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The Ivy Coach Daily

February 28, 2024

USC Waitlist Acceptance Rate

A red and yellow flower garden lies before a red brick building at USC.
USC does not maintain a waiting list for undergraduate admission.

The University of Southern California is one of the few highly selective institutions in the United States that does not maintain a waitlist. That’s right — USC, the school that found itself at the center of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal just a few years ago, does not waitlist students in the school’s Regular Decision round of admission. Students are either accepted or denied entry.

Why USC Does Not Maintain a Waitlist

First, if you’re wondering why USC is one of the few elite universities that doesn’t keep a waitlist, hear it from the horse’s mouth.

As USC’s admissions committee writes, “Rather than placing students on wait lists, USC chooses to offer spring term enrollment to many students each year. Those students who accept our offer of spring enrollment are assured a place in our incoming class and, should any space become available in the fall term, will be considered for those openings.”

USC Truly Has No Waitlist

Loyal readers of Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog know that just because a college admissions committee says something doesn’t mean it’s true.

After all, many elite colleges claim to be need-blind, not to factor in a student’s ability to pay when weighing their case for admission. Yet few colleges are need-blind, and if they were genuinely need-blind, they wouldn’t ask on the same application — which admissions officers can read with their own two eyes — if a student requires financial assistance to attend.

But when it comes to USC’s waitlist — or lack thereof — the institution is telling it like it is. Just look at USC’s Common Data Sets from 2021-2022 to 2011-2012. You’ll note that USC checked that the school does not keep a waitlist on each Common Data Set. Colleges must be forthright in their reporting to The Common Data Set — or risk serious repercussions ala Columbia University.

Your Chances of a Successful Appeal to USC

Yet, while USC does not maintain a waitlist, they allow denied students to appeal their decisions. So what does an appeal mean, and does a rejected student genuinely have a shot of getting in with an appeal?

Yes, denied students still have a shot of a successful appeal — albeit not a strong shot. While USC does not release the number of successful appeals to The Common Data Set, USC typically includes a ballpark number of successful appeals in their rejection letters. Recently, around 2,000 students have been appealing their USC rejections, and about 30-50 ultimately get in — or between 1.5% – 2.5% of denied applicants. In other years, this figure has been as high as 5%.

California Applicants Have the Best Chance of Successful USC Appeals

Even though USC typically offers admission to between 1.5% – 2.5% — or, at most, 5% — of rejected applicants through the appeals process, in our experience, students in USC’s home state of California have more substantial odds of a successful appeal.

After all, whenever Ivy Coach helps a student with a Letter of Continued Interest after being waitlisted — or, in this case, an Appeal Letter after a rejection from USC, we always encourage the student to bring that completed letter to their high school counselor so their counselor can advocate to the admissions office on their behalf. This way, the counselor will know precisely how a student should be positioned and will not just express any thought that crosses their mind.

And because, in our experience, school counselors at California public and private schools enjoy the best relationships with USC’s admissions committee — as opposed to school counselors in all of the other states in our union — it’s the students from California’s high schools that stand the best chance to be among the small percentage of denied USC applicants who achieve successful appeals.

Ivy Coach’s Success with the USC Appeals Process

Over the last ten years, 29% of students who have first come to Ivy Coach after being denied admission have successfully earned entry after we helped them with their USC Appeal Letters.

So we can’t give you a great chance — and no one can. All we can do is offer students the best chance of overturning their admissions decision — and if that’s not enough for a student, then we at Ivy Coach are not the right fit for them as they certainly are not the right fit for us.

Ivy Coach’s Process for USC Applicants Seeking to Appeal Rejections

Ivy Coach’s process for denied USC applicants seeking to appeal their decisions includes three steps:

  1. Complete a PostMortem application review. We must review a student’s complete Common Application and USC supplement to know how they positioned their narrative. After all, how we help position them in the appeal process, naturally, can’t be inconsistent with the previously presented narrative. A neuroscientist can’t suddenly be interested in film studies — no matter how strong USC’s film program may be.
  2. Submit a compelling Appeal Letter. An Appeal Letter must contain new information — as USC instructs. It cannot just be a love letter to the school, and it cannot just be another essay that doesn’t include information not present at the time of a student’s application. USC is serious about wanting entirely new information (or context for previously presented information). We help students brainstorm and revise powerful letters to give them the best chance possible of a successful appeal.
  3. Bring the finalized Appeal Letter to the school counselor so the school counselors can place an advocacy call to USC’s admissions committee on a student’s behalf. These calls can go a long way. USC is always willing to speak with a high school counselor. In our experience, once a student submits a wow Appeal Letter, the more willing a school counselor is to nag USC, the more likely they will be to have their decision overturned.

Getting Started with Ivy Coach on USC Appeal

If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s assistance with your USC appeals process, fill out our consultation form and indicate that you were denied at USC seeking to appeal your decision. We’ll then be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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