Application FAQ

If I upload official transcripts, do I still need to have them sent to the USC Office of Graduate Admissions?

Yes. While uploading copies of your official transcripts to the CAS Portal allows us to proceed with evaluating your application, if offered admission, matriculation will be conditional upon receiving official transcripts directly from the institution.
If you upload unofficial transcripts to the CAS Portal, your application will be considered incomplete and we cannot admit you to the POIR Program until your official transcripts are received by the Office of Graduate Admissions. Please make transcript requests to institutions with sufficient time for them to arrive before the application deadline.
Video: How to enter your academic record

Will the GRE be required for the 2024 admissions cycle?

Yes. Applicants should schedule their exam before November 15, 2023 to ensure ETS has sufficient time to send your results before the application deadline.

If I can’t schedule to take my GRE exam until after the deadline, will my application still be considered?

Please email to request permission for your scores to arrive after the deadline. You must still submit your online application by the November 30, 2023 deadline. For full consideration, your scores should arrive no later than December 15, 2023.

I took the GRE several years ago. Do I have to re-take the exam or can I submit old scores?

If you took the GRE within five years of the expected matriculation at USC, then we will accept older scores sent directly from ETS. For the 2024 admissions cycle, you may submit scores no older than August 2019.

Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation, and should they all be from academicians?

We only require three letters of recommendation, but applicants may submit up to five letters. We prefer that letters be written by faculty who have supervised academic work, especially research projects, papers, etc. However, if necessary, we will consider professional references. All letters should be submitted electronically via your online application.

What is the average GPA students need to gain admission? What about the TOEFL or IELTS?

Our admissions committee conducts a holistic review of your application, meaning they will consider all aspects of your application when making their decisions. While GPA and test scores are components that are heavily weighted in the admission process, we encourage you to do your best and still submit an application if you wish to be admitted.

My university does not use the 1-4 GPA scale. Do I need to convert my GPA?

You should enter the GPA as it appears on your official transcripts, whether it is a ten-point scale or a percentage. USC’s Graduate Admissions office will recalculate your GPA when they evaluate your transcripts.
Video: How to add your GPA

What should be included in my research statement? What is the expected length?

The research statement serves as a unique platform to state who you are as a would-be scholar, what five years of USC doctoral education would do for you as a researcher, what research agenda you would pursue, what fields and subject matter interests you and motivates you to embark on this five-year journey, what preparation you’ve received in the past and how you will leverage the skills during your tenure with us. You can also view it as an opening statement and a closing argument – you are making your case to the admissions committee the qualities, attributes and distinctions that make you a strong candidate for the program. In laying out your research interests and agenda, you are also establishing your compatibility with the faculty and their own research program. Please be sure to identify at least 2-3 faculty members you are interested in working with.
The statement of purpose should be a concise and cogent document, preferably two pages in length, single or double spaced.

Is a Master’s degree required for admission to the program?

While recommended, a Master’s degree is NOT required for admission to the Ph.D. program if you have a 4-year baccalaureate degree.
Applicants with a 3-year baccalaureate degree from India, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa must have a Master’s degree for admission to USC. International students are encouraged to check their country requirements for admission to USC before applying.

If I have completed a Master’s degree, how many courses can I apply to the POIR degree?

The POIR program allows you to transfer up to 24 units from outside graduate coursework as approved by our Program Director, the faculty field coordinators, and by USC’s Degree Progress and Admissions Office. Only graduate level courses that were taken while pursuing a graduate degree and completed with a grade of B or better will be considered for transfer credit. Upon admission and enrollment in POIR, students can petition to count previous coursework towards their degree. Each course will then be examined by the respective field coordinator(s). When transferring courses from international institutions, all prior degrees that were not verified during the admission process, must be verified via IERF before any courses can be transferred.

As an international student, how should I respond to the section of the application that asks for proof of financial stability?

Our program fully funds students’ tuition and provides a monthly stipend that offsets important costs of living. You may include the following statement in place of a bank document: “The Ph.D. program to which I am applying, housed in the USC Dornsife College, provides a comprehensive 5-year funding package that covers tuition and stipend each year.”

If I have been awarded a fellowship (Fulbright or other external fellowships), do I need to submit any documentation in my application?

Yes. If you have been awarded any type of external funding prior to the date you submit your application for admission, please be sure to upload a copy of your award letter(s) to your online application under “other” documents. If you receive notification of an external funding award after you submit your application, you can email copies of the documents to Danielle De Rosa Ballard at Be sure to include your application or USC ID in your email. Please only include these documents if the external award will be used while in the POIR program. External awards used for prior or current degree programs should be listed on your CV/Resume.

How many applications do you receive and how many students are offered admission?

You can visit the USC Office of Graduate Admissions for statistics on each program. POIR typically offers admission to 10-15% of applicants.

POIR PhD Student Admissions Overview

I noticed you have an MA degree posted in the catalog, does this mean you have a Masters program available?

No. The program is structured in such a way that only Ph.D. students who have been admitted to our program are allowed to complete the M.A. degree upon recommendation of the POIR faculty.

If you have any further inquiries, please email the Graduate Program Assistant.