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International Student Application Process: Undergraduate Students (Freshmen and Transfers)

Every year, students from all over the world apply to USC.  We are proud to have one of the largest international student populations of any university in the United States.  We offer special international student orientations and a variety of student services to ease your transition to university life in the U.S.

At USC, an international student is an individual of foreign nationality who will be entering, or has already entered, the United States with a student visa. Students already residing in the United States and holding other non-immigrant visas (E2, H2, or L2, for example) are also considered to be international students.

International students do not qualify for need-based financial aid, but are eligible for merit-based scholarships. Permanent residents of the United States, naturalized U.S. citizens, and U.S. citizens residing abroad and attending school outside the United States are not considered international students and are eligible for both need-based financial aid and merit-based scholarships.

How to Apply as an International Student

International students must follow the steps for applying to USC listed either on the application process for freshman applicants or the application process for transfer student applicants. They must also submit the Financial Statement of Personal or Family Support.

On the undergraduate application, please write your name as it appears on your passport. This will be the name printed on your I–20 form to apply for a student visa. If the name on your school record is different from your passport, enter that name in the "Preferred Names" section. All international students must provide a foreign address that is not a P.O. box, even if your current mailing address is in the United States.

If you still have questions about the application process, please visit the Admission website.

Academic Records

You must provide one official copy in your native language, sent directly from your school and accompanied by a certified English translation, of all records of academic course work. Required records include:

  • Yearly secondary school records that indicate the courses taken and grades/marks received;
  • Yearly records from each college or university attended that indicate the number of lecture and/or laboratory hours per week, per course, and the grade received in each course (transfer students only); and
  • Official documents verifying the award of all secondary school diplomas and/or academic certificates with the title and date conferred.

Test Scores

USC requires scores from either the SAT or the ACT (with the optional Writing test) from all first-year (freshman) applicants.

All international applicants (freshman and transfer) whose native language is not English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). International first-year applicants with minimum scores of 600 on the SAT Critical Reading section or 27 on the ACT English section are exempt from taking the TOEFL.  The TOEFL must have been taken within the past two years from the application date. 

English Proficiency Requirements

Academic success at USC depends on your ability to communicate effectively in English. All international applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency in the following manner:

  • First-year applicants must submit TOEFL, SAT, or ACT scores
  • Transfer applicants must submit TOEFL score

Freshman and transfer applicants whose native language is English are presumed to be proficient.  This includes applicants from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (except Quebec) where English is both the first language of the country and the language of instruction. Applicants with minimum scores of 100 on TOEFL iBT (with at least 20 in each section), 600 on the SAT Critical Reading, or 27 on the ACT English are presumed to be proficient.

For those who do not demonstrate English proficiency, USC requires the International Student Examination (ISE) upon admission and prior to registration. The results on the ISE determine whether or not a student must enroll in English language courses at the American Language Institute (ALI) at USC.

More information on USC's International Student Examination.

Financial Statement of Personal or Family Support

The United States government requires all international applicants to provide proof of ability to pay tuition and living expenses before a formal letter of admission, or the forms needed for obtaining a visa, can be issued.

Each international applicant relying on personal or family support must furnish, at the time of application, a completed Financial Statement of Personal or Family Support and appropriate original financial documents, such as savings deposit and checking account records or bank letters signed by bank personnel, stating the sponsor's name and address and verifying the ability to pay the annual cost of education-related expenses for the first academic year. The financial document must be verified by a bank.