Program Details

Eligibility & Registration
Conference Discussion Sessions
Awards Ceremony & Banquet
Judging & Prizes


Eligibility & Registration

Entrants must be current undergraduate students at USC. You may enter one work in one category for this conference. Your entry will compete against other works in the same category. You must also be able to attend the Conference Discussion Session to maintain eligibility for prize consideration.

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.


Conference Discussion Sessions

The Conference Discussion Sessions take place from 6:00-6:50 pm on campus. Participants are assigned discussion groups and classroom locations a few days prior to the event.

Each discussion group consists of 3-5 students with a session moderator. Students’ works are shared with the group a few days prior to the session. 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.


Awards Ceremony & Banquet

The Awards Ceremony & Banquet will take place from 7:00-9:00 pm, immediately following the Conference Discussion Sessions.

The evening program will include dinner, a keynote address, and announcements of prize recipients in all categories. Student publications will also be present to meet with participants interested in having their works published online.


Judging & Prizes

Judges are USC faculty members primarily from the USC Writing Program. Each category has a panel of 2-6 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 education, environment & energy, or political reform.

Click here to view past prize recipients