USC Scholar Distinctions

About Scholar Distinctions    |    Application Timeline    |    About Prize Competition

Renaissance Scholars, Discovery Scholars, and Global Scholars are academic honors awarded upon graduation that recognize graduating seniors who meet the criteria. Interested USC undergraduates may apply and receive the distinction upon commencement. Scholars will receive a medallion to wear at graduation, have their distinction noted on their final transcript from the University, and can apply for consideration for the Prize Competition. Each year, ten students from each of the three distinctions are selected for a $10,000 prize towards graduate study. Seniors can earn more than one distinction but can only receive one prize.

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Steven & Kathryn Sample Renaissance Scholar Distinction

In honor of former University President Steven Sample and his wife Kathryn, the Renaissance Scholar distinction recognizes undergraduate students who have excelled in their studies while completing a major and a minor (or two majors) in widely disparate fields of study. The objective is to achieve breadth and depth in two widely separate fields of thought.


Global Scholar Distinction

The Global Scholar distinction honors students who excel in their studies both at home and abroad. Students must spend at least 10 weeks abroad during their undergraduate studies and complete a capstone project related to their international experiences. Global Scholars participate in activities that expose them to new perspectives, and challenge the status quo.


Discovery Scholar Distinction

The Discovery Scholar distinction honors undergraduate students who excel in the classroom while demonstrating the ability to create exceptional new scholarship or artistic works in any major concentration offered at the University.


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Application Timeline for Graduating Seniors

When to Apply

View and download general application timeline here.

  • May and August graduates apply during their final spring semester (aside from the Renaissance Scholar Certification deadline in December).
  • December graduates apply the spring following their graduation (defined by degree completion, not walking).

Follow all specific deadlines and updates listed for each Scholar Distinction application.

Scholar Distinction Prize Competition

Each distinction hosts a Prize Competition and selects ten graduating seniors to receive a $10,000 prize. Students may apply for more than one Prize Competition but can only be awarded one Prize.

For Renaissance Scholars, all certified graduating seniors are invited to apply for the Prize Competition. Applying for the Prize is not required to earn the distinction.

For Global and Discovery Scholars, applicants who meet the Prize Competition deadline are reviewed by their School to earn the distinction and/or prize nomination. All prize nominees are forwarded to a university-wide review panel and, if not selected, will still earn the distinction.

Prize Winners may request funds for up to 5 years (6 for Architecture graduates) after bachelor’s degree completion to fund graduate study anywhere in the U.S. or abroad; and may be able to propose creative projects relevant to career goals. 5 years is defined by the start of the fall semester in the 5th year (6th for Architecture) post-graduation. A request may be submitted through Undergraduate Programs after the recipient has enrolled and passed the third week of a graduate program. Prize award requests cannot go towards funding for pre-graduate school preparatory courses or exam fees, or towards a completed graduate degree.

Email for assistance with prize disbursement. View previous Prize Winners here.

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