Harry S. Truman Scholarship

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive and prestigious scholarship for college juniors who have outstanding leadership potential, plan to pursue careers in public service, and wish to attend graduate school to prepare for their careers.  The scholarship carries an award of $30,000 plus a variety of educational and leadership development opportunities.

As many as 65 Truman Scholarships will be awarded nationally each year.
Successful candidates will:

  • have extensive records of public and community service which include volunteer efforts, community organizing, and/or local political involvement;
  • be committed to careers in government or elsewhere in the public or not-for-profit sector as demonstrated by previous internship or work experience
  • wish to influence public policy;
  • have outstanding leadership potential as demonstrated by elected positions in student government and clubs, organizing and implementing special programs or group projects; and
  • possess intellectual strength in their written, analytical  and communication skills

USC juniors who reflect these traits are invited to apply for university nomination.  The University may nominate as many as six competitive applicants (four first time freshman and two transfer students) each year.

Applicant Resources

Interested students will complete an extensive review of the Truman Scholarship website with special attention to the following pages in advance of submitting their application:

University Application Process

Students seeking the University’s nomination will submit the following materials via email to Erica Lovano McCann (lovano@usc.edu) by Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 5pm.

  • A one page cover letter highlighting why you are a potential Truman Scholar.  Please include your name, USC ID number, phone number, email address, major(s) and minor(s).
  • Responses to the following questions (note each question has a maximum character or word count):
    • Describe one specific example of your leadership which shows the type of leader you are, how you make decisions, and how you get others to follow you. Include 1-2 sentences identifying a Referee who could confirm this example of your leadership in a future letter of recommendation. (2,000 characters)
    • Describe a recent particularly satisfying public service activity (separate from leadership example) which demonstrates your ability to be a change agent and how you organized others in the process.  Include 1-2 sentences identifying a Referee who could speak to your public service record in a future letter of recommendation. (1,700 characters)
    • Describe a social problem you want to address when you enter public service using statistical data to define the magnitude of the problem. Think critically to examine the problem from divergent perspectives. (1,500 characters)
    • Describe one or two graduate programs to which you intend to apply if selected for the Truman Scholarship, and explain what makes them uniquely a good fit for you.  Relate the program(s) to your public service short and long term goals and career aspirations. (3,000 characters)
    • Prepare a policy proposal on an important and controversial topic in your field which has significance to the US government, a substantial segment of the population, your state, the environment, or an international community.   Discuss feasible policy solutions which are supported by statistical data. (500 words)
  • A current resume (two pages is acceptable)
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended
  • Two letters of recommendation, with at least one from a USC faculty member.

Additional notes for applicants

USC has nominated students from a wide range of majors, career goals and leadership experiences. While there is no standard portfolio for a successful candidate, there are some general guidelines that the committee typically follows.

Academic – The criterion for national consideration is that candidates have GPA’s in the top quartile of their class. Although USC does not formally rank GPA’s, the top quartile is roughly 3.5 and higher. The typical USC nominee has a GPA of 3.7 or higher.  Your current major need not be directly related to public service, but it is important that your graduate school plans can be clearly connected to your public service career interests.   The Truman Scholarship Foundation defines public service as employment in government at any level, uniformed services, public-interest organizations, nongovernmental research and/or educational organizations, public and private schools, and public service-oriented nonprofit organizations.

Commitment to Public Service – The committee will be looking for evidence of a sustained interest in community or public service. This may be demonstrated by volunteer or paid activity, either on- or off-campus. Examples include government internships, involvement in political campaigns, participation in student government, or volunteer work like tutoring or helping at homeless shelters. Successful candidates have typically been involved in a particular activity or area of interest (e.g., environment, workers’ rights, education reform) over a period of several years.

Leadership – Formal leadership positions, such as elected office in student government or another organization, are one way to demonstrate leadership. The committee also values leadership in less formal roles, such as organizing community action efforts, spearheading a voter awareness drive, or lobbying for legislation or policy changes.

In some settings, a one-page resume is important. For this competition, it is better to use a second page rather than leave off experiences or other information that could strengthen your candidacy. Include your public service and leadership activities in high school as well as in college.

The written application is the only information about you that the committee will have, so be sure it is thoughtful and free of errors.  Follow the instructions for the application materials, especially the word limit on the essay answers.

University Nomination Process

December 8-9:  Competitive applicants will be invited to a University Nomination Interview (Skype interviews are available to students living abroad)

December 13: Interviewed candidates are notified of the University’s nomination decision.

December 13 – Early February : University nominees collaborate with AHF staff to develop and finalize application materials.

February 7: National Truman Scholarship Deadline

February 24: Finalists Notified

March 3 – April 7: Regional Review Panels

April 12: Truman Scholars Announced

May 23-28: Truman Scholars Leadership Week