Watch an information session about USC Scholar Distinctions for a general overview of all three distinctions presented by Academic Honors and Fellowships.

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Is this a scholarship?

No. Scholar Distinctions are academic honors, awarded upon graduation to students who meet the criteria. Distinctions are added to official USC transcripts once confirmed post-graduation. The thirty total Scholar Distinction Prizes award $10,000 to ten students in each category for graduate school or other projects.

When should I apply for Scholar Distinctions?

If you plan to complete all of your coursework and graduate in August, you should apply before your graduation date. However, if you complete your coursework in December, you may apply the spring after your graduation. If you graduate in May, you may apply during your final spring semester.

Is it possible to earn more than one distinction?

Yes, if you meet the requirements for each distinction, you may earn two or three distinctions. However, to earn both Discovery and Global Scholar distinctions, you must submit two completely separate projects for consideration. If you submit the same project for Discovery and Global, your school will certify you for just one of the distinctions based on which program criteria (if any) best first your submitted work. In addition, you may be considered for each distinction’s Prize Competition, however, no student can will be awarded more than one Prize.

Can graduate students apply for Scholar Distinctions?

No. Only undergraduates can apply for a distinction.

Can transfer students apply for Scholar Distinctions?

Transfer students are eligible to apply for all three distinctions if they meet all minimum eligibility requirements. Please review the GPA calculation policy for University Honors for more information on how coursework completed at an outside institution may affect your eligibility.

Does my GPA include USC Overseas Studies?

These courses are considered USC units. However, the courses appear on the USC transcript as CR/NC. Marks of CR/NC do not affect a student’s GPA. The Renaissance Scholar GPA for each certified program will be determined based on graded courses completed at USC only.

Who do I contact if I have questions about the Discovery or Global submission criteria for my school?

You can utilize the list of Discovery Scholar School Coordinators and Global Scholar School Coordinators to find your school’s contact person and project criteria. For general questions, please contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at ahfstaff@usc.edu.

Can I submit materials for Discovery or Global in a discipline other than my major?

Yes, technically you may submit your project in any discipline. However, in order to qualify, a submission outside of your 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.

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Prize Competition

When does the selection of Prize Awardees take place?

A university-wide panel will select the Prize Awardees from a list of nominees. Please view the application timeline for general selection process and information on when to apply.

Can I win more than one prize?

No. You can apply for an be awarded up to three distinctions. You may also apply for more than one Prize Competition but can only be awarded one prize.

Do I have to apply for the Prize Competition?

  • Renaissance Scholars: to earn the distinction, a student must graduate with two certified programs and satisfy all eligibility. All graduating seniors certified as Renaissance Scholars are invited to apply for the Prize Competition. Applying for the Prize is not required to earn the distinction. There is no limit to the number of distinctions that may be awarded.
  • Global Scholars: to earn the distinction, a student must apply by the Global Scholar Prize Competition deadline and meet all eligibility requirements upon graduation. All applicants are considered for the Prize but only 10 will be selected. All students approved by their School will earn the distinction that may be awarded. There is no limit to the number of distinctions. Submitting an application does not guarantee earning a distinction.
  • Discovery Scholars: to earn the distinction, a student can meet the deadline for Prize Competition OR second round distinction-only, and must meet all eligibility requirements upon graduation. 10 applicants will be selected for the Prize. If Prize Competition applicants are denied the distinction, they may modify materials and resubmit in the second round. Second round applicants will not be considered for a Prize and will not be included in Commencement materials. All students approved by their School will earn the distinction. There is no limit to the number of distinctions that may be awarded. Submitting an application does not guarantee earning a distinction.

What if my Discovery or Global project is not finished before the Prize Competition deadline?

All Prize Finalists nominated for prize consideration will be given a brief window of time to update their submitted materials before their project is forwarded to the university Prize Review Panel.

What if I submitted a Discovery Scholar project as part of a group?

Group projects may be submitted but will receive the $10,000 prize funding evenly dispersed between all project group members.

I plan to take time off to do something else before graduate school, such as a job, or the Peace Corps. Do immediate post-graduation plans have to be concrete or could 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 the prize funds.

How do I use my Prize after graduating?

  • Prize award disbursement can only be requested once a Prize Winner’s undergraduate degree has been conferred.
  • Prize Winners have five years (six for Architecture students) post-graduation to request disbursement of their award. No exceptions will be given.
  • Prize awards will only be disbursed to support current enrollment in a graduate degree program, and only after the Prize Winner has successfully completed their third week of classes. Along with their prize award application, Prize Winners will be required to submit official verification of enrollment on letterhead from their graduate school institution.
  • Prize award requests for pre-graduate school preparatory courses or exam fees will be denied.
  • Prize award requests for retroactive award disbursement toward a completed graduate degree be denied.

Contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at ahfstaff@usc.edu to begin the process.

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