Application Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education Policy

Urban Education Policy PhD students smiling outside

Program Brochure

Application Dates and Deadlines

Admission Criteria

The USC Rossier PhD in Urban Education Policy Program recently enhanced its admissions criteria and requirements to continue to ensure that future PhD applicants are evaluated holistically, rigorously, and equitably. Using an evaluation rubric, we will assess each applicant’s research potential; academic preparation; contributions to our equity, diversity, and inclusion goals; socio-emotional competencies; and alignment of interests with program focus and faculty expertise/projects. After review of the application materials listed below for these criteria, faculty will contact semi-finalists for interviews starting in late December through the end of January.

Policy on Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

GRE scores are neither required nor expected, either by the Graduate School or the PhD program. Beginning fall 2020, all applicants will receive full and equal consideration with or without GRE scores. Our review process assesses academic preparation through trends in course taking and performance, and test scores (when submitted by students) are not among the application materials faculty will see.

We understand that some applicants may wish to share their GRE scores for consideration in admissions. However, our policy is to minimize the role of the GRE in admissions decision-making. To accommodate both interests, we have a double opt-in process: both the applicant has to opt into submitting scores and the faculty member must opt into seeing finalists’ scores.

To learn more, review our revised GRE admissions policy. If you choose to submit GRE scores, please see the GRE application instruction dropdown below.

PhD Application Instructions

The USC Rossier PhD Application Instructions may differ from those on the USC Graduate Admissions website and from other USC Rossier programs. Please follow the instructions on this page when applying to the PhD in Urban Education Policy.

Please note many universities use the Liaison application system. If you are using the same email to apply to another university that also uses Liaison, you can log in with the same credentials.

The PhD application requires the following materials. Detailed instructions can be found in the drop-down menu.

  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Official transcripts (USC does not accept grade reports or transcripts that say “unofficial”. Upload a copy of official transcripts only)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal Statement (also known as a Statement of Purpose)
  • Writing sample
  • Online application ($90 fee)
  • English-Language Proficiency Requirements

Personal Information

Where to find it on the application: My Application > Personal Information

  • Enter your name as it appears on your government issued I.D. Indicate any alternate or previous names in the “other name” field (i.e. maiden name). Indicating prior names is important because it will help USC connect transcripts in former names to your application.
  • Enter the email address USC Rossier should use to communicate with you throughout the application process.
  • Indicate your citizenship status.*

*Please note that the USC application does not include a citizenship option for undocumented students. If you are an undocumented student, please select the citizenship option “international student.” If you wish to disclose your citizenship status, contact the admissions team at prior to submitting your application so that we can withdraw you from receiving communications intended for international students.


Where to find it on the application: My Application > Academic History > Colleges Attended > Add a College > Upload a Transcript

Official transcripts from all institutions attended should be scanned and uploaded to our application portal. Please do not send transcripts via mail.

Step 1: Request official transcripts from all institutions you attended and have them sent directly to you

Request one official transcript from each college or university you attended, even if you did not earn a credit or degree from each institution, and have them sent to your personal mailing or email address, not to USC directly. Printouts from portals are not acceptable.Even if your final transcript includes a list of classes taken at other colleges and universities, you are still required to send the transcripts from each college and university.

If you participated in a study abroad opportunity operated by your institutions during your time receiving a degree from that institution and that coursework appears on the institution’s transcript, then you do not need to submit a separate transcript from the international institution you attended. However, if any of these do not apply (e.g., you participated in an external study abroad; a study abroad outside of your time attending an institution; or the courses do not appear on the transcript of your home institution), you must submit separate transcripts. If you have any questions, feel free to contact for help.

USC degree holders and current USC students do not need to submit transcripts, assuming that transcripts from all other institutions attended (aside from USC) have already been sent to USC previously. If you attended any institutions since last being admitted to USC, any updated transcript information from other institutions must be sent (e.g., if you received a master’s degree from an institution after attending USC, you would need to send that transcript).

Step 2: Upload copies of official transcripts into the application

When you receive each transcript, log in to the USC application ‘Academic History’ section and add information about your academic history at each college or university. After saving this information, you will see an option to ‘upload a transcript’ for each college. Only one PDF per college or university can be uploaded. If the transcript from a college or university contains multiple pages, you will need to scan each page and combine the pages into a single PDF. If you don’t have access to a scanner or a mobile scanner app, you can take a legible photo of each page and combine the images into one PDF. Several online services can help you merge multiple files into one PDF and/or turn photos into PDFs.

GRE (Neither Required nor Expected)

Where to find it on the application: My Application > Academic History > Standardized Tests > Add a Test Score

Beginning fall 2020, all applicants will receive full and equal consideration with or without GRE scores. Please see the revised GRE admissions policy for more information about this change.

We understand that some applicants may wish to share their GRE scores for consideration in admissions. However, our policy is to minimize the role of the GRE in admissions decision-making. To accommodate both interests, we have a double opt-in process: both the applicant has to opt into submitting scores and the faculty member must opt into seeing finalists’ scores.

If you opt in to submitting GRE scores, they will not be seen by faculty in the first round of review. The only condition under which submitted scores will be seen is if a specific faculty member requests them for a finalist from the PhD Program Office.

If you choose to send scores (not required), the USC ETS code is 4852 and there is no department code. USC does not have a minimum score requirement. Remember that valid GRE scores are dated within five years of the start of the intended application semester which is August 2021. Scores need to be from August 2016 or later.

If you are applying to multiple programs at USC, please note that scores need to be sent only once. Test scores are posted to our central information system and can be viewed by all departments. Please note that some USC graduate programs require a GRE. If you are submitting a GRE for another program but do not want us to consider it for the Rossier PhD program, then please email us at to let us know.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Where to find it on the application: My Application > Supporting Information > Documents > CV/Resume

Your CV or resume (either are acceptable) should highlight your experiences (paid, volunteer, and otherwise) and research background (e.g., publications, presentations, etc…) to help the faculty understand how your experiences and background shape your interest in the program and inform how you would perform in the PhD.

Once you upload your resume or CV, you do not need to duplicate efforts and add to the “Experiences” section in the application portal.

Personal Statement (Statement of Purpose)

Where to find it on the application: My Application > Program Materials > Documents

Your Personal Statement (no longer than 2 single spaced pages) should address the following three areas:

  • Your interest in the PhD program and how you believe the program will help you to reach your short- and long-term professional goals.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to and engagement in USC Rossier’s mission to “achieve educational equity through practice, research and policy” and ways you hope or expect to contribute to the academic and professional community at Rossier. Additionally, you may include your personal history and its impact on your prior academic and professional development.
  • Education policy research lies at the heart of the Rossier PhD program. Please describe your research interests and explain how your goals align with the expertise of up to three of our PhD program tenured or tenure-track faculty with whom you would like to work.

Select the “Add Document” button under “Personal Statement”

Writing Sample

Where to find it on the application: My Application > Program Materials > Documents

Please submit a writing sample demonstrating your writing skills and thinking. Papers written in an academic style and that you completed for course work, professional purposes, or presentation/publication are all good options for the writing sample.

Your academic writing sample should be scholarly writing in that it demonstrates your ability to:

  • Express your ideas and thinking clearly
  • Write cogently
  • Use outside sources and cite references where applicable in a recognized publication style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago)

If you do not already have a writing sample, please write one on a topic of scholarly interest to you that is at least five pages and follows the above guidelines.

On the application, we will ask you to answer the following questions about your writing sample:

  • For what purpose was this manuscript developed?
  • Is it single or co-authored? If the former, how much feedback, editorial support, and/or coaching was received?

Although we only require one writing sample, you may submit more than one if you have an additional manuscript and feel it will strengthen your application.
Please note that we cannot guarantee that a second submission will be reviewed, so we recommend that you upload your writing samples in order of priority.

Letters of Recommendation

Where to find it on the application: My Application > Program Materials > Recommendations > Add Recommendation

The USC Rossier PhD Program requires three letters of recommendation. Recommenders ideally should have a PhD (not required) and be able to speak to your potential and ability to do research. If you feel that submitting a fourth letter of recommendation will strengthen your application, you are welcome to do so. However, we only request three letters of recommendation. If you only have two recommenders, your application will still be given full consideration, but three recommenders are preferred.

  • To submit the names of your recommenders (referred to as evaluators on the application), go to the “Program Materials” section of the application and click on the tab “Evaluation Types.”
  • Click the button “Add Evaluation” to enter the name and email address of each evaluator you’d like to ask to electronically submit a letter of recommendation. Each evaluator will automatically receive an email from that includes a password and directions for submitting the letter of recommendation. If the evaluator does not receive the recommendation letter request, advise them to check their spam or junk mail folders.
  • The application will ask you to include a submit by date, and we recommend putting December 3 as that will also act as the cutoff date by which they can submit.
  • It is your responsibility as the applicant to ensure all recommendation letters are submitted in the proper format and before the appropriate deadline.

Please note: recommendation letters are program-specific and cannot be used to apply to additional programs. If you withdraw your application from a particular program, your letters of recommendation will be deleted along with the application.

Application Fee and Fee Waivers

Where to find it on the application: Submit Application Tab

The application fee is $90. Eligibility for fee waivers and how to apply for a fee waiver can be found at the Graduate Admissions website. Fees must be paid via debit or credit card.

Applicants can apply for a fee waiver as soon as they have started their online application. At certain times, the turn-around can take up to two weeks, so applicants should plan for this based upon the December 1 deadline. Do not submit your application before getting your fee waiver approved because USC will not refund the application fee once an application has been submitted.

Applicants who believe they qualify for a fee waiver should complete the following steps:

  • Start your online application before applying for a fee waiver and be sure to select the program to which they are planning to apply.
  • To apply for a fee waiver at this link and then in the Select an Area box, choose “Graduate Admission” and then click “Graduate Admission” again and select Rossier School of Education. Then under “Category”, choose “Application Fees and Fee Waivers”. Then click “Application Fees and Fee Waivers” again and select the type of fee waiver for which you are applying. Please attach the appropriate documentation for the type of fee waiver. You must use the same email address as your application and must also include the name of the program to which you are applying (PhD in Urban Education Policy Program). Failure to do so could delay your request considerably.
  • Applicants will receive an email notification if and when their fee waiver is approved. Applicants must wait to receive this confirmation in order to skip the payment page when they submit your application. No refunds will be issued post-submission.
Requirements for International Students

TOEFL or IELTS Test Scores
Where to find it on the application: My Application > Academic History > Standardized Tests > Add a Test Score

International students whose native language is not English and who completed their undergraduate work outside of the United States are required to submit an official TOEFL or IELTS score as part of their application. You must have taken one of these tests within two years of your program start date.

You may upload your test score report in the “Academic History” section of the application to be used in application review. However, only scores received electronically from the testing service are considered official. Official test scores should be sent from the testing agency directly to USC.

  • TOEFL: To send official scores, use USC ETS code 4852
  • IELTS: Select “University of Southern California” at the time of registration. Alternatively, provide this information to your testing center after taking the test.
  • No department code is required to send TOEFL or IELTS scores

Transcripts in original language of issuance: International students who have earned their degree outside the United States must check our country-specific requirements to determine if we need original-language copies of their academic records. In such cases, a separate, word-for-word, English-language translation of all academic records must also be submitted. The translation should either be issued directly from the school itself or by a professional, certified translator. It must contain all information shown on the original-language documents and “mirror” them as precisely as possible. Dual-language transcripts are also acceptable.

Credential evaluation: Please note that USC does not accept or recognize credential evaluation reports from outside agencies (e.g. WES, ECE, etc.) for the purposes of admission review. More information is available on the USC Graduate Admission International Students Country requirements page.

Financial Documents, Letter of Sponsorship and Passport Copy Where to find it on the application: My Application > Supporting Information > Documents

For international students, financial documents/verification of funds, a letter of sponsorship and a copy of a passport may be uploaded into the application. However, these documents are not required until admission to the program. Moreover, because the PhD Program is “funded,” international students do not need to upload financial documents or verification of funds. Please note that this is different for other USC Rossier programs.

Technical issues with the application?
On the bottom left corner of the online application login page, you will find their FAQs link as well as the Contact Us link. If you are experiencing technical issues, we recommend trying a different browser and reading the online application FAQs.

Contact Us
We welcome your interest in the PhD program, and are happy to answer any questions you might have. Please email us at or call (213) 740-6303.

USC Rossier adheres to the university’s non-discrimination policy, and is committed to providing equal opportunity for all students.