Schaeffer Fellows in Government Service

About  |  Eligibility  |  Funding  |  Internships  |  Application

Summer Internships in Government for Undergraduates

The Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellows in Government Service program exposes talented undergraduates to government work and its impact through 10-week, full-time, high level internships at the local, state, and federal level.

While not all Fellows will pursue a career in government, the program creates the opportunity for students to become engaged citizens and develop an informed view of government service and operations. Schaeffer Fellows are selected from five universities – Harvard, Princeton, U.C. Berkeley, USC, and UVA.

In addition to full-time internships, Fellows participate in a series of site visits, professional development sessions, and gatherings with Fellows from other universities. Additionally, Schaeffer Fellows are paired with a USC alumnus in a related field who serves as a mentor during their experience.

National Program Dates

  • Late April or mid-May: Schaeffer Fellows Virtual Orientation
  • Late May: Internships Commence
  • Late June: Schaeffer Fellows Summit in Washington, D.C. with national cohort *2021 Summit anticipated to be hosted as virtual series*
  • Early Fall semester: Schaeffer Fellows Recognition event at USC

Fellows are required to meet all program expectations and attend all events specified by USC and the national Schaeffer Fellows program.

Visit National Website   |   Meet the 2020 Fellows

Eligibility & Selection Criteria

Basic eligibility:

  • Minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA
  • Current sophomore or junior. Seniors eligible to apply only if enrolling in 12+ units of undergraduate degree required courses in fall 2021. Preference will be given to candidates with at least one full academic year of undergraduate study remaining after fellowship. (Progressive Degree students must not begin master’s-only degree requirements in the fall).
  • Relevant experience and/or coursework demonstrating preparation for a demanding government internship. While no prior public service record is required, competitive candidates will be able to demonstrate transferable skills and an interest in public service.

Ideal candidates are mature, detail-oriented, and motivated. Competitive applicants will possess excellent verbal and written communication skills, an ability to prioritize multiple tasks under tight deadlines, and work well with others.

Must not be on Leave of Absence from the University during Fall 2020, Spring 2021, or Fall 2021.

Back to Top


Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellows receive a living stipend to afford summer living expenses. Fellows have discretion over use of funds but the stipend is intended to support relocation costs, housing, and/or some discretionary expenses. Fellows should anticipate some out of pocket expenses.

Stipends are disbursed to Fellows 3-4 times during the summer depending on the USC Provost Payroll schedule.

  • Federal (Washington D.C.) – $6,000
  • State & Local (Los Angeles and Sacramento) – $5,000

2021 stipends subject to adjustment based on virtual format.

Stipends are intended to make high-level government internships accessible to qualified applicants. Students with demonstrated financial need may request additional funding. Contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at to discuss supplemental financial assistance.

Back to Top


Up to 10 Schaeffer Fellows will be selected from USC to work full-time (35-40 hours per week) for at least 10 weeks (typically mid-May through the first week of August).

Program-Secured Internships Identified by USC

Academic Honors & Fellowships partners with a select number of host offices interested in hiring a Schaeffer Fellow, typically California elected officials in Los Angeles, Sacramento, or Washington, D.C. Program-Secured internships are confirmed on a rolling basis through the spring term due to varying hiring timelines.

Internships at the federal agency level or with representatives in other states most often require completion of the self-secure process (see below)

General Selection Process for Program-Secured Positions

  1. Applicants who have not secured their own internship should apply for the Program-Secured selection process. Competitive applicants will be invited to interview with USC faculty and staff.
  2. If selected as a semi-finalist, candidates will either:
    • submit additional materials to be considered for one or more USC Program-Secured internships OR
    • will be instructed to submit an application directly to an internship program with their local, state, or federal representative(s)
  3. Partner offices may opt to conduct additional interviews with candidates directly and will make final hiring decisions. Ultimately, semi-finalists are expected to accept the first internship offer received.
  4. Semi-finalists will be notified of final selection decisions for the Schaeffer Fellows program by AHF on a rolling basis until April

PLEASE NOTE: receiving a recommendation to apply and/or an internship offer from a Program-Secured office does not guarantee a candidate a Schaeffer Fellowship.

Program-Secured Internships from 2019 & 2020

  • California Department of Transportation
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • California Attorney General Communications Team
  • U.S. Senator Kamala Harris – District Office
  • Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer & Assemblymember Kamlager-Dove

Self-Secured Internships Identified by Applicant

Applicants who have already submitted an application for or secured an internship on their own (defined by a minimum of “Conditional Offer of Employment”) are permitted to apply and will need to provide information about their hiring status through the online application.

If invited to interview and recommended by the committee, Self-Secured semi-finalists will receive instructions for next steps in the selection process on an individual basis.

Resources for Self-Secured Federal Positions
If interested in internships with federal agencies, committees, and specific representatives, candidates should apply directly based on the office’s hiring timeline. These internship programs often have earlier deadlines. Use the resources below for more information:

Security Clearance Process
If a security clearance is required to confirm hiring, the internship start date must fall on or before June 1st to allow for completion of 10 weeks before the start of the fall term. Please note: the U.S. State Department clearance process may take as long as 150 days or more (~4-5 months). A pending security clearance does not automatically disqualify a candidate from final selection, however a fellowship is contingent on confirmation of hire.

Self-Secured Internships from 2020

  • Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office
  • Los Angeles District Attorney – Sex Crimes Unit
  • San Francisco Public Defender’s Office
  • U.S. Agency for Global Media
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • U.S. Department of Commerce
  • U.S. Senator Holly Mitchell

View record of national program- and self-secured internships

Back to Top

Application Timeline

Summer 2021 Application Opens: December 2, 2020

Campus Deadline: January 29, 2021

Campus Interviews: Early February

February – March: Semi-finalists apply directly to internships and/or monitor progress of Self-Secured hiring process. Academic Honors & Fellowships will communicate final hiring decisions from Program-Secured internships and make final selections for fellowships.

Early April: 2021 USC Schaeffer Fellows confirmed

Late May: National summer program commences

Application Requirements

Please prepare to submit the following by the January deadline:

  1. Online Application Form
    • Basic information & explanation of interest in the Schaeffer Fellows program
    • Select specific policy areas of interest and explain
    • Preference for level of government and justification
    • Information on Self-Secured internship(s) (if applicable)
  2. Resume (2 pages max.) including education, work history, public service experience, and/or other relevant skills
  3. Two recommendations (at least one from a USC faculty member) – applicants will invite two referees to complete a recommendation form through the application portal (preview recommendation form here)

AHF General Advising Period: November – December
Email Willa Erickson at

Back to Top