Graduate Admission

Requirements for admission include:


  1. A written statement by the applicant of aims and interests in pursuing interdisciplinary graduate work; letters of recommendation from at least three college instructors;
  2. Grades satisfactory to the department;
  3. Evidence of strong writing and analytical abilities; and
  4. Scores satisfactory to the department of the verbal, quantitative, and analytical General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations.  For international graduate students, additional test scores from TOEFL or IELTS are required.

All applicants are required to do the following:


  1. Take the GRE and submit a complete undergraduate record (Use institution code 4852 and department code 2206);
  2. Submit at least three letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose to the online application;
  3. Submit written materials as supportive evidence (transcripts and other related material).

Deadline is December 1 for the following fall semester. 

ASE receives a large number of applications every year. Our review process is complex as we are an interdisciplinary department and we involve many different faculty members in the reviewing of applications. We are also subject to tight University fellowship deadlines and so we encourage all applicants to submit their materials as early as possible so that we can alert you if your application is in any way incomplete. Our hard deadline is December 1 and no applications submitted past this deadline will be considered.




Fellowships, teaching and research assistantships, and other forms of financial aid are available to qualified candidates.


A completed application consists of the following materials: USC’s online application, an ASE supplemental application, an official set of transcripts from all higher education institutions attended, GRE scores, a 1,000-word essay on your professional and research interests, a scholarly writing sample, and three letters of recommendation. Additional test scores from TOEFL or IELTS are required for international graduate students.

Please note that there are two application forms required: The USC application and the ASE Supplemental Application. The USC application must be filled out online. The ASE Supplemental Application can be submitted to ASE directly with the entire application package. We encourage applicants to submit all their materials through the USC Online Application for quicker processing.

We require that the ASE Supplemental Application be typed and recommend that all application materials be typed. Not only does this make your application look more professional, but it makes the job of reading much easier for the many faculty and staff who will be reviewing your materials.

We will initially accept copies of official transcripts in order to help you meet our application deadlines, but please be aware that no offer of admission or financial aid is valid without an official set of transcripts. It's a good idea to request them early!

The personal essay (1,000 words maximum) should describe your professional and scholarly goals, and your proposed research interest. This is a very important part of the application process. Generally speaking, the more specific you can be about your research interest, the better the statement will be, as this will help faculty in assessing your readiness and suitability for Ph.D. work. Applicants should also use the essay as an opportunity to address any possible issues with the application, for example a relatively low undergraduate GPA, or extensive professional/creative work experiences which led you to decide to pursue a Ph.D.

GRE scores are a source of concern for some applicants. We do not have a specific cut-off score and as a general rule, we do not exclude anyone based solely on their GRE score. Instead, we view the GRE as one of several indicators. If you have a high GRE score, that will definitely help improve your chances of gaining acceptance. If you have an otherwise stellar application and a relatively low GRE, it will not weigh too much against you. But if you have a low GPA, low GREs, and an unfocused statement of purpose, it’s not looking good. As you can see, there is no single rule — we look at the overall package — which makes it really important that all materials be submitted in a timely fashion.

Finally, we also require three letters of reference. We strongly recommend that the applicant seek letters from people who can speak to their scholarly potential — this usually means professors. If you have been working for a number of years, you might include one letter from an employer, but you still should have some from past instructors or other scholars/artists with whom you interact. Generally, it is not a good idea to have your friends and loved ones write letters for you.

If any one of these materials is not included, your application will be considered incomplete. In some cases it may still be reviewed, but it will clearly be at a disadvantage. In other cases, it will not be reviewed at all — it is at the discretion of the director of graduate studies.

For more information, contact the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity directly:

Department of American Studies and Ethnicity
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2534
(213) 740-2426

  • Department of American Studies & Ethnicity
  • University of Southern California
  • 3620 South Vermont Avenue
  • Kaprielian Hall 462
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-2534