Program Details

Eligibility & Application Guidelines
Submission Formatting
Conference Discussion Sessions
Keynote Address & Awards Ceremony
Judging & Prizes
Submission Form


  • Entrants must be undergraduate students currently enrolled at USC.

Application Guidelines

  • Only one submission allowed per participant.  Please choose your best work.  Your entry will compete against other works in the same category.
  • Co-authors are welcome and should submit one online application as a group. If awarded a prize, the award will be split among all group members.
  • Please note that while your submission need not be from/for a class at USC, we do expect that your entries have been written during your time at USC.
  • You must also be able to attend a Conference Discussion Session and Awards Ceremony to maintain eligibility for prize consideration.  This requirement will only be waived for academic conflicts.

Category Descriptions

  • Professional Writing/Moral Reasoning: Papers about ethical dimensions of your discipline or future profession. Examples include: Marshall white papers; Annenberg analyses of media industries; International Relations problem-based essays; Philosophy papers; some English & cultural studies essays; WRIT 340 pre-law briefs or memos; researched essays; some GE category C/6 essays; some GE category B/2 essays.
  • Analytical Essay: Thesis-driven essays and editorials; use of theoretical and conceptual models; critical theory; close readings of primary text(s); evaluation of books, film, and other media; furthering or interrogating established truths or concepts.
  • Research Essay: Multiple source bibliography; hypothesis testing; evidence/data-based argumentation; reviews of academic literature and existing scientific inquiry.
  • Creative Work: Short stories, screenplays, collections of poetry, scripts for performance art, one-act plays, multimedia.

Additional awards are sponsored by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute.

Submission Formatting

Submissions must adhere to the following format parameters:

  • 40 pages max per submission
  • Double-spaced is required unless work is poetry or screenwriting
  • PDF format
  • 1000MB/1GB size limit
  • Submissions must be in English

Conference Discussion Sessions

Two Conference Discussion Session times will be offered: 10:00am-10:50am PST and 5:00pm-5:50pm PST on Wednesday, March 31. Participants will attend one session.

Participants are assigned discussion groups based on availability.  The Zoom links will be emailed out a day before the event.

Each discussion group consists of 3-5 students with a session moderator. Group members will have the opportunity to share their writing with each other and receive live feedback.

At the start of the session, you are encouraged to give a short oral introduction of your work to the group (no more than five minutes). The session is meant to be discussion-based, so PowerPoints and other multimedia presentations are not used as part of your introduction.

Keynote Address & Awards Ceremony

The Keynote Address and Awards Ceremony will take place from 6:00-7:00pm PST, immediately following the evening Conference Discussion Session block.

Judging & Prizes

Judges are USC faculty members primarily from the USC Writing Program. Each category has a panel of 2-3 judges, who are assigned based on their respective expertise in each of the writing categories. Judges review all entries in their category prior to conference day.

The judges will award the following prizes:

  • First Prize (All Categories): One $1000 First Prize will be awarded in each of four writing categories.
  • Second Prize (All Categories): One $500 Second Prize will be awarded in each of four writing categories.
  • USC Schwarzenegger Institute Award: The USC Schwarzenegger Institute will also award prizes to students whose work proposes real world solutions to serious policy challenges and improves the lives of people and communities with regard to issues in environment and energy or political reform and voter access. In light of recent events, priority will be given to entries that address current events and provide solutions that address the new challenges presented by these current events.

**Writers’ Conference Prizes are disbursed as a stipend in the spring in the form of a check issued or direct deposit to the student.  This may affect student financial aid packages.  Students are encouraged to email the Financial Aid Office through the askUSC portal with questions.  The award could adversely affect students with Pell grants and/or loans.


Submission Form

The 2021 Writers’ Conference Submission Form is now closed.


Click here to view past prize recipients