USC vs. UCLA: How Do They Compare?

Comparing USC vs. UCLA requires in-depth research. Learn more about these two schools so you can pick the right one.
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Thomas Broderick
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Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member ...
Published on July 21, 2023
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Kelly Thomas is an editor with BestColleges and specializes in alternative education. She covers topics like coding bootcamps and the tech industry, as well as skilled trades and certifications. She holds a BA in political science from the University...
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Each year, the University of California, Los Angeles UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) combined consider over 200,000 applicants. Applicants want much more than to enjoy the southern California weather. Prospective students at these schools want a degree from one of the best-ranked schools in the U.S.

The USC vs. UCLA debate involves much more than which institution leads in the two schools' long-standing sports rivalry. Applicants must also research academic offerings, student body size, and student-to-faculty ratio.

Use the following guide to find out whether the University of Southern California or the University of California, Los Angeles can best help you meet your educational goals.

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What Should You Know About the University of Southern California?

Situated about 14 miles east of UCLA, USC admits just over 8,000 first-year students annually. These learners become part of the university's 50,000-strong student body. First-year degree-seekers enroll in one of many schools, such as the Kaufman School of Dance, Marshall School of Business, or Roski School of Art and Design.

The University of Southern California's robust athletics program features nine men's and 12 women's sports. The university announced the construction of new sports facilities in June 2023.

On campus, learners enjoy over 220 acres of greenery and environmentally friendly design. The recently opened USC Village redefines campus life by combining student housing with convenient retail space open to the community.

What Should You Know About the University of California Los Angeles?

Founded in 1919, UCLA educates over 47,000 learners. The university's dozen schools offer about 5,000 classes, and first-generation college students make up a third of the student body.

The UCLA athletics department strives to accomplish more than winning championships. The Sports Equality Foundation aims to bring more LGBTQ+ students into sports through networking and mentorship.

UCLA's 419-acre campus fosters community through clubs, organizations, and residential life. First-year on-campus students select from four room types, each offering a unique style and comparable amenities. Virtual tours make learning about what makes the campus great easier than ever.

USC vs. UCLA: 5 Key Differences

The USC vs. UCLA comparison comes down to five key differences. The following details reflect the latest information as of July 2023.

1. Type of Institution

When comparing USC vs. UCLA, you should note that the public University of California (UC) system controls and oversees the latter. A private school, the University of Southern California makes decisions independently of any government agency.

This important difference means that UCLA prioritizes California residents when making admissions decisions. UC system schools like UCLA also hold nonresident applicants to a higher academic standard. In 2020, these applicants needed at least a minimum 3.4 high school or undergraduate GPA to apply.

2. Cost of Attendance

USC charges $66,640 in tuition during the 2023-2024 school year. Fees, housing, meals, and supplies bring the annual cost of attendance (COA) to over $90,000. You save about $32,000 over four years if you live with parents or relatives during your education.

The COA for California residents attending UCLA exceeds $38,000 in 2023-2024. This figure includes housing and education-related expenses. Out-of-state learners pay $32,570 in annual nonresident supplemental tuition.

Both universities feature many scholarship opportunities. Financial aid counselors can help you apply.

3. Acceptance Rate

USC and UCLA feature selective admissions rates, meaning you need a persuasive application portfolio. UCLA admitted only 9% of nearly 150,000 applicants for fall 2022. About half of these applicants decided to enroll.

USC admitted just 12% of the 69,000 prospective students applying for fall 2022. Fewer than half of those accepted enrolled.

Many factors, including test scores, extracurricular involvement, and essays, can help you raise your chances of admission to either school.

4. Student Body Size

In the 2022-2023 school year, 49,000 students took classes at the University of Southern California. More than half studied at the graduate or professional level. International learners made up more than half of the student body, as well.

UCLA educated nearly 48,000 in 2022-2023. Unlike USC, UCLA educated a significantly higher percentage of undergraduates, and the vast majority of learners return after their first year.

Look beyond student body size when comparing USC and UCLA. You may want to research each school's representation and inclusion strategies, especially if you come from a minority background.

5. Student-to-Faculty Ratio

UCLA features an 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, meaning you can receive personalized attention from your professors. Building relationships with professors can also help you if you need a recommendation letter for graduate school or a job. Other advantages of smaller class sizes include networking with like-minded peers.

USC may cost more than UCLA, but the small 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio gives you an educational experience few other schools offer. Smaller classes let USC faculty use different teaching styles and let you contribute to classroom discussions more often.

USC vs. UCLA: Which Is Right for You?

USC and UCLA offer many advantages to prospective degree-seekers. However, your needs matter as much as these schools' diverse student bodies and accomplished faculties. For this reason, make a list of what you want in a college education before putting either school on your shortlist.

Other things to consider include your career goals. Once you know what you want to do after graduation, research USC and UCLA's relevant majors and graduate outcomes.

Do not forget to calculate how much you can spend on your education. Attending USC over UCLA as a California resident might mean taking on significant debt. Discuss these and other concerns with friends and family before applying.

Frequently Asked Questions About USC vs. UCLA

Why is there a rivalry between UCLA and USC?

The USC vs. UCLA rivalry dates back to 1929, and since then, thousands of spectators come to Los Angeles each year to witness it play out on the football field. As in any competition, to the victor go the spoils. The winner of the annual game gains possession of a nearly 300-pound train bell the two schools have fought over since 1942.

Is USC or UCLA more prestigious?

A Forbes report from 2022 ranks UCLA as the sixth-best college in the United States, while USC ranks 21. Forbes used alumni salary, student debt, graduation rate, and other factors in making its determinations.

Look beyond prestige when comparing the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. Your major and how well you perform in school can impact your career potential more than your school's reputation.

What kind of students get into USC?

Like many universities, USC looks for applicants wanting to leave a positive mark on the campus culture. Admissions counselors take note of prospective learners committed to improving their communities and becoming leaders in their field. Competitive first-year applicants hold at least a 3.8 high school GPA.

Test-optional admissions mean your recommendation letters and essays carry greater weight. Start on these parts of your application portfolio as soon as possible. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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