Financial aid •

May 6, 2022

USC financial aid: a complete guide

Want to learn about USC financial aid? Check out this ultimate guide from

USC financial aid

If you’re developing a shortlist of all the colleges you’d like to apply to, chances are the University of Southern California (USC) is right there at the top.

But just like every other university in the US, the cost of attendance can be a barrier for a lot of aspiring students. Fortunately, USC offers a range of generous financial aid packages in the form of scholarships, grants, and more.

If you’re interested in applying to USC but wondering how you’ll pay for it, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s break it all down.

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A snapshot look at USC

Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California (USC) is home to more than 22 academic schools, has an endowment of $8.1 billion, and welcomes almost 50,000 students every year.

USC has 2 primary campuses. Its flagship campus is the 229-acre University Park Campus, which houses the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School, and most of USC’s professional schools. USC also has a Health Sciences Campus which houses the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the School of Pharmacy, and 3 teaching hospitals.

If you’re into sports, USC has also got 110 NCAA national championships to its name—you get the idea. USC is internationally renowned both in terms of its academics and sporting prowess.

Ranking: 27th nationally

Size: 49,500

Demographics: 48% male, 52% female

Tuition: $63,468

Acceptance rate: 16.1%

Average GPA of accepted student: 3.74 - 4.0

Key dates and deadlines (2022)

  • Application: January 15

  • Financial aid deadlines: February 11

A look at scholarships offered by USC

The University of Southern California (USC) definitely isn’t the cheapest school in the country. But the university does administer over a dozen prestigious (and quite generous) scholarship programs for incoming undergraduate students.

These scholarship programs vary pretty dramatically in terms of both the number of scholarships available as well as in terms of value. But regardless of the scholarship amount on offer, it’s critical to note that, unlike loans, scholarships don’t have to be repaid. They’re awarded based on academic merit, leadership, talent, and service—so this is effectively free money for your studies!

To give you an idea of what’s on offer, let’s take a quick look at a few of USC’s most popular scholarship programs.

USC Scholarships

Trustee Scholarship

The USC Trustee Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship for incoming undergraduates.

Candidates for the program are chosen by the USC staff and faculties from a competitive national pool. USC says that winning applicants are those who pursue a demanding academic curriculum and have worked to achieve the highest academic level possible.

Only around 100 Trustee Scholarship awards are issued each year, but it’s definitely worth applying for if you think you fit the bill. Each award equates to a full-ride scholarship covering all tuition fees, making it the school’s most valuable award.

Translation: if you’re wondering how to go to USC for free, earning a Trustee Scholarship is one of the best ways to do it.

Presidential Scholarship

The USC Presidential Scholarship is another merit-based scholarship program the school offers. Candidates are assessed and chosen in the same way as in the Trustee Scholarship program.

But the key difference is that the Presidential Scholarship has twice as many awards up for grabs—and they’re still worth half of your annual tuition fees. USC administers around 200 Presidential Scholarships every year.

Deans Scholarship

The Deans Scholarship is a competitive merit-based scholarship program USC offers for high academic achievers. But in addition to academic criteria, eligibility for the scholarship also incorporates criteria in which candidates are asked to demonstrate talent, innovation, perseverance, or leadership.

Around 100 Deans Scholarship awards are issued each year, and the scholarship amount is worth a quarter of your annual tuition.

Leadership Scholarship

USC’s Leadership Scholarship is another merit-based scholarship in which candidates are assessed based on their academic achievement. But unlike some of USC’s other scholarship programs, the Leadership Scholarship focuses on each applicant’s leadership skills demonstrated either in their respective schools or local communities.

About 30 Leadership Scholarship awards are issued each year, and each one is worth $10,000 per year.

Want to learn more about scholarships? It’s important to remember there are a lot more external scholarship options out there beyond what USC offers. 

Join Mos now, and we’ll walk you through all your options and help you apply.

USC student loans

A lot of USC students and their families need to take loans as a supplemental way to finance their college education. Fortunately, there are quite a few different types of loans available.

Before we dive into specifics, let’s take a step back and talk about what student loans actually are.

Simply put, a student loan is money that you borrow from a lender so that you can pay for your college tuition right now. After you graduate, you’ve then got to repay all of that money back to your lender over time—with added interest. 

Interest is the amount of money a bank or lender charges you for the privilege of getting to borrow their money. If you’re taking out a federal loan backed by the US Government, interest rates are normally fixed. 

Federal student loans also come with a number of consumer protections like repayment grace periods, deferred interest accrual, income-based repayment plans, and more.

If that sounds like something you might be interested in pursuing, all you’ve got to do to apply for a federal student loan is to complete and submit a FAFSA.

USC accepts Direct Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Plus Loans, and Federal Direct Grad Plus Loans.

You can also opt for a private loan. 

But be careful if you opt for this route: each lender has different requirements for you to be eligible—like US citizenship status, degree status, and enrollment status—plus different loan rates, repayment terms, and other conditions. Private loans also don’t qualify for loan forgiveness or income-based repayment programs.

To make things worse, some lenders may even require you to pay interest while you’re still in school. That means you could find yourself struggling to keep up with payments before you’ve even graduated.

That’s why it’s generally recommended that you aim for a federal student loan if you qualify.

Want to learn more about applying for USC student loans? Join Mos now, and let’s get started.

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If you’d like to apply for USC financial aid, you’ll be relieved to know that the application process is pretty simple.

You can apply for most USC financial aid opportunities via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the US Department of Education’s universal financial aid application form. Students can use it to apply for federal student loans, federal grant aid, and work-study support.

But completing and submitting your FAFSA won’t just score you federal student aid. State governments and USC will look at your FAFSA to determine whether you’re eligible to receive extra state support or school-specific grants and scholarships.

That being said, don’t forget that some USC scholarships may require you to fill out a separate application form, so you’ve got to make sure you do your homework and understand all of the application requirements for relevant scholarships.

That’s where Mos really comes to the rescue.

For more on applying for FAFSA, including important dates and how to make sure your application is submitted successfully, head to our learning hub.

USC financial aid FAQs

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about University of Southern California (USC) financial aid.

How much does it cost to attend USC?

Unlike a lot of big schools, USC tuition is charged at the exact same rate for both in-state and out-of-state residents. That means you shouldn’t expect a huge tuition fee discount just because you’ve grown up in Los Angeles (although there are plenty of state-specific aid programs for California residents).

USC Cost of Attendance

The average cost of USC undergraduate tuition for the 2022/23 academic year is $63,468 per year.

That being said, it’s important to note that there are a few additional costs of attendance you’ll need to bear in mind.

These extra costs include:

  • $1,258 per year for administrative fees

  • An average of $10,506 for on-campus accommodation

  • An average of $1,200 for books and supplies

  • $450 new student fee for all incoming freshmen

Just keep in mind that your actual costs are likely to differ a little bit, depending on your specific circumstances. For example, costs for students pursuing certain majors may be higher—science degrees may induce special lab fees, and art degrees are likely to include studio fees and supplies.

How do you apply for USC financial aid?

Most grants, scholarships, and loans included as part of a USC financial aid package can be applied for by completing a FAFSA.

The FAFSA application season officially starts on October 1 every year. The FAFSA deadline is then normally June 30 or the end of the current academic year (whichever comes first).

If you’re a US citizen, US national, or US permanent resident, you should be eligible to get federal student aid by completing the FAFSA.

After you’ve submitted your application form based on your eligibility, you’ll then receive a financial aid offer from USC, which includes all relevant federal loans, grants, and scholarships you’re eligible for.

Does USC offer student grants?

A grant is a form of financial aid called gift aid—which means it’s free money that you don’t have to repay.

Sources for grants and scholarships vary and can include federal and state governments, USC, community groups, companies, and more. But if you’re keen on pursuing an award from one of USC’s grant programs, there are several opportunities available.

First, there’s the USC University Grant. This award is a needs-based grant for full-time students pursuing a bachelor’s degree. That being said, half and three-quarter-time students can apply for limited grant funds if they demonstrate sufficient financial need.

The USC University Grant can be used to cover tuition fees, admin fees, books, housing, and meals. You’ve got to reapply every year.

Another popular grant for USC students is the Cal Grant.

Cal Grants are only for California students, and the funds can only be used to pay for tuition fees and mandatory admin fees. There are 2 types of Cal Grants: Cal Grant A and Cal Grant B. To qualify for one of the grants, you’ll need to fulfill general eligibility requirements and include information about your family income, GPA, and more.

To get the Cal Grant A, you need a minimum GPA of 3.0. To get a Cal B grant, you need a minimum GPA of 2.0.

Can international students qualify for financial assistance?

At USC, only US citizens and certain eligible non-citizens, such as permanent residents, can receive need-based financial aid. However, international students may be able to receive merit-based aid, on-campus and off-campus work, and other forms of private financing.

Can I use my financial aid for living expenses?

Yes, USC students can use the financial aid they receive to pay for living expenses such as room and board. However, to be able to use aid in this way, you must be enrolled as a full-time student.

When do I get my financial aid decision?

Students at USC will receive information about their financial aid packages starting in July. Federal and state aid is disbursed starting in August.

Do first-year students get their aid decision with their admissions decision?

Students who apply to USC early action or regular decision will receive their financial aid decisions in time to make a choice about whether they want to attend USC.

What is ScholarshipUniverse?

ScholarshipUniverse is a website that USC works with to help match students to financial aid programs and scholarships they might be eligible for. It has an easy-to-search list of scholarship programs and makes it easy to apply for programs.

However, some departments at USC may not use the site, so be sure to check with your specific department as well.

Are there financial aid eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for need-based aid at USC, students must be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen, have a valid Social Security number, and be registered with the Selective Service System, if applicable. They must also maintain satisfactory academic progress, maintaining a minimum GPA and earning a sufficient number of credits each semester.

Universities like USC that you might be interested in

If you’re still unsure about whether USC is where you belong, there are other universities in California worth checking out.

USC Alternatives


If you’re set on attending a top American university based in sunny California, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) might be worth considering, too.

Just like USC, UCLA is based in LA. But it’s also ranked a little higher in the university league tables at 20th in the US.

Unlike USC, UCLA offers different in-state and out-of-state fee rates—but it’s worth noting UCLA’s acceptance rate is a little bit lower than USC’s acceptance rate.


The University of California, Berkeley is another high-ranking California college. Coming in at 22nd in the nation, Berkeley’s tuition fee rates are quite a lot lower than USC’s tuition fees—particularly if you’re already a California resident.

UC Berkeley is a public land-grant research university, and its student body is a little bit smaller than USC at 45,000 students.

Cal State

Founded in 1947, California State University, Los Angeles is a public institution that ranks pretty high regionally.

Although Cal State isn’t quite as large or distinguished as USC, its tuition fees are a lot more affordable. It’s also got a really high acceptance rate.


At the end of the day, USC is a pretty amazing school. It’s in the perfect location to launch any number of careers, it has loads of different majors, specializations, and an incredible student life offering.

USC just isn’t very cheap. Fortunately, Mos can help you get the financial aid you need to afford it.

We can help you apply for hundreds of scholarships and grants and negotiate for more financial aid. Check out to learn more.

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