MPA Admission Frequently Asked Questions


Vital Stats

Is there a minimum GRE and GPA?
While there is no minimum, successful applicants have generally earned an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, as well as a score of 153 or higher on the verbal section and 144 or higher on the quantitative section on the Graduate Record Examination.

What are the average GPA and GRE scores?
For 2015-16, the average GPA (interquartile range) for admitted students was between 3.19 – 3.69 and average GRE composite scores (interquartile range) were between 302 – 321.

How many students are admitted to each incoming class?
Please visit USC Price Student Facts to learn more about our student population.

Program Questions

How much does the program cost?
USC’s tuition is based on a per unit rate of $1,666 for the 2015-16 school year. The MPA is a 40-unit program for students with two years of work experience and 41 units for students with less than two years. The total cost of attendance varies by semester, the number of units taken, and the number of semesters enrolled. Detailed information concerning tuition and fees can be found in the USC Schedule of Classes.

May I complete the program part-time or online?
The MPA program offered at our University Park and Sacramento campuses have course sequencing that most students find compatible with working full-time. Courses are primarily offered in the evening or in the intensive format.

As of 2011, the rigorous USC Price MPA program can be pursued online. For more information, visit the Price MPA Online website.

Where can I take courses and complete the program?
The entire program or parts of the program may be completed at the USC University Park campus adjacent to downtown Los Angeles, at the USC Capital Center in Sacramento, or online.

Online students may not enroll in courses at either physical campus and students enrolled on campus may not take courses online.

Can I transfer credits from another program?
The limit for transferable coursework is eight units. All transferred coursework must be approved by USC Price.

Transfer work must have been completed within seven years of admission or readmission to a USC master’s degree program. Students wishing to transfer coursework that is more than seven years old may request to do so, but they will need to demonstrate that the content remains current.

Can I take courses before being formally admitted to the program?
Yes. Non-degree students may enroll in some classes, however there are restrictions. Students may enroll in classes as a “limited status” student with permission from the degree program director. To apply for this designation, the student must complete a limited student status application and provide official or unofficial copies of your transcripts showing a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. The maximum number of units a student may complete under the limited status designation is 12 units (the limit for most Price programs is 8 units). Requirements for limited status can be found here.

Does the MPA program have prerequisites?
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program has two prerequisites:

1) A minimum of 12 units of undergraduate social science courses. Students who are deficient in social sciences units are informed of this in the letter of admission. The social science prerequisite units may be taken at any accredited college or university. They must be completed with a grade of “C” or better and within the first 12 units of enrollment in the Price MPA program.

2) Statistics – all entering students must demonstrate proficiency in relevant statistical methods. The statistics prerequisite may be satisfied in one of two ways: Completion of a college-level statistics course with a grade of “B” or better, taken within three years of matriculation in the MPA program; OR completing PPD 502x (Statistical Foundations for Public Management and Policy). If students have not completed a college-level statistics course with a grade of “B” or better within three years of matriculation in the MPA program, they must enroll in PPD 502x and receive a grade of “B” or better.

Is a master’s thesis required for graduation?
There is no thesis required, however MPA students must complete a capstone course. The capstone provides students with an experience that integrates core knowledge, skills, and values acquired throughout their MPA coursework. The primary part of this course will divide students into teams to conduct a semester-long project with nonprofits and public government agencies, after which students will offer a summary of their analyses and recommendations to the partnering agencies.

Can I take courses at other universities once I start the program?
Once a student begins the MPA program, applicable coursework (such as a statistics course) may not be taken at another university. A student does, however, have the opportunity to take coursework in different schools at the University of Southern California if a request is approved by both the Price School and the partnering school.

Application Questions

When are the application deadlines?

December 15 (scholarship deadline)
May 1 (international applicant final deadline)
July 1 (domestic applicant final deadline)

November 1

April 1

Where do I mail my transcripts?
Transcripts MUST be submitted to the following address:
USC Price Recruitment and Admission
650 Childs Way, RGL 111
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626

When submitting transcripts, please include the USC Price cover page.

Am I eligible for an application fee waiver?
Fee waivers are granted only under the following conditions:

  • You are a full-time USC employee or dependent of a full-time USC employee;
  • You are a U.S. citizen/permanent resident, and paying the fee would cause financial hardship. The Office of Graduate Admission does not accept tax returns or any alternate type of documentation to substantiate financial hardship. Only a letter from the financial aid office of your previous school is acceptable. Once your online application has been submitted, you will receive an automated e-mail with instructions on how and where to send the appropriate waiver documentation. Please do not send USC any waiver documentation until you have received this e-mail.
  • You are a USC student or alumnus/alumna;
  • You are a McNair Scholar;
  • You are a PPIA fellow.

For additional questions about fee waivers, contact the USC Office of Graduate Admission.

Whom should I contact if I am having technical difficulties with the online application?
If you encounter problems with technical aspects of the application, you can seek help by clicking the tech support button located at the top or bottom of the application.

May I send transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other materials before I submit my application online?
You may send transcripts through the mail or through e-transcripts in only one of the following ways:

  1. .eSCRIP SAFE (Grad)
  2. eTranscriptCA (CCC)
  3. Texas Server (Grad)
  4. University to University

If your prior institution does not provide e-transcripts through one of these methods, you must submit a hard copy.

Letters of recommendation must be completed via the online application, but they may be submitted before a full application is submitted. USC Price WILL NOT accept hard copy letters of recommendation, nor will it accept other supplemental materials through postal mail. Please only mail transcripts to our office and include the USC Price cover page.

I have been out of school for a few years or more. Do I still have to submit an academic letter of recommendation?
When evaluating an applicant for admission USC Price is interested in both the academic and professional potential of an applicant. A letter of recommendation from a former professor aids the admission committee in determining the academic potential of a student.

Do I need to submit transcripts from my study abroad program or from institutions where I attended classes but did not pursue a degree?
We recommend students submit transcripts from ALL colleges or universities wherein a student took coursework that will be cited on the application or that appears on transcripts from an institution at which they did receive a degree. Study abroad transcripts, however,  do not need to be sent. Please contact the USC Office of Graduate Admission  to learn about the university requirements for transcripts.

How will I know my application and materials have been received?
Once an application is submitted, our staff works to process materials in a timely fashion. You will be contacted within a few weeks of submission to inform you of any materials that are missing. Once all materials are processed, you will receive an email notification to confirm the status. Please do not contact our office with inquiries until you hear from us first.

For letters of recommendation: The online application system allows applicants to track when letters have been submitted and to send reminders to those who are providing a recommendation.

Are scholarships available?
Yes. USC Price offers scholarship for domestic and international students. Please visit the Financial Aid section of our Web site for more details and an application.

The USC Financial Aid Office also provides financial aid packages to U.S. citizens and eligible non-U.S. citizens for loans and work-study. Additional information is available in the Supplemental Admission and Financial Aid materials.

When will admission decisions be made?
For applications submitted by the scholarship deadline of Dec. 15, decisions are usually made by the middle of March.

For applications submitted after Dec. 15, a decision usually takes two to three weeks to be made once all materials have been received.

I might be unable to contact the admission office. Can I have a family member or friend call to inquire on the status of my application?
No. To protect the privacy of the applicant, we only share information on the status of an application with the applicant.

Standardized Test Scores

Is the GRE or the GMAT preferred?
There is no preference. An applicant is free to take whichever test is most convenient.

May I use other test scores (LSAT, MCAT, etc.)?
Applicants applying for the dual degree with the law school may substitute the LSAT for the GRE or GMAT. Otherwise, the GRE and the GMAT are the only acceptable tests.

I was accepted to or completed another master’s program that did not require a GRE or GMAT. Must I still take the test?
Yes. The GRE or the GMAT is required of all applicants.

What is latest date I can take the GRE and still be considered for admission?
We strongly recommend taking the test by December 1st for applicants who wish to apply by the scholarship deadline. It is recommended to take the test by June 15th for the July 1st deadline. Please note that we are unable to guarantee an evaluation and decision will be made in time for a student to enroll in the next semester, should they take a test after the recommended dates. In these instances, the application could be deferred to the following semester for consideration.

I took the GRE or GMAT and want to send the scores to USC. What is the institution code and department code?

GRE 4852

GMAT 389-CL-24.

An applicant does not need to list a department code.

I did not list the correct department code. What should I do?
We will receive the scores as long as the institution code was correctly listed.

I am unsatisfied with my GRE score. What is the Price School policy on taking the exam more than once?
USC Price only evaluates the highest composite score received. You may take the test again if you are unsatisfied with your original score. Only the highest test scores will be used in the evaluation of your application.

International Student Concerns

What is the minimum TOEFL/IELTS Score?

TOEFL: No lower than a total score of 100 on the Internet-based test, with no less than 20 on each of the four test components.

IELTS: Score of 6.5, with no less than 6 on each band score.

Which version of the TOEFL is required?
TOEFL scores must be no more than two years old. USC Price only accepts the online version of this exam.

May I waive the TOEFL or IELTS?
We do not waive the English-proficiency requirement based on a graduate degree from a university in the U.S. or another qualifying country, nor on an undergraduate program taught in English in a non-Anglophone country. We are unable to make any exceptions to this policy.

Official scores must be received directly from the testing service and dated no earlier than 2 years (24 months) prior to the start of your intended first term at USC.

In which languages do you need my transcripts?
All transcripts and degree certificates/diplomas must be written in the original language of instruction. All original-language documents must be accompanied by a separate, word-for-word English translation. Dual-language transcripts are not acceptable.

May I send my financial statement after I have been accepted?
The U.S. government requires all international applicants provide proof-of-ability to pay tuition and living expenses for themselves and their dependents (if applicable) before a formal letter of admission and an I-20 or DS-2019 Eligibility Certificate can be issued. A missing financial statement will delay the processing of the I-20 or DS-2019.

Do you have a special office to assist international students?
The Office of International Services (OIS) at USC offers a wide range of services, including help with official documents, immigration questions, employment, financial aid and practical matters. For questions about your I-20, please contact More information for international student support can be found here.

How do I secure an I-20 for my family members?
There are two ways to do this:

  1. You may obtain your own I-20, enter the United States, and then apply for your family members’ I-20 forms through the USC Office of International Services (OIS).
  2. Alternatively, you may obtain I-20 forms for your family members before you arrive in the United States. You must provide the following information for each of your dependents:
    • Last (family), first (given) and middle name, exactly as each name appears on the passport. Please write the last name in all capital letters.
    • Date of birth (month/day/year)
    • Country of birth
    • Country of citizenship
    • Relationship to you (husband, wife, son or daughter)

Contact for more information.

As an International Student, is it possible for me to attain any financial awards from the university?
Yes, while international students are not eligible for need-based loans, they are able to compete for scholarships.

Dual Degree

If I apply to two programs, must I submit two applications?
Yes. When applying to a dual degree program, a student is applying to two separate programs which have separate admission committees. Thus, an applicant could gain admission to both programs, one program, or neither program. For a listing of dual degrees with the MPA, please click here.

If I apply to a dual degree, must I pay two application fees?
You will only need to pay the application fee for one application.

Miscellaneous Questions

What jobs do Price graduates accept after graduating?
The supportive academic environment at USC Price prepares applicants to become leaders in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors. Graduates typically compete well in the job market. In addition, the Price School offers many opportunities for students to make invaluable alumni, mentor, and professional contacts through our programs and student services.  Lifelong job resources are available to all Price alumni who graduate from one of our programs.

What is the difference between an MPA and an MPP?
The MPA program is designed to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of a career in public management. Most MPA courses are scheduled in the evening or in an intensive format, making it easier for working professionals to pursue the degree. The MPP program is designed to enhance the skills and knowledge required of a professional policy analyst. While the MPA tends to focus more on management-based courses and the MPP has a heavier emphasis on analytical coursework, both degree programs may contain electives that expand knowledge of management or analysis.

May I take classes in other schools and departments at USC?
Yes. Graduate students may take relevant graduate-level courses in other departments at USC. Students must receive approval from both the Price School and the department/school under which the course is listed.  In most cases, students may take some of their electives in another graduate program.  Students should seek approval from a degree director prior to taking coursework in another department.

Do graduate students live on or off campus?
Limited space is available for on-campus graduate housing. Most students choose to live off-campus in the nearby area or in other popular neighborhoods around Los Angeles. It is easier than ever now to get around the city, with a metro rail and metro bus stops directly adjacent to the University Park campus. Information about on campus housing can be found here.

I want to visit campus to learn more. Do I need to schedule an appointment?
Appointments are encouraged and Price School staff are happy to schedule an admission visit. Prospective students have several options when visiting our program. Choose to visit a class, speak to a current student, and/or speak with an admissions representative – we are committed to answering all of your questions.  Please allow at least one week to accommodate a formal visit request.

To speak with a current student, visit the Student Ambassadors section of our website.

Schedule a visit with an admissions counselor or visit a class

I do not live in the Los Angeles area. Are there opportunities to learn about the Price School where I live?
Yes. Please visit our Recruitment Schedule page to find out if a representative from USC Price will be visiting your area. If we are not visiting an area close to you, please call or email with any questions.