The University of Southern California’s rich history and proximity to one of the most populous and exciting cities in the world has made it not only one of the best universities in the country, but also one of the most interesting. Did you know, for example, that the USC marching band is the only marching band in the United States to earn a platinum album? And that they actually have two? Did you know that at least one USC alumnae or alumnus has been nominated for an Academy Award since their inception in 1929, or that Marion Morrison aka John freaking Wayne ran track at USC? Have you ever heard that among an excess of notable alumni, including actor/director Ron Howard and Troy Polamalu, starting Safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. From actors, athletes, and astronauts, to albums, awards, and (lest we forget) academics, the University of Southern California is among the most storied and successful schools in the country.
Founded on October 6, 1880, the University of Southern California’s original class size was comprised of only 53 students and 10 teachers. This was before the “City of Angels” could truly be called a city. Just as historic Los Angeles grew from what the university describes as a “rough-and-tumble frontier town,” lacking electricity and paved roads, into one of the most vibrant and alluring metropolises in the world, so too did the university grow with it, eventually becoming one of the most competitive and well-regarded institutions of higher learning in the country.
Of the almost 50,000 undergraduate applicants last year, only 9,187 were admitted, which gives USC a stiff acceptance rate of approximately 20%. Of those roughly 9,000 undergraduates, the average GPA was 3.70 (on an unweighted scale) and the median SAT range was 1950-2190. This means, on the low-end, the average SAT score of a USC undergraduate is almost 500 points higher than the national average.
USC’s academic reputation is only one reason they receive so many applications each year. The university motto is PALMAM QUI MERUIT FERAT, the translation of which is “let whoever earns the palm bear it.” The palm branch has been a symbol of victory and conquest since before the emergence of Christianity, and USC carries on this rich symbolic tradition by fielding 21 varsity teams at the NCAA Division I level. The success of USC’s athletic programs at the college level and beyond is staggering.
In addition to having captured 94 NCAA team championships, ranking USC 3rd among all D-1 universities, individual Trojans have won 381 NCAA championships, which puts them in 2nd place in that particular category. What’s more, USC has had an astonishing level of success at the Olympic level. USC students and alumni have won 287 medals at the Olympic Summer Games; if USC were a country, they would rank 16th in the all-time medal count among participating countries in the Summer Games.
Another reason, briefly alluded to earlier, there might be so many applicants to the university is the city in which it abides. Los Angeles is well established as one of the coolest, chicest, and every other buzz wordiest cities in the nation, and quite possibly the world. From the eateries to the beach babes and surfer dudes, to the Hollywood sign and the famous California climate, Los Angeles is just a cool city to live in. In addition to the opportunities for fun the city presents, USC has worked hard to build a culture of community service. Through the “Power of Partnership” USC works to better its community through programs like the Good Neighbors Campaign and Neighborhood Outreach; USC also involves itself in community issues like Education, Health Care, and Economic Development.
So now that you’re convinced that USC is the school for you, here comes the hard part: figuring out how to pay for it all. Tuition at USC is approximately $43,700. Like any other University or College there are other costs associated with attendance, like room and board, the cost of books, miscellaneous, etc.; the financial aid department at USC recently estimated the cost of attendance for next year at approximately $60,000. Though this may seem steep, the University has an endowment of $3.5 billion, and spends close to $400 million a year on Financial Aid.
Not surprisingly, the university does not automatically pledge to lift the financial burden off the back of their students. Yes, USC can probably offer some students a comprehensive and complete financial aid package, but not all students will be eligible for aid. Check out College Compass’ first article in its “Paying for College” series, Paying for College Part I: Pell Grants, for more information on potential financial aid solutions.
From humble beginnings, the University of Southern California built itself, much like the city with which it is so closely associated, from the ground up. Today, USC is one of the most respected private research universities in the nation and they offer undergraduate and graduate students alike not just a world-class education, but a world-class experience. From its culture of excellence in sports to its commitment to serving its local community, USC is a truly exemplary university.