Applying to USC Early Action: What the New Policy Means

Padya Paramita

Applying to USC Early Action: What the New Policy Means

The University of Southern California is a top choice for many students, particularly creative ones. Whether you’re an aspiring actor, dancer, filmmaker, or screenwriter, if you have your eyes on becoming a Trojan, I have good news for you! USC has just introduced an early action policy. If you are curious about the new USC early action policy but aren’t sure what it entails, the pros, and how to take advantage of it, this is the blog for you.

If you’re someone who wants to double major in Chemical Engineering and Dance, USC is a place that allows you to pursue cross-disciplinary interests to your heart’s desire. Because of the world of possibilities the campus allows, admission is naturally very competitive. The new USC early action rule can help put your application at an advantage—if you know how to frame yourself in the best way.

What Is Early Action? 

Early action is a nonbinding admissions process for students to apply to college earlier than the regular deadline, usually in November of senior year. Students receive admissions notifications in December, and if accepted, are not required to commit. So, it’s no surprise that the USC early action deadline is November 1st. What this means is that you can apply to USC and choose whether you attend or not if you’re admitted. Moreover, you don’t have to let the school know until May when you have received all of your admissions decisions. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Applying to USC Early Action

The biggest advantage of applying to USC early action is that you get to show the school that you are interested enough to prepare your application by 1st November and have a genuine interest in the institution. It’s clear that schools are able to admit a greater percentage of students who apply in this round—and it won’t be a surprise if USC is the same. But, you shouldn’t just send a half-polished application in hopes of an admissions boost thinking it’s a guarantee. Most students who apply early typically have their act very much together. You will be competing against students confident in their grades, scores and extracurriculars. If you submit a mediocre application, chances are you will not fare very well. If you apply EA to USC, and you’re a mediocre applicant, the school won’t accept you knowing that you’re a mediocre applicant and that they can’t count on you for yield. 

Because USC’s new policy is early action and not early decision or restrictive early decision, this means that you can apply early decision to a different school—perhaps an even more competitive one such as Columbia or UChicago depending on whether you have a dream school—and still apply to USC early decision. You can also apply to a school such as Harvard or Yale through their restrictive early action route. On top of these, you can apply in the regular nonbinding early action policies to as many schools as you want—your options extend to top colleges such as University of Michigan and University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

Plus, because USC early action isn’t binding, they know that you might not commit if you’re accepted. You might apply EA to keep your options open, which they could see as a sign of a student who’s not likely to commit if they are accepted. 

Application Tips

If you are excited about applying to USC early action, here are some tips to help set you apart. 

  • Have Standout Extracurriculars - Like many schools that conduct a holistic admissions process, the University of Southern California goes beyond your academic record and also evaluates applicants based on how they’ve spent their time beyond classes. So, when you’re thinking about how to get into USC early action, make sure you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone outside the classroom. Since most USC majors are highly specific, such as “American Popular Culture,” your activities list should highlight that you’ve taken an interest in your chosen topic through what you’ve achieved and participated in outside your time at school. In order to really distinguish yourself from other applicants, step out of common clubs such as debate and MUN and start your own initiative. For example, if you’re interested in the Film & Television Production major and you’ve created a full-length documentary as a high schooler, admissions officers will immediately know that you’re determined in following your passions.
  • Choose the School / Major That’s Right For You - USC wants to know you’ve done the research and one way to show that commitment is by selecting the undergraduate school within USC that fits well with your profile and activities. While you don’t have to commit to attending a specific USC school when you apply through the Common App, you do have to choose your first and second choice majors, each of which applies to a unique college, such as Theatre at the School of Dramatic Arts or Economics at the Dornsife College of Arts and Sciences. Selecting one of these options carefully can help you demonstrate your future goals to admissions officers. If you have taken courses and participated in extracurriculars that align with your career interests, that’s even better.
  • Strong Essays - USC asks students for supplemental essays that challenge them and help showcase their best selves. For most of the questions, you have the option to choose from the three prompts. Make sure you think carefully about your choices. Pick a topic that you believe will bring the strongest response out of you and help paint an accurate picture of your personality. You can learn more about the essay prompts and how to best answer them here.

The new USC early action policy is great for students who are interested in this prestigious LA university. With some thorough research, you can find out that USC appreciates students who aren’t shy about stepping out of their comfort zone and challenging themselves. Think about where your intellectual and extracurricular interests lie and step up to excel in those areas. Who knows, this time next year, you might just be finishing up your first semester as a Trojan. All the best!

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