How to Get Into USC: SAT and ACT Scores, GPA, and More

USC, short for the University of Southern California, is known for its elite standing (ranked 27th among national universities) and prime location in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. What’s cooler than going to class at a super prestigious university and then seeing movies on the weekends before the rest of the country?! Not much. So if you’re wondering how to get into USC, here is a complete overview of the USC SAT scores, ACT scores, GPA, and other admission factors you should know about before applying.

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Quick USC Admissions Statistics

USC SAT scores (average composite score of admitted students)1440 on a 1600 scale
USC ACT scores (average composite score of admitted students)
32 on a 36 scale
USC GPA (average of admitted students)
3.88 on a 4.0 scale
USC acceptance Rate
12% for the class of 2025

The test scores, GPA, and acceptance rate certainly reflect this!

A Word on USC SAT and ACT Scores

In light of decreased accessibility to testing prep and testing facilities on account of Covid-19, USC went test-optional last year. Recently, they announced that their test-optional admissions policy will be extended for two more years. This means that students applying for Fall 2022 or Fall 2023 admission will not have to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of their application.

Now, that said, according to USC’s test optional policy, while students are not required to provide test scores, they are more than welcome to submit them if they believe their scores will strengthen their application. On the other hand, USC makes it very clear that students will not be penalized and their chances for admission will not decrease if they don’t submit test scores.

And by the way, this policy also stands for international students and home-schooled students as well.

So really, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to submit test scores as part of your application. If you’re a strong test taker. Below, we’ll take a look at the average SAT and ACT scores of students admitted to USC prior to the test-optional policy, which will give you a sense of the type of student you’ll have to be and what to aim for if you do decide to provide test scores.

More About USC SAT Scores

Before determining exactly what SAT score you’ll need to be a viable applicant at USC, here are a few important things to consider:

  • Under normal (non test-optional) circumstances, USC requires that you take the SAT or the ACT, but you can certainly submit scores for both tests if you prefer.
  • USC’s score submission policy is “highest section,” which is also referred to as “superscoring.” Through this policy, you get to choose which scores get sent to which schools, and admissions readers will only consider the highest scores in each section across all the tests you sat for.
  • If you take the SAT, you must take the Essay section of it as well.

So, what do you actually have to score to be seriously considered for admission to USC? Here are the current percentiles:

  • The 25th percentile for USC SAT scores is 1350. This means that if you score a composite 1300 or below, you will be below average compared to the students admitted to USC.
  • The 75th percentile for USC SAT scores is 1550. This means that if you score a composite 1500 or higher, you’ll be above average compared to the students admitted to USC.

Depending on which program you’re applying to specifically, and because USC looks at only the highest scores in a given section, you may be interested in knowing how the percentiles for each test section shake out:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Composite 144013501530

Knowing what scores to aim for in each section can help you put an effective SAT study plan in place, and help you target areas most in need of improvement.

So, at the end of the day, if USC is your dream school, we suggest that you take the SAT as many times as necessary to get a composite score of 1540, or as close to it as possible. Think big–aim for the perfect SAT score. Since the score readers will only see your highest scores, they’ll have no sense of how many times you took the test, and this won’t reflect poorly on you.

Start your sat prep today.

More About USC ACT Scores

Here are some quick things to consider if you plan to take and submit ACT scores to USC:

  • If you take the ACT, you must take the Writing portion as well.
  • You can choose exactly which ACT tests you’d like sent to USC, so admissions readers will only see your highest scores.

So, what do you actually have to get on the ACT to have a strong chance of getting into USC?

As noted above, the average composite USC ACT score for admitted students is 32, and the percentiles are as follows:

  • The 25th percentile for USC ACT scores is 30
  • The 7the percentile for USC ACT scores is 34

This means that if you score a 30 or below overall on your ACT, you’ll be below the average of accepted USC students, but if you score a 34 or higher, you’ll be above average.

So the gist is that it’s in your best interest to take the ACT as many times as necessary to score a 33 or higher if you want a very good chance of being accepted. Again, aiming for perfection on the ACT is a pretty good strategy if you start early enough!

Start your act prep today.

More About USC Acceptance Rate

USC saw the largest application pool in history for the class of 2025 (starting Fall 2021), with over 70,971 applicants! This applicant pool increased by a whopping 20% from last year and a total of 8,804 students were admitted.

The good news is that while USC has become increasingly competitive, it’s also becoming more diverse. For the class of 2025, a record-high number of first-generation students (1,760) were admitted, which is a 3% increase from the previous year. The same goes for students from traditionally underrepresented racial demographics: this year 18% of admitted students were Latino and 8% were Black, indicating a marked increase over previous years.

USC Freshman Profile

Here’s what we know so far about the very impressive freshman of the class of 2025:

  • They are from more than 3,800 high schools across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. Territories and 88 other countries.
  • 40% are from California.
  • After California, the most represented U.S. States are Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey.
  • 14% are international students. The most represented countries are China, India, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico
  • 20% are the first in their family (first-generation) to attend college.
  • 72% are African American, Latinx, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander or of multiple ethnicities

You can also check out the freshman profile for the class of 2024 to get a sense of recent admissions trends.

But in short, the trajectory of admissions at USC is accepting a highly diverse and academically impressive group of students!

USC’s Other Admissions Requirements and Info

USC contends that there is no one formulaic tactic for getting admitted, and that they consider the well-roundedness of your application. This is a really thorough and helpful overview of all of USC’s undergraduate admissions requirements, but here’s a quick checklist of what you’ll need to apply:

  • Common Application with essay
  • Official test scores
  • Transcript with all high school coursework and grades earned
  • Letter of recommendation (from either your school counselor or a teacher); applicants to the School of Cinematic Arts must submit 3 letters of recommendation.
  • Portfolio, resume, or additional writing samples, depending on the program you’re applying to (scroll to the bottom of the admissions requirements page linked above for specifics)
  • Your fall grades, when available

Additionally, USC will consider the following when reviewing your application:

    • Your academic promise. In addition to test scores and GPA, it’s important to note that most admitted students are in the top 10% of their graduating class. The more challenging classes you take, the better, especially if you receive high grades in them; this indicates that you can keep up with the academic rigor of the courses at USC.
    • Your personality, values, and character, as reflected in your essays and in your letters of recommendation.
    • According to admissions, “Your application will paint a picture of you and how you might contribute to the community, tradition, and spirit that make USC the dynamic place it is,” so the more you can stand out from the crowd, the better!

“Pursue activities that you’re passionate about, not activities that will supposedly impress colleges. When reviewing your activity summary, USC doesn’t evaluate how well-rounded or busy you are. They want to understand what makes you tick. Show dedication and commitment over time to specific areas of interest. Highlight what matters to you and why it matters.

If you want to impress the USC admissions team, stop worrying about what they want to hear. Focus on being open, honest, and authentic. Write what matters to you and let your personality and passion shine through.” — Transizion expert Ashley C. on how to make your USC application stand out

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Does USC use the Common App?

It sure does! The Common App, which stands for the Common Application, is a universal undergraduate college admissions application that many schools use. Arguably, the most important part of the Common App is the essay portion, so here’s a guide to writing an impressive common app essay that will make your application stand out!

Does USC accept spring transfers?

Yes, unlike a lot of other schools, USC accepts mid-year transfers during their freshman year. Here’s more specifics on how to transfer to USC.

Is USC need-blind?

Yes. What this means is that USC does not take your need (or lack thereof) for financial assistance into consideration when reviewing your application. USC also offers plenty of financial aid options in the form of scholarships, grants, and more.

Does USC interview?

No, at this time USC does not offer admissions interviews to students.

A Final Word on How To Get Into USC

Here’s our quick re-cap on how to get into USC…

  • Earn as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible
  • Score at least a 1500 on your SAT (if you’re submitting test scores).
  • Score at least a 34 on your ACT (if you’re submitting test scores).
  • Write a very strong and compelling essay.
  • Demonstrate participation in extracurricular activities, particularly in leadership roles, if possible.
  • Have a very strong letter of recommendation (or multiple letters, if your department requires them).

And of course, in order to do well on your SAT and ACT, start studying as early as possible! Check out this 1-week SAT free trial as well as a great 1-week ACT free trial to get you started!

Happy studying and good luck!

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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  • Nadyja Von Ebers

    Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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