Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California is the oldest private research university in California.
A central hub of technological and engineering innovation, the school has since observed the creation of DNA computing, antivirus software, and image compression on its campus.
In addition to brilliant inventors, USC is proud to honor ten of its graduates as Nobel Prize laureates. Its most recent Nobel winner – Angus Deaton – achieved the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics for his research linking individual consumption choices and outcomes for the collective economy.
A whopping 29 alumni have moved on from USC to become billionaires, while others have won Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Fulbright Scholar Awards, and other prestigious accolades.
USC also serves as the largest private employer in Los Angeles and produces approximately $8 billion of economic impact for the state of California.
USC’s top-notch facilities, extensive list of experiential learning opportunities, and location in one of the top entertainment hubs in the world make it an attractive option for students looking for a hands-on college experience.
Keep reading to learn all about USC’s most popular majors, enduring traditions, and noteworthy clubs and sports teams.
What Majors & Academics Are USC Known For?
Within the most recent graduating class at USC, 22% of undergraduate degrees were awarded to business and marketing majors and were presented 11% to visual and performing arts majors.
Journalism, engineering, and interdisciplinary studies made up the next three most popular majors for that graduating class.
It is no surprise that most USC undergraduate degrees are awarded in business – USC’s Marshall School of Business ranks among the country’s best research facilities. In a course like MKT 406 – Practicum in Advertising and Promotion Design – business students participate in what is essentially a marketing internship. Students form their marketing agencies and create complex communications plans for actual clients.
The USC Annenberg Media Center is a crown jewel of the Communication & Journalism Department.
Here, journalism majors collaborate with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to cover important issues in cities worldwide. By the time they graduate, they will have developed a diverse portfolio of writing, producing, directing, and hosting experiences.
100% of USC’s class of 2020 journalism majors achieved employment within a year of graduating. Students move on to enjoy thrilling careers at news organizations like ESPN, Entertainment Tonight, and NBC.
Nearly 1 in 10 students opt to create an interdisciplinary degree, which involves combining class offerings from two or more departments.
The B.A. in Intelligence and Cyber Operations, for example, helps prepare students to tackle problems like how countries use cyber technology to spread misinformation and how countries can defend their systems against those tactics.
There are also interdisciplinary minors, including one in consumer behavior. Within this field, students explore the psychology of consumer decision-making and identify certain cultural, economic, and social factors that influence spending choices.
Is USC a Good School?
USC’s excellent reputation stems largely from its broad array of student offerings.
Its athletic programs are just as acclaimed as its academic achievements, and students have over 1,000 clubs at their fingertips in one of the most exciting cities in the United States.
Many students enjoy the flexible approach that USC affords its students when it comes to designing their degrees. The school offers various interdisciplinary degrees, granting students the freedom to combine elements of different interests.
USC also does not require students to live on campus, though there are more than 40 residence halls and apartment complexes for students to choose from, should they desire to live on campus.
USC maintains some of the best facilities in the country, including the USC School of Architecture (the first in Southern California) and the School of Cinematic Arts (the oldest in the nation).
Being so close to Hollywood certainly has its advantages – students in the Visual and Performing Arts Department have access to the Warner Brothers Archives – the largest single studio collection in existence.
Greek life thrives at USC – approximately one in five undergraduates belong to a sorority or fraternity.
Many of these groups are highly committed to community service in the greater Los Angeles area, and frequently organize tutoring events, park clean-ups, food drives, and other fundraisers.
USC is the place to explore it all – there are so many ways to make friends and build professional networks based on shared interests, and students are privileged to learn under the guidance of award-winning faculty members.
Being the athletic powerhouse it is, it is no surprise that many of USC’s traditions revolve around sports. As soon as first-year students head to their inaugural football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, they’re expected to “kick the flagpole” for good luck.
Attending the Jock Rally is another rite of passage meant to expose first-year students to the essence of USC school spirit.
Many students will tailgate until the Trojan Marching Band leads them into a procession out to the football field, where they perform a pep rally open to the public.
The USC mascot – Traveler – has quite a reputation. Every time the USC Trojans score a touchdown, a Trojan warrior will ride Traveler the horse around the field. Traveler IX currently carries out this tradition that has been around since 1961.
Troy Week is the name for the week leading up to the football game against UCLA (one of USC’s greatest rivals).
In the early 1940s, some UCLA students threw paint on the Tommy Trojan shrine. Since then, the Knight’s Watch at USC has borne the responsibility of guarding Tommy Trojan. As student volunteers take shifts guarding the statue, many athletes, coaches, administrators, and performing student groups come out to show their support.
Outside of sports, students engage in other fun traditions like hammocking McCarthy, a quad on USC’s campus. On beautiful, sunny days (of which there are plenty), students will string up hammocks between trees on the slightly elevated hill where McCarthy sits.
Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at USC
There are more than 1,000 student organizations to get involved in at USC.
From community service groups and a cappella ensembles to consulting organizations and virtual escape room clubs, there is a supportive network of students for any niche.
Speak to Lead is dedicated to helping undergraduates improve their public speaking skills. The group is particularly interested in recruiting international students, students living with learning disabilities, or students with reserved personalities.
For the musically inclined, the Concerto Chamber Orchestra continues to be a popular club option. Run completely by students, the group welcomes all orchestral instrument players at all skill levels (members do not have to be music majors to participate).
The group performs two concerts each semester; additionally, they make appearances at on-campus or local events.
In the LavaLab, USC students can create startup organizations from the ground up. Upon joining, members decide to become project managers, developers, or designers and are then placed into small teams with varying talents. Within a semester, teams will build a product to go to market.
Interested in mentorship opportunities? Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE) is a trendy club at USC where mentors travel to local middle schools to discuss essential teen issues such as resolving conflict, securing leadership roles, and preventing teen pregnancy. They embark upon regular group and mentor/mentee outings, as well.
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) at USC is one of the most exhilarating groups to join. The group is dedicated to providing professional networking and educational experiences for students aspiring to enter “themed entertainment” industries, such as amusement parks, museums, aquariums, etc.
Naturally, the group goes on many field trips to some of the most exciting theme parks in the nation!
What Sports Are USC Known For?
USC boasts some of the most successful sports programs in the country – they have won 131 total national championships, 108 of which were part of the NCAA national championship tournaments. Only UCLA and Stanford have won more titles than USC.
When it comes to the most popular sports on campus, football certainly clocks in at #1. Going to football games is a much-anticipated pastime among USC Trojan undergraduates.
That being said, there are countless other teams attracting student buzz.
USC’s women’s track team, for example, has placed in the top 10 of the NCAA championships on 12 occasions. Several female track stars at USC were among the first at any level to win four NCAA 100-meter dashes in a row.
The men’s swimming and diving team has dominated the league ever since the 1976 Summer Olympics when USC swimmers won more gold, silver, and bronze medals than any other country (except for the United States).
Since then, male Trojan swimmers have competed 143 times at the Olympic Games, winning 88 medals overall.
The USC women’s beach volleyball team is another force to be reckoned with. Having only emerged upon the scene in 2012, the team finished 3rd in the nation in 2013 and 2014 before winning first place in the AVCA national championship in 2015. They have even sent several representatives to the Olympic Games!
USC’s location alone may be enough for a student to apply. From Hollywood and Beverly Hills to some of the best beaches on the west coast, Los Angeles and the surrounding area offer a sunny year-round setting.
If students are overwhelmed by the 80+ academic majors offered at USC, they always have the choice of pursuing an interdisciplinary degree. This option allows students to mimic real-world contexts where disciplines constantly overlap.
Sports fans stay in a great mood at USC, one of the winningest college athletic programs in the nation. The school is the only institution in the world to send a gold medal-earning athlete to every Summer Olympics since 1912! They can also claim more Olympians than any other American university.
An education at USC is also more accessible than it is at many of the school’s competitors. USC practices need-blind admissions, with two-thirds of the most recently admitted class receiving some form of financial aid from the school.
At least for the near future, it looks like USC will continue to sit at the top of many college rankings lists. Whether pursuing a degree in computer science, animation, or physical therapy, students will enjoy the best facilities and faculty at their disposal.