Karen Hott, Hott off the Press, April 2024

South Carolina is a BIG school with BIG sports and BIG spirit. Going from a high school of 2,000 to a university of 27,000+ can be intimidating for even the most confident student, but USC (we’re talking about the South here, not the West where that other USC lives) has for the past five years earned the first-place ranking from U.S. News and World Report for excellence in first-year experience.

OK, I don’t trust rankings, but this tells me they have an organized program to help students transition to the school. In fact, all freshmen take U101, a course taught by a staff member and peer leader designed to familiarize newcomers to USC. The class is capped at 18.

Undergraduate population on a large campus

Though it’s the flagship state public in South Carolina, 47% of the undergrads come from nearby states or the Northeast, with the top 10 states being New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland (it’s sure popular among my students), Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Ohio. The president of USC says, “Community is the secret sauce of USC.”

Jennifer Brammer, the admissions rep for the DMV, told the counselors in attendance at the South Carolina webinar on April 17, 2024, that though the campus is very large, a shuttle system runs from one end of campus to the other. The 20 residence halls are a 10- to 15-minute walk to classes and dining, and with Carolina’s temperate weather, lots of students choose to walk. Housing is guaranteed and required for first-years; a majority of students move off campus to nearby apartments after the first year.

Applying to the University of South Carolina

When applying to USC, you apply to a school or college and designate a first and second choice major. For example, you might apply to the Darla Moore School of Business, indicating your first-choice major as finance and your second-choice major as marketing. Business is one of the most competitive schools to get into at Carolina, along with nursing.

Word to the wise

Don’t try to game the system by saying you want to major in philosophy when you really want finance or nursing. It’s incredibly difficult to move into business or nursing from another department once you’re there. For business, they want to see higher-level math, ideally calculus. For nursing, they want to see that you’ve taken advantage of as many science courses as possible at your high school.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

This year, for the class of 2028, USC had over 52,000 applications. Those admitted had a 4.1 to 4.7 GPA–based on the 5.0 scale used in the state of South Carolina. They refer to the transcript to recalculate your GPA; if you have an A to A- average, you’re in range of the SC 4.1 to 4.7. They’re looking for rigor, to see that you’ve taken advantage of what your high school offers.

South Carolina remains fully test-optional through 2024. The middle 50% of nonresidents who submitted tests scored 1270-1400 on the SAT, 28-32 on the ACT. South Carolinians submitting scores had a middle-50% range of 1150-1330 SAT, 24-30 ACT. Letters of recommendation are not reviewed.

If applying to the honors college, be prepared to submit a résumé. This isn’t required for regular admission.

More apps = lower acceptance rate

Brammer explained that as USC has grown more popular, it has become more selective. In fact, students who would have been admitted in previous years weren’t directly admitted this year. It’s true of all the schools whose popularity increases: more applications, same number of acceptances, lower acceptance rate. It’s math. And it’s not uncommon to see winning football or basketball teams contribute to a burst of interest. Congratulations to the winning women’s basketball Gamecocks and Coach Dawn Staley!

The USC in South Carolina