Become a Discovery Scholar

The Discovery Scholars distinction is intended to recognize and celebrate USC undergraduates who have excelled academically while making a meaningful contribution to their field of study through exceptional new scholarship or artistic work. Discovery Scholars will have graduated from USC with at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA and completed a significant senior project.

Interested USC students can utilize the step-by-step process that follows to determine their eligibility and apply for the Discovery Scholars distinction. Discovery Scholars will receive a medallion to wear at graduation, have their distinction noted on their final transcript from the University, and may be eligible for a $10,000 prize toward graduate study or other approved post-graduate endeavors.

1. Watch an Info Session
2. Review Your School’s Application Criteria
3. Consult With Your Faculty Mentor
4. Meet With the Discovery Scholars Coordinator
5. Complete the Online Application
6. Project Evaluation and Prize Competition

1. Watch an Info Session on USC Scholar Distinctions

2. Review Your School’s Application Criteria

Each school has determined specific criteria for its students who wish to be designated as Discovery Scholars. This allows every student the flexibility to generate a culminating project in a format best suited to their field of study. For example, a student in the natural sciences might submit a lab research report and presentation poster, while a student in architecture might submit a portfolio of design, and a student in the social sciences might submit an analytical thesis.

Please note that all submissions also require a letter of recommendation. Ideally, the letter would come from a USC faculty member who has supervised or mentored the work being submitted for consideration. Visit the School Criteria page to review the current project submission guidelines for your school.

3. Consult with your Faculty Mentor

The Discovery Scholar senior project typically represents the culmination of a student’s studies in the major by integrating and synthesizing concepts from across the curriculum of the academic program. It is expected that the submitted project has been completed under the guidance of a faculty member. Students should consult with their faculty supervisor or mentor regularly about the status and nature of the project and to seek support and direction regarding the assemblage and overall presentation of project materials.

In addition, the faculty member who has mentored the project being submitted for consideration should also provide a letter of recommendation as part of the student’s Discovery Scholar submission. Students are encouraged to discuss their intent to submit and request a letter of recommendation from the faculty member as early as possible.

4. Meet With the Discovery Scholars Coordinator From Your School (optional)

Each USC School has a designated Discovery Scholars Coordinator that is knowledgeable about the Discovery Scholar distinction and the school’s specific submission criteria. Though this step is not mandatory, applicants are encouraged to be in touch with their School’s contact person to gain insight about the distinction and feedback about their project submission format, content, and composition. Find your Discovery Scholars Representative.

For general questions about the USC Discovery Scholars distinction please, contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at (213) 740-9116 or

5. Complete the Online Application

The Discovery Scholars application deadline will occur during the spring semester of each academic year. Applications and supplemental materials must be submitted by one of two deadlines in order to be considered for the Discovery Scholars distinction.

Monday, March 19, 2018
Deadline for candidates who wish to be considered for the Discovery Scholars distinction and Prize Competition.

Monday, April 23, 2018
Deadline for candidates who wish to be considered for the Discovery Scholars *honor only*

6. Project Evaluation and Prize Competition

Following each submission deadline, submitted work will be certified by a panel of experts within each respective school. Depending on the nature of your work and the policies of your school, it may only be necessary to make a preliminary submission by the primary submission deadline. Check the criteria for your school to see whether a preliminary submission is allowed.

For the Prize Competition deadline, each school will nominate a short-list of Prize Finalists to advance to the university-wide prize competition. It is a significant honor to be recognized as a Prize Finalist – this indicates that the submitted research or creative work is among the most distinguished submissions by any student in the school. Prize Finalists will have the opportunity to submit edits, updates, or augmentations to their original work prior to the prize panel review. The Discovery Scholars Prize Selection Committee is comprised of faculty from across the University. The Committee will convene to make the final prize selections prior to Commencement.

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