How to get Into USC Film School: An Interview With an SCA Admissions Committee Member

GPA, Test Scores, and Common Mistakes on a USC Film School Application

How important would you say are GPAs and/or test scores?

Typically speaking, when we look at candidates who have good material and exhibit a lot of promise, they tend to have good GPAs and test scores because they tend to be hard workers. They tend to be intelligent. That usually goes together. With that said, if I find somebody with a great application but bad scores or whatever, I don't care.

However, the school's general admissions has the right to override decisions that we make. And they do have standards for that stuff. I'm not sure exactly what their standards are, but they'll look at that. And even in my process, the way that I, and everybody who does what I do, rate things is that we do take that into account a little bit. You will get a little bit of an extra push if your GPA is higher. But it's very, very minimal. I've never seen anybody get in because they had a high GPA or high test scores.

I know that we’ve already gone through a few of them, but what would you say are some common application mistakes?

The most common one I see: it’s called a “personal statement”, and people don’t make it personal. My general rule is that if you're comfortable with publishing your application publicly with your name on it, you probably haven't gotten personal enough.

We want it to be personal because we want to know who you are as a person; not just that you can write, not just that you can tell a story. We really want to know who you are. People just don't get personal. They talk about their goals, they talk about why it means something to them . . . they talk about their passions, their route to it all. But they're afraid to become vulnerable. And so I think that's the number one mistake I see-- they don't make it personal enough.

Another common application mistake that I see is a lot of telling and not showing. I get applications all the time saying, “I love this, I volunteer doing this, I'm a kind person, I do this, this is how I think about life, etc.” But we're filmmakers and we use images to do that.

The last thing and probably the thing that gets me the most, to be honest . . . 99% of the essays that I read (not just the personal statements, but everything else as well, the collaboration questions and so on and so forth) are all about film. We know you have a passion for film, otherwise you wouldn't be applying here. We know it means a lot to you, otherwise you would be applying here. We know that you are giving up something to be here. We know that it's not an easy path. We've all been through that. Instead, the application should be about who you are. And I guarantee you, if you're applying to film school (meaning you're not a professional filmmaker yet) there's much more to you than film. And that's the part of your life that you should focus on. Of course, incorporate film a little bit. Incorporate a little bit of what that means to you. But mostly it should be about you, not film.

What are some mistakes that many people fret about on the forums but actually don’t have much of an impact?

There's only one thing worth fretting about - knowing that you could've put in more effort than you did. Pretty much everything else people worry about is insignificant. The amount people analyze, regret, and worry on here is crazy! Also, they shouldn't be worried about that after they submit their application. They should worry before, and then have a little faith that the people reviewing your material are not maniacal, over-analytical, detail-centric pr**ks! We're excited to learn about each and every person who applies and we're looking for diamond's in the rough that we can cut into something incredible. We don't expect you to be a polished jewel, but we do expect you to be able to tell that you tried your very best.

Is there anything that would cause you to immediately disregard an application?

Oh, absolutely not. It just doesn't happen. We really can't move on until we've gone through the whole thing . . . and we are looking for that moment we like as we're going through it. But there are some things that turn me off, that make me feel like, “Hmm, I just don't think this one's going to be worth reading.” Laziness is one of them. When you get an application where you can just tell that they didn't try, they rushed through it, or some parent had them doing this and this kid was just trying to get out and play or whatever. You can tell, you can just tell instantly. You can't hide lazy.
About author
Svaja Paka
Svaja is a content creator with an affinity for written content and video, and has been creating films and writing stories ever since she was in elementary school. Her passion for the two subjects led her to specialize in creative writing during college, where she quickly became infatuated by Creative Nonfiction. Shortly after graduation, she began to excel as a content writer and video editor in various professional settings. Although Svaja has been passionate about filmmaking since she was a child, she has recently begun to pursue it seriously and hopes to attend an MFA program in 2021.

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LOVE. so informative and enlightening
Such an excellent deep-dive interview on the process! I'm so glad I have this clarity now.
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