC.
These are some of the many reasons we think USC Dornsife is a special and exciting place to be. To hear from our current students about what makes USC Dornsife so special, click here!
I’m ready to register for classes. When can I do that?
When you come to USC for Orientation, you will meet with your academic advisor and start talking about registering for classes. So slow down! You still have a good amount of time left at your high school — enjoy it.
Who are my academic advisors?
In the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, we have professional academic advisors specific to each major who work closely with their students on a daily basis. Your academic advisor will help you plan your four years in USC Dornsife, ensure you are completing prerequisite coursework at the right pace, assist you in navigating your way to research, and counsel you through any academic “choppy waters” you might sail into during your time here. Each academic advisor is familiar with the course curriculum and the nuances of his/her particular department, and will work to ensure you can make the most of your short time in college.
Will my academic advisor help me prepare for law school or medical school?
Advisors for all pre-professional programs are housed in USC Dornsife. It is important to note that Pre-Health advisors differ from Biology or Chemistry advisors, since not all Pre-Health students are Natural Science majors, and not all Natural Science majors want to go to medical school.
Advisors for majors in USC Dornsife are focused on helping students complete their undergraduate degree, achieve success in their academic discipline, and take advantage of the academic resources available in their department. Pre-professional advisors, on the other hand, focus solely on preparing students for Graduate/Professional School. For instance, if you are a Political Science major with a Pre-Law emphasis, you will meet with a Political Science advisor and a Pre-Law advisor separately, so as to gain both perspectives.
What if I am undecided?
Rest assured — you are not the only student who does not know exactly what to do with your life! Our Open/Undecided Academic Advisors will get to know you, assess your personal, scholastic, and extracurricular interests, and help you to craft a curriculum during your first two years at USC that exposes you to a wide array of academic disciplines. Ultimately, you do not need to declare a major until the beginning of your junior year, so you have time to take our Core curriculum and introductory coursework in a variety of different fields. We are not worried; you will decide on a major eventually, and when you do, we know it will be in an area that really excites you.
USC is known for its excellence in both teaching and research, and we have made a name for ourselves among the top research universities in the country in large part due to our commitment to undergraduate education. We believe in providing outstanding opportunities for growth in the classroom and unique experiences in basic and applied research outside of the classroom.
Research is a four-year process — we do not want to throw you into a laboratory or plant you at a desk conducting research the moment you arrive on campus. An important part of “providing you the opportunity to conduct research” is helping you determine what specific topic you would like to immerse yourself in. We encourage you to meet and get to know your faculty, ask probing questions about their academic interests, and seek knowledge in your own. Once you have navigated your way to the questions and problems you are most passionate about, that is when you should start conducting your research.
There’s a pretty large Graduate Student population in USC Dornsife — will that limit my access to research?
No! We know many of you have never conducted scholarly research before — we expect that you will break a beaker or two, and that is okay. At the end of the day, your thirst for new knowledge makes you an incomparable asset in a research laboratory, whether you are a natural scientist mixing chemicals or a social scientist taking copious notes.
You should explore your interests through research, and we want to help you do so. The Dean's office within USC Dornsife provides funding of up to $1,000 for research projects conducted in the fall or spring through SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research) and up to $3,000 for research projects conducted in the summer through SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fund). In addition, we send students away from campus to conduct on-site research on global problems through our Problems Without Passports program each summer.
To learn more about undergraduate research opportunities in USC Dornsife, click here.
When the time comes for me to conduct research, how will I find research opportunities?
Individual academic departments often advertise research positions to undergraduates through academic advisors. Students who engage in their own original scholarly research can also receive an honors designation at graduation or apply for special recognition as Discovery Scholars.
Ultimately, though, the best way to get involved in research is to become well-acquainted with your faculty here in USC Dornsife — our professors love to teach, and you will find the vast majority of them are genuinely interested in helping you achieve your academic and personal goals, regardless of whether your passions are exactly in line with theirs.
You are not alone! About half the student body at USC is from outside of the state of California, and we are proud to boast perhaps the most diverse student population in the United States. If you choose to attend USC and study in USC Dornsife, you will be surrounded by students from every corner of the globe, and all of you will make the transition into USC and Los Angeles together.
We are a residential university — the vast majority of our students live on-campus or within walking distance. In fact, approximately 93% of our incoming class will live on-campus this year.
If half of the students are from California, does that mean half the students go home on the weekends?
Actually, no. About half of our Californian students are from Northern California, so the trip home is too long for them to make weekly, and even the students who hail from Southern California often spend the majority of their weekends on-campus. With over 700 clubs and organizations, programs like Visions and Voices, and other arts and music showcases happening all the time, USC is buzzing 24/7.
What is Visions and Voices?
Visions and Voices is the USC Arts & Humanities Initiative. Essentially, it is a series of events conceived and organized by faculty and schools throughout the university, including theatrical productions, music and dance performances, conferences, film screenings, lectures, and more. Many of the events sponsored by Visions and Voices take place right here on our beautiful University Park Campus, while some of them take place throughout Los Angeles. For a large percentage of the events that take place off-campus, we offer USC transportation to and from the event, and most events (both on- and off-campus) are either free or offered at a significantly reduced price to USC students.
Where can I learn more about it?
You can learn more about Visions and Voices here.
What is the food like on campus?
There are several dining options on campus, including three residential college cafeteria-style eateries, numerous marketplace/coffee shop locations, and a variety of restaurants. The three cafeterias, Cafe 84, Parkside and Everybody’s Kitchen (EVK), offer all-you-can-eat, self-serve food to hungry students.
But after several weeks of eating at the same cafeteria, you might want more variety. When students want to spice up their dining experience, they often venture to one of the countless restaurants on campus, including Panda Express, The Habit Burger Grill, California Pizza Kitchen, Lemonade, and Seeds Marketplace, to name a few. Many students purchase meal plans that include “dining dollars,” or meal money specifically designated for use at the non-cafeteria eateries.
You’re probably still going to miss “mom’s home cooking,” but we think you will enjoy the food on-campus.
What’s the best place to live as a Freshman?
As you likely know, all incoming USC students are guaranteed housing in one of our many University Housing facilities. While you are by no means required to live in any of them, we do recommend it — many students meet some of their closest friends living in USC residence halls, suites, and apartments.
Every University Housing facility has its benefits. Maybe the suite-style of Fluor Tower sounds good to you… maybe you would like to live close to Everybody’s Kitchen (EVK) in a residence hall like New or North Residential College… or perhaps the diverse and unique environment provided by Parkside International Residence College sounds most exciting to you.
The short answer is that there is no “best” when it comes to housing. If you want to try to figure out what is best for you, spend some time reading about and taking virtual tours of the different facilities on campus on the USC Housing website, located here.
How do students typically get around the campus?
Despite our relatively large population, the University Park Campus (which is where the majority of our undergraduate coursework is completed) is not intimidatingly large. It is relatively easy to navigate and takes about fifteen minutes to traverse on foot.
Some students choose to ride bikes or skateboards around campus — if you have ever visited USC, you probably saw “Beach Cruisers” (popular single-speed bicycles with wide handlebars) outside of the Tutor Campus Center or the Taper Hall of Humanities during your tour. The campus is almost completely flat, and much of the grounds are paved, so many students will skateboard or bike around the campus.
Nevertheless, you don’t need a bike or board to get around; USC is pretty easily navigable, and since the campus is closed to automobile traffic, it is very pedestrian-friendly. Come visit us and see for yourself.
We strongly encourage you to take some time to study abroad at some point during your four years at USC. The USC Office of Overseas Studies offers over 50 semester-long and year-long study abroad programs in 30 different countries. There are programs offered in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Greece, Japan, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan, to name a few.
Do many students study abroad?
Yes. As we mentioned before, USC is a global university — our students come from all over the world, and our ultimate goal here in USC Dornsife is to graduate globally-aware, socially-conscious, well-rounded students. We hope you will take the time to look into study abroad opportunities, even if you only choose to go away for a short-term program. You will learn more in your brief time immersed in another culture than we could hope to teach you about that culture in a lifetime, and you will bring back a uniquely tuned perspective to contribute to the academic community when you return.
Are study abroad programs expensive?
Programs vary in cost, and all USC financial aid funds, including loans, grants, and scholarships, are applicable to USC-sponsored overseas studies programs.
What if I don’t speak another language? Is study abroad still possible?
Definitely. Not all programs require foreign language skills; in fact, there are 19 programs that have absolutely no foreign language requirement at all.
Is there some place I can go to learn more about Overseas Studies?
To learn more about Overseas Studies, click here.
Rather than having one single honors program, USC Dornsife offers a number of different honors opportunities so that students can choose how they would like to challenge themselves within the academic curriculum. Programs include Thematic Option, Freshman Science Honors Program, and honors programs in specific academic departments.
Can you tell me more about Thematic Option (T.O.)?
Through Thematic Option (T.O.), students engage in an interdisciplinary, humanities-based honors alternative to the General Education program under themes rather than by discipline, and these small, challenging courses are both reading and writing intensive. If you absolutely love to read and write, then this program might be for you — if not, we recommend taking the more traditional approach to your Core curriculum through the regular General Education program.
Students are generally invited to apply to T.O., although any motivated and dedicated student who is interested in may apply to the program (even if you do not receive an invitation). Students may not apply before being admitted to the university. The application deadline is April 14th. Any student who applies after this date will be considered for admission on a space-available basis after May 1st. For more information on Thematic Option, click here.
Can you tell me more about Freshman Science Honors?
Like Thematic Option, there is no award, GPA-boost, or special distinction granted to students who complete Freshman Science Honors. Through the Freshman Science Honors Program, students majoring in a natural science take advanced versions of their 1st-year General Chemistry and Introductory Biology courses in a small community of 60 students. Students are generally invited to apply to Freshman Science Honors, but again, any motivated and dedicated student majoring in a natural science may apply. Applications are made available in the spring, after students have been admitted to USC, and are also due by April 14th. For more information relating to Freshman Science Honors, click here.
What are “Departmental Honors?”
Students may also engage in honors programs through their majors. Through many of these programs, students complete a formal research project by the end of their senior year and receive a departmental honors designation on their transcripts. These students must also maintain a minimum GPA and remain in good standing with student judicial affairs. Be sure to ask your academic advisors about how best to prepare for this when you get to campus for Orientation!
USC awards 4 units of elective credit for most AP examinations with a score of 4 or 5. Some tests will satisfy Core requirements, while others will satisfy foreign language requirements or specific course requirements in certain majors. For detailed, up-to-date information regarding AP credit articulation, please visit the articulation website and read our official AP policy. That website can be found here.
What advanced credit can I receive for my International Baccalaureate (IB) test scores?
USC grants either (1) 20 units of credit to students who earn the International Baccalaureate Diploma with a score of 30 or higher, or (2) 6 semester units of credit for each score of 5, 6 or 7 on the IB Higher Level exams, up to a maximum of four exams, whichever is higher. No credit is earned for the Standard Level exams. Advanced Placement (AP) credit can be earned in addition to IB credit for a maximum of 32 units. However, credit cannot be earned for AP and IB exams on the same topic.
Elective credit is awarded by the Articulation Office upon receipt of official IB scores. In addition, a number of IB exams may fulfill USC subject requirements. Click here for information on USC credit for specific IB courses. Some departments may use IB scores for placement purposes, such as waiving a course prerequisite. Also, your major department may use IB scores to waive certain degree requirements. Your academic advisor will provide you with assistance at Orientation.
AP and IB Articulation is pretty complicated — will somebody help me figure it out?
Yes, we will be happy to help you navigate our AP and IB credit policies when you visit us for Orientation this summer.
Yes, and we would love to see you at one of them! USC runs admitted student visit programs throughout the month of April, both on our campus and in various metropolitan areas around the country and all over the world.
National Decision Deadline Date is May 1st, so we would like you to let us know by then. However, if you make your decision to join us here at USC this coming year before May 1st, you are more than welcome to accept our offer of admission before the deadline!
How do I commit to USC?
All you have to do is log into your USConnect account and submit your enrollment deposit. About 7-10 days after receiving your deposit, USC will send you information regarding Orientation, and you will be able to begin planning for your first semester at the University of Southern California.
What if I have questions that are less frequently asked than these?
Please feel free to call us at (213)740-5930, or email us at email@example.com, with any questions or concerns you might have. Our office is open from 8:30am-5:00pm, Monday-Friday.
What should I do between now and Orientation?
Go to prom. Hang out with your friends. Study hard for your AP/IB tests. Finish your high school career strong. Thank your favorite teachers for all you learned from them. Sign your friends’ yearbooks. Be kind to your siblings. Go to your high school graduation ceremony and send us a picture from the festivities. Enjoy your last few weeks and months in school and at home, and get excited about the next step.
USC Dornsife is an exciting place to learn and grow, and we know that you will bring something truly special and unique to our campus community. Congratulations on your admission to the University of Southern California, and we hope to see you on campus soon!