What is the minimum undergraduate grade point average?

Applicants with undergraduate grade point averages below 3.0 will be considered only under unusual circumstances including evidence of recent improvement or clearly outstanding potential as a researcher. We recommend addressing any mitigating circumstances in your personal statement

How should I report my grade point average if my university does not use a 4.0 scale?

When listing undergraduate/graduate grade point averages (GPAs) on the application, please use the system of your university. If you received a percentage grade, provide the average percentage. If you were graded on a scale other than 4.0 (with 4.0 equal to an “A”), please indicate the average grade AND indicate the scale (for example, 8.5/10).

Where do I specify whether I am applying for Open Admission or Direct Admission?

There will be a question on the application asking whether you are applying for Direct Admission. If yes, then you will also need to indicate the name of the selected advisor. In addition, applicants will indicate interest in direct admission in their personal statement, where they will also discuss why they want to work with their chosen advisor. Please remember, you must have approval from the chosen advisor prior to submitting an application for Direct Admission or your application will not be considered.

How do I qualify for Direct Admission?

In order to be directly admitted in a lab, you need to be approved for Direct Admission by the advisor of choice before applying to the program. Contact the advisor to explain your motivation to join their lab as a Direct Admit. If they approve of your request to apply to their lab, you will need to specify that you are applying for Direct Admission in the application and indicate the name of the advisor. Note that admissions standards are the same for both Direct Admission and Open Admission tracks. Applications from Direct Admission applicants will be reviewed and applicants interviewed by the admissions committee prior to any offers being made.

What is an official transcript and how do I submit it?

In addition to submitting a copy of your transcript with your online application, an official transcript must be received by USC in order for you to be offered admission to our program. Hard-copy official transcripts must arrive in a sealed, stamped, official envelope and electronic transcripts must be received from a secure site linked to the sending institution. You can find additional information by clicking on “Transcripts” at the Office of Graduate Admissions FAQ page here ( https://gradadm.usc.edu/faqs/general-faqs/applying-to-usc/)

Is there a form for letters of recommendation?

No, there is no form for letters of recommendation. Letters should be written on institution letterhead and must be submitted electronically through the application system. By default, all letters of recommendation are considered confidential and your right to access is waived. If you wish to have the right to access your recommendations, you MUST have your referee attach a brief statement from you indicating that you have NOT waived your right of access. Please note that you need to give it to your referee before (s)he writes the letter.

What should I include in my personal statement?

Your statement of purpose for the Graduate School application should explain both why you wish to pursue graduate study in Molecular Biology and, more specifically, why you wish to do so at USC. It should include a summary of you research experience to date, including the motivation behind the project and how this experience has shaped your desire to pursue a PhD at USC. You can also describe your personal background and any challenges you have faced. If relevant, you may also explain any weaknesses in your academic record. We admit a small number of students each year in order to offer them full financial support; we therefore seek to find applicants whose interests best suit our program. You may also use this space to indicate specific labs that interest you and why. If you apply for Direct Admission, clearly indicate it in this space, and explain your specific interest in the lab you are applying to. There are no formatting requirements for the statement of purpose.

What if I cannot afford the application fee?

Fee waivers are available.  Please email Paloma Saenz at psaenz@usc.edu and she will help with your application fee waiver. Note: it may take several days for fee waivers to be approved, so plan to request the waiver well before the application deadline.

Am I eligible for financial aid?

It is the policy of the program to support each student we admit. This support comes in many forms: teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. All awards include full tuition remission, a stipend for living expenses, and payment of student health insurance and student health center fees.

When will I know the decision on my application?

We will notify students of our decision as soon as possible. For students admitted to the program, decisions will be made on a rolling basis beginning in mid-February.

May I contact faculty members in the program?

It is strongly recommended that you contact faculty whose research interests you. E-mail addresses for each faculty member can be found on this website.

Do I need to indicate in my application which faculty research labs I am interested in?

Yes, this will help us understand your research interests and determine whether you will be a good fit for our program.

May I visit the campus?

After reviewing applications, we will arrange for some applicants to visit the campus. This is by invitation only, and the program covers expenses. If you are interested in visiting prior to submitting your application, you may, but you will need to cover expenses. Please contact the graduate student advisor at least one month in advance of such a visit.