Whether it’s a sports competition, a community outreach organization, or a rigorous academic program, the USC vs UCLA rivalry is one for the books. Although we’ll be abstaining from weighing in on some of the cross-town sports rivalry (though we will offer some detail on their sports programs), we’re here to help you understand the difference between which university is ‘better’ and how to decide where to apply and eventually commit to.
So, when you ask us, ‘Which school is better, UCLA vs USC?’ you might be a little confused when we tell you that it really depends. There are tons of factors that play into school choice such as the cost of tuition, location, and strength or availability of academic programs. We’ll break down some attributes of USC and UCLA for you in the sections below.
Let’s jump right into it!
What are the biggest differences between USC and UCLA?
Well, the most obvious difference between USC and UCLA is that USC is a private school, while UCLA is public (as part of the UC system). Private and public universities each have their own pros and cons: it all depends on what you are looking for out of your college experience. There are a few factors to consider—tuition, need-based financial aid, and the application system—when deciding between a private and public college such as USC and UCLA.
The tuition at USC and UCLA differs by tens of thousands of dollars. The estimated cost of tuition at USC is around $63,500, while the cost of tuition at UCLA in-state and out-of-state is $37,500 and $68,500, respectively.
But don’t let the price of tuition deter you from applying (and committing) to either of these universities!
Fortunately, both universities are need-blind, which means that USC and UCLA determine each application’s acceptance status without taking into consideration the financial status of the student. So, what does this mean for you? Regardless of the university you apply to, your financial status will not impact whether your application is accepted. Furthermore, you’ll find that at both institutions, the demonstrated financial need of each student is met 100% (yay!).
(Important side note: here’s an in-depth guide on how to pay for college.)
Another difference between USC and UCLA is the application system they use. You can apply to USC with the Common Application and to UCLA with the UC Application. Although there are several distinct differences between these two application systems, both require similar things from each applicant: writing samples, grades and courses, extracurriculars, and more.
So, what is expected from you in the Common Application when applying to USC? You’ll need your:
High School Transcript
ACT, SAT, and AP test scores
Academic Honors and Achievements
Letters of Recommendation
Additional Information Section
As you gather the necessary pieces of information, keep in mind that USC is test-optional for applications through 2023, which means you decide whether you want to submit your test scores or not.
Now that you know what to expect when applying to USC and other schools that use the Common Application, here is what you might need to collect when applying to UCLA through the UC Application. Regardless of the UC school you are applying to—UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego—the UC Application requires you to submit your:
High School Transcript(Video) UCLA vs USC: Majors and Academics
AP test scores (all UC schools are test-blind for SAT/ACT)
Personal Insight Questions (PIQ)
UC Activities and Awards
UC Additional Information Section
Unlike the Common App Personal Statement, the goal of the UC PIQs, as well as the rest of what is needed when applying through the UC Application, is to showcase at least 1 of the 13 Points of Comprehensive Review.
What are important differences between USC and UCLA?
In addition to public (UCLA) vs private (USC) and the relevant differences in tuition (UCLA is much cheaper for California residents), it’s important to think about differences between academic offerings, acceptance rates, and the student body at the respective schools.
When thinking about the academic offerings of USC and UCLA, there are a few differences, but both are amazing academic institutions.
USC is the oldest research university in California (and one of the oldest in the world). According to the US News and World Report, USC (overall) is ranked #25 nationally (though a heads up that we believe you should be wary of ranking systems like US News). It’s a leading private research university that promotes interdisciplinary studies and encourages collaboration within its 21,000 undergraduates, something that can be seen within its 23 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. USC’s student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1, with 62% of the classes having no more than 20 students.
Both the USC Marshall School of Business and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, which boast rankings of #3 and #10 in their respective fields, are highly selective and competitive, but worth the work. Plus, USC has its fair share of Nobel Laureates, Rhode Scholars, Marshall Scholars, recipients of the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award, Guggenheim Award, and the National Medal of the Arts Award, and other distinguished faculty and alumni such as George Lucas!
But don’t let the hype you’re feeling about USC right now overshadow what UCLA has to offer. There’s a reason these two schools continue to maintain such a fierce rivalry.
UCLA, which was founded in 1919, is considered a Public Ivy League school, meaning that academically, it’s equal to the private Ivy League Schools. The US News and World Report found that UCLA, overall, is ranked #20 nationally. Classified as a public research university, UCLA aims to provide students with a multidisciplinary experience, while allowing them to explore their academic interests with peers. The UCLA academic experience includes a student-to-faculty ratio of 18:1, which means that 47.8% of their classes have fewer than 20 students. With more than 125 majors, UCLA’s 31,600 undergraduates have more than enough possible degrees to decide on.
Some of its most popular majors can be found in the School of Nursing, College of Letters and Science, School of the Arts and Architecture, and the School of Theater, Film, and Television. Many of the schools are ranked highly in their respective fields, such as UCLA’s school of engineering, which is ranked top 10 in public universities. When looking at the accomplishments of some of its graduates, you can find 27 Nobel Prize winners, 5 Turing Award winners, and esteemed actors like James Dean.
USC vs UCLA Acceptance rates
Whether you’re applying to USC or UCLA, you’ll find that both universities are highly selective. So, what exactly does it take to get into each?
Both USC and UCLA have a diverse student body. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the student populations:
USC and UCLA also have vibrant student life, such as Greek life. There are more than 40 organizations under the Trojan Fraternity and Sorority and the UCLA community offers 66 UCLA Greek-related organizations, which means that about 20% of the USC and 13% of the UCLA student body participates in Greek life. You can also find clubs and student organizations for a plethora of interests at both universities, with each housing more than 1,000 clubs and student organizations. You can find a list of activities for USC and UCLA at the included links.
UCLA vs USC: Which college is “better”?
Well, we think this is the wrong question. It’s really not a question of which college is ‘better’ because both colleges are great choices. Both universities are successful, academically rigorous, research-oriented colleges that consistently rank as a couple of the top universities in the US. The questions you might consider asking instead are: Which one fits you? And how do you decide?
Should I choose USC or UCLA: How do I decide which is right for me?
Deciding where to apply and attend, regardless of which universities you are considering, is a major life decision. It’s important that you take the time to reflect on and firmly grasp your own particular situation.
Here are a few things you might consider asking yourself when thinking about USC vs UCLA and where to go to college:
Do I want to study business or go into the film industry? Both are good, but USC might be a better option.
Am I more focused on STEM? UCLA offers a lot of strengths.
Am I ok with larger class sizes, or do I want USC’s smaller student:faculty ratio?
How well do my grades, test scores, and application information pieces align with what is accepted by the university?
Can I afford tuition, with or without financial aid?
Does school ranking matter to me?
Will I be happy participating in the college community? What organizations will I be involved with?
What do I want from my college experience?
Once you’ve taken the time to answer the above questions, and questions similar to them, you’ll have created your own criteria of what school best fits you.
Let’s use the fifth question—can I afford tuition, with or without financial aid—as an example. The cost of tuition for USC admits and out-of-state UCLA admits is roughly the same, $63,500 and $68,500, respectively. So, if you’re applying as a non-resident of California, the price might not be a major deterrent, but if you are a California resident, you’re looking at a $26,000 difference between USC and UCLA, which is over $100,000 over four years. Depending on the financial parts of your criteria as a California resident, you might consider attending UCLA over USC, while a non-California resident might not consider the difference in tuition at all.
As you continue to work your way through your criteria, keep track of how much USC and UCLA fits with what you are looking for. Hopefully, this will help guide you when deciding which school to apply to. Ultimately, if you are able to, why not consider applying to both USC and UCLA.
Final thoughts on USC vs UCLA
Wait, what about the sports thing? What rivalry do these two schools have with each other? You’ll find the athletic rivalry between the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins captivating. Both schools are members of the Pac-12 Conference, which means that they not only compete against each other in individual competitions, but also for the Pac-12 Conference Title. Each school is home to 21 accomplished Division I sports teams. The Trojans have snagged a total of 107 NCAA National Championship titles, while the Bruins have claimed a total of 119 NCAA Team Championships. USC and UCLA are ranked 3rd and 2nd, nationally, in total NCAA Championship Titles earned. Whether you decide to apply to USC, UCLA, or both, you’ll find yourself choosing between two highly competitive and successful schools.
Special thanks to Kaila for writing this blog post
Should I choose USC or UCLA? ›
If your child knows they want to study business management or enter the film industry, or if they prefer smaller classes, USC would be a better option. But if they don't mind big lecture halls, are set on a STEM field, and skip out on football games for academics, UCLA could be a more ideal fit.Which is more popular USC or UCLA? ›
Although USC slightly edges out UCLA in acceptance rate, both schools are considered highly selective.Which California university should I go to? ›
If you want to be in a rural environment, UC Davis and UC Merced are good options. If you want to be by the beach, you may prefer UCSB, UC Santa Cruz, or UCSD. If you want to be in Northern California, you should consider UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz or UC Merced.Is getting into USC a big deal? ›
USC is a very selective university with an acceptance rate of just under 12%—this means fewer than 1 in 8 students gets accepted. Here's how USC's official news website describes its student body: "The average unweighted GPA is 3.91, which represents a historic high.Which is harder to get into USC or UCLA? ›
USC vs UCLA: SAT Score
Students who are accepted to USC typically have SAT scores in the range of 1440. On the other hand, the average score on the SAT for a student admitted to UCLA is 1405.
Ultimately, USC is known for its famous and sunny location, its high-quality and student-centered academics, notable alumni, thriving campus life, diversity, dominant athletics, school spirit, and fun traditions.Why UCLA is better than USC? ›
ACADEMICS/ADMISSION STANDARDS: UCLA has been long known for its extremely high standards in academics and admission standards. It is rated higher than USC in every magazine and poll, including U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review.What major is USC known for? ›
The most popular majors at University of Southern California include: Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services; Social Sciences; Visual and Performing Arts; Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs; Engineering; Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies; Computer and Information Sciences and Support ...What is USC best known for academically? ›
USC is also well known for its Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and its highly esteemed School of Cinematic Arts, which has graduated students such as directors Judd Apatow and George Lucas. Films including "The Graduate," "Legally Blonde" and "Forrest Gump" all filmed scenes on USC's campus.What is #1 college California? ›
What is the number 1 college in Los Angeles? ›
The easiest UC schools to get into include UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced, all of which have acceptance rates over 50%. Located 40 minutes outside San Jose, UC Santa Cruz earns high marks for its picturesque campus and close beach access.What is the lowest GPA USC will accept? ›
You should also have a 3.79 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as USC, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.Why is UCLA so popular? ›
Now, you might ask “Why is UCLA so prestigious?” UCLA has ties to people who have won the highest accolades in the world, including five Turing Award winners and 27 Nobel Prize winners. Together with UC Berkeley, UCLA is ranked as the 20th best university in the country by U.S. News & World Report.Is USC a stressful school? ›
All of those times students have felt stressed or overwhelmed have just been validated — the Daily Beast recently ranked USC the 18th most stressful college in the country.Is USC safer than UCLA? ›
Some students feel that UCLA's campus is safer, but USC does have a 24-hour security patrol. While both schools have a total student population around 46,000, USC enrolls 19,500 undergraduates in comparison to an undergraduate enrollment of 31,543 at UCLA.Can I get into USC with a 3.7 GPA? ›
Though there is no cutoff for GPA, the average GPA for acceptance is a 3.7. To have higher chances, you will need to have better test scores, more difficult coursework and extracurriculars to make up for the GPA. You will also need a good letter of recommendation for USC.Is a degree from UCLA respected? ›
Offering over 40 graduate programs, UCLA is classified as an R1: Very High Research University. Students have the opportunity to work with renowned faculty members, including Nobel Laureates and Turing Award recipients. UCLA's master's degree programs are among the highest-ranked nationally.Is USC too much of a party school? ›
USC is one of the premiere party schools in the nation. The Trojans have regularly been ranked in the top ten party school lists for years. Greek life is at the epicenter of USC social happenings.What kind of students does USC like? ›
We also consider personal qualities, as revealed in community involvement, leadership and achievements. USC students pursue ambitious intellectual and professional goals by studying across disciplines and taking advantage of the diversity of programs available.
What type of students go to USC? ›
The student at USC are extremely diverse. There are people from countries all over the world. Everyone will find a club or organization that's perfect for them, be it a social or professional organization, a fraternity/sorority, or a religious group. Most students dress however they feel like it.Is UCLA the hardest college to get into? ›
University of California, Los Angeles
The acceptance rate at UCLA is 14%. For 2023, Niche ranks its campus and food options as No. 1 out of all American colleges.
The road Bruins are favored by 4.5 points in the latest USC vs. UCLA odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over/under is set at 134.Why should I choose UCLA? ›
The Pros of Going to UCLA:
From financial support, physical and mental health services, food security programs, career and academic counseling, or free legal services, UCLA has resources for almost everything. This was a major reason why I chose UCLA.
The Hidden Ivies include many small colleges, such as Davidson College, Pomona College, Carleton College, and Oberlin College, as well as some large research universities, like Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Southern California.Why is USC so famous? ›
Famed for its prestigious creative programs, particularly film, the University of Southern California (USC) is the oldest private research university in California. USC is highly selective and offers a wide range of top-ranked academic programs.Why should I choose USC? ›
Why should you consider studying at USC? USC is one of the best business schools known all over the globe. You should consider going to USC because this school has the best academic program. Another thing is that it offers some financial aid to students who are not well off financially and scholarships.What is UCLA known for academically? ›
In just over a century, UCLA has become one of the leading research universities in the world. We take pride in our history of Nobel Laureates, MacArthur Fellows, National Medal of Science winners and a Fields Medal recipient, but what matters most is how you use this stage to create a better future.What GPA do you need for USC? ›
A grade point average of at least 2.0 (“C”) on all baccalaureate units attempted at USC, as well as on the combined USC–transfer GPA, is required for all undergraduate degrees.
Tier 2 schools include: USC, Washington University in St Louis, Tufts, Tulane, NYU, Boston University, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Notre Dame, Emory, University of Virginia, Wake Forest, UT Austin College of Natural Sciences, Boston College, Georgia Tech, William and Mary, UCLA, UC Berkeley, ...
What GPA is required for UCLA? ›
You must have a 3.0 GPA (3.4 for non-residents) or higher and no grades lower than a C in required high school courses. You can also substitute SAT subject tests for courses. If you don't meet the requirements, it is possible to gain admission with a high enough score on the ACT/SAT plus on two SAT subject tests.Is a degree from California Coast University respected? ›
We are proud to announce that California Coast University is ranked #1 out of all nationally accredited colleges by EDsmart.org. See for yourself below.What colleges are similar to USC? ›
University of Southern CaliforniaWhat majors is UC Los Angeles known for? ›
The most popular majors at University of California, Los Angeles include: Social Sciences; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Psychology; Engineering; Mathematics and Statistics; Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies; Visual and Performing Arts; Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services; and English Language ...What is the hardest Cal state to get into? ›
With a record low acceptance rate of 25% in 2019, Cal Poly SLO is by far the most competitive and most exclusive Cal State University.What is the easiest major to get into UCLA? ›
|1.||African American Studies||55%|
The USC admission process is extremely competitive. Over 70,000 students applied last year, bringing the USC acceptance rate down to 12%. Over 25% of students admitted to the USC Class of 2025 had perfect grades in high school.Can I get into UCLA with a 3.5 GPA? ›
The average GPA of admitted transfer students is above 3.5 and admitted students have completed most or all major preparatory courses. We give highest priority to applicants from California community colleges and other UC campuses. UCLA admits students for fall quarter only.
None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum GPA requirement for applications, which means anyone can apply regardless of their GPA.Is USC or UCLA more prestigious? ›
According to U.S. News and World Report, UCLA and USC rank 20th and 25th in their list of best national universities, respectively.
Is getting into UCLA a big deal? ›
According to Forbes, UCLA is considered a most selective school with an acceptance rate of 12%. Over 139,000 students applied for the UCLA Class of 2025. Of those applicants, UCLA admissions accepted roughly 31,000 students. Although there are no set UCLA GPA requirements, the average GPA sits around 3.95.Is getting into UCLA impressive? ›
It's very competitive to get into UCLA. Each year, UCLA accepts around 11% of its applicants. Put another way, that means that UCLA accepts 11 out of every 100 students that apply. UCLA's accepted students rate is competitive—and getting more so every year.What college has the highest depression rate? ›
This article states several important statistics on college students' mental health in America. Most notably, this article finds that Penn has the most depressed student body in United States, topping a list of 50 other schools in the country.What is the social life like at USC? ›
The hub of social activity at USC is Greek life. Fraternities and sororities have more than a quarter of both male and female members, and their registered gatherings are among the biggest on campus. The three most well-liked events of the year are Springfest, Conquest, and Welcome Back Week.Why should people choose UCLA? ›
The site awards UCLA an A+ grade, with special acknowledgment for its academics, its diversity emphasis, and the overall value it provides. Even better, Niche places UCLA in the number one slot on its lists of the Best College Campuses in America, Best College Food in America, and Top Public Universities in America.What is USC best for? ›
USC's excellent reputation stems largely from its broad array of student offerings. Its athletic programs are just as acclaimed as its academic achievements, and students have over 1,000 clubs at their fingertips in one of the most exciting cities in the United States.Is USC really an elite school? ›
While the Ivy Leagues do offer education of the highest quality, they do not monopolize high-quality education. USC has a reputation for academic excellence and will continue to climb the ranks of the best schools, eventually outranking some of the “real” Ivies.What type of student goes to UCLA? ›
Many freshman applicants have strong academic records. Using the admission review process, we focus on successful applicants who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, leadership, initiative and tenacity. They are the students who would contribute the most to the UCLA learning community.What program is UCLA best known for? ›
According to U.S. News, UCLA is the top public institution in the nation, the fifth-best school for veterans, the tenth-best school for nursing and computer science, and the greatest school overall.What is the lowest GPA UCLA has accepted? ›
You must have a 3.0 GPA (3.4 for non-residents) or higher and no grades lower than a C in required high school courses. You can also substitute SAT subject tests for courses. If you don't meet the requirements, it is possible to gain admission with a high enough score on the ACT/SAT plus on two SAT subject tests.
Is 3.7 A good GPA for UCLA? ›
Is your high school GPA good enough for UCLA? The average high school GPA for admitted students at UCLA is 3.89 on a 4.0 scale. (You can calculate your high school a GPA here.) This is a very competitive GPA, and UCLA is clearly accepting students at the top of their high school class.What are the top 3 majors in UCLA? ›
At the University of California-Los Angeles, the most popular majors students study are Sociology, Political Science and Government, General, and Econometrics and Quantitative Economics. In fact, the University of California-Los Angeles grants 703 degrees annually to graduating Sociology students.Is it harder to get into UCLA or Harvard? ›
Therefore, the acceptance rate alone is not a good indicator that Harvard University is a better school or will be more difficult for you specifically to get into. On the flipside, UCLA is easier to get into based on acceptance rate alone.