USC SCA: How to Apply for 2024, Acceptance Rate, and What To Expect as an SCA Film Student

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For more than 90 years, the University of Southern California has trained the next generation of prolific filmmakers. As the nation's first institution of higher learning to offer a bachelor's degree in film, the School of Cinematic Arts remains at the forefront of emerging filmmaking trends. USC SCA is among Filmschool.org’s top 10 undergraduate film schools and runner-up for Best Directing Program. In 2023, The Hollywood Reporter moved USC SCA up to no. 2 on its annual list of the top 25 American film schools.

USC SCA welcomes filmmakers with years of industry experience 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. (Note: Because the University is highly competitive, application deadlines fall earlier than many other film programs.)

What is life like at University of Southern California School of the Arts?


The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts is located at the University Park campus (take a look via the University's virtual tour) and easily accessible from other areas of Los Angeles via the Metro Expo Line. USC is also one of the largest private research universities nationwide: A combination of 49,500 undergraduate and graduates were enrolled during the 2022-2023 academic year. Film students can participate in more than 1,000 student organizations. Plus, USC Village is only steps away and offers a mix of dining, fitness, and entertainment options to students and Angelenos.

USC SCA offers film students a number of avenues to showcase their work. For more than two decades, First Pitch has brought together undergraduates and graduates for an evening of networking and storytelling with key industry players. Film students 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, but students hold all intellectual property rights to the underlying scripts, ideas, treatments, and concepts.

For a day in the life of a USC film student, read FilmSchool.org’s interview with BFA filmmaker Nolan Lampson.

University of Southern California notable alumni


USC SCA is known for producing award-winning directors, writers, and producers in Hollywood, including:

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), 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 iconic film grossed over 400 million dollars worldwide. Rosenberg also worked as a lead writer on Dexter.

Learn more about other prolific USC SCA alumni.

Break into the industry with USC SCA First Jobs


USC SCA alumnus and producer 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. As of 2023, the program has helped create more than 1,000 paid entry-level jobs for USC SCA alumni.

To qualify, you must be a recent USC SCA graduate (no more than five years out of your program) and submit this application. For questions or additional 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. How hard is it to get into USC SCA?


USC SCA is highly selective (see "USC SCA Acceptance Rate"). In addition to presenting a strong portfolio, having a competitive GPA may help you increase your chances of admission.

Filmschool.org's Application Database allows members to see the accepted GPAs of admitted USC SCA applicants. Our USC SCA Acceptance Statistics pages offer an in-depth look at accepted student demographics, such as prior filmmaking experience. Take a look at the Acceptance Statistics for each USC SCA degree program:
Additionally, Filmschool.org members have also reported acceptance rates as high as 30%.

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

The Admissions committee favors applicants with strong academic backgrounds and marked artistic potential. Applicants must submit a portfolio list that showcases a range of interests, talents, goals, and a passion for film. Academic materials should illustrate analytical and critical thinking skills. The essay portion should reflect the three C's: clarity, continuity, and creativity.

4. How can I transfer to USC SCA?


To transfer into the Film and Television Production program, you must have 48 transferable units (excluding AP and IB classes). USC SCA also recommends transfer students first complete all of USC’s General Education requirements. Note: Cinema classes taken prior to transferring to USC SCA transfer as electives.

5. Can undergraduate film students double major?​


Cinema & Media Studies BA students are encouraged to double major to apply their theoretical and historical knowledge of film to other areas. Writing for Screen and Television and Film and Television Production are discouraged from double majoring due to the intensive workload, but may considering pursuing a minor.

6. Are film students allowed to study abroad?​


No. However, many film students participate in programs offered by the USC Office of Overseas Studies after receiving an approval from their academic advisors. A maximum of two cinema courses taken while studying abroad can be counted toward the major (with departmental approval).

7. Does USC SCA offer scholarships?​


USC SCA offers need-based and merit-based scholarships to incoming students. Additionally, the University offers scholarships to School of Cinematic Arts students who complete one semester. Scholarship applications typically open at the end of January.

Information sessions for prospective USC SCA film students​


USC SCA hosts several information sessions each term. Prospective undergraduate students can also conduct self-guided on-campus tours. Don’t miss the next information sessions for 2024 entry:

In-Person Graduate Information Session
Date: Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 7:00 PM PT
Register here

Virtual SCA Graduate Open House

Includes an admissions presentation and divisional breakout sessions with a Q & A session about USC SCA and the application process.
Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2023 at 3:30 PM (Pacific Time)
Register here

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect 2024 application instructions.
Click here to fill out the application for first-year applicants. Click here to fill out the application for graduate students. Take into account that USC SCA has strict application deadlines as early as November 1.

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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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