MPL Admission Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a minimum GRE and GPA?
While there is no minimum, in general, successful applicants have maintained at least a 3.0 undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and a minimum of 153 in the verbal section and 144 in the quantitative section on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
What are the average GPA and GRE scores?
For 2015-16, the average GPA (interquartile range) was between 3.13 – 3.67. For the GRE, the composite score (interquartile range) was between 303 – 318.
How many people are in each incoming class?
Please visit USC Price Student Facts to learn more about our student population.
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 MPL is a 48 unit program. The cost of attendance varies by semester and depends upon the number of units taken and number of semesters enrolled. Detailed information concerning tuition and fees can be found in the USC Schedule of Classes.
Can I do the program part-time or online?
98% of students enrolled in the program are enrolled on a full time basis. Many of the MPL courses are scheduled during the day often making it difficult for students to work full time and do the program on a part time basis.
Where can I take courses and complete the program?
The University of Southern California is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, a dynamic city to study urban planning. LA is a city rich in ethnic, cultural and economic diversity. Our location will allow you endless opportunities to learn from world-class faculty, access one of the most extensive and influential professional networks in the world, and learn in the living classroom that is L.A.
USC Price also offers graduate programs in public administration at the USC State Capital Center in Sacramento. On occasion MPL students take courses there.
Can I transfer credits from another program?
The maximum number of transfer credits which may be applied toward a master’s degree, subject to departmental approval is:
- Four units in programs requiring 24-32 units
- Eight units in programs requiring 33-40 units
- Twelve units in programs requiring 41 or more units
- A maximum of four units of transfer credit may be applied toward an approved dual degree program
The same limits apply if a student wishes to transfer credits from any advanced degree previously completed at USC toward a master’s degree.
Transfer work must have been completed within seven years of admission or readmission to a USC master’s degree program to be applied toward that degree. 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 is 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. You may enroll in classes as a limited status student with permission from the degree program director. In order to apply for this designation, you must complete a limited student status application and provide official or unofficial copies of your transcripts and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. The maximum number of units that you may complete as a limited status student is 12 units (the limit for most Price programs is 8 units). Requirements for limited status can be found here.
Are there prerequisites to be eligible for admission?
There are no prerequisites for the Master of Planning.
Is a master’s thesis required for graduation?
Successful completion of a comprehensive written and oral project-oriented examination is required of all students seeking the Master of Planning degree. The examination is project-oriented and emphasizes the analysis and solution of a real-world planning problem. Students are expected to synthesize knowledge and skills drawn from both the core courses and electives in their concentration.
Can I take courses at other universities once I start the program?
Once a student begins the program, coursework from another university such as a statistics course cannot 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 the request is approved by both USC Price and the other school.
When are the application deadlines?
December 15 (scholarship deadline)
June 1 (international applicant final deadline)
July 1 (domestic applicant final deadline)
Where do I mail my transcripts?
Transcripts MUST be submitted to the following address:
USC Price Recruitment and Admissions
650 Childs Way, RGL 111
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626
When submitting materials, 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 Admissions 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, you can contact the USC Graduate Admission Office at 213.740.1111.
Who 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.
Can 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:
- eSCRIP SAFE (Grad)
- eTranscriptCA (CCC)
- Texas Server (Grad)
- University to University
If your school does not provide e-transcripts through one of these methods, you must submit a hard copy of your transcripts.
Letters of recommendation must be done through the online application but letters through the online system can be submitted before an application is submitted. USC Price WILL NOT accept hard copy letters of recommendation nor will we accept other supplemental materials through postal mail. Please only mail transcripts to our office. If possible, use 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 we are 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 where a student took course work that they either plan to list in their application or that appears on the transcripts from an institution where they did receive a degree.
Study abroad transcripts, however, usually do not need to be sent if approved by. Please follow up with the USC Graduate Admission office about their requirements for transcripts.
How will I know that my application/application materials have been received?
Our staff works to process the materials in a timely fashion as soon as an application is submitted. You will be contacted within a couple weeks of application submission to inform you what materials are still lacking. Once all materials are received, you will also receive an email notification that everything has been received. Please do not contact our office with inquiries until you hear first from us.
For letters of recommendation, the online application system allows you to track when those letters have been submitted and also allows you to send reminders to your recommenders.
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 admissions office. Can I have a family member or friend call to inquire about the status of my application?
No. In order to protect the privacy of the applicant, we only share information about the status of an application with that applicant.
Standardized Test Scores
Is the GRE or the GMAT preferred?
No. An applicant is free to take whichever test is most convenient for them.
Can I use other test scores (LSAT, MCAT, etc.)?
No. The GRE and the GMAT are the only accepted tests.
I was accepted or completed another master’s that did not require a GRE or GMAT. Do I still have to 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 apply by the scholarship deadline. It is recommended to take the test by June 15th for the July 1st deadline. We are unable to guarantee that we will be able to evaluate and make a decision on the application for those applicants who take the test after the recommended dates. In that case, the application could be deferred to the next 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?
When registering for the GRE or GMAT test, applicants should use the following institution codes: GRE 4852 or 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 listed.
I am unsatisfied with my GRE score. What is USC Price’s policy on taking the test more than once?
USC Price only evaluates the highest composite score received. You can take the test again if you are unsatisfied with your original score. The highest test scores will be what are 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 only accepts the internet based versions of the exam.
Can I waive the TOEFL or IELTS?
We do not waive the English-proficiency requirement based on either a graduate degree from a university in the U.S. or other qualifying country or 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 date 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.
Can I send my financial statement after I have been accepted?
The U.S. government requires all international applicants to 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 refer to the Ask USC page. More information for international student support can be found here.
How much financial support must I provide to the University?
More information can be found here.
How do I secure an I-20 for my family members?
There are two ways to do this:
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). For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com 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 international students are able to compete for scholarships. Please refer to our scholarship and assistantships page.
If I apply to two programs must I submit two applications?
Yes, you must submit two applications. When applying to a dual degree program you are in fact still applying to two separate programs that have separate admissions committees. Thus, an applicant could gain admission to both programs, only one program, or neither program. For a listing of dual degrees with the MPL, please click here.
If I apply to a dual degree do I have to pay twice?
You will only need to pay the application fee for one application.
Can I take classes in other schools and departments at USC?
Yes, you must receive approval from both USC Price and the department in which you seek to take a course. Often graduate students wish to take graduate courses in other departments at USC. In most cases, students may take some of their electives in another graduate program. Students should seek approval in advance from their degree directors prior to taking coursework in another department.
Do USC Price students live on or off campus?
Limited spaces are available in on-campus housing for graduate students. Most students choose to live off-campus in the nearby area or in other popular neighborhoods around Los Angeles. 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. Our staff would be happy to schedule an admission visit with you. Please allow at least one week to accommodate requests.
You have several options when visiting our program. You may choose to visit a class, speak to a current student, and/or speak with an admissions representative. Please allow at least one week to accommodate requests.
To speak with a current student, you may visit the Student Ambassadors section of our website.
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 to find out if a representative from our office will be visiting your area. If we are not visiting an area close to you, please call or email us with any questions you may have.