The Division of Critical Studies is committed to the understanding of film, television and new media in relation to the world. By studying and analyzing these forms and the processes behind their creation, Critical Studies scholars gain insight into the power and aesthetics of moving image media. Critical Studies students also have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and experience of film and television by taking hands-on production courses.
The committee favors applicants with academic records and personal statements that indicate a diversified liberal arts and humanities background. The committee is also interested in experiences and activities that show a continuing or recent involvement in film and television studies, the arts, criticism and/or aesthetics. There are no admission interviews. The committee ensures that all applicants are judged equitably by limiting evaluation to the items listed.
Each year, we strive to develop a well-balanced cohort of students for each of our programs. As such, we do not grant admission deferrals and we recommend that applicants apply for a future term when certain they can accept admission.
- Graduate: December 1 (Fall Only)
Note: Spring admission is not available for the Critical Studies graduate programs.
View all Application Deadlines.
USC Admission Materials
The following items must be submitted to the USC Office of Admission for all programs:
- USC Graduate Application for Admission
- Official Transcripts (From all Academic Institutions Attended)
- Official GRE Test Scores (Required of all Critical Studies Applicants)
- Official TOEFL Test Scores (International Students Only)
For more information, please see the USC Admission Materials Checklist.
All matters relating to admission are the applicant's responsibility. When submitting an application, make sure you have completed all screens of the online process. The online application system allows you to check your application to verify your application materials have been uploaded and submitted. Incomplete applications, or applications not submitted, cannot be considered.
Cinematic Arts Supplemental Materials (Clearly title all documents)
All of the following materials must be submitted through the University's Graduate Online Application. Materials sent by mail will not be accepted. The online system may have provision for materials required by other programs, but we only require submission of materials specified herein. These materials must include the applicant's name at the top of each page. Clearly title all documents with the appropriate supplemental document title.
- Graduate University Application
The following materials must be submitted online at: www.usc.edu/admission/graduate
- Cinematic Arts Personal Statement
The Cinematic Arts personal statement should be a carefully prepared explanation of the applicant's goals, describing any film, television, scholarly, critical or other creative background, as well as career objectives. It should present a clear and accurate picture of the applicant, outline objectives in the field of critical studies and explain how attending the School of Cinematic Arts will help reach these goals.
- Writing Sample
The writing sample should be a review or analysis of some aspect of film, television, or new media; a discussion or application of critical theory; or a published article.
- Letters of Recommendation (Three academic references are preferred, but a mimimum of one academic recommendation letter will be accepted.)
Three letters of recommendation (no particular format) are required. Applicants must have their recommendation letters submitted electronically through the "Recommendation" system on the online application. Recommenders who are unwilling to use the online recommendation process may send their letters to the Critical Studies Graduate Program, however, this process is highly discouraged. Applicants are responsible for verifying that the letters have been received.
- Curriculum Vitae/Resume
The CV/resume should provide a record of the applicant's background and experience, including both professional and academic settings. Formal recognition - such as awards, publications, presentations, and jobs- should be noted.
Submit the university application, Cinematic Arts personal statement, writing sample and letters of recommendation electronically using the university's online application. Recommenders who will not use the online process may send their letters directly to:
USC School of Cinematic Arts
Attn: Graduate Critical Studies Program
University Park Campus
900 West 34th Street, SCA 320
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211
Applicants are responsible for verifying that letters sent via regular post have been received.
Graduate Record Examination: (GRE) General Test
The GRE General test is required for admission to the Critical Studies program. The application committee will consider your Verbal and Quantitative scores on the exam. Beginning August 2011, the exam has a new format. We will accept scores from both the new and old formats. GRE General Test scores may not be more than five years old at the time of application for admission. Make arrangements directly with Educational Testing Service ( or www.gre.org ) to take the exam. The GRE is given worldwide. Students with a documented learning disability can arrange to take an untimed GRE. There is a fee for taking the GRE. Register early, as they may run out of spaces.
USC's institution code for GRE Registration is 4852. There is no Department Code. Additionally, if you have a copy of your score report, please scan and upload it to the online application. It is recommended that applicants take the GRE test at least one month prior to the application deadline. Make arrangements early.
English Proficiency Criteria (International Students Only)
International students are required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) unless you fulfill the one of these two conditions:
- You hold a bachelor's degree completed in residency in the United States or other English speaking country, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada (except Quebec). The bachelor's degree should come from a regionally accredited university located in the United States or officially recognized university in another country where English is both the language of instruction and the only officially recognized language of the country. Please note that the entire program must have been completed in the qualifying country. USC will not waive the English-proficiency requirement based on either a graduate degree from a university in the U.S. or other qualifying country or an undergraduate program taught in English in a non-English speaking country.
- Your native language is English. This applies to native English speakers from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada (except Quebec) where English is both the only official language of the country and the language of instruction.
If you are unsure if you need to take the TOEFL or IELTS, please check with the Graduate Admission office.
The minimum required TOEFL score is: 250 on the CBT (Computer Based Test), or 100 on the IBT (Internet Based Test). The minimum required IELTS score is 7. Official scores must be received directly from the testing service and date no earlier than 2 years (24 months) prior to the start of your intended first term at USC.
If you are sending TOEFL scores, the institution code for USC is 4852 (no department code is required).
If you are sending IELTS scores, please choose "University of Southern California, Graduate Programs" from the list of available institutions of where to send your scores on the day that you sit for your test. Please do not enter the name and contact information for the USC School of Cinematic Arts. USC will only accept electronic IELTS scores. Paper scores are not considered official.
Official transcripts from all Colleges or Universities attended must be submitted. Request original copies of official transcripts to be sent directly from your institution to USC Graduate Admissions at:
USC Office of Graduate Admissions
3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
It is recommended that you send your official transcripts to USC's Office of Graduate Admissions at least 3 weeks before the application deadline.
Additionally, please upload a copy of your transcripts into the online application system. This will assist us in processing your application. When scanning transcripts into the online system, be aware there is a limit on the size of file you can upload.
Graduate funding packages (fellowships, scholarships, teaching assistantships, readerships) are tailored to the needs of the individual. The Critical Studies department will contact admitted students regarding funding information and offers once admission decisions are announced in March.