Information for New Grad Students

Welcome to the Graduate Program at USC Earth Sciences!

Here is a brief summary of what you can expect when you arrive. Please feel free to contact Cindy Waite, the Staff Graduate Advisor, with any questions.

Mandatory International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Training

Usually the first week in August,this training is mandatory if you are an international student who will be a TA in the coming year. If you know you will not be a TA in the coming year, we still strongly recommend that you attend this training if you can get here in time. You will be certified for the rest of your time at USC, and it’s often harder to attend in later years, when you may be out in the field. Also, the training includes mandatory English-language placement testing, which is great to get out of the way early. If you’re an international student, the Department will register you for this and for the free housing it provides.

Passport Verification for International Students

Passport verification is included in ITA training and should be done upon arrival. If you know for sure you will not be a TA this year, and can’t make it here in time for ITA training, you’ll make an appointment online to do passport verification at the Office of International Services (OIS) as soon as you arrive.

USC Graduate Student Orientation

Usually the Monday during Registration Week, this orientation is not mandatory, but can be useful, and you will have paid for it anyway (all first-time students are charged a mandatory orientation fee.) Orientation information and registration

USC International Student Orientation

Although the website says it’s mandatory, this orientation is in direct conflict with mandatory College TA Training, which is much more important.

Mandatory College TA Training

The College TA Training Program, usually the Wednesday and Thursday of Registration Week, is mandatory for all new teaching assistants, including international students who have taken the (equally) mandatory ITA TA training.

At this time, you will also be given the mandatory faculty anti-harassment training online. Technology training will also be required, and will take place twice on Thursday. TAs need to attend only one of these sessions.

Department of Earth Sciences Orientation and New Grad Student Field Trip

The TA training folks will tell you to attend lab safety training all day Friday of Registration Week, but we have other plans for you... Instead, you’ll attend:

  • Department orientation Friday morning;
  • Department welcome lunch;
  • Departure for the New Grad Student Field Trip, which will be led by our current grad students. You’ll return Sunday
Lab Safety Training

Since there are no GE labs during the first week of the semester, the department usually schedules mandatory lab safety training for this first week of classes, working around your classes.

Defensive Driving

Before you can drive a department vehicle, this is an online safety training session is required. Department tech Stanley Wright will help you register for it.

Payroll Set-Up

Payroll set-up varies widely depending on the student. See Cindy Waite,, and John McRaney,, and they will walk you through upon arrival.

  • Zumberge Hall of Science (ZHS)
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0740
  • Phone: (213) 740-6106
  • Email: