Discovery Scholar Distinction

The Discovery Scholar distinction is intended to recognize and celebrate USC undergraduates who have excelled academically while making a meaningful contribution to their field of study through exceptional new scholarship or artistic work.

Eligibility

To be designated as a Discovery Scholar upon graduation, applicants must be a graduating senior and:

  • graduate with a minimum of 3.5 overall GPA (with University Honors)
  • graduate within 5 years of entering USC
  • meet criteria for distinction set by the appropriate USC School (see criteria below)

Dates & Deadlines


After submitting an application, students should closely review emails from Academic Honors and Fellowships for notifications regarding status of distinction, follow-up for prize nominations, and instructions for receiving a medallion at the beginning of May.

Prize winners must demonstrate evidence of enrollment in a graduate program (within or outside the U.S.); or submit a proposal for a creative project that advances their career. Prize funding must be utilized within 5 years of graduating from USC.

Award Details

Project Requirements

Project Requirements for Discovery Scholars

A complete application will include a final project and a letter of recommendation. Utilize the designated School Coordinators for specific questions about project criteria for each individual USC School. For general questions about the USC Discovery Scholar distinction, contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at ahfstaff@usc.edu.


Final Project Requirements

For additional guidance on the Capstone Project criteria:

  • Discovery Scholar School Coordinators organize the school committee for internal application review. Coordinators should only be contacted to clarify written school-specific criteria if needed. This step is not mandatory.
  • For feedback on content or structure of Capstone Project, applicants should contact faculty mentor(s) within their discipline or the USC Writing Center.

If you are applying for the Global and Discovery Scholar distinction, you must submit a completely different capstone project for each application to earn both distinctions and/or prize nominations. 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 be awarded more than one prize.

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

(password protected – email AHF)

Letter of Recommendation

  • Whenever possible, letter should come from the faculty member who has supervised or mentored the student on the project. Applicants should discuss intent to submit an application and request a letter as early as possible.
  • Letter should provide context for student’s work relative to the: student’s overall achievement and performance in the program; scope and quality of their contribution to submitted project; merit of the project relative to quality of work typically presented at the undergraduate level and the highest standards of the discipline; and value and implications of the project in the field of study and beyond.

Applicants will also be asked to submit a current resume or C.V. as part of the application.

School Coordinators

For General Questions

AHF General Advising: October – Mid-March

ahfstaff@usc.edu and Fellowship Friday Info Session for general eligibility or application process questions


School Coordinators

Discovery Scholars School Coordinators are listed below for each USC School. After reading the criteria and requirements, applicants should contact the School Coordinator directly for more detailed information on format, content, and other specifics.


Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Suzanne Alcantara, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs & Director of Career Development | suzannea@usc.edu

Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Amber Bennett, Assistant Professor & Academic Advisor | ambennet@usc.edu

Davis School of Gerontology
Maria Henke, Associate Dean | mhenke@usc.edu
Caroline Cicero, Instructional Associate Professor | cicero@usc.edu

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Lynn Tamayo, Special Project Manager | tamayo@usc.edu

Iovine and Young Academy
Jessica Vernon, Assistant Dean for Admission and Student Affairs | jvernon@usc.edu

Kaufman School of Dance
Anne Aubert-Santelli, Assistant Dean of Admission & Student Services | aubertsa@usc.edu

Keck School of Medicine
Elahe Nezami, Associate Dean and Director for Undergraduate Studies in Health Promotion | nezami@usc.edu
Stephen Perry, Academic Advisor | stephenp@usc.edu

Marshall School of Business and Leventhal School of Accounting
Ramandeep Randhawa, Professor of Data Sciences and Operations | rrandhaw@marshall.usc.edu

Price School of Public Policy
Josephine Le, Program Administrator | kpn@usc.edu

Roski School of Art and Design
Antonio Bartolome, Student Services Manager | anbartol@usc.edu

Thornton School of Music
Phillip M. Placenti, Associate Dean, Admission and Student Affairs | placenti@usc.edu

USC School of Architecture
Jen Park, Executive Director Of Student Services | jenpark@usc.edu
Susana Marquina, Program Specialist | smarquin@usc.edu

USC School of Cinematic Arts
Marcus Anderson, Director of Student Affairs | manderson@usc.edu

USC School of Dramatic Arts
Daniel Leyva, Academic Advisor | leyvad@usc.edu

USC School of Pharmacy
Randa Issa, Academic Program Administrator | rissa@usc.edu

Viterbi School of Engineering
Interim: Matthew O’Pray, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students and Programs  | opray@usc.edu

Apply

Apply for Discovery Scholars

There are two deadlines for the Discovery Scholar Distinction – an early deadline for prize competition consideration and a later, second deadline for the honor only.

Graduating seniors must apply during the spring semester of their final academic year in order to graduate with the distinction. May and August graduates apply in their final spring semester. December graduates apply after graduation.


Prize Competition Application

Application Open: Mid-October

Deadline: Mid-March

First Round Notifications: April
Applicants 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.

Second Round Notifications (Prize Competition): By early May

Discovery Scholar Application

Distinction & Prize Competition


After submitting an application, students should closely review emails from Academic Honors and Fellowships for notifications regarding status of distinction, follow-up for prize nominations, and instructions for receiving a medallion at the beginning of May.

Prize winners must demonstrate evidence of enrollment in a graduate program (within or outside the U.S.); or submit a proposal for a creative project that advances their career. Prize funding must be utilized within 5 years of graduating from USC. More information on the Scholar Distinction landing page.

About

About Discovery Scholars

Our aim is to bolster academic achievement among our talented students, while nurturing the intellectual breadth and flexibility our students will need in this rapidly changing century.

C.L. Max Nikias

The Discovery Scholar distinction honors students who excel in the classroom while demonstrating the ability to create exceptional new scholarship or artistic works. Like sailors on an unexplored sea, Discovery Scholars blaze new paths, rather than simply following the course charted by others.

Each year hundreds of undergraduate students at USC conduct original research in the humanities, the physical and life sciences, the social sciences, and the professions. Other students create outstanding original works of art, architectural designs, and musical compositions, or achieve high standards in artistic performance.

To recognize students who excel in the classroom and display the ability to create exceptional new scholarship or artistic works, the University has established the USC Discovery Scholars distinction.

Students have the opportunity to earn the Discovery Scholar distinction in every major concentration offered at the University. The objective is to honor creativity wherever it is found, in fields ranging from biochemistry to art history, from mechanical engineering to theater, and from political science to cinematic arts. All USC undergraduates are encouraged to pursue this honor.