Application Requirements

Urban Education Policy PhD students smiling outside

Program Brochure

Admission Criteria

*Criteria for the next application cycle will be updated in spring 2020.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Urban Education Policy program seeks both personal and disciplinary diversity in our student body. The PhD application includes a written Personal Statement in which you should demonstrate a commitment to Rossier’s mission to “achieve educational equity through practice, research and policy.” Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores from within five years of the program start date.

Make sure that you review faculty during your PhD application process. Since you’ll be working closely together on research, you should become familiar with the work of three to five PhD faculty members, focusing on how your research interests intersect with theirs.

Application Instructions

The PhD application includes three steps:
1. Review the drop down menus below
2. Send your GRE scores now to institution code 4852
3. Submit your online application by 11:59pm PST on December 1, 2019

Before You Apply
  1. Make sure you have GRE scores from within the past 5 years of the program start date in August 2020 (e.g., no earlier than August 2015).
  2. Identify 3 recommenders (if possible, they should be persons with a PhD).
  3. Update your Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV).
  4. Order official transcripts from all prior institutions and have them sent to you.
General Application Questions

When will I be notified with an admission decision?
You will be notified in early February.

If admitted, can I defer my admission?
No. If you decide not to enroll, you will need to apply again.

Do you accept transfer students?
If you are enrolled in another program, you must still complete the same application process. If admitted, you and your faculty advisor would determine if any prior coursework could be applied toward the Rossier PhD degree.

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).
  • 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 immigrants. If you are an undocumented immigrant, please select the citizenship option “international student.” If you wish to disclose your citizenship status, contact the PhD admission team at rsoephd@rossier.usc.edu or 213-740-6303 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

Step 1: Request transcripts for application review

Request one copy of your transcript from each college or university you attended, even if you did not earn a credit or degree from each institution.* Printouts from portals are not acceptable. Ask the registrar at each college or university to send one copy of your transcript to your personal mailing or email address. Because these copies of your transcripts are not delivered directly to USC by the institution, they are not considered official and are only used in application review.

*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.

Step 2: Upload transcripts for application review into the application

When you receive the copy of each transcript delivered to your personal mailing or email address, login 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, 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. Once you’ve uploaded your transcripts and completed all other portions of the application, you can submit your application.

The instructions on the Rossier PhD Application Requirements differ from those on the USC Graduate Admissions website and from other Rossier programs. Which instructions should I follow?

Follow the instructions listed above on the Rossier PhD Application Requirements.

Do I need to upload my transcripts to the online application website?
Yes, all applicants must upload copies of official transcripts via the online application. Grade reports are NOT acceptable, it must be an official transcript. Here are some further details:

  • All applicants must order official transcripts from all prior institutions. These transcripts should be sent to the applicant directly. Applicants will then scan the transcript and upload it to the online application.
  • For any applicants who are admitted to the program, they will later be required to request that official transcripts be sent directly from all prior institutions to USC.

Do I need to upload transcripts from international institutions if I attended as part of a study abroad?
If you participated in a study abroad opportunity 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 rsoephd@rossier.usc.edu for help.

I am a USC alum and/or a current student at USC. Do I need to submit my transcripts?
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 a new academic background has appeared 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).

When do I send official transcripts?
Only after you are admitted to the program, you are required to submit official transcripts directly from all prior institutions to our program office (and translations, if applicable).

The USC Rossier PhD Program reserves the right to withdraw an admission offer, if there is a discrepancy between the uploaded version and the official original transcript and/or the official translation.

If admitted, which transcripts do I need to send?
USC requires an official transcript from every post-secondary institution attended, even if a degree was not earned. That includes all community college transcripts even if the coursework appears on another institution’s transcript. Applicants may submit opened student copies on their application, but all admitted students must send unopened official transcripts directly from their institution to USC. We cannot accept the transcript if it is opened or stamped “student copy”. Transcripts must come directly from your prior institutions. Students with international transcripts should review the Transcript Requirements and Country Requirements websites from the USC Office of Graduate Admissions.

What do you mean by “official” transcripts?
Hard-copy transcripts and other academic records are considered “official” when they arrive in a sealed, stamped, official envelope from the originating institution, with the seal and all security marks. Electronic transcripts and test scores are considered official when we receive them from a secure site formally linked to the sending institution or testing service.

Paper copies of test results are not considered “official” by USC, nor are academic records received in any other condition or via any means other than those mentioned above (in other words, transcripts that arrive in an unsealed envelope, are scanned and uploaded by a student to the online application, etc.).

Do you accept electronic transcripts?
USC now accepts electronic transcripts, provided that they meet the following guidelines:

  • The transcript originates from a secure site formally linked to the sending institution.
  • The school is located in the United States or India. (If from India, transcripts must be sent via TrueCopy Credentials). We do not accept electronic transcripts from any other overseas institutions or vendors.

If admitted, where do I send transcripts?
Admitted students should only send transcripts directly to the USC Rossier PhD Program Office. Note that the USC Grad Admissions website says to send transcripts to their department, but please disregard that.

Send directly to Rossier PhD Program. DO NOT SEND TO USC GRADUATE ADMISSIONS.

  1. Electronically: rsoephd@rossier.usc.edu
  2. Mail:
    Rossier PhD Program
    3470 Trousdale Parkway WPH 503
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-4035

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

Do I need to take the GRE?
Yes and, unfortunately, there are no exceptions to this rule. All potential applicants must take the GRE test. We do not accept GRE subject tests, the GMAT, or any other tests for the purposes of fulfilling the GRE requirement.

What is the minimum score required?
USC does not have a minimum score requirement.

I took the GRE in 2008, can I use those scores?
No, valid GRE scores are dated within five years of the start of the intended program start date which is August 2020 (e.g., no earlier than August 2015).

When is the latest I can take the GRE?
You should take the GRE by the beginning of November at the latest.

Where do I send the results?
Send them to USC, institution code 4852. There is no department code. Also send a screenshot to rsoephd@rossier.usc.edu

If an applicate 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.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

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

Your resume or CV 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

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

Upload your Personal Statement in the “Program Materials” section of the application under the tab “Documents.” Select the “add document” button under “Personal Statement”.

Your Personal Statement should be no longer than 2 single spaced pages. Your statement should address the following three areas:

  1. Your interest in the Ph.D. program and how you believe the program will help you to reach your short- and long-term professional goals.
  2. In considering your personal, educational and employment background, in what ways do you hope or expect to contribute to the academic and professional community at USC Rossier? Additionally, you may include your personal history and its impact on your prior academic and professional development.
  3. Education policy research lies at the heart of the Rossier PhD program. Please describe your research interests and explain how they align with Rossier’s urban mission and identity. In addition, please identify 3-5 Rossier faculty who have similar interests.
Writing Samples

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

Do you require a writing sample?
No, we do not require a writing sample. Your personal statement will serve as a sample of your writing. If you have a publication that you think strengthens your application, then please upload it to the application. But note that most applicants only upload a personal statement and that is all that is required.

Letters of Recommendation

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

The Rossier PhD Program requires three letters of recommendation. If you feel that submitting a fourth letter of recommendation will strengthen your application, you are welcome to do so. However, only three letters of recommendation are required.

  • To submit the names of your evaluators, go to the “Program Materials” section of the application and click on the tab “ Recommendations.”
  • Click the button “Add Recommendation” to enter the name and email address of each evaluator you’d like to ask to electronically submit a letter of recommendation. Each recommender will automatically receive an email from uscsupport@liaisonedu.com that includes a password and directions for submitting the letter of recommendation. If the recommender does not receive the recommendation letter request, advise them to check their spam or junk mail folders.
  • 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.

Whom should I ask for letters of recommendation?
Recommenders ideally should have a PhD (not required) and be able to speak to your potential to do research.

Can I submit my application even if my recommenders have not submitted their letters?
Yes. Letters arriving after the Dec. 1 deadline will automatically be added to your application.

Application Fee & Fee Waivers

Where to find it on the application: Submit Application Tab

How much is the application fee?
The application fee is $90, however there are several fee waiver categories that may allow individuals to have that fee waived. Fees must be paid via debit or credit card.

When should I apply for a fee waiver?
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.

How do I apply for a fee waiver?
Fee waivers are granted to various constituent groups based upon their eligibility. Eligibility for fee waivers can be found at the Graduate Admissions website.

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

  1. Start your online application but do not submit the application until the fee waiver is approved.
  2. To apply for a fee waiver, click here 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 you are applying for. Please attach the appropriate documentation for the type of fee waiver you are requesting. 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.
  3. 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.
Additional Requirements for International Applicants

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 the past two years. In order to be a competitive applicant, you should receive a TOEFL score at or above 100 iBT and a IELTS score at or above 6.5 with no less than a score of 6 on each band.

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 Please note that USC does not accept super-scoring for the TOEFL.
  • 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

My transcripts are not in English. What should I do?
Send the original-language transcript as well as a word-for-word translation. Do not send a credential evaluation report from an outside agency. More information is available at:

Does USC require the TOEFL or IELTS?
Yes, for most international applicants. Please review the guidelines:
http://gradadm.usc.edu/lightboxes/international-students-english-proficiency/ I received my master’s degree from a US institution.

Do I still need to submit English language test scores?
Yes. Only students from English-speaking countries or students who received their bachelor’s degree from an English-speaking institution in an English-speaking country can waive the English language exam requirement.

If admitted, how do I submit official international transcripts for degree verification?
Students with international transcripts should review the Transcript Requirements and Country Requirements websites from the USC Office of Graduate Admissions.

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.

After You Apply

Your application materials will be reviewed by both the USC Rossier School of Education PhD Program Office and the USC Office of Graduate Admissions.

  • Refer to your USC Rossier personal portal for timely and accurate updates on your application status (including missing items).
  • You will receive a decision letter from both USC Rossier and the USC Office of Graduate admission.


  • Please do not email us to confirm receipt of materials. Instead, we will contact you if we need anything.
  • Decisions will be made by early February 2020.
  • If admitted, you will be asked to send official transcripts directly from your prior institutions to the USC Rossier PhD Program Office.
Financial Aid

Do I need to apply for financial aid?
All admitted students will receive a stipend of approximately $32,000 for the year as well as tuition (up to 12 units a semester), health insurance premium coverage, dental insurance premium coverage, and access to the student health center. You do not need to fill out a FAFSA application to receive the stipend.

If you need to take out loans, consult the financial aid website and fill out a FAFSA application. More information is available at http://financialaid.usc.edu/graduates/graduate-professionals.html

Program Questions

When does the program start?
Students are expected to be available starting on or around August 15, 2020 for orientations. Classes start August 24, 2020.

Is the program full-time?
Yes, the PhD program requires that students are on campus full-time. Students attend class on campus and work as research assistants for 20 hours a week on campus. Students cannot work outside of the 20 hour research assistantship.

Do PhD students work as research assistants and take classes in the summer?
Yes, PhD students take classes and work in the summer. The program can be completed in 4 years and 4 summers.

Technical Questions

On the bottom left corner of the online application log in page you will find the Instructions and FAQs link as well as the Contact Us link. Please check FAQs before emailing any questions.

If you are logged in to the application, click the Tech Support button at the top of the page.

Contact Us

We welcome your interest in the PhD program, and are happy to answer any questions you might have. Please email us at rsoephd@rossier.usc.edu 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.