Become a Renaissance Scholar

The Renaissance Scholars distinction is intended to recognize and celebrate USC undergraduates who have excelled academically while pursuing at least two widely separated fields of study. Renaissance Scholars must graduate from USC with at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA as well as at least a 3.5 GPA in each of the certified programs (major and minor, or two majors). Lower division coursework is included in this calculation.

Interested USC students can utilize the step-by-step process that follows to determine their eligibility and apply for the Renaissance Scholars distinction. Renaissance 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.

1. Watch an info session on the USC Scholar Distinctions


2. Select Your Academic Programs

Before you can apply for certification as a Renaissance Scholar candidate, you must officially declare all of your intended academic programs. Students are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary study through two or more programs, but not all program combinations will meet the Renaissance Scholar standard for “breadth with depth.”

The Renaissance ideal is to pursue two programs which do not overlap in topics, themes, applications, or methods. Even if your programs come from two different schools at USC, the underlying basic discipline and pedagogical approach may still be fundamentally the same. For example, Communication and Political Science are both social sciences and therefore would not be approved for certification. However, selecting Political Science with Art History (in the Humanities), or Biological Sciences (in the Natural Sciences) would be approved despite the programs being offered through the same school.

Please contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at if you have questions about choosing your programs prior to certification.

Once you have declared your academic programs and have completed at least 64 units at USC, you can proceed to the next step and apply for certification.

3. Get Certified

When you have selected your fields of study and officially declared each program and you have completed at least 64 units at USC, you can apply for certification through our online form. 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.

Certification requires the pursuit of at least two undergraduate academic programs of study; graduate programs and co-curricular programs or activities will not be considered. Certification is based on the evaluation of two programs where at least one program is a major; combinations between two minor programs will not be considered. If you have declared more than two programs, multiple program combinations will be evaluated for certification. However, you only need one approved combination of programs to be a Renaissance Scholar candidate.

Once certified, the approved Renaissance Scholar program combination(s) will be noted on your STARS report with a special section to track the Renaissance Scholar GPA requirement. You must re-apply for certification if you decide to change any part of your academic program, such as adding or dropping a major or minor.

4. Prize Competition

During the spring of your senior year, you may choose to compete for the prize competition. Only graduating seniors are eligible to compete. If you are a December graduate, plan on completing Step 3 in the spring after your degree completion. If you plan to graduate in spring or summer, plan on completing this step during your final spring semester at USC.

In order to compete for a Renaissance Scholar Prize, you must be certified as a Renaissance Scholar candidate.

The prize competition application requires the following:

  • Minimum 3.50 GPA both overall at USC and in each program of the certified Renaissance Scholar combination.  Lower division coursework is included in this calculation.
  • Personal Statement (3-5 pages, double-spaced) in which you discuss how the two (or more) divergent fields of study have affected your intellectual, social, and professional development.
  • Two Faculty Letters of Recommendation from each academic department of your certified Renaissance Scholar program combination.
  • Résumé (one page) that highlights and summarizes your academic and non-academic achievements.

5. Graduate as a USC Renaissance Scholar

The Renaissance Scholar honor will be awarded only after a post-graduation confirmation of successful completion of all GPA and time-to-degree requirements. In order to receive the Renaissance Scholar honor, you must:

  • Meet all of the university requirements for your degree(s);
  • Graduate with a 3.5 overall GPA (with University honors);
  • Graduate with a 3.5 GPA in each of your major(s) and minor(s) fields of study for at least one certified combination of programs (lower division coursework is included in this calculation); and
  • Complete your degree(s) within five years at USC.

Students can use the Renaissance Scholars certification section on their STARS report to track their completion of the Renaissance Scholar GPA requirement for the major. The existing STARS section(s) tracking minor requirements will accurately reflect the Renaissance Scholar GPA for the minor.

Eligible students will be given a Renaissance Scholar medallion to wear at graduation. The Renaissance Scholar honor will be added to the student’s final academic transcript at the time the degree is awarded.