‘The most impressive class yet’: USC admission rate hits record low

Accepted and rejected high school students open up about the college admissions process, as the class of 2027 break university records.

USC students celebrate the start of the 2022-2023 school year with concerts and activities across campus

Brooklyn Rios’s childhood dream to be a Trojan finally came true last Friday after USC accepted thousands of new students in the most “impressive” class yet.

Rios, 17, a high school senior from Redlands, California, rushed home after track practice to open her admission decision, joining the 80,789 other students waiting to hear if they made the cut.

“I was so excited. USC has always been my dream school,” Rios said. “From the time when I was three weeks old, my parents have been season ticket holders for the football team. So I just kind of grew up at USC.”

Rios, who plans to study business administration, committed to USC three hours after being accepted. In the college application process, Rios knew USC had everything she was looking for.

“Even a couple days later, I cannot believe that I got in, I’ve been smiling the whole time every time somebody brings it up,” Rios said. “We have USC stuff all over our house, so whenever I see it — I just think — that’s going to be my next four years.”

On March 24, admission letters went out to the record-high 80,790 applications. USC sent acceptance letters to 9,277 students, yielding a record low 9.9% fall admission rate.

Timothy Brunold, USC dean of admissions, told Annenberg Media the unprecedented applicant pool was reviewed “holistically,” weighing both academic and personal qualities.

“It tells us that USC is popular. Students and families are interested in what we have to offer,” Brunold said. “When we see a lot of applications, we’re excited for the university. But also we know that there’s a lot of work to be done.”

The new Trojans come from around the world, representing diverse backgrounds, pristine academic records and compelling personal qualities.

Of those admitted, 23% will be the first in their family to attend college — the highest rate ever recorded at USC.

Legacy students make up 12% of the admitted class. A third of students identify with a historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group.

Californians make up 38% of the new class, followed by New York, Texas, Illinois, Washington and New Jersey as the most represented states. 19% are international students from 87 different countries.

“We see so many students with great ideas and students who are really motivated to solve the world’s problems, to make the world a better place, and they bring a lot of that optimism into our university,” Brunold said.

Waverly Bagley, 18, from Scottsdale, Arizona was “shocked” to see her acceptance into the USC Iovine and Young Academy. Her brother goes to Notre Dame, but Bagley fell in line with her grandfather, a proud USC graduate.

“I couldn’t even read it out loud. I will be very blatantly honest — I was crying all day,” Bagley said. “I drove to my grandpa’s house because he actually lives like a half mile away from me, and I let him know and he was really excited.

There’s only one thing holding Bagley back from coming to USC — money.

“We have done a lot of emailing and phone calls with people at USC to try to figure something out. But we’re kind of being ignored and pushed to the side right now,” Bagley said.

Right now, Bagley is scrambling to find scholarships to make the numbers work. Still, a chance remains that she won’t be able to attend her “dream school.”

USC has hiked tuition by 10% in the past two years, racking up a yearly price tag of $90,921.

Financial aid is keeping up with high prices, Brunold said, but acknowledged the cost is a “challenge” for some prospective students.

“We will admit students regardless of whether they need financial aid or not,” Brunold said. “The sticker price is quite high, it is certainly not the highest [compared] to competitor institutions, but it’s something that we talk to prospective students a great deal about and I do know it’s often the deciding factor.”

3.9 was the average GPA for the class of 2027. 41% of students earned perfect grades in high school.

Good grades though weren’t enough to stand out, more than 71,000 students opened up rejection letters, including Chloe Webber, 17, from Sherwood, Oregon.

“I had been wearing my USC shirt all day because I was just waiting,” Weber said. “I opened it and I was like — oh — and I went downstairs, told my mom, ‘I’m gonna have to leave for work, but I got rejected.’”

As Weber waits to hear from other colleges, she said rejection means redirection.

I learned [to not] put all your eggs in one basket, explore your options even before it’s too late and don’t only look forward to one outcome,” Webber said.

This admission cycle was the first year with early action admission, a program that Brunold said the university will continue to offer.

“More students have committed to enroll at USC at this point in time than at this point in time last year,” Brunold said.

The class of 2027 stands out as “impressive and diverse,” Brunold said, and feels hopeful about what the newest Trojans will accomplish.

“As the University continues to rise in popularity, we continue to attract the best and the brightest students by any measure,” Brunold said. “They worked through this the best that they could, so we really do feel they are the best prepared and the most impressive class we’ve seen yet.”