Watch an information session on the USC Scholar Distinctions
About the Discovery Scholars Distinction
Is this a scholarship?
No. The Discovery Scholar distinction is an academic honor, awarded upon graduation to students who meet the criteria. The ten Discovery Scholar Prizes awarded to students each year are for the purpose of post-baccalaureate study or work on an original creative project that advances their career in the creative arts. Prize recipients using the award for post-baccalaureate study must show evidence of enrollment in a graduate program of study. Recipients using the award for work on a creative project must submit a detailed proposal describing the timeline and intended outcomes of the project. Students have up to five years after completing the Bachelor’s degree to request disbursement of the Prize.
Can I submit materials in a discipline other than my major?
Yes, in principle you may submit in any discipline. However, in order to qualify, a submission outside the major should be comparable in scope and substance to a senior project within the other discipline. Ideally, non-major submissions should be linked to a declared minor or honors program.
May I earn the Discovery Scholar and Renaissance Scholar or Global Scholar distinction?
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 program’s Prize Competition– however, no student will be awarded more than one Prize.
Eligibility and the Submission Process
What does it take to be designated as a Discovery Scholar?
A detailed description of how to become a Discovery Scholar can be found on our Become a Scholar page. In short, to become a Discovery Scholar, students must meet the criteria established by their school for outstanding original research or creative work. The criteria may include submission of a research thesis, an artistic portfolio, or some other evidence of original contributions to the discipline. Students must also graduate in no more than five years at USC with a minimum 3.5 overall grade point average.
When can I apply for the Discovery Scholar distinction and for the $10,000 prize?
You may apply for the Discovery Scholar distinction starting the fall semester of your final year at the University. Students are encouraged to start their application by early February to declare their interest in applying for the Discovery Scholars distinction, so their respective Schools can prepare accordingly for the anticipated number of submissions.
All applicants interested in being eligible for both the Discovery Scholars distinction and the Prize Competition must submit their materials by the Primary Submission Deadline.
Following the submission deadline, Academic Honors and Fellowships staff will distribute submission materials to the respective schools. Each school will nominate a short-list of Prize Competition Finalists from the roster of Discovery Scholar candidates within that school. A university panel will then select the Prize Awardees from the list of Finalists.
If I graduate in the fall semester, can I still apply for the Discovery Scholar prizes to be awarded the May before I graduate?
No. If you graduate in the fall semester, you may apply for the Discovery Scholar prizes to be awarded in the spring semester after your graduation. Be sure to keep apprised of and comply with all of the deadline requirements and updates that are published on the Discovery Scholars website
If my research or creative work is certified, does that mean I am automatically a Discovery Scholar?
In addition to the certification of your submitted project, you must graduate within five years at USC with a minimum 3.5 overall grade point average.
My Discovery Scholar project is International in nature; can I submit the same project for Global Scholars consideration?
No, to earn both the Discovery Scholar and Global Scholar distinction , you must submit two completely separate projects for consideration.
If you submit the same project for both programs, your school will certify you for just one of the distinction based on which program criteria (if any) best fits your submitted work.
Can graduate students apply for the Discovery Scholar distinction?
No. Only undergraduates who are enrolled in an undergraduate major may apply for the Discovery Scholar distinction.
School Contacts and Criteria
Whom do I contact if I have questions about the submission criteria for my school?
You can find the list of Discovery Scholars Coordinators and submission criteria for each school listed here. Discovery Scholars Coordinators will help you gain insight about the distinction and feedback about project submission format, content, and composition. For general questions, please contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at firstname.lastname@example.org
When will I know if I have been nominated as a Prize Competition Finalist?
The deadline for schools to submit prize finalist nominations to Academic Honors and Fellowships is at the beginning of April. You will be notified whether you are a Prize Competition Finalist soon afterward.
Prize Competition Finalists will be given an opportunity to update or augment their submission prior to review by the Prize Selection Committee in mid-April.
When does the selection of Prize Awardees take place?
A university-wide panel will select the Prize Awardees in time for announcement approximately one week before commencement.
My Discovery Scholar project was a collaboration that was also submitted by other graduating seniors. If our project is selected in the Prize Competition, will we each receive a $10,000 prize?
No. Prizes awarded to group projects will be divided equally among the group members.
I plan to take time off to do something else before graduate school or other projects, such as a job, or the Peace Corps. Do immediate post-graduation plans have to be concrete or can 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. Discovery Scholar prize recipients must demonstrate evidence of enrollment in a graduate program or submit a proposal for a creative project that advances their career in the creative arts.