Applying to the PhD

Admissions Guidelines

To apply to the Media Arts and Practice PhD program, please refer to the admission guidelines on the USC School of Cinematic Arts website. Please note that applicants must complete applications for both USC Graduate Admissions and the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA).

Step One: USC Graduate Application

For information on applying to USC and to start the USC Graduate Admissions application, please visit the USC Graduate Admissions website.

Step Two: School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) Slideroom Application

For information on how to complete the SCA Slideroom application, please visit the SCA Application Procedures page. The SCA Slideroom application should be completed only after completing the USC Graduate Admissions application above.

The following supplemental materials are required for the SCA Slideroom application:

  • Personal Statement
  • Writing Sample of Analytical Writing
  • Creative Work Portfolio
  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume
  • Letters of Recommendation (3)

Application Deadline:

December 1 for all applicants

Frequently Asked Questions

We admit three students per year and provide them with a five-year funding package. Applicants do not need to apply for this funding, and it is available to both domestic and international students. The funding package covers tuition, USC student health insurance fees and provides an annual stipend. The first and fifth year of the program are “fellowship” years in which students are focused on their own studies and research. The second, third and fourth years are teaching assistant years in which students work as teaching assistants (TAs) for the MA+P division.

You do not need to contact potential faculty advisers at USC prior to applying. Students are expected to find faculty advisors once they are in the program. We do however encourage applicants to research the faculty at USC and identify potential people and research initiatives of interest. We also encourage you to reach out to faculty to learn more about their research interests, but please understand that faculty are busy and may not have time to respond.

Writing samples vary in length. The average length of the writing sample is a journal article or seminar paper (around 2000-4000 words), but the most important thing is for the sample to reflect your strength in analytical writing. The personal statement, likewise, varies in length and approach. The personal statement is how we get to know you and learn what you are hoping to accomplish through the program and where you are headed academically and creatively. The average length is 750-1250 words.

The writing sample should be a sample of analytical writing on media. Media may be interpreted broadly; for example it could be an art work, a film, a game, public space, etc. Creative work, including a screenplay, should be included in the media portfolio.

The portfolio should be an online portfolio that showcases your practice and creative work and highlights the questions you were exploring in the work. If you have time-based work that is longer than ten minutes, it is recommended that you provide a short promo video with the option to watch the full work. If you include collaborative work, please indicate your role and contribution to the project.

No, GRE scores are not required for admission to the Media Arts and Practice PhD.

No. In order to have a fair admissions process, we can not look at application materials and provide feedback.

In pursuing a PhD, the traditional career path is to pursue a job in academic or research institutions. While most of our alums go on to work in university settings, MA+P PhD students may consider work in other alternative academic areas, for example several alums have been successful with their own design studios.

While a masters degree is heavily preferred by our admissions committee, equivalent work and creative experience will also be considered in lieu of the degree.

The USC Office of Graduate Admission has several helpful videos to help students navigate the application process. Please also refer to their checklists to make sure that you have submitted everything correctly. If you have questions, please contact the Office of Graduate Admission via the askUSC portal.

Please refer to the guidelines from the USC Office of Graduate Admission on how to submit your additional application materials (click here for guidelines for US domestic applicants | click here for guidelines for international applicants). If you have questions regarding how to submit these materials please contact the Office of Graduate Admission via the askUSC portal.

Yes. If you are from a non-Anglophone country, you will be required to complete English language certification. Applicants are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores. Applicants should earn a minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL iBT (with a minimum score of 20 in each section), a minimum IELTS score of 7, or a minimum PTE score of 68. Official scores must be received directly from the testing service and dated no earlier than 2 years (24 months) prior to the start of your intended first term at USC. Duolingo English Test scores are not accepted.

The TOEFL can only be waived if your entire Bachelor’s degree was completed in the US or in an Anglophone country. Students who completed their Bachelor’s degree in a non-Anglophone country will be required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores. Graduate degrees are not considered valid, even if they were completed in the US.
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