What we look for in an Applicant

We value the individual backgrounds, talents and passions of every member of our campus community, which is why we take a holistic approach with evaluating our applicants. We want to see the unique accomplishments and attributes that make you who you are.

When reviewing your application, we will consider the following in detail:

Grades and Academic Achievements

We are looking for dedicated students who will thrive in USD's academic environment. As a first-year applicant, we expect that your academic history will showcase a well-balanced secondary school program of college preparatory courses. To be considered a competitive applicant, we recommend that you work toward completing at least four or five academic subjects each year throughout high school while attempting accelerated coursework. When evaluating your transcript, we will calculate a weighted GPA that awards credit for any honors, AP or IB classes that you've completed.

When planning your high school studies, please refer to the following recommended plan:

Subject Years
English 4 years
Mathematics 3 or 4 years
Science (2 years with lab) 3 or 4 years
Foreign Language 3 or 4 years
Social Studies 2 or more years

Test Results (Optional)

We encourage you to consider whether or submitting SAT/ACT scores is the right decision for you. It's important to note that applicants who choose not to submit test scores will not be penalized for making this choice. Additionally, applicants are not required to submit official test scores to be considered for a merit scholarship.

To learn more, visit our Test Optional page

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities are an enhancement to the academic components of your application and may increase merit scholarship amount, should your academics first qualify you for such an award. During our review, we will consider any leadership positions, talents and/or community service activities showcased during your high school career. A separate résumé of activities may be submitted, but is neither expected nor required.

Letter of Recommendation

We require only one academic recommendation, which must come from your high school guidance counselor or a teacher who taught you in an academic class. Additional recommendations may be submitted but are not required.


The essay is an opportunity for you to personalize your application by sharing how your unique experiences have shaped your life. We want to hear your voice come through, and we're excited to hear what you have to say!