Choosing a Program and Application Process

  • There are numerous benefits to studying abroad, both academic and personal.  On an academic level, you will become a more well-rounded student by taking interesting courses beyond what is offered on campus, or courses that may be similar in content but in a different academic culture and context. You can also develop new intellectual pursuits, improve both your foreign language and English communication skills, or begin a new language. You will become more self-reliant and resourceful, make new friends, gain new perspectives on your identity or perhaps your heritage, and delve into local arts, culture, cuisine, and sports. You can even gain international internship or volunteer experience. You will also be more attractive to future employers because you will improve your intercultural communication skills and your ability to adapt to new cultures and environments.

  • Most programs require students to have at least sophomore standing upon commencement of the program; some programs require junior status. Transfer students may study overseas upon completion of two semesters at USC. Most programs are open for both semester and year-long study, but some are only available in the spring or require attendance for a full year. Think about your degree plan and speak to your academic advisor when deciding what would be the best time for you. Students must be enrolled in USC courses or be enrolled in a USC-approved off-campus program in the semester prior to studying abroad.

  • Yes! Many students choose this option. Some go to the same program for a full year to really immerse themselves deeply in their host country’s culture. Others go to two different locations to have two different experiences. While we encourage students to decide whether they want to go for a semester or year when they apply, most programs allow you to apply for a semester and then extend if you want to stay. You may study abroad for a maximum of two semesters on programs through our office.

  • No. While there are some programs that are only open to certain majors and some that require you to take courses for major credit, there are others on which you are not required to pursue major or minor credit.

  • You will apply separately to USC Dornsife Overseas Studies and to the host institution.
    The exceptions are USC Paris and USC Madrid, for which students apply only to Overseas Studies.

    USC Dornsife Overseas Studies applications for fall semester and full-year programs are available in early December and generally due in February. Applications for spring programs are available in early June and generally due in September. Students can check our deadlines on the Apply page of this website and under the How to Apply tab in each program page.

    Host institutions will either have a fixed deadline or will accept applications on a rolling basis, in which case students are urged to apply to the host institution prior to the USC deadline. Students can ascertain whether the program has rolling admissions by looking on the host institution’s website.

    For the Pembroke Cambridge Summer Programme (PCSP), applications are available in late October and due in mid-November.

    Dornsife Overseas Studies Applications will not be accepted after the USC Dornsife deadline, regardless of the deadline of the host institution or program provider.

    For application deadlines, click here.

  • Most Overseas Studies programs are not selective. Students are only allowed to apply to one program with the exception of the following selective programs:

    • India – Buddhist Studies in Bodh Gaya
    • Japan – Nanzan University
    • Japan – Waseda University
    • South Korea – Yonsei University
    • Spain – USC Madrid
    • UK – London School of Economics
    • UK – British American Drama Academy (BADA)
    • UK – University College London
    • UK – King’s College London

    Students applying to a selective program may also apply to a non-selective program as backup. If accepted to the selective program, your backup application will be withdrawn.

    If you can’t decide between several programs, study abroad advisors are happy to meet with you to help you narrow down your choice.

  • Admission to a Dornsife study abroad program is a two-approval process. Except for USC Paris and USC Madrid, all programs require both a USC application and an application to the host university (e.g. University of Bristol) or program provider (e.g. CIEE, IES, SIT).

    All USC Dornsife Overseas Studies applications are reviewed by the Office of Overseas Studies. An application interview and a student conduct check are part of the review process. Being accepted solely by the Office of Overseas Studies does not guarantee acceptance by the host institution/program provider.

    Applications to the host university/program provider are reviewed by each host institution/program provider. The criteria for selection differ from institution to institution. Being accepted solely by the host institution/program provider does not guarantee acceptance by USD Dornsife Overseas Studies.

    You must be accepted by BOTH USC Dornsife AND the host institution/program provider. If you are accepted by the host institution/program provider before you receive an admission decision from USC Dornsife, you should not consider yourself accepted to the program. Likewise, if you are accepted by USC Dornsife before you receive an admission decision from the host institution/program provider, you should not consider yourself accepted to the program. Admission decisions from USC Dornsife are usually made 3-4 weeks after the application deadline. Most host institutions/program providers notify students of their acceptance within 2-8 weeks.

  • Passport photos can be obtained at any of the following locations:

    • USCard Services
    • CVS
    • Triple A at Washington & Figueroa (for AAA members only)
    • FedEx
    • US Post Office
  • Some programs are more selective than others, due to higher GPA requirements or enrollment limits. We do advise students applying to selective programs to apply to a backup as well.  See “Can I apply to more than one program?” above for a list of selective programs.

  • The Pembroke Cambridge Summer Programme (PCSP) is the only summer program abroad offered by Dornsife Overseas Studies. Various academic departments in USC Dornsife offer short-term Faculty-Led Programs (FLPs) such as Maymesters.

  • Some reasons students give for choosing the spring are being on campus for fall football games and being able to stay on after the spring program ends to travel. However, spring students have less time to secure a student visa and (for some programs) secure housing, which some say can be big stressors.

    One reason for choosing the fall is that many Southern Hemisphere programs (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) end in November, leaving part of November and all of December (their summer) for travel.  Another reason is that there is more time to secure a student visa and housing. Further, students say in places like Europe fall weather can be better than spring weather and there are fewer tourists, making for better sightseeing.


  • Yes.  Students must have at least a 3.0 cumulative USC GPA (at the time of application) to study abroad through the Office of Overseas Studies. Some programs have a higher GPA requirement due host institution requirements.

  • Many of our programs are open to all students regardless of school or major.  There are exceptions, however, so be sure to carefully read through the eligibility requirements listed at the top of each program’s page.

  • No.  The Office of Overseas Studies offers around 25 programs with no language requirement whatsoever. In addition, many other programs have language requirements of as few as two semesters. There are a few programs that don’t require language study before going but do require students take a foreign language class on site (e.g. Greek and Dutch). Our website has individual program pages with information regarding specific requirements.

  • Two semesters of college-level language is equivalent to having completed the second semester course in that language. You can also meet this requirement by taking the placement test and placing out of the second semester. Note that the placement test results are only valid for one year. For information, contact the Language Center.

  • Yes.  In fact, roughly one-third of the students who participate in our programs have majors in schools other than Dornsife. Look for your school on the Programs by Major page to see which programs might be a good fit.  Note that majors in Annenberg, Architecture, and Marshall can earn major credit abroad only on the programs offered by those schools but are welcome to participate in Dornsife program for minor or elective credit.

  • Rules about the admissibility to the U.S. are set by the federal government and are subject to change. Students are urged to consult with the USC Gould School of Law’s Immigration Clinic at least a year in advance of their proposed study abroad semester.

  • No. Students must be enrolled in USC courses or be enrolled in a USC-approved off-campus program in the semester prior to studying abroad.


  • The Office of Overseas Studies does not keep a list of USC equivalents for all courses offered on every study abroad program. Instead, students must look at the online course catalog for their chosen program and ask their academic advisor whether major/minor credit will be granted for individual courses. Many departments keep lists of courses that have been pre-approved. If a course you want to take has not been pre-approved, your advisor may ask for a syllabus or course description to evaluate the content. Syllabi and course descriptions can often be found online; if you cannot find them, contact the Office of Overseas Studies.

  • Usually. All courses taken through an Office of Overseas Studies semester program that are in an undergraduate area of study offered at USC will be granted USC credit and will count toward the 64-unit residency requirement. Just a few examples of courses that would not be granted USC credit would be Fashion Design, Global Tourism, Wine Science, Gaming Industry Management and Metallurgy, which are areas of study not offered at USC.  Also, the courses taken at a foreign university must be in regular undergraduate divisions of the university, not in univerisity extension programs.

  • The units that you earn on a USC-approved study abroad program (and that are eligible for USC credit) are considered to be taken “in residence” and will count toward the 64-unit residency requirement. They are not “transfer” units. You can check the Program pages on this website to see how many USC units you can earn on each program.

  • Yes, if your major or minor is in the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences or many of USC’s other undergraduate schools. The Office of Overseas Studies offers over 50 semester and year-long programs all over the world. There are probably several locations that would suit your interests and allow you to graduate on time! As part of the application process, you are required meet with your academic advisor, who pre-approves the courses you plan to take.

    * Note: While some USC pre-professional schools might not award major credit for Dornsife Overeas Studies programs, all undergraduates are welcome to participate, and if they cannot earn major credit, should consider pursuing minor or elective credit.

  • Students are not allowed to fulfill General Education or Writing requirements on semester/year abroad programs.

  • With the exception of the USC “Catalogue” courses on the USC Paris and USC Madrid programs, all of the courses you take abroad will appear on your USC transcript as Credit/No Credit and will not affect your GPA. As long as your courses have been approved by your academic advisor, they will count toward your major or minor.

    Most students who study abroad receive a copy of their host institution transcript, which contains letter grades. If you are planning to apply to graduate school, you may be required to submit this transcript – so getting good grades is still important!

  • No. Courses at the host institution must be taken for a letter grade and passed for a student to receive USC credit. Host institution courses taken on a Pass/No Pass basis will not be awarded any USC credit even if passed.

  • Credit is guaranteed only for the Australian National Internship program at ANU in Canberra and the internship options at USC Paris and USC Madrid. Some others programs do offer internships, but in order to receive credit for an overseas internship it is extremely important to follow USC guidelines. Note that credit for internships is  guaranteed except for those listed above.

  • Rarely. To do so, students must file a request for exception to residence, which is initiated with their academic advisor and must gain approval from the department chair, school Dean and Transfer Credit Services Office. Exceptions are not readily granted. A student must have a strong academic rationale and support from his or her major department. Personal reasons, program location, and avoidance of GPA or language requirements are not sufficient rationale for an exception.

    If an exception to residency is granted, the student is normally approved to transfer in 8 units of credit. USC financial aid and scholarships will not apply to programs not sponsored by USC however, and units are NOT guaranteed to be transferable.  In addition, units transferred from non-USC programs are considered regular transfer units and do not count toward the 64 units required to be taken while in residency at USC. More information here.

Overseas Travel and Housing

  • No.  Some programs are operated in cooperation with other universities or organizations, and group flights may be available.  Many of the programs offer excursions with pre-arranged transportation during the term.

  • All students studying abroad must have a passport, which should be valid for at least six months beyond the last day of their program. Before departing the US, you will also need to obtain a student visa from your host country’s consulate (with some excpetions). Visa procedures are different for each country, and processing times can take as little as one day or as long as three months. Note that most consulates keep your passport while processing your visa, so you will not be able to travel outside of the US during that time. International students should keep in mind that visa procedures may differ from those of their US-citizen counterparts.  Once you have decided on a destination, look at the country’s consular website and familiarize yourself with student visa requirements.

  • Living arrangements vary by program. Housing options include dormitories (either with dining halls or cooking facilities), homestays, apartments (with other Americans, local residents, or other foreign students), or shared cabins. In one program students reside in a Buddhist monastery.

    On many programs there is program-arranged or university-arranged housing. USC students on these programs MUST live in the program-arranged or university-arranged housing. Independent housing is not permitted.

  • Students who live in university housing and are accepted to participate in a USC-approved semester study abroad program are eligible to be released from their university housing contract for the semester they are away provided they meet all deadlines set by USC Housing. Procedures for returning to USC housing the semester after study abroad are set by USC Housing, and students should ask USC Housing about such options.

    For students in non-university housing, it is their responsibility to make housing arrangements both before and after studying overseas. There may be some private student apartments that offer a special “study abroad” lease that allows a one-semester release upon request. The Office of Overseas Studies maintains a message board for students leaving for and returning from overseas.  Many students post available apartment rentals on this site, and others post when they need to find a roommate.  This is often an effective way to find someone to sub-lease an apartment, or find housing for when you return from overseas.

Cost and Financial Aid

  • Many students fear that studying abroad will be too expensive.  But there are programs for a wide range of budgets, with some costing considerably less than a semester at USC.  The key is to be flexible about where you study abroad.  If you would like to find out estimated program costs, please see the Programs pages on this website.  Each program page has a Finances tab, at the bottom of which you can find the program costs.

  • Yes.  USC financial aid (grants and loans but not work-study) and scholarships are applicable to the cost of USC-approved semester and year-long study abroad programs.  Financial aid packages are reevaluated in consideration of the cost of a specific program, and aid packages are adjusted according to the modified cost of attendance.

    In cases where the semester overseas is projected to be less expensive than an on-campus semester, the estimated family contribution (EFC) will be maintained and the aid package will be reduced.  If a program is projected to be more than an on-campus semester, the student and family may be eligible for additional loans in the amount of the cost differential.

  • Regulations about the use of GI Bill funding for study abroad are subject to change. Currently, GI Bill funding can be used only for USC Catalogue courses (i.e. courses that officially appear in the USC course catalogue) taught by USC faculty. This means that the only Dornsife semester/year programs on which GI Bill funding may be used are the USC Madrid and USC Paris programs and then only for the USC catalogue courses offered on those programs.

  • Scholarships are available for certain overseas programs.  Detailed financial aid and scholarship information is available on the Office of Overseas Studies scholarships web page.  Generally, there are many more scholarships available for study abroad in non-Western. Scholarships for study in Europe and Australia are quite limited. Students can work part time in Australia and the UK provided they apply for the visa type that allows it.

  • There are two different withdrawal deadlines: USC’s and the host institution’s. It is the student’s responsibility to be familiar with both.

    • USC – Students who withdraw after the overseas studies withdrawal deadline are responsible for the commitment fee listed on their program’s cost sheet (see the Finances tab on the Program page).
    • Host Institution – Each host institution has its own withdrawal policy and their withdrawal deadline will differ from USC’s. Students should check with their host institution to learn more about their withdrawal policy.

    All withdrawals needs to be submitted in writing to both USC Overseas Studies and the host institution.

Diversity and Identity Abroad

  • We encourage all students, no matter how they identify, to check out our Diversity and Identity page.  There you will find lots of information and links related to a wide variety of identities, a link to our Study Abroad Ambassadors, and links to key resources at USC. We also have lots of student feedback in the program evaluation binders in our office lobby in THH 341.  You can also schedule an appointment with a Study Abroad Advisor to discuss concerns and ask questions.

Other Questions or Concerns

  • Yes. We have a team of Study Abroad Ambassadors whom we encourage you to reach out to. Also, program evaluations from previous participants are available in the Office of Overseas Studies in THH 341. These evaluations detail student perceptions of academics, housing, costs and experiences. Most students who fill out an evaluation include their email address so future students can contact them.

    • Peruse this website some more, as the answers to many of your questions are on this site.
    • Attend the Study Abroad Fair and information sessions during Study Abroad Week (the third week of classes). Also, check out ‘Events & Announcements’ for other information sessions.
    • Make an appointment to meet with one of our Study Abroad Advisors. If you’ve narrowed down your study abroad options to a few programs, you can make an appointment with a Study Abroad Advisor who can help assess your individual needs and help you decide which program is best for you. See the Meet Our Staff section of our website.