The University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine opened in 1885 and was one of the first professional schools at the Los Angeles-based institution. The region’s first medical school and the oldest in the state, its first graduating class consisted of nine students, including one woman.
Today, Keck has more than 1,200 students, and its most recent entering class, those who will graduate in 2025, consists of 58% females.
Its 24 academic programs, both basic and clinical, are research-oriented, with 1,500 full-time faculty leading the way. Keck has a traditional doctor of medicine program as well as undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. programs plus postdoctoral and continuing education opportunities.
Dual-degree programs let students earn an M.D. plus either a master’s degree in public health or a master’s degree in business administration.
Research remains an important part of the work done at Keck, with the school creating over $230 million in sponsored research each year.
Its work spans the world of health care, from cancer to neuroscience to cardiology and practically everything in between. Students interested in also pursuing research as a career in addition to medicine can join the joint M.D./Ph.D. program.
Below, we’ll break down USC’s medical school, taking a closer look at how to get admitted, its rankings, and more.
USC Medical School Acceptance Rate
Getting admitted to Keck can be challenging, as it accepts just 2.3% of applicants.
In a recent admissions cycle, 8,181 people submitted applications to try to be one of the 186 students the school accepts each year.
Overall, the lowest acceptance rate in the country was at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in nearby Pasadena, California, which allowed in just 1% of applicants.
Keck, meanwhile, has a similar acceptance rate as Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, and Stanford University School of Medicine, another California school.
Prospective students who submit their applications earlier in the process have a better chance of getting accepted because the university starts interviewing candidates in August. It continues this process on a rolling basis through March until it fills the next class.
As of 2021, Keck had 749 total students, and its student body was evenly split among men and women.
The majority of its entering class of 2025, 83%, resided in California. Of that class, 19% attended USC as undergraduates, while another 19% graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.
USC Medical School Tuition
Tuition for the Keck School of Medicine costs $67,472 for each year of study during the 2021-22 academic year.
The university estimates that other costs will vary depending on which year the student is in, such as room and board, textbooks, and transportation. This means a medical student can expect to pay about $104,000 during their first year, followed by approximately $108,500 and $109,800 during years two and three, respectively.
USC estimates medical school costs around $101,500 during the final year.
Looking at the nationwide cost for tuition, fees, and health insurance for the 2020-21 school year, students paid between $39,150 for in-state, public medical schools to $64,494 for out-of-state, private medical schools.
During the 2020-21 academic year, the most expensive medical school in the country was the University of South Carolina’s. There, out-of-state students paid $91,557 in tuition and fees, although those costs were much less for in-state students, who paid $47,295. Other institutions whose tuition costs are about the same as Keck include the Georgetown University School of Medicine and the Duke University School of Medicine.
USC offers financial aid, which over 80% of Keck medical students get. The school awards fellowships, assistantships, and scholarships based on financial need as well as a student’s academic abilities.
USC Medical School Requirements
Prospective students must fill out an application through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) as well as Keck’s supplemental application.
Required documents include official transcripts and MCAT scores. USC considers all of an applicant’s MCAT scores if they take the exam more than once. Applicants must have taken the MCAT within a few years of applying.
Additionally, applicants must submit three letters of recommendation or a committee letter. If candidates send in more than three letters, the application reviewers will pick three for the evaluators to consider.
The school also conducts interviews to determine admission, using a “closed-file” setup, in which the interviewer cannot see either of the candidate’s applications.
If anyone applies to the joint M.D./Ph.D. program but is not accepted, USC automatically considers them for the M.D. program. Keck also does have a waitlist for candidates not accepted initially. Anyone who ultimately is not granted admission is allowed to re-apply once.
Candidates do not have to have taken any prerequisites in order to apply to the medical school, but Keck notes that those who have been admitted have demonstrated ability in various sciences.
The entering class of 2025 made a strong showing academically. The 186 admitted students had a median MCAT score of 517 out of 528 and an average undergraduate GPA of 3.8.
USC Medical School Notable Alumni
USC’s Keck School of Medicine has several illustrious physicians among its alumni ranks.
World-renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Nassif earned both his bachelor’s degree and his doctorate in medicine from USC. He has gone on to become one of the most well-respected surgeons in his field and is one of the stars of the E! reality television show “Botched.”
Another alumnus who also found fame on screen is Dr. Drew Pinsky, aka Dr. Drew, who has appeared on numerous shows through the years, including his own series, such as “Dr. Drew on Call.” He previously hosted “Loveline,” a nationally syndicated radio show, and also has hosted podcasts, including “Dr. Drew After Dark.”
Some alumni later moved into the world of politics and diplomacy. After graduating from Keck, Dr. Jeffrey Ross Gunter became a dermatologist and later a clinical professor of medicine in that field at Keck as well as chief resident of dermatology at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.
Gunter later served as the U.S. ambassador to Iceland from 2019 to 2021.
Rep. Karen Bass, who serves the 37th Congressional District in Congress, graduated from Keck’s physician assistant program and later worked as a clinical instructor there.
USC Medical School Ranking
USC’s medical school often is listed as one of the best in the nation and recently moved up in the ranks. Keck was named the 29th best medical school for research in the country in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 rankings, up from 31st the year prior.
The university tied with Oregon Health and Science University for the position. Keck also tied with five other schools for No. 46 on U.S. News’ ranking of best medical schools for primary care. U.S. News also acknowledged Keck on a few other rankings, including most diverse medical schools, in which Keck tied for 26th.
Another publication that recognized Keck’s excellence was the Princeton Review, which named it to its unranked list of the nation’s best schools for medicine.
Educational website Niche, meanwhile, gave USC as a whole an A+ overall score. USC also earned an A+ score for academics, diversity, and several other major academic and lifestyle factors.
The Keck school also earned worldwide recognition. International educational ranking website Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) included USC on its guide to the world’s best medical schools for 2021. USC tied for 98th along with Osaka University in Japan and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
Should You Attend USC Medical School?
Medical students leave USC not only with a degree from a prestigious university but also a well-rounded education that prepares them for successful careers in medicine.
The learning experience takes place on USC’s Health Sciences Campus, which is separate from its University Park Campus.
Sprawling over 79 acres, the campus includes not only the medical school but also Keck Hospital and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The medical school has over 1,500 full-time faculty members plus 2,400 voluntary faculty physicians, and students benefit from its exceptionally low student-faculty ratio of 2.7:1.
Keck follows what it calls the “Physician – Citizen – Scholar Curriculum,” preparing its students to use their skills not only in health care but also to help their communities and to advance “scientific discovery.”
Students start gaining hands-on experience early in their careers, working with a diverse group of patients not only at Keck facilities but also over a dozen other hospitals and medical centers.
The school has over 7,000 alumni, including more than 5,000 who remained in Southern California as practicing physicians.
Its alumni have distinguished themselves in helping areas in need, too. Keck ranked 93rd on U.S. News’ list of the most graduates practicing in medically underserved areas and 134th for the most graduates practicing in rural areas. Alumni have shown just how well a USC education prepares them for successful medical careers.