• Thematic Option is an honors general education program that replaces the traditional general education courses at USC. The program provides a challenging interdisciplinary general education experience that emphasizes reading, writing, and asking the “big questions.” Read more about our approach and learning objectives here. Our goal is not to help prepare you for a major or a career–there are many other programs and courses at USC that will do that–but to help you become a lifelong learner with a love of language and an insatiable curiosity. Interested students should apply to Thematic Option after they have been admitted to USC and before our application deadline.

  • Yes, with two exceptions. Students enrolled in the World Bachelor in Business major or the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance major may not participate in Thematic Option due to the unique structure of those programs. Students of all other majors are eligible for TO.

  • Thematic Option is an alternative general education system. Students in Thematic Option take six CORE courses and four courses chosen from USC’s regular general education system. This allows for a balance between a shared curriculum (the CORE courses) and the opportunity to satisfy certain requirements with exam credit or overlap them with major or minor courses (the selected GE courses). Thematic Option students must satisfy the requirements in bold:

    • CORE 101
    • CORE 102
    • CORE 103
    • CORE 104
    • CORE 111
    • CORE 112
    • GE-A
    • GE-C
    • GE-E
    • GE-F

    You may have heard about some additional general education requirements: GE-G, GE-H, and the General Education Seminar. For Thematic Option students, all three of these requirements are satisfied by the CORE courses listed above.

    Click here to learn more about each CORE requirement and read sample course descriptions.

  • No. There are no weighted GPAs in any courses at USC, and registration is based on the number of units you have completed, not membership in a particular program. Graduating “with honors” comes from completing an honors thesis in your major, not from Thematic Option. We want students to join Thematic Option not for ulterior motives, but because they’re truly interested in the learning experience we offer, which makes for a richer community. We strongly encourage you to apply to Thematic Option only if the program sounds exciting to you, and not simply because it is an honors program.

  • CORE courses usually do not overlap with majors or minors. However, the GE courses that complement the CORE curriculum (GE A, C, E and F) often count for major and minor requirements as well as for general education credit. If you are enrolled in a major or minor that offers a course in GE A, C, E, or F, you are welcome to enroll in that course to satisfy both your major or minor requirement and your GE requirement.

  • Thematic Option accepts AP and IB coursework in the same way as USC’s regular general education system. The only exception is AP Biology: Thematic Option does not accept this exam for course credit as Thematic Option’s science course is interdisciplinary, not strictly a life science course. Students are never waived out of the CORE courses that make up our shared curriculum, but they may use exams to satisfy certain GE courses that complement the CORE curriculum (GE A, C, E, and F). A score of 4 or 5 on AP exams or 5 or higher on IB Higher Level exams will satisfy the Thematic Option requirements listed below.

    • GE-A: AP Art History, IB HL Dance, IB HL Film, IB HL Music, IB HL Theatre, IB HL Visual Arts
    • GE-E: AP Chemistry, AP Physics (any), IB HL Chemistry, IB HL Physics
    • GE-F: AP Calculus (any), AP Economics (any), AP Statistics, IB HL Economics, IB HL Mathematics, IB HL Further Mathematics

    Even if an exam will not satisfy a GE requirement, you may still receive elective credit. Learn more about AP and IB credit here.

  • This question is only relevant for students who drop TO after taking TO classes. For those students shifting from TO to regular GE, their completed TO CORE classes will take the place of several GE requirements. Please talk to a TO advisor if you are considering leaving TO.

  • You must be a Thematic Option student to enroll in CORE 101 through 112 and to use Thematic Option courses to satisfy general education requirements. However, we do offer some courses that are open to all USC students: CORE 200, CORE 301, CORE 401, and CORE 450. These courses may be taken as electives or as part of the Thematic Approaches to Humanities and Society minor. Learn more about CORE 200, CORE 301, and the minor here.

  • You should apply after you have been admitted to USC, and before our application deadline (usually mid-April). Please find this year’s deadline and application information here.

  • No, there is no invitation needed to apply. Any student admitted to the fall freshman class is welcome to submit an application.

  • We are looking for effort, originality, and a good fit. We hope to see that you understand what our program has to offer, and that you are excited to make Thematic Option part of your USC experience.

  • No. Our focus is on your Thematic Option online application. As you craft your responses, remember that we are a program with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing.

  • There are only two majors that preclude students from participating in TO: The Marshall School of Business World Bachelor in Business and the Iovine and Young Academy.

  • Unfortunately, there are no scholarships available through this program. Please contact your major department or the USC Financial Aid office to inquire further about scholarship options.