Schaeffer Fellows in Government Service

Summer Internships in Government for Undergraduates

The Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellows in Government Service program exposes undergraduate students to government work and its impact through 10-week, full-time, high-level internship placements with elected officials and agencies at the at the federal, state, and local levels.

While not all Schaeffer Fellows pursue a career in government, the program creates the opportunity for participants to become engaged citizens and develop an informed view of government service and operations.

Schaeffer Fellows are selected nationally from five universities – Harvard University, Princeton University, U.C. Berkeley, University of Southern California, and University of Virginia.

Eligibility & Selection Criteria

Competitive candidates will have:

  • a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA
  • current USC sophomore or junior. Seniors are only eligible to apply if enrolling in 12+ units of required undergraduate courses in fall 2024. Preference will be given to candidates with at least one full academic year of undergraduate study remaining after the fellowship. (Progressive Degree students must not begin master’s-only degree requirements in the fall).
  • relevant experience and/or coursework demonstrating preparation for a demanding government internship. While no prior public service record is required, competitive candidates will be able to demonstrate transferable skills and an interest in public service. All academic fields encouraged to apply.
  • Ability to work 35+ hours/week for 10 weeks during the summer.  Applicants will have the option to apply to be considered for Program-Secured positions identified by AHF or Self-Secured positions identified independently. More information under “Selection Process”.

Dates & Deadlines

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Ideal candidates are mature, detail-oriented, and motivated. Competitive applicants will possess excellent verbal and written communication skills, an ability to prioritize multiple tasks under tight deadlines, and work well with others.

Non-U.S. Citizenship: As a result of certain federal restrictions, non-U.S. citizens may face obstacles securing employment with federal government offices and agencies. Non-U.S. citizens are permitted to apply for the Schaeffer Fellows program with a Self-Secured internship.

Leave of Absence: An LOA does not make a student ineligible for the program; however, preference will be given to candidates who are enrolled full-time at USC.

Award Details

Program Benefits

Program Benefits

Ten USC Schaeffer Fellows are selected annually by the University to join a national cohort of 50 Schaeffer Fellows from five universities. The cohort participates in a robust summer program alongside full-time internships focused on understanding public service, networking, and preparing transferable skills for a professional career in any field.

Living Stipend & Swag

Schaeffer Fellows receive a living stipend of $5,500 disbursed 3-4 times during the summer to afford summer living expenses. Federal interns relocating to D.C. receive an additional $500 stipend.

Fellows have discretion over use of the stipend, which is intended to support relocation costs, housing, and/or some discretionary expenses. Fellows should anticipate some out of pocket expenses during the summer. Students with demonstrated financial need may be able to request additional funding by contacting Willa Erickson at

Schaeffer Fellows also receive a variety of program accessories from the national program.

Alumni Mentor

Our staff pairs each Schaeffer Fellow with an alumnus of USC and, when possible, of the Schaeffer Fellows program. Fellows meet with their mentor one-on-one 3-4 times during the summer to reflect on the internship experience and discuss future career goals.

Schaeffer Fellows Summit

Each Fellow receives full funding to attend the Schaeffer Fellows Summit in late June in Washington, D.C. to engage in public service leadership lessons and expand on professional development.

Membership in Online Community

All Schaeffer Fellows gain access to a private virtual program hub to network, find event information, and access digital resources. The online platform is open to program alumni, partner university staff, and other professional partners. The national program also provides a Resource Guide with tools to support professional development.

National Program Dates

  • Late Spring: Schaeffer Fellows National Virtual Orientation
  • Early May: USC cohort welcome lunch
  • Late May – Early June: Internships commence
  • Late June: Schaeffer Fellows Summit in Washington, D.C.
  • August: Internships conclude
  • October: Schaeffer Fellows recognition event at USC

Fellows are required to meet all program expectations and attend all events as detailed by USC and the national fellowship program.

Selection Process

Selection Process

Selection is conducted on a rolling basis through the following four-stage process.

Stage 1: Online Application

Students submit applications through SurveyMonkey Apply. In the online application, candidates will be asked to clarify their interests, experience, and internship goals.

Stage 2: Interviews

Applications are reviewed for eligibility and overall fit for the Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellows program. Interviews take place in early February.

Stage 3: Hiring Pool

After interviews, we invite strong candidates to join the hiring pool for consideration for either Program-Secured or Self-Secured internships.


Program-Secured Internships Identified by AHF

Program-Secured internships are jobs identified by Academic Programs, typically with California offices or elected officials in L.A., Sacramento, or D.C. Invitations are sent on a rolling basis to candidates in the hiring pool to apply for a Program-Secured internship. Host offices make final hiring decisions and the program will select up to one Schaeffer Fellow per Program-Secured internship. Hiring timelines vary.

Candidates who agree to interview with a Program-Secured internship host office are expected to accept the opportunity if offered.

Prospective 2023 Program-Secured opportunities:

  • Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s Office: communications with constituents, attend community events, etc. (Los Angeles or Sacramento)
  • California Attorney General’s Office of Communication: respond to inquiries from media and public, draft press releases and social media content, speech writing, etc. (Sacramento)
  • California Natural Resources Agency – Expo Park Management: community engagement, environment, events, preparation for Olympics, etc. (Los Angeles)
  • California Department of Transportation – Division of Rail and Mass Transit: policy research and recommendations, policy briefings, etc. (Remote)
  • Los Angeles Department of Public Health – Health Care Consumer Protection: data tracking, mapping using GIS, policy and program research and recommendations, community engagement, etc. (Los Angeles)
  • Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office: data entry, client correspondence, shadowing attorneys, preparing for hearings, executive level projects, etc. (Los Angeles)
  • U.S. Department of Energy – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: TBD (Washington, D.C.)
  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management: support key functions of the Office of the Director; track specific issue areas, conduct research, and assist with stakeholder engagement; provide support in meetings, including taking notes and recording due outs; work with the political team to draft and review briefing materials, memoranda, presentations, and other documents. (Washington, D.C.)

Self-Secured Internships Identified by Applicants

Self-secured internships are internships identified and pursued independently by a candidate. We offer a few spots in the cohort each year for students who have secured their own internships contingent on receiving a final job offer and completing a security clearance (if applicable). See the “Resources” tab for helpful links to find internships.

  • Ineligible internships include think tanks, non-profit organizations, or political campaigns.
  • Be patientwe prioritize the Program-Secured hiring process before reviewing and extending offers to candidates with confirmed Self-Secured positions. Keep our staff apprised of any hiring updates.

Stage 4: Final Selection

  • We select up to ten USC Schaeffer Fellows annually and aim to build a diverse cohort representing different internships, government levels, interests, etc.
  • Final selection occurs on a rolling basis through early April. We do our best to notify applicants promptly and remain in close contact while awaiting hiring decisions. However, because government timelines vary, applicants should expect some period of waiting. If you are uncomfortable with the prospect of an elongated selection process, you may excuse yourself from the hiring pool.
  • If you are in consideration for other summer programs, please notify our staff. In certain cases, you may be unable to participate in another program in tandem with the Schaeffer Fellows program.
  • The only required action at this stage is to continue in the hiring process. We base final selection cumulatively on the application, interview, and ultimately your secured government internship to form a diverse cohort of ten Fellows.
  • You must have an internship to be offered a Schaeffer Fellowship, however, receiving an internship offer is not a guarantee of a Schaeffer Fellowship. We prioritize Program-Secured hiring before extending offers to strong candidates with Self-Secured positions.
How to Apply

How to Apply

Up to 10 Schaeffer Fellows are selected from USC each year to work full-time (35+ hours per week) for at least 10 weeks (typically late May through mid-August).

All interested students should thoroughly review the “Selection Process” information before starting an application.

Application Timeline

  • October 30, 2023: Online Application Opens
  • January 16, 2024: Application Deadline by 11:59pm PT
  • Earl February: First round interviews with USC staff
  • March-April: Hiring pool for program-secured or self-secured internships
  • Mid-April: USC Schaeffer Fellows cohort confirmed on a rolling basis through mid-April (timeline subject to change)
  • Late Spring: National summer program orientation
  • Late May: Internships commence (internships begin no later than June 3rd)

Application Requirements

Please prepare to submit the following by the campus deadline:

  1. Online Application Form including: personal and academic information, why you want to be a Schaeffer Fellow, policy area of interest discussion, and internship interests.
    • Candidates will rank top three Program-Secured positions of interest (at least one brief cover letter required) or provide information about in-progress Self-Secured internship applications.
    • Applicants who intend to secure their own internship will still have a chance to be considered for Program-Secured positions.
  2. Resume (2 pages max.) including education, work history, public service experience, and/or other relevant skills.
  3. Two recommendation forms (at least one from a USC faculty member) – applicants invite two referees to complete a form through the online SurveyMonkey Apply application (preview recommendation form here). Recommendations are due by the final deadline.

See “Selection Process” for list of 2024 Prospective Program-Secured Internships
Please thoroughly review the “Selection Process” information, which includes the list of prospective 2024 Program-Secured internships, before starting an application.

Resources for Internship Search


Resources for Self-Secured Federal Positions

If interested in internships with federal agencies, committees, and specific representatives, candidates should plan to apply directly based on the office’s hiring timeline. Our staff is unable to guarantee specific internships as program-secured opportunities.

These internship programs often have earlier deadlines. Use the resources below for more information:

Security Clearance Process

Most positions will require a Live Scan/fingerprinting. Please plan accordingly to ensure you are able to complete this and submit following the instructions of the host office.

If a security clearance/background check is required, the internship start date must fall on or before the beginning of June to allow for completion of 10 weeks before the start of the fall term. Please note: the U.S. State Department clearance process may take as long as 150 days or more (~4-5 months). A pending security clearance does not disqualify a candidate from the Schaeffer Fellows program, however, to be selected for the program candidates must have an active security clearance (if required for the job) and a confirmed internship offer. What is a security clearance?

Examples of Previous Internships

2023 Program-Secured Internships

  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management
  • Office of Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer
  • Los Angeles Department of Public Health
  • Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office

2023 Self-Secured Internships

  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. General Services Administration
  • U.S. Space Force
  • Superior Court of Arizona
  • Superior Court of California

View record of national program- and self-secured internships

Submit an Application

Before starting an application, please thoroughly review all of the information on this page.


Questions about the program should be directed to:

Willa Erickson
Office of Academic Programs