Counselor’s Guide to Financial Aid

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Undergraduate financial aid can come from a variety of federal, state, university, and private sources and may include gift aid or student employment—funds that do not have to be repaid—or student or parent loans, funds that can be borrowed to cover educational expenses and need to be repaid after graduation.

Talking About USC Financial Aid

  • Cost is a key consideration for students in deciding which college to attend. And while current headlines tend to focus on cost, a college education is also an investment in a student’s future. Its value increases over time.

    College graduates earn more over their lifetimes and enjoy greater access to health care than high school graduates.

    At USC, students graduate uniquely prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. They effectively engage with other cultures and examine issues through a global perspective, draw from a multidisciplinary education that encourages them to make connections and synthesize information, and give back to their communities through real-world problem-solving—as researchers, interns, volunteers and mentors.

    Investing in education, especially a USC education, not only benefits the student. It benefits everyone.

    At USC, we are proud of the resources we have to offer our students. We maintain a strong commitment to funding student financial aid and administer one of the largest programs in the country.

    • We work with families to meet 100 percent of their demonstrated financial need.
    • Funding for student aid has increased at a higher rate than tuition costs every year for the last few years.
    • Our current Capital Campaign includes a major initiative to increase the student aid endowment by $1 billion.
    • Nearly two-thirds of USC undergraduates receive some form of financial aid.
    • USC awarded more than $814 million from all sources to undergraduates in the last academic year. The majority of that comprised gift aid (financial aid that does not need to be paid back).

    The total gift aid to undergraduates from all sources (university, federal, state, other) for the 2022-2023 academic year was more than $657 million (more than 80 percent of all aid awarded).

    • Our admission process is need-blind. Ability to pay does not affect our admission decisions.
  • We know that families are concerned about student indebtedness and the national dialogue about this issue has intensified. At USC:

    • About thirty-one (31) percent of all undergraduates borrow from federal student loan programs, not including parent, and/or private loans.
    • Approximately seven (7) percent borrow from the Federal Direct Parent PLUS program.
    • Approximately three (3) percent borrow private loans.

    Graduates from the class of 2022 who entered USC as first-time students borrowed a cumulative average of $19,413 in federal student loans.

    The College Board estimates that about 54 percent of all college seniors who graduated in 2021 had student loan debt, with an average of $29,100 per borrower. The national average includes public and private non profit institutions.

  • USC requires both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile.

    • Students’ eligibility for USC need-based aid is calculated using Institutional Methodology, based on information provided in the CSS Profile.

    Application Deadlines

    First-Year Students:

    • Early Action Applicants: January 12, 2024.
    • Regular Decision Applicants: February 7, 2024.
      • Families should begin preparing as soon as possible.
      • In 2023, the FAFSA will be available in December. The CSS Profile is available beginning October 1.

    Transfer Students: March 4, 2024

    • Community college students should be made aware of the CSS Profile requirement, as well as the need to file the FAFSA on time. USC needs time to determine a student’s eligibility for university need-based aid.


    • California residents should also apply for Cal Grants by March 4.


    Tax information

    • We request actual tax returns or supporting documentation only if necessary for verification.
    • Most supporting documentation can be submitted via our website.


    • Once we receive a student’s application, we will notify the student by email if any other information is required.
    • Students can also check their financial aid status online by logging in to their Financial Aid Summary and Tasks (FAST) page.
    • Students should submit any additional information that we requested as soon as possible to prevent any delays in receiving their financial aid summary. Materials should be submitted online.
  • Financial Aid Calculators
    Uses institutional data to provide estimated net price information to prospective students and their families, based on a student’s individual circumstances.

    NPC = Cost of Attendance (price) – grant and scholarship aid

    How Financial Aid Works

    This video introduces viewers to the basics of qualifying, applying for, and receiving financial aid.

    Investing in Your Future

    This booklet provides in-depth information about the financial aid process for prospective students and their parents.

    College Navigator

    This website compares individual colleges based on access, affordability and outcomes.

    College Board Calculator

    This tool offered by the College Board may help estimate a family’s expected out-of-pocket costs. Be sure to use the Institutional Methodology.

    Bigfuture by the College Board

    The College Board’s college and scholarship search tool.

  • Our dedicated team of professionals is available to help with any questions or concerns.

    (213) 740-4444
    Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time

    Email us using our form.

    In Person
    John Hubbard Hall (JHH) Lobby
    Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

    Mailing Address
    USC Financial Aid Office
    University of Southern California
    700 Childs Way
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-0914

    We also have a dedicated outreach team who attend admission events, high school and community nights and helps with special populations. We look forward to working with you and your students in the coming year!

Saving for College

A college education represents a significant investment in a child’s future. While college costs have risen each year, the resources below can help families plan well in advance and save money over the long term. Many of these plans are tax free and/or do not charge extra fees.

Regardless of their eligibility for financial aid, most families will still need funds to pay for any expenses not covered by financial aid, and for any other personal expenses the student may incur. Savings plans are a good way to plan for and cover these expenses, especially as savings and investments held in parents’ names have a smaller impact than student assets on calculations of the Student Aid Index.

  • Owned and operated by 285 private colleges and universities across the country, the Private College 529 Plan allows families to pre-purchase college tuition at today’s prices. The plan protects families from tuition increases (roughly 3-8 percent a year), guaranteed and tax free.

    How Does It Work?

    • When the account is opened, the account owner names the beneficiary.
    • Account owners do not have to select a school until the beneficiary is accepted and enrolls. However, during the investment period, account owners may select up to five “sample schools” to find out how much the plan would be worth at each one.
    • When the beneficiary enrolls at a participating college, the 529 certificate is redeemed and the school receives the market value of the investment.
    • The value of the prepaid tuition is guaranteed by participating schools, regardless of what happens in the financial markets. What you pay today will be honored tomorrow.
    • If the student attends a school outside the Private College 529 Plan network, the account owner can name another beneficiary, rolls the assets into another 529 plan or request a refund.
    • Private College 529 assets may be used to pay only for undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees.

    Most 529 savings plans are sponsored by individual states and are not guaranteed to keep pace with tuition increases. The Private College 529 Plan is NOT sponsored by a state. Run by its participating schools, it is designed to help keep tuition affordable.

    To learn more, please visit or call 1-888-718-7878.

  • Administered by various states, prepaid tuition plans allow parents to pre-purchase college tuition based on today’s rates. Funds are paid out at the future cost when the student enrolls in college.

    Unlike the Private College 529 Plan, account earnings for these plans are based upon the market performance of the investment. These plans are currently available in 13 states. To learn more, please visit

  • Offered by the federal government, U.S. Treasury securities comprise a variety of notes and bonds that allow you to invest and save your money over a fixed amount of time, with minimal risk. Visit for more information.

Our Commitment to Affordability

USC administers one of the largest financial aid programs in the United States and works with families to bridge the gap between the cost of attendance and what families can afford to pay out of pocket.

Please note: Students are considered for full financial aid only if they meet all deadlines and eligibility requirements.


How much financial aid does USC award to undergraduates?

$464.3 Million

Financial aid from all university sources exceeds $464 million.

$814 Million

Total financial aid disbursed in 2022-23.

$773.4 Million

Amount of financial aid disbursed from all sources for 2021-22 (including work-study and loans).

Between 2017-18 and 2021-22, university need-based grant funding increased at an annual rate of 11.6%. During the same period, tuition increased at an annual rate of 3.1%.


bar chart detailing usc need-based grants in 2017-18 and 2021-22

What percentage of USC’s undergraduates receive financial aid?

Graphic showing that more than two-thirds USC students receive some form of financial aid

More than two-thirds of USC undergraduates receive some sort of financial aid, including need-based grants, merit scholarships, Federal Work-Study and loans. Among the 2022 entering first-year class, approximately percent received a USC Merit Scholarship.

USC enrolls more low-income students (as defined by Pell Grant eligibility) than most private research universities.

In fall 2022, 22 percent of enrolled undergraduates received Pell Grants.

Most importantly, low-income and under-represented minority students at USC graduate at rates comparable to the overall undergraduate population.

USC’s admission process is need-blind. Ability to pay, or a student’s interest in financial aid, does not affect admission decisions.

USC’s Financial Aid Calculators

Many students and families are surprised to learn that a USC education may be more affordable than they think. Our Financial Aid Calculators allow prospective students and their families to estimate their own cost of attendance and potential eligibility for certain types of financial aid.

Students and families should note, however, that estimates are based on prior-year figures for tuition, fees, books, and housing costs. Also, Financial Aid Calculators cannot substitute for a full review of a family’s finances. Amounts given are estimates only and not a guarantee of financial aid. Financial Aid Calculators


Investing in Your Future: Financial Aid and USC

Our Investing In Your Future booklet helps explain the financial aid process at USC and other schools. Follow the link above to download it.

Applying for Financial Aid

This section will help clarify and explain the financial aid application process for new students and their parents applying for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Dates & Deadlines

Dates & Deadlines for Prospective First-year Students

Students are encouraged to meet published deadlines to ensure they are considered for all the types of financial aid they may be eligible for.

Early Action Applicants: January 12, 2024

Regular Decision Applicants: February 7, 2024

Students should submit the CSS Profile application to the College Board’s College Scholarship Service and the FAFSA application to the federal processor by the appropriate date.

Students who miss the deadline should apply as soon as possible.

Cal Grants: March 4, 2024

California residents should apply for Cal Grants by this date.