When was USC Founded?

August 21, 2023
By AdmissionSight
View of USC building at daytime.

When was USC Founded?

When was USC founded? The University of Southern California (USC) was founded on October 6, 1880, in Los Angeles, California. Established during a period of growth and transformation in the American West, USC was the result of the collaborative efforts of a group of prominent Los Angeles citizens, including Judge Robert Maclay Widney, who saw the need for a higher education institution in the region. With a donation of land and initial funding, the university started its journey with a mission to cultivate and enrich the intellectual life of its surrounding community.

USC’s opening marked a significant milestone in the development of higher education on the West Coast. The university initially began with just 53 students and ten faculty members, but it has since grown into one of the most prestigious private research universities in the United States. Known for its strong programs in fields such as film, business, engineering, arts, and medicine, USC has played a key role in academic advancements, industry connections, and community outreach. Its location in Los Angeles offers a unique blend of cultural diversity and access to various industries, contributing to its reputation as a global center for arts, technology, and international business.

Three students walking in the classroom.

Since its founding, USC has significantly expanded its academic offerings, student body, faculty, and research initiatives since its founding. Its strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and research collaborations has positioned USC as a leader in numerous fields. The USC School of Cinematic Arts, for instance, has gained international acclaim for its role in shaping the film and entertainment industry.

In addition to academics, USC has also fostered a vibrant community with rich traditions in athletics and the arts. The university’s athletic teams, known as the Trojans, have a history of success, particularly in football, which has further contributed to the school’s national reputation. USC’s location at the heart of Los Angeles also enables the university to engage with the city’s diverse community and cultural life, facilitating a wide range of public service activities and partnerships with local organizations.

USC has also become a hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship, bridging the gap between academia and industry. Its research has led to many groundbreaking discoveries, particularly in medicine, engineering, and the sciences. By fostering a collaborative environment, USC has attracted a wide array of talented students, faculty, and researchers from around the world, further solidifying its position as a prominent academic institution. The university’s commitment to excellence, community engagement, and global impact reflects its foundational principles and continues to shape its contributions to higher education and society at large.

What is USC Known for?

The School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California is the oldest film school in the United States, and it is also widely considered to be the most prominent film school in the country. Notable alumni include Judd Apatow and Macy Gray. It is consistently recognized as one of the best film schools in the country, and it has produced a number of students and faculty members who have gone on to win Academy Awards and Emmy Awards.

The University of Southern California (USC) is home to a number of additional schools for the creative and performing arts. These schools include the Thornton School of Music, the School of Dramatic Arts, and the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, all of which are regarded as some of the most prestigious in the country.

Male student studying on the floor.

However, USC was founded not solely for its programs in the creative and performing arts. For example, the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences provide undergraduate students with about 140 different degree options to choose from, ranging from creative writing to physics to archaeology. These programs cover a wide range of traditional and specialized topics.

The following are some examples of other undergraduate schools:

  • The Bachelor of Science in Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in Real Estate Development, and Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies and Planning are the degrees that may be obtained from the Sol Price School of Public Policy.
  • Viterbi School of Engineering, which holds the distinction of being the best engineering school in the country
  • The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a place where students can polish their abilities in communication, journalism, public relations, and public diplomacy
  • The prestigious Marshall School of Corporate offers students the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to become successful business executives and entrepreneurs.

The faculty members have recognized authorities in their respective professions; among their accolades are Academy Award winners, Rhodes Scholars, MacArthur Fellows, and Nobel Laureates. Alumni are also leaders and often earn honors that are just as significant as those held by current students.

There are a variety of opportunities available to students at USC to study in other countries, including the Global Scholars Program, the USC Africa Fund, the Queens College Cambridge-USC Exchange Program, the Schaeffer Government Service Fellows Program, and the Global Fellows Internship Program. Many USC students decide to take advantage of these opportunities.


USC was founded with reverence for tradition. It should come as no surprise that many of USC’s traditions are centered on sports, given the university’s reputation as an athletic powerhouse. When new-year students arrive at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for their first football game, they are obligated to “kick the flagpole” as a gesture of good luck before the game begins.

One of the traditions that first-year students are expected to participate in is called the Jock Rally, and its purpose is to introduce them to the core of the school spirit that exists at USC.

A large number of students will tailgate until the Trojan Marching Band leads them into a march out to the football field, where they will perform a pep rally that is accessible to the general public.

The mascot of the University of Southern California is known by many as Traveler. When the USC Trojans score a touchdown, one of their warriors will ride Traveler the horse around the field as a celebration. This custom, which dates back to 1961, is being upheld in its entirety by Traveler IX to the present day.

The week leading up to USC’s annual football game against UCLA, one of the school’s most fierce competitors, is known as “Troy Week.

Some students at UCLA in the early 1940s vandalized the Tommy Trojan memorial by throwing paint on it. Since that time, the protection of Tommy Trojan has been the duty of the Knight’s Watch at the University of Southern California. A large number of athletes, coaches, administrators, and performing student groups came out to show their support as student volunteers take shifts guarding the statue.

Students at the University of Southern California participate in a variety of other enjoyable customs in addition to sports, such as hammocking in McCarthy Quadrangle. Hammocks are often strung up by students on the somewhat higher slope where McCarthy sits, especially on days when the weather is particularly pleasant and bright, which happens frequently.

Extracurricular Activities

At the University of Southern California, there are over a thousand different student organizations that students can join. There is a collaborative community of students for every conceivable interest, ranging from community service organizations and a cappella ensembles to consultancy organizations and virtual escape room clubs.

Speak to Lead is an organization that is committed to assisting undergraduates in improving their skills in public speaking. International students, kids who live with learning challenges, and students who have reserved personalities are the types of students the organization is particularly interested in recruiting.

The Concerto Chamber Orchestra remains a well-liked choice for a club among individuals who have an interest in music. The organization is entirely student-run and invites everyone to play symphonic instruments, regardless of their level of experience (members do not have to be music majors to participate).

In addition to making appearances at various events held on campus and in the surrounding community, the ensemble puts on two public concerts each semester.

USC students have the opportunity to find new businesses from the bottom up in a space called the LavaLab. As soon as they sign up, participants choose whether they want to be project managers, developers, or designers, and they are then grouped into small teams with people possessing a variety of skills. Teams will develop a product that is ready for sale within the span of one academic semester.

Are you interested in opportunities for mentorship? Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE) is a popular group at the University of Southern California that sends mentors to middle schools in the surrounding area to talk to students about important teen topics such as resolving conflict, obtaining leadership roles, and preventing teen pregnancy. They also go on regular group outings and excursions with their mentors and mentees.

Joining the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) at USC is sure to be one of the highlights of your time at the university. Students who are interested in working in “themed entertainment” businesses, such as amusement parks, museums, aquariums, and other similar establishments, might join this organization since it is committed to providing opportunities for professional networking as well as educational experiences. Naturally, the class takes multiple trips throughout the year to visit some of the most thrilling amusement parks the country has to offer.

How Hard is it to Get into USC?

Since its founding, the process of getting into USC is quite difficult and competitive. The previous year, there were almost 70,000 students who submitted an application, which resulted in an admission rate of only 12%.

More than twenty-five percent of the students who were accepted into the USC Class of 2025 achieved flawless grades throughout their time in high school. Even though submitting test scores is now voluntary, the average score on the University of Southern California’s SAT was somewhere between 1340 and 1530. The average GPA at USC is also rather impressive.

Two students talking in a table.

When considering how to get into USC, keep these numbers in mind as you think about your options. Because the admissions process at USC may become even tougher, it is absolutely necessary for you to prepare your application well in advance of the application deadline for USC. To differentiate yourself from the other applicants, you will need to do significantly more than merely meet the average GPA or SAT score required by USC.

Therefore, getting an early start on your preparations will give you the best chance of being accepted to USC. You should prepare for standardized examinations, take part in relevant extracurricular activities, work hard to get a high USC grade point average, and begin the application process well in advance of the USC application deadline. This is the best way to get into the University of Southern California.

Want to learn more about how USC was founded? Or do you need help putting the finishing touches on your college applications?  At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process 

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