Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
MS: You are welcome to apply to USC. We will evaluate your credentials and admissibility after you have submitted an application. Here at USC, we do a comprehensive review of all applications. We do not use a formula or have minimum test score requirements for admission to USC. In general, successful applicants have demonstrated outstanding quantitative ability and proven success in previous academic endeavors, particularly in prerequisite coursework relevant to their intended major.
PhD: In addition to the above, applicants must also have demonstrated research experience.
MS & PhD: Qualified applicants will have an undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Science or equivalent) in engineering/computer science, math, physics, or another hard science such as biology or chemistry, depending on the Master’s program. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about your eligibility.
MS & PhD: With the exception of our MS in Systems Architecting & Engineering, work experience is not required for admission and is not an application criterion. Also, work experience cannot substitute for academic coursework.
However, work experience information can be included as part of the résumé/CV.
MS & PhD: The answer to this varies depending on the circumstances. Please send an email to our Viterbi Graduate Admission Office with your full name and the USC ID number you were issued with the previous application.
MS: Please visit our DEN@Viterbi International Guidelines page for information.
PhD: All doctoral programs are on-campus only.
MS: Conditional admission for international students is possible through the Pre-Master’s Program offered through USC’s International Academy.
PhD: Doctoral programs do not offer conditional admission.
MS: The Fall 2020 deadline is January 15, 2020, Spring 2021 deadline is September 15, 2020, and the Summer 2020 deadline is February 1, 2020.
*Please note, on-campus prospective students who wish to be considered for scholarships must submit a Graduate Application for Admission and official transcripts by December 15 for the Fall semester and by August 31 for the Spring semester. Scholarships are not offered for the Summer semester.
PhD: Doctoral programs only have Fall admission with an application deadline of December 15.
MS: Please refer to Degree Program pages for application criteria listed by specific program.
PhD: Doctoral applicants need to submit GRE scores, official transcripts, 3 Letters of Recommendation,
Personal Statement (Statement of Purpose) and a résumé/CV.
Update: September 30, 2020
Due to challenges that applicants may face in taking the GRE exam, the GRE exam will not be required for Summer and Fall 2021 applications to Viterbi School of Engineering graduate programs.
We perform a holistic review of the entire application, including overall academic records and success in courses that emphasize quantitative, scientific and engineering skills; personal statement; CV or resume; and any supplemental materials you provide in your application.
MS/PhD: You may apply for a maximum of three graduate programs across the entire university in a given admission cycle. Only one set of transcripts and test scores need be submitted regardless of the number of programs selected.
The Viterbi School allows applicants to apply for two graduate engineering programs with a single application fee of $90. We provide this benefit primarily for students who are interested in applying for both a Master’s and a Doctoral Program, but it can be used for applying to any two Viterbi graduate programs.
To apply for an additional program, a unique SECOND PROGRAM APPLICATION FEE WAIVER code must be provided by the USC Graduate Admission office and must be entered into the online application.
PLEASE NOTE: Applications submitted for multiple Viterbi School programs without a valid waiver will be charged for each additional program and no refunds will be given. See Application Fee Waiver Instructions for instructions on receiving a waiver to apply for a second Viterbi School program.
MS & PhD: Please click on the CONTACT US link in the lower left corner of the application for assistance with: technical issues, Letters of Recommendation, application fee payment, document upload problems, etc.
MS: If you decide to submit your application or supplemental materials after the deadline, please note that it will be considered late. The university will do its best to review your application but will not be able to guarantee that your file will be reviewed for the term to which you have applied.
PhD: If all or part of a doctoral application will be submitted after the deadline, we recommend contacting the appropriate department PhD advisor to find out whether the department accepts late applications.
MS & PhD: After you submit the online Graduate Admission application you will receive a USC ID number via email within 5-7 business days.
If, after 10 business days you have checked your email Junk and Clutter folders and have not received a USC ID, you can request it by sending an email to email@example.com with your full name, date of birth and the program to which you are applying.
Note: The USC ID is not the CAS ID number.
MS & PhD: Once you have submitted a completed application, including transcripts and test scores, please allow 4-6 weeks for USC to process your application. After that timeframe, you may send your full name and USC ID to firstname.lastname@example.org to check on whether USC has received all of your materials.
MS: We are not able to provide students with information on when a specific application will be reviewed. For applications that are submitted by the application deadline, Fall admit decisions are made between January and May, and Spring decisions are made between September and early December.
Please note that the date an application is submitted does not determine the date an admission decision will be issued.
PhD: Doctoral applicants need to contact the appropriate department PhD advisor to check on the status of an application.
MS & PhD: To update your Personal Statement or CV/résumé, transcript or to add other documents, follow the instructions below:
1) Log into your submitted application, go to the Program Materials quadrant and open the Documents tab.
2) Use one of the Other documents slots to add the updated/corrected document.
3) If you have used all of your Other document slots, you will need to send the updated/corrected document as an attachment to email@example.com. Make sure to include your name and USC ID in the email. (Note: This is the number that was emailed to you after you submitted the application. It is not the CAS ID.)
MS & PhD: To correct a mistake in a submitted application, follow the instructions below:
1) Go to the Graduate Admission Submit a Question page.
2) Fill in the form. Make sure to include your USC ID number. (Note: This is the number you were emailed after you you submitted the application. It is not the CAS ID.)
3) Under Select an Area, choose Graduate Admission
4) Under Category, choose General Information
5) Use Subject and Question, to tell them what needs to be corrected
5) Click the Submit Your Question button
MS & PhD: The application may be submitted with the TOEFL/IELTS scores section left blank. It is preferable to have the application submitted earlier without the scores rather than later because you waited until your scores were available. Also, this section remains active after the application has been submitted. It is recommended that once you have your TOEFL/IELTS scores that you log back into the application and add the scores.
Please note, if you are an international student your application will not be considered complete until USC has received your official TOEFL/IELTS scores electronically from the testing agency. For additional information on this requirement and the circumstances under which it can be waived, visit USC Graduate Admission’s English Proficiency page.
MS & PhD: Please use the scale that is used by the issuing university. There is no need to convert the GPA to a 4.0 scale.
MS: The financial documentation can be added in the Documents section of the Supporting Information quadrant of the online application. Additional submission details can be found on USC Graduate Admission’s Financial Documentation page.
Note: The financial documentation must be submitted no later than April 15 for Fall admission or October 25 for Spring admission.
PhD: Because USC tries to fully fund all doctoral students, applicants should not submit financial documentation.
MS & PhD: It is not a problem. This is a common issue for international applicants. We ask that International applicants submit a copy of the first two pages of their passport. This is so that we can use the name on the passport when generating the I-20 so that the two will match.
MS & PhD: Submit an electronic copy of official transcripts (.pdf recommended). It is no longer required to mail hard copy transcripts to USC if you are applying for a Viterbi School graduate program (master’s or Ph.D.). Currently, Viterbi is the only USC school that does not require mailed transcripts. Student’s who receive admission will be asked to provide mailed transcripts.
MS & PhD: You must submit official transcripts from all colleges, universities, and post-secondary institutions you have previously attended, even if you did not receive a degree.
MS & PhD: Yes. You need to provide both the original-language academic records and a full, word-for-word English-language translation issued by the academic institution you attended or a professional translation service.
MS & PhD: Letters of Recommendation should be submitted through the online graduate application.
If your recommenders are having problems with the Letters of Recommendation system, please click on the CONTACT US link in the lower left corner of the application for assistance.
MS & PhD: Please complete and submit the other parts of the application by the January 15 deadline even if your letters have not yet been submitted. This is separate module of the application so your recommenders will still be able to add their letters, and you will be able to check the status of letters or even add/replace a recommender after the application has been submitted.
MS & PhD: There is no standardized format or length for the Personal Statement (Statement of Purpose), but we can provide some general guidelines. It should describe succinctly your reasons for applying to the proposed program at the Viterbi School of Engineering, your preparation for this field of study, study interests, future career plans, and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study.
MS & PhD: There is no standardized format for the résumé/CV.
MS & PhD: To update your Personal Statement or CV/résumé or to add other documents, follow the instructions below:
1) Log back into your application(s)
2) In the Program Materials quadrant, in the Documents tab you can add new/updated materials as an Other document.
3) Choose the file and click the Upload This Document button
Note: Once an application has been submitted, updated transcripts and Personal Statements can only be added as an Other document.
MS & PhD: International graduate applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency by submitting either TOEFL or IELTS scores. For details on the requirement and for information on waiving the English Language requirement, visit USC Graduate Admission’s English Proficiency page.
MS & PhD: Although required for admission, all complete applications receive a full review regardless of the TOEFL/IELTS scores submitted. Visit USC Graduate Admission’s English Proficiency page for detailed information about TOEFL/IELTS requirements.
MS & PhD: TOEFL scores must be submitted electronically from the ETS website to “U Southern Cal,” ETS code 4852. You do not need to provide a department code. However, if the ETS system requires one, just select the one that is the best fit. All TOEFL scores are automatically sent to our Graduate and International Admission Office, so it doesn’t matter what department you select.
Valid TOEFL scores must be dated within two years of the start of the intended application semester. The Fall semester starts in August, and the Spring semester starts in January.
MS & PhD: Valid IELTS scores must be sent electronically to USC. USC does not accept valid IELTS score by postal mail. To submit your IELTS results to USC, please select the “University of Southern California” from the list of available institutions when you register to take the IELTS test. Do not enter the name, contact information or mailing address of the specific USC department to which you are applying on your IELTS registration.
You may also request that your IELTS results be sent to USC after you receive your scores by contacting the test center where you took the test and request that your results be sent to the University of Southern California electronically, not by postal mail. You can search for contact details for all IELTS test centers at www.ielts.org/testcentres.
Valid IELTS scores must be dated within two years of the start of the intended application semester. The Fall semester starts in August, and the Spring semester starts in January.
Tuition & Funding
MS: Visit the USC Student Financial Aid pages for information.
PhD: USC tries to fully fund all of its doctoral students, so there is no need to apply separately for funding.
MS: The Viterbi School is pleased to offer merit-based funding opportunities to U.S. and International students applying for Master’s programs. In order to be considered for funding, you must submit the online Graduate Application for Admission and your official transcripts by December 15 for the Fall semester or August 31 for the Spring semester.
All other application and supplemental materials required for the program(s) to which you are applying, such as GRE and TOEFL scores, must be submitted by the application deadline of January 15 for the Fall semester and September 15 for the Spring semester.
PhD: Doctoral applicants do not apply for Viterbi scholarships.
MS: Scholarship decisions are separate from Admission decisions. Fall scholarship recipients will be notified via email by May 1st and Spring recipients by November 1st.
PhD: This does not apply to doctoral applicants.
MS: Research/teaching assistantships are reserved for our PhD students and are not available to Master’s students.
PhD: Doctoral applicants are automatically considered for research/teaching assistantships. A separate application is not needed.
Financial Documents - International Applicants Only
A PDF on financial documentation, including what documents can and cannot be used, helpful screenshots, and a sample financial document that a bank can use as a template can be found HERE.
Below are the deadlines for submitting the financial documentation and passport copies:
- Spring - October 25
- Fall - April 15
The amount of money required for the financial document can be found on the USC Graduate Admission's Financial Documentation page. Under Program Costs select Viterbi School of Engineering and use the total amount for Viterbi General Engineering Master’s.
The total cost of attendance reflects total cost for one year of study only. The cost includes tuition and fees, health insurance, student programming fees, and living expenses in Los Angeles. You do not need to show any financial ability beyond the amount shown on the chart. (Link to chart in Item 02.)
The tuition amount and fees for the financial documentation are calculated for immigration purposes only and should not be considered a bill of expense. Actual costs may vary based on course load, living situation, lifestyle, etc.
Although still an estimate, the tuition and fees amounts listed in our Sample Course Plans are a more accurate reflection of the actual costs.
For dependents who will be applying for F-2/J-2 visas, you must be able to provide an additional $13,403 for your spouse and $6,701 for each child.
Upload your financial document(s) and passport copy by clicking on the "Supporting Information" section, then on the "Documents" tab. Upload your documents in the appropriately named areas.
Financial document(s) and passport copies can be added to a submitted application until an admission decision has been made.
NOTE: For each document type, multiple documents must be consolidated into one non-password protected PDF document.
Send financial documents and passport copy as attachments in PDF or JPEG format through the USC Graduate Admission Office’s Ask a Question form.
Filling out the form:
- Complete the First Name, Last Name, Email and USC ID information. (If you have not submitted the application, you will not have a USC ID.)
- Under Select an Area, select Graduate Admission and Viterbi School of Engineering. (If you do not see a list of schools, click on the triangle to the left of Graduate Admission.)
- Under Category, select Immigration Issues (I-20s, Visas, etc.) and submit financial documents / passports. (If you do not see a list of additional items, click on the triangle to the left of Immigration Issues.)
- The Subject should be "Document Submission."
- In the Question box, type "I have attached my financial documents and passport copy."
- Use the Attach Documents function to add your documents.
- Click the Submit Your Question button when you are done.
The U.S. government requires that all international applicants provide proof of ability to pay tuition and living expenses for themselves and their dependents (if applicable) before a formal letter of admission and I -20 or DS- 2019 can be issued.
All submitted financial support documents must include:
- Name of the account holder (student or sponsor)
- Date of issue (which must be within one year of your intended program start date)
- Name of the bank or financial institution on official letterhead
- Amount available for withdrawal (conversion to USD is not necessary)
- Professional, certified translations if financial documents are not in English
- Sponsorship Letter or Confidential Statement for Sponsored Studies at USC if the financial documents are not in the USC applicant’s name
Types of Financial Support that are Normally Accepted*
- Savings deposit and checking accounts
- Approved/sanctioned education loans. “In-principle” sanctioned loans will not be accepted*
- Bank letters or Solvency certificates from bank
- Time/fixed/term deposits or government bonds available for withdrawal at any time
- Approved and Employer, Government, or Organization sponsorships/scholarships
- Provident funds ONLY IF document states amount available for withdrawal
- USC scholarships/assistantships (this documentation will be submitted by your academic department directly to the Office of Graduate International Admissions)
Types of Financial Support NOT Accepted
- Investments in fixed assets such as property, Demat accounts, mortgages, jewelry, residences, automobiles, etc.
- Retirement funds, pensions, life insurance policies
- Tax Returns
- Salary/Payroll Statements
- Pending or Provisional Educational Loans
- [Chartered] Accountant portfolio
- Candidate scholarship letters or scholarship applications
If the financial document's account holder(s) is not the student, a Sponsorship Letter or Confidential Statement for Financing Studies at USC should be included.
For the Confidential Statement, you can use the online, fillable PDF form.
Sponsorship Letters must state the account holder’s name, student’s name, current date, and relationship between student and sponsor.
Students may have more than one sponsor or source of funding. A separate Letter or Confidential Statement form is required for each sponsor.
For materials submitted through the Ask a Question form, a confirmation of receipt email is not sent. Depending on when the materials are received, it can take 3 to 7 business days before the Letter of Admission and Statement of Intent becomes available in a student's YouSC portal.
If the Letter and Statement of Intent are not available in you YouSC portal after 7 business days, you can contact the USC Graduate Admission Office through their Ask a Question form.
MS: Yes, the non-refundable commitment deposit is $500. The deposit goes toward your tuition once you enroll.
Once you have been admitted, log into your YouSC account and go to your Statement of Intent. Once you have selected your program in the Statement of Intent, you will be prompted to pay the $500 commitment deposit. (See below for image.)
PhD: There is no commitment deposit for doctoral students.
MS & PhD: Please visit our Newly Admitted Students page for orientation dates and a checklist of next steps.
MS & PhD: In order to change programs, you will need to complete your first semester in the program to which you have been admitted. After completing that semester you may request to transfer to another program. Your request will be reviewed by the department to which you are requesting transfer and they will make a decision on the request. Requests for a change of program are not automatically approved and may be denied.
MS & PhD: USC does not defer admission, but you can have your application updated within one year of your original application term. Admission is not guaranteed, and updating your application requires review and admission for the new term. You will need to submit any information that has changed since your original application, including updated transcripts, test scores, and/or financial documents.
Please note, we must receive the confirmation above in order to proceed with the update process.
MS & PhD: Click on the Statement of Intent button once you log into you.usc.edu. Submitting the Statement of Intent form will allow you to create your university email account, register for Graduate Student Orientation, and access your USC records.
Note: Even if you opt not to attend USC, we ask that you submit the Statement of Intent.
MS & PhD: You are welcome to reapply for a future semester. How you do this depends on the circumstances:
1) If you did not receive an admit decision for the semester to which you applied, you can have your application updated within one year of your original application term. To have your application updated to a future semester, send an e-mail to our Viterbi Graduate Admissions Office. The e-mail should include the following information:
- Your Full Name
- USC ID Number
- The term/semester to which you want to have the application updated
2) If you were denied admission and choose to reapply, it is in your best interest to submit new and compelling academic information that was not part of your original application, such as updated transcripts and/or test scores. You will need to submit a new application and pay another application fee. (On the application, make sure to indicate that you have applied before and input your USC ID number when prompted.) You can send an email to our Viterbi Graduate Admissions Office to check on whether you will need to re-submit transcripts and test scores. (Make sure to include your USC ID number in the email.) Any materials that have changed since their original application (including updated transcripts, test scores need to be submitted by the application deadline for the new semester to which you are applying.
Note: It is recommended that PhD applicants try contacting faculty before submitting a new application.
MS & PhD: As there was a comprehensive review of your entire application, we are unable to offer specific reasons for your denial. The faculty has set parameters for admission based on GRE scores, overall academic performance, and major-specific academic performance, and unfortunately we did not feel it was possible to make an offer of admission at this time.
MS: Full information on how to transfer your SEVIS record to USC so that an I-20 for your USC program can be created, is available at http://admissions.usc.edu/docs/admission/TransferringYourSEVISRecordtoUSC.pdf. (NOTE: You will still need to provide USC with acceptable financial documentation.)
If your transfer form requires International Advisor contact information - Name: Sarah Butler; Address: 3601 Trousdale Pkwy, Los Angeles, CA 90089; Telephone: 213-740-1111; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PhD: Full information on how to transfer your SEVIS record to USC so that an I-20 for your USC program can be created is available at http://admissions.usc.edu/docs/admission/TransferringYourSEVISRecordtoUSC.pdf.
If your transfer form requires International Advisor contact information - Name: Sarah Butler; Address: 3601 Trousdale Pkwy, Los Angeles, CA 90089; Telephone: 213-740-1111; Email: email@example.com. (IMPORTANT: This information is only for use on forms. If you have visa or SEVIS questions, please use this online form so that you are issued a record number.)
MS: I-20 papers are generally issued within a week of when the Statement of Intent has been submitted.
Note: Financial documentation needs to be submitted before the Statement of Intent becomes available in the you.usc.edu portal.
PhD: I-20 papers are generally issued within a week of when the Statement of Intent has been submitted.
I-20 papers for applicants enrolling in Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 will be issued from February 2020 onwards.
MS & PhD: Degree verification through IERF needs to be submitted before the end of the student’s first semester and can be done after arriving at USC. More information can be found on the Degree Progress pages.