How is USACO Platinum Weighted By Colleges? (FAQs)

USACO is a high-level competition in the United States that is very competitive.

A good USACO score or rank can improve your chances of admission into selected programs at several universities.

However, rather than provide information about how colleges rate USACO Platinum when assessing students for admission, this article will talk about USACO.

It will also provide some tips for passing USACO and several important pieces of information.

What Is USACO?

USACO stands for the USA Computing Olympiad.

This online competition for high school students from around the world examines the programming abilities of high school students.

USACO is a prominent competition that is highly recommended for high school students. USACO takes place four times every year: in the months of December, January, February, and March.

To complete the test, each contestant must log in to their accounts during the test’s weekend time frame.

USACO lasts 4 hours, except the March exam, which lasts 5 hours.

Moreover, in the course of every exam, USACO divides students into four divisions, namely, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

However, the division is done based on the performances of the students. New students are directly placed in the bronze division once they sign up and are only transferred to the higher divisions based on their performances.

Furthermore, USACO uploads the names of students that excel in the Gold and Platinum divisions of the test onto their official website.

The top 16 students in the platinum level are invited to a physical camp, where four students are chosen to be the USA representative team.

How Does USACO Prevent Cheating?

USACO strongly opposes cheating. Anyone caught in the act will be served with a perpetual ban from participating in the competition.

Any student will be deemed to have cheated in the test if they do the following:

  • Create multiple accounts for the competition.
  • Team up with other people for the competition.
  • Copy code from other competitors.
  • Upload code that tries to avoid the grading system.

Choosing A Language

USACO bronze-level problems can be attempted using programming languages like C, C++, Java, Python 2, and Python 3.

However, students should only use Java or C++ to answer questions because questions above the bronze level may not be solvable with Python.

How To Prepare For USACO

USACO is a tough competition. Even though it is meant for high school students, numerous software engineers still struggle.

So, to succeed in this test, students must put in many hours of practice ahead of the test.

They must begin to prepare for the exams many months before the exam date.

Moreover, new students writing USACO for the first time must ensure they know the regular program format and how questions are answered.

All contestants must also understand regular algorithms and learn how to write a clean canonical algorithm in just 10 minutes.

Tips For USACO

Here are some tips that will enable any student to do well in USACO:

  • Do not copy other people’s templates used to copy and paste for reading inputs and writing outputs.
  • Rest well before the exam because it is always very intensive.
  • Set up a quiet place to study with good Internet access so codes can be processed quickly.
  • Set up the IDE or programming environment before beginning the test.
  • Go through all the questions before beginning any question.
  • Check the input size of every question.

How is USACO Platinum Weighted By Colleges?

According to Joshua Pan on Quora, USACO Platinum has monthly contests, usually 4 hours long for 3–4 questions. The time limit is usually increased only for the US Open, up to 5 hours.

USACO Platinum contests are meant for US pre-collegiate students, and a handful of those students get a perfect score on each contest.

IOI, the international olympiad of informatics, the contest is split into two days. Each day there are 3–4 questions with the standard 5-hour contest.

With all the best competitors from around the world, you can count the number of perfect scores with the fingers of one hand.

So, theoretically, IOI questions are technically harder than USACO Platinum questions. Even the best of the bests have some difficulty solving IOI questions. The USA is also not the exact best at competitive programming, falling to China and others.

US Open is probably the closest you will ever get to IOI-level questions. The tests you take at the USACO training camp will be more at the IOI level since USACO has to test for the best students.

Therefore, the hardest USACO Platinum contest, US Open, is a bit easier than IOI, and regular Platinum contests are nowhere near the IOI level.

Still, everything is relative as years go by, since all competitive programming contests are getting harder and harder.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on How Is USACO Platinum Weighted By Colleges

What happens after USACO Platinum?

Finalists in the Platinum level are chosen annually after the USACO competition has concluded. The top four students are then chosen to represent the United States at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), the world’s most prestigious pre-university Computer Science competition.

Does USACO look good on college applications?

Any level of participation and advancement is a great addition to a college application or résumé. Your academic credentials will look impeccable if you make it to the top.

Is C++ or Java better for USACO?

C++ is faster than Java and Python. Python and Java get twice as much time as C++ in USACO but not other websites (CodeForces, CSES). Python and Java might fail despite expanded time limitations.

Can you compete in USACO in college?

Students in high schools across the United States are the only ones who can try out for a spot on the USA IOI squad and go to the training camp hosted by the USA Championship Organization (USACO).


Since USACO is a very tough exam, preparing for it early makes a lot of sense.

Moreover, you can do well in USACO if you spend time thinking about every problem before coding it.

However, no matter which segment you are in when the exam results are released, always be proud of your achievement because USACO is a very tough test that is even tougher than the regular tests you take in school.

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

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Abasiofon Fidelis
Abasiofon Fidelis

Abasiofon Fidelis is a professional writer who loves to write about college life and college applications. He has been writing articles for over 3 years. He is the Content Manager at School and Travel.

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