Watch an information session on the USC Scholar Distinctions.

About the Renaissance Scholar Distinction
Eligibility and Certification
Prize Competition

About the Renaissance Scholars Distinction

Is this a scholarship?

No. The Renaissance Scholar distinction is an academic honor, awarded upon graduation to students who meet the criteria. The ten Renaissance Scholars Prizes awarded to students each year are for the purpose of post-baccalaureate study. Prize recipients must show evidence of enrollment in a graduate program of study. Students have up to five years after completing the Bachelor’s degree to request disbursement of the Prize.

Can graduate students apply for the Renaissance Scholar distinction?

No. Only undergraduates who are enrolled in undergraduate major-major or major-minor combinations in disparate fields may apply for the Renaissance Scholar distinction.

How do I know whether or not my major and minor (or dual major) combination is sufficiently broad to qualify me as a Renaissance Scholar?

Once you have officially declared all of your intended major and minor programs, you can submit a request for program certification using the online application. Certification will be based on the extent to which the two fields of study are widely separate and distinct, and require the student to stretch intellectually.

Students who would like to discuss programs they are considering adding and the potential for Renaissance Scholar certification of specific program combinations may contact the Academic Honors and Fellowships at ahfstaff@usc.edu.

May I earn the Renaissance Scholar and Discovery Scholar or Global Scholar distinctions?

Yes, if you meet each set of program requirements, you may earn two or even all three distinctions. However, to earn both the Discovery Scholar and Global Scholar distinctions, you must submit two completely separate projects for consideration. In addition you may be considered for each Distinction’s Prize Competition– however, no student will be awarded more than one Prize.

Eligibility and Certification Process

What does it take to be designated as a Renaissance Scholar?

A detailed description of how to become a Renaissance Scholar can be found on our Become a Scholar page. In short, to become a Renaissance Scholar, students must pursue at least two distinct academic disciplines (major/minor or dual major combination) that are in widely separated fields. Students must first have their academic program certified as meeting the standard for breadth with depth. Students must also graduate in no more than five years at USC, with a minimum 3.5 overall grade point average, with a minimum 3.5 grade point average in the major(s) and/or minor(s) course requirements for each certified program, and with university honors. (Lower division coursework is included in this calculation.)

When can I apply for the Renaissance Scholar distinction and for the $10,000 Prize?

The application for certification is available most of the year and closes April -June during graduation season. Certification requires that the intended academic programs have been officially declared and that you have completed at least 64 units.  Graduating seniors who wish to apply for the prize competition must submit their request for program certification by the annual deadline. Prizes will be awarded after a post-graduation review of each prize applicant’s GPA and time-to-degree completion, as well as verification of enrollment in a graduate program.

When should I apply for the Renaissance Prize competition if I’m graduating in August or December?

If you plan to complete all of your coursework and graduate in August, you should apply for the Renaissance prize competitive the spring before your graduation date. However, if you complete your coursework in fall,  you may apply for the Renaissance Scholar prizes to be awarded in the spring after your graduation.

How soon after I apply for certification will I know if I’ve been certified as a Renaissance Scholar candidate?

Certification decisions are made within approximately six weeks after receipt of the application. However, for certain combinations of major and minor, applicants may be contacted for additional information. Please note that applications for certification from students graduating in the current academic year will be given priority review.

If I am certified as a Renaissance Scholar candidate and I graduate in the fall semester, can I still apply for the Renaissance Scholar prizes to be awarded the May before I graduate?

No. If you graduate in the fall semester, you may apply for the Renaissance Scholar prizes to be awarded in the spring after your graduation. Be sure to keep apprised of and comply with all of the deadline requirements and updates that are published on the Renaissance Scholars website.

If my major/minor combination is certified, does that mean I am automatically a Renaissance Scholar?

In addition to the certification, you must graduate within five years at USC with university honors with a minimum 3.5 overall grade point average as well as a minimum 3.5 grade point average for all major(s) and/or minor(s) course requirements in each of the certified programs.
Keep in mind that the Renaissance Scholar major GPA will factor in both lower and upper division course grades. The Renaissance Scholar major GPA is different from the “Upper Division Course Work Applied to Your Major” GPA section on the STARS report . Renaissance Scholar certification will be added to the STARS report(s) with a special section to indicate the current Renaissance GPA for the major (the existing STARS section tracking minor requirements will accurately reflect the Renaissance GPA for the minor).

I have studied abroad to satisfy part of my major or minor requirements and the courses I took abroad appear as Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) on my STARS report. How will these courses impact my Renaissance Scholar GPA?

Courses taken through USC Overseas Studies programs are considered USC units. However, the courses appear on the USC transcript as CR/NC. Marks of CR/NC do not affect a student’s grade point average. The Renaissance Scholar GPA for each certified program will be determined based on graded courses completed at USC only.

Prize Competition

What is required for the Prize Competition?

Certified Renaissance Scholar candidates who are graduating in the current academic year must submit their Prize Competition materials by the February deadline. The prize application requires:

  • Anticipated 3.5 or above overall GPA at the time of graduation
  • Anticipated 3.5 or above GPA in each certified major or minor field of study at the time of graduation
  • Degree completion within five years at USC
  • Two USC faculty letters of recommendation
  • Personal Statement (3-5 pages)
  • Résumé (one page)

Who should I ask for letters of recommendation?

You need two letters of recommendation total.  One should come from each academic department of your certified Renaissance Scholar program combination.

What should my recommenders write about in their letters?

It is helpful for letters of recommendation to address: the student’s overall achievement and performance in the class; the scope and quality of the student’s contribution to the class; the value and implications of the student’s work in the broader context of the field of study; and how that work intersects with the student’s second academic program.

How do my recommenders submit their letters?

Prompts to upload and submit letters of recommendation are generated within the online Renaissance Scholar Prize Application.  Once you indicate the name and emails of your recommenders, an auto-email will be generated prompting them to submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf by the deadline.

I have been certified for multiple program combinations and plan to write about all three in my Personal Statement.  Can I submit a third letter of recommendation?

Yes, please have the third recommender email the letter to ahfstaff@usc.edu

When does the selection of Prize Awardees take place?

A university-wide panel will select the Prize Awardees in time for announcement approximately one month before commencement.

I plan to take time off to do something else before graduate school, such as a job, or the Peace Corps. Do immediate post-graduation plans have to be concrete or could the prize be deferred?

Your immediate plans do not have to be concrete. Once your undergraduate degree has been awarded, you will have up to five years to request disbursement of your prize. Renaissance Scholar prize recipients must demonstrate evidence of enrollment in a graduate program (within or outside of the U.S.) in order to receive the prize amount.

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