International Student Admission

The Thornton School is home to approximately 150 international students from roughly 40 countries. International students make up an important part of our student population, and add depth and diversity to our school.

International applicants are expected to follow the same application procedure that domestic applicants follow. There is no special international application for admission; however, international applicants are required to submit a few extra items that are not required from domestic applicants. Additionally, the academic review process for international applicants can be time consuming and complex; thus international applicants are encouraged to submit all required application materials by the published application deadlines. Failure to do so could cause the entire application to be withdrawn from consideration.

The following additional application materials are required from all international applicants:

  • Confidential Statement of Financial Support
  • English Language Test Requirement- TOEFL/IELTS
  • Transcripts and Certified English Translations
  • Copy of Passport

Please note that all of the above must be submitted directly to the USC Admission office according to the directions given with the online graduate application.

Confidential Statement of Financial Support

All international applicants are required to submit a statement of financial support to verify that sufficient funding is available to cover the cost of studying in the United States. If a scholarship is offered, it will count towards the total amount required on the financial statement, but the applicant will be responsible for documenting the remaining amount. Documents more than six (6) months old at the time of admission are not acceptable.

Acceptable forms of financial documentation are:

  • The Confidential Statement of Financial Support form (“Form 4”), available with the on-line USC application here.
  • Along with the Confidential Statement of Financial Support, a statement from the applicant’s bank or the bank of the applicant’s sponsor must be submitted, which verifies that the required amount is available in an active bank account in good standing.
  • If the applicant is the recipient of a grant or loan from a government or private agency, official documentation of the funding issued from the awarding agency must be submitted in lieu of a traditional financial statement.

Copy of Passport

Please submit a copy of your passport along with your financial statement documents. All financial documents and passport should be uploaded in the graduate application. Instructions may be found on the graduate website, here.

English Language Test Requirement – TOEFL / IELTS

In addition to all other application and audition requirements, applicants to the MA, MM, DMA, PhD, Screen Scoring and Arts Leadership programs must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. 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.

NOTE: PTE scores are not accepted by USC Thornton for graduate admission purposes. Test scores must be received by the appropriate deadline in order to be given full consideration for admission.

Minimum TOEFL scores required for admission are as follows:

MM, MA, ARTL, Screen Scoring – iBT total score of 90, with no less than 20 on any one section of the test
DMA, PHD – iBT total score of 100, with no less than 20 on any one section of the test

Minimum IELTS scores required for admission are as follows:

MM, MA, Screen Scoring, ARTL – IELTS score of 6.5 with no less than 6 on each band score
DMA, PHD – IELTS score of 7 with no less than 6 on each band score

Admission to the USC Thornton School of Music is determined as a result of a comprehensive file review process involving a number of review criteria. TOEFL or IELTS scores that meet the minimum requirement shall not be construed as a guarantee of admission to any Thornton School program. However, scores not meeting this minimum may still be considered with an otherwise stellar application.
Applicants from qualifying countries where English is both the language of instruction and the only officially recognized language of the country are most likely exempt from the TOEFL requirement.

Applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university located in the United States or in another country in which English is both the language of instruction and the only official language of the country MAY be exempt from the language test requirement. The entire undergraduate degree must have been completed in the qualifying country. Please note: a graduate degree (MM, DMA, Graduate Certificate, Performance Diploma) from an Anglophone college or university does not exempt applicants from the language test requirement.
We encourage you to contact the Thornton Admission office to ask, rather than assume you are exempt from the Language Test requirement.

If you are sending TOEFL scores, the institution code for USC is 4852 (no department code is required).To submit your IELTS results to USC, please select the “University of Southern California” from the list of available institutions when you register to take the IELTS test. Do not enter the name, contact information or mailing address of USC or the Thornton Admission office on your IELTS registration. You may also request that your IELTS results be sent to USC after you receive your scores by contacting the test center where you took the test and request that your results be sent to the University of Southern California electronically, not by postal mail. You can search for contact details for all IELTS test centers at USC will only accept IELTS scores sent electronically from the IELTS test center where you took the test. Paper test report forms received by postal mail or email are not accepted.

English Language Proficiency

Even in cases where TOEFL or IELTS scores are not required as part of the admission process, non-native English speakers, regardless of educational or immigration background, may be required to demonstrate English language proficiency by taking the International Student English (ISE) exam, administered by the USC American Language Institute.

Transcripts and Translations

All applicants to USC and the Thornton School of Music are required to submit official transcripts issued in the language of instruction from all colleges and universities attended in the past. International applicants must fulfill the same requirement and must also submit official diplomas and diploma supplements for all degrees earned. Certified English translations of all documents not issued in English are also required. Transcripts and translations need only be submitted to the USC Admission office according to the instructions listed with the USC online application.

Please refer to the USC Graduate Admission website for complete details about transcripts and translations as USC’s requirements are quite specific, and are different for every country. Remember, it’s the applicant’s responsibility to understand and abide by the application policies and requirements of the university. Detailed requirements by country can be found here.

The I-20 Process

When an international applicant is admitted to USC and the Thornton School of Music, the applicant must accept the offer of admission (“Certify” enrollment) before an I-20 will be issued. The applicant’s financial support documents will be evaluated, and if acceptable an I-20 form will be prepared by the USC Office of Graduate and International Admission and will be sent to the applicant. The applicant will then use the I-20 to apply for a student (F-1) visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy. The process of issuing I-20s from USC can be time consuming. It is typical for the preparation of an I-20 to take up to 2-4 weeks. Additionally, the visa application and interview process can also be quite time consuming and complicated, depending on the applicant’s home country. Because of this, applicants are urged to submit all required application materials by the published deadlines, to ensure that there is sufficient time for I-20 preparation and the visa interview process.


Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have throughout the process. We can be reached at (213) 740-8986, (800) 872-2213, or