USC Film School: How to Apply for 2023, Acceptance Rate, and What To Expect as an SCA Film Student

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University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts is considered one of the best film schools in the world for aspiring filmmakers in all disciplines. The university is at the forefront of rising filmmaking trends and technologies, preparing students for prosperous careers in Hollywood. However, many others take the lead on award-winning independent productions. USC SCA is among FilmSchool.org’s top 10 undergraduate film schools in America, in addition to being named the 2022 runner-up for Best Directing Program worldwide. In 2022, The Hollywood Reporter ranked USC SCA no. 3 on its annual list of the best 25 American film schools.

USC welcomes students with years of industry experience who want to expand their skill sets and portfolios and beginners with raw talent and exceptional drive. Discover how to increase your odds of acceptance by reading FilmSchool.org’s exclusive interview with a USC Admissions committee member.

What is Life Like at USC SCA?


USC SCA is adjacent to University Park, minutes from downtown Los Angeles and easily accessible via the Metro Expo Line. George Lucas (Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park) has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure the film school has excellent diversity, equipment, and quality of instruction. For a day in the life of a USC film student, read FilmSchool.org’s interview with BFA filmmaker Noah Lampson.

USC SCA offers students a number of avenues to showcase their best work. For more than two decades, First Pitch has brought together soon-to-graduate filmmakers from its BA/BFA and MFA programs for a night of networking and storytelling with coveted industry contacts. Filmmakers can also take advantage of USC SCA’s connections to world-renowned festivals such as:
  • Annecy
  • The Austin Film Festival
  • The Berlin International Film Festival
  • The IndieCade Independent Games Festival
  • South by Southwest
  • The Sundance Film Festival
  • The Toronto International Film Festival
  • Tribeca Film Festival
All short student-produced films are protected under USC copyright. However, student filmmakers hold all intellectual property rights to the underlying script, idea, treatment, or concept.

USC SCA Film Program Alumni


USC boasts some of the best and brightest directors, writers, and producers in Hollywood. Many alumni help create the industry’s most noteworthy and award-winning television series and films.

Nahnatchka Khan (MFA) is the creator and producer of Fresh off the Boat, the runaway hit series inspired by Chef Eddie Huang’s eponymous memoir. Khan also created and produced Don’t Trust the B–––– In Apartment 23.

Shonda Rhimes (MFA) is the creator, writer, and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, television’s longest running medical drama, as well as its spin-off series Private Practice.

Melissa Rosenberg (MFA) learned everything she needed to know in the Peter Stark Producing Program to write the film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. The film grossed over 400 million dollars worldwide. Rosenberg also worked as a lead writer on Dexter. Learn more about other prolific USC SCA alumni.

USC SCA First Jobs


USC SCA alumnus Aaron Kaplan (American Housewife, HouseBroken, The Unicorn) created First Jobs to help tomorrow’s filmmakers find paid entry-level jobs in the film industry. First Jobs gives countless high-profile companies access to new USC SCA graduates.

Today, the program has created more than 1,000 paid entry-level jobs for USC SCA alumni. To qualify, you must be a recent USC SCA graduate or minor degree holder (no more than 5 years out) and submit an application. For more information, email firstjobd@cinema.usc.edu.

7 Commonly Asked Questions about USC SCA


1. How large are the class sizes?


Graduate classes have small cohorts that attend atelier-like seminars. Undergraduate classes can run between a few dozen students to 365 students in the “Theatrical Film Symposium.”

2. Is it exceptionally difficult to get into USC for film?


According to the College Gazette, USC SCA has a historical acceptance rate of just 3% vs. the overall university’s acceptance rate of 19%. In addition to creating a strong film portfolio, having a competitive GPA may help you increase your chances of admission.

The Application Database allows FilmSchool.org members to see the accepted GPAs of admitted USC SCA applicants. FilmSchool.org’s USC SCA Acceptance Statistics provide an in-depth look at accepted student demographics. FilmSchool.org members have also enjoyed above average acceptance rates – as high as 30%.

3. What does the ideal USC SCA student look like?

USC SCA favors students with a strong academic and creative background. The application review process is holistic for both MFA and BA/BFA students; having a recommendation from a major industry player is not a guarantee for admissions. Applicants must submit a portfolio list that showcases a range of interests, talents, goals, and an enduring passion for film. The admissions committee favors academic projects that illustrate high-level analytical and critical thinking skills.

Trying to decide if this film school is the best fit for your background and aspirations? Review our Admissions Statistics pages for even more information about accepted student demographics, such as prior film experience and types of undergraduate degree:
For even more guidance on tailoring your application to USC SCA, read FilmSchool.org’s exclusive interview with a USC SCA admissions officer.

4. How can I transfer to USC SCA?


USC SCA accepts transfer applicants to the Film and Television Production program who have 48 transferable units — excluding AP and IB classes. USC SCA also recommends students complete all of USC’s General Education requirements.

Any cinema classes taken prior to transferring to USC SCA cannot be used towards the program requirements.

5. Can undergraduate film students double major?​


Cinema & Media Studies students are encouraged to double major to apply what they learn through the lens of film analysis. USC SCA discourages Writing for Screen and Television and Film and Television Production students from double majoring, but these students have the workload capacity to do a minor.

6. Are film students allowed to study abroad?​


No, USC SCA does not offer study abroad programs. However, filmmakers can participate in programs offered by the USC Office of Overseas Studies. A maximum of two cinema courses can be transferred to the major from a study abroad program.

7. Can I be admitted to my second choice major if I am accepted to USC SCA?​


If you are denied your first choice major, you may be able to attend USC SCA as your second choice major or as an undeclared major. If you take the undeclared major route, you must complete all your general education and elective requirements before applying to your first choice major.

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Alexa P.
Alexa Pellegrini (she/her) is a freelance copywriter, editor, poet, and essayist. Keep up with her latest musings on Twitter.

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