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USC builds a bridge for talented international grad students

Language can be a barrier to pursuing education in the U.S., but English coursework brings students up to speed

USC International Academy
Members of the USC International Academy walk on campus. (Photo/Tracy Boulian and David Ahntholz)

Omar Fares dreams of taking a USC master’s degree in electrical engineering back to his native Libya to teach, but there’s just one problem. He hasn’t mastered English yet.

Should that keep him from pursuing graduate work at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering? USC leaders say no.

They’ve found a way to get around a conundrum facing top graduate programs nationwide that seek the best students from around the world. USC now offers coursework that boosts English proficiency for students who want to pursue degrees at many of its graduate schools. It also immerses students in American academic life.

The USC International Academy’s Pre-Master’s Program welcomed its first class to the University Park Campus this week. One hundred and 10 students are taking English coursework tailored by discipline along with GRE test preparation. They’ve been conditionally accepted to more than 45 master’s programs at USC across participating schools.

Twelve professional schools at USC extend conditional admission to international applicants through the program:

The Pre-Master’s Program provides these students a doorway into the university.

Kit Bellamy

  • USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • USC Davis School of Gerontology
  • Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC
  • USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences
  • Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • USC Marshall School of Business
  • USC Price School of Public Policy
  • USC Rossier School of Education
  • USC School of Architecture
  • USC School of Pharmacy
  • USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • USC Thornton School of Music

“Many of our applicants are ultimately forced to attend other conservatories despite their preference for USC Thornton,” said Kit Bellamy, associate director of admissions at USC Thornton. “The Pre-Master’s Program provides these students a doorway into the university, while at the same time preparing them for the rigorous academic coursework required of graduate music students.

“Not only are we increasingly able to enroll the most talented students, but the students also benefit from intensive language study, which gives them skills that will take them through USC Thornton’s graduate program and beyond.”

Fares sees the program as a good chance to get to know USC before starting his engineering classes, and he’s looking forward to transitioning to USC Viterbi. “Having a degree from USC gives a student like me a better chance for my career and for my life,” he said. After getting his master’s degree, Fares hopes to become an instructor at the Academy of Maritime Studies in Tripoli.

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USC builds a bridge for talented international grad students

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