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Juris Doctor (JD) - Application Instructions

USC Gould School of Law


To be eligible to apply, you must plan to receive a bachelor's degree before enrolling at USC Gould School of Law. If you are admitted, final transcripts confirming conferral of your undergraduate degree must be submitted prior to the beginning of classes in the fall. You must be able to attend law school full time and in person, as we do not offer online or part-time classes for our JD degree.

Admissions Policy Statement

USC Gould's admissions process is guided by the view that an individual student that reflects the broad and rich experience of our society provides a superior benefit to the legal community. The primary goal of our admissions process is to enroll students who demonstrate outstanding academic and professional promise and whose background and experience will enrich the communities in which they seek to serve in their legal careers.

Application Requirements

Submitting Original Work

We expect that all written components of the application will be your original work. This means that the use of Artificial Intelligence, including ChatGPT and other similar platforms, is not permitted in the completion of your application. We value statements written by the applicant that reflect their unique voice and perspective.

Electronic Application

You must submit your application online through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

Application Fee

The application fee is $75. If you are experiencing hardship, have participated in the California Pathways to Law Program, Teach for America, the Peace Corps, US military, or have attended USC, and would like to seek a fee waiver, you may reach out to [email protected] to make this request. An LSAC account number will be required to process your request. If you have already paid the application fee, no refunds of fees paid will be processed.

Fee Waivers for the 2023-2024 application cycle for regular decision applications will be reviewed beginning August 28, 2023. We will not accept application fee waiver requests after our February 1, 2024 priority application deadline.

Credential Assembly Service (CAS)

All applicants, whether taking the LSAT or GRE, must also register for LSAC's Credential Assembly Service. The CAS Report, provided by LSAC, contains your official transcripts, LSAT score(s), LSAT Writing sample(s), and letters of recommendation. Official transcript(s) for all post-secondary education, including graduate-level coursework, must be sent directly to LSAC. LSAC will evaluate each transcript and calculate your cumulative undergraduate GPA, but not your GPA for graduate-level coursework. Any graduate-level coursework will be considered subjectively in our review of your application.

LSAT Score

To be considered for admission, you may take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is scheduled (in United States) on the following dates or go to https://www.lsac.org/LSATdates for more information.

Because we admit on a rolling basis, applications not completed by the February 1 priority deadline are at a significant disadvantage. We will not consider any LSAT scores taken after the February 2024 administration for admission in Fall 2024. You may submit your application with a pending LSAT score and we will hold your file until it is complete (i.e., we will not review your application until all LSAT tests for which you have registered have posted, up to and including the February 2024 test, if applicable). We consider all LSAT scores going back five years.

Additionally, if you take the LSAT, your file will not become complete until at least one LSAT Writing Sample is processed and sent via your CAS report. We strongly encourage you to complete the LSAT Writing Sample prior to or soon after taking the LSAT. If you have or will have multiple LSAT scores, an application will complete with one LSAT Writing Sample, and we will not hold an application for an additional LSAT Writing Sample.

We report only your highest LSAT score to the American Bar Association (ABA) and other organizations. However, all scores will be considered in the application review process. If there is a significant discrepancy (four or more points) in your scores, we encourage you to submit an addendum to put the variance in context for the Admissions Committee. This should be addressed in the Additional Information section of the application.

Graduate Records Exam (GRE) Score

We accept either the LSAT or the GRE. While we expect the vast majority of our applicants will continue to apply with only the LSAT, you may want to consider whether the GRE is a suitable alternative. Factors such as: plans for other graduate study, your application timeline, and whether you will apply to other law schools that accept ONLY the LSAT should be considered.

If you apply without a LSAT score, you must take the GRE by March 1, 2024. There will be no exceptions to this date. If you have a reportable LSAT score, you may choose to report your GRE score, but it is not required.

If you report your GRE score, your application will not be completed until we receive your score report from ETS. The ETS school code for USC Gould School of Law is 4030. It is your responsibility to ensure your report is requested and communicated to USC Gould as your application completion will be delayed until the score is received.

ETS will only report scores for five years from the date of test. You must ensure you have a reportable score at the time we request your report from ETS. We will not accept self-reported GRE scores. If you choose to apply with the GRE, you must submit all valid and reportable GRE test results for the last five years. You may not choose which results to share. This parallels the requirement that five years of LSAT scores be disclosed on the application. Just as with the LSAT, we will accept an explanation for discrepancies between multiple GRE scores. Space to address multiple scores is provided in the Additional Questions section of our application.

The GRE is offered year-round. Please visit the ETS website for additional information. To complete your application, we require that you take the GRE by March 1, 2024; however, we strongly encourage your application to be completed by the priority deadline of February 1. GRE scores are officially reported approximately two weeks after the test date. We will not consider GRE scores for tests taken after March 1, 2024. There will be no exceptions to this policy.

All applicants applying with the GRE must subscribe to and utilize the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS).

The GRE will not be accepted for Early Decision or Rothman Scholar applicants. All Early Decision and Rothman Scholar applicants must apply with the LSAT.

Personal Statement

The personal statement is your primary opportunity to discuss who you are beyond the application basics. We are particularly interested in how your background (academic or otherwise) has led to your decision to study law. This is not the place to repeat items on your résumé.

The personal statement should be two to three pages, double-spaced and in at least 12-point font. The Admissions Committee values essays that are clear, concise and compelling. The personal statement is a writing sample, and you should pay particular attention to the details of your composition. The statement must be attached electronically.

Letters of Recommendation

We require two letters of recommendation and will accept a maximum of three. The most influential recommendations focus on your academic potential and are written by people who know you well and can evaluate your academic performance. Although recommendations not pertaining to academic abilities can be helpful, academic recommendations carry the most weight with the Admissions Committee. If you have been out of college for a number of years, a letter from an employer would be appropriate. We encourage employers to discuss your written and oral communication skills, leadership abilities and potential for the study of law.


You are required to submit a résumé that illustrates your work history, volunteer commitments, extracurricular activities, and any awards and/or honors. Your résumé should be no more than two pages, and all sections should be listed chronologically (most recent first).

Qualification for Admission to the Bar

Each U.S. jurisdiction establishes bar registration and admission standards for individuals who wish to practice law within the jurisdiction. An evaluation of character and fitness is an essential aspect of those qualifications.

We encourage you to contact the Board of Bar Examiners of the state(s) in which you intend to practice to learn the qualifications for admission to the practice of law in that jurisdiction. The National Conference of Bar Examiners shares additional information on its website. If you are interested in practicing law in California, visit the State Bar of California website for information.

An affirmative answer to any of the character and fitness questions on our application requires a detailed written explanation and supporting documentation.

All candidates for admission have an ongoing duty to disclose material changes to their application especially as they relate to conduct matters (criminal or disciplinary) to the Dean of Admissions prior to enrollment. Candidates agree that providing inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete information on the admission application, omitting information, or any additional changed information provided can lead to the rescission of any offer of admission and/or scholarship, or for discipline, dismissal, or revocation of the degree if discovered at a later date. Additionally, such a violation during the admission process may lead to referral to LSAC for a finding of misconduct in the admission process.

Optional Application Components

Diversity of Background and/or Experience Statement

The USC Gould student body is an exceptional group of individuals working collaboratively, empathetically, and with cultural competency, to best serve the various communities they will represent as lawyers. USC Gould aims to generate lawyers that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to leadership, public service, and serving those in need. Please describe how your contributions to the USC Gould student body may be unique by highlighting anything related to your life experiences or personal background that will help us get to know you better. Some examples of this include, but are not limited to the following:

  • How your upbringing, culture, or other aspects of your life experience have influenced your goals and/or leadership development;
  • How your experience with discrimination, economic disadvantage, family or personal adversity, or other hardships demonstrates your ability to lead, or serve the public or those in need;
  • How living in a foreign country, rural or isolated community, or speaking a language other than English at home has better equipped you to attend and flourish in law school;
  • Any unusual career goals, employment history, or educational background (including graduate study);
  • Demonstrate unusual courage, determination, or inspiration that stems from overcoming hardship, including violence, illness, or natural disaster;
  • Any unusual extracurricular achievement (including school or community service).


If you believe any item in your application requires clarification, you are welcome to submit a brief addendum to address the issue. However, an addendum is not another opportunity to submit a personal statement; it should be a concise statement addressing a particular aspect of your application.

Foreign-Educated Applicants

USC Gould requires that your foreign transcripts be submitted through the LSAC JD Credential Assembly Service (CAS). If you completed any postsecondary work outside the United States (including its territories) or Canada, you must use this service (unless your foreign education was through a study abroad, consortium or exchange program sponsored by a U.S. or Canadian institution and the work is clearly indicated as such on the home campus transcript). A Foreign Credential Evaluation will be completed by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), which will be incorporated into your CAS report.

Foreign-educated applicants are not required to take the TOEFL exam. However, if you have taken the TOEFL exam, you must report your score on the application.

Non-resident applicants are considered for merit-based scholarships but are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Non-Discrimination Policy

USC Gould School of Law is firmly committed to a policy against discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, political beliefs, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, or age.

View the university's notice of non-discrimination.

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