Become A Discovery Scholar

The Discovery Scholars program 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. Discovery Scholar designees will graduate from USC with at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA and will have completed a significant senior project.

Interested USC students can utilize the step-by-step process that follows to determine their eligibility and apply for the Discovery Scholars designation. Discovery Scholars will receive a medallion to wear at graduation, have their designation noted on their final transcript from the University, and may be eligible for a $10,000 prize toward graduate study or other approved post-graduate endeavors.

How to become a Discovery Scholar1. Review your School's application criteria

Each school has determined specific criteria for its students who wish to be designated as Discovery Scholars. This allows every student the flexibility to generate a culminating project in a format best suited to their field of study.

For example, a student in the natural sciences might submit a lab research report and presentation poster, while a student in architecture might submit a portfolio of design, and a student in the social sciences might submit an analytical thesis.

Please note that all submissions also require a letter of recommendation. Ideally, the letter would come from a USC faculty member who has supervised or mentored the work being submitted for consideration.

Visit the School Criteria page to review the current project submission guidelines for your school.

2. Consult with your Faculty Mentor

The Discovery Scholar senior project typically represents the culmination of a student’s studies in the major by integrating and synthesizing concepts from the across the curriculum of the program.  It is expected that the submitted project has been completed under the guidance of a faculty member.  Students should consult with their faculty supervisor or mentor regularly about the status and nature of the project and to seek support and direction regarding the assemblage and overall presentation of project materials.

In addition, the faculty member who has mentored the project being submitted for consideration should also provide a letter of recommendation as part of the student’s Discovery Scholar submission.  Students are encouraged to discuss their intent to submit and request a letter of recommendation from the faculty member as early as possible.

3. Meet with the Discovery Scholars representative from your school (optional)

Each USC School has a designated contact person that is knowledgeable about the Discovery Scholar program and the school’s specific submission criteria. Though this step is not mandatory, applicants are encouraged to be in touch with their School’s contact person to gain insight about the program and feedback about their project submission format, content, and composition. See below for each School’s contact person.

Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Heather Cartagena, Program Advisor
Davis School of Gerontology
Maria Henke, Associate Dean
Aaron Hagedorn, Clinical Assistant Professor
Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences
Heather Cartagena, Program Advisor
Keck School of Medicine
Elahe Nezami, Associate Dean and Director for Undergraduate Studies in Health Promotion
Marshall School of Business and Leventhal School of Accounting
Kim West, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs
Price School of Public Policy
Nam Ung, Undergraduate Program Administrator
Roski School of Fine Arts
Penelope Jones, Assistant Dean of Student Services
Thornton School of Music
Phillip Placenti, Assistant Dean, Admission and Financial Aid
USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Ann Neville-Jan, Associate Professor
USC School of Architecture
Kim Coleman, Chair of Undergraduate Studies and Professor
USC School of Cinematic Arts
Asiroh Cham, Scholarship and Program Manager
USC School of Dramatic Arts
Daniel Leyva, Academic Advisor
Viterbi School of Engineering
Louise Yates, Senior Associate Dean, Admissions and Student Affairs

For General Questions about the USC Discovery Scholars program please contact the Office of Undergraduate Programs.

4. Meet with the Discovery Scholars coordinator in the Office of Undergraduate Programs (optional)

The Discovery Scholars coordinator has an overall understanding of each School’s program and can also give insight into what the Prize Committee looks for from a submitted project.

5. In your senior year, complete the Intent to Submit form.

The online Intent to Submit form is utilized by each USC School to anticipate the number of potential applicants and to provide support at the school-level for meeting the submission deadline. This step is optional but strongly recommended. Students who submit this form will be sent reminders and important program updates in preparation for the final submission deadlines.

The Intent to Submit requires an initial title and format for the project and the name of the faculty who is supervising or mentoring the work. The form should be completed no later than the first week of February for students graduating in the current academic year.

6. Complete the online Project Submission during the Spring semester of your final year at USC.

The Discovery Scholars project submission form will only be available during the spring semester of each academic year, and is typically live between February and April. If you are a December graduate, plan on completing this in the spring after your degree completion. If you plan to graduate in Spring or Summer, plan on completing this step during your final Spring semester at USC.

Applications and supplemental materials must be submitted by one of two deadlines in order to be considered for the Discovery Scholars Designation. The Primary Submission deadline is Monday, March 24, 2014. Applicants who submit by this deadline will be considered for the Discovery Scholars designation and may be nominated to move on to the Prize Competition. The Secondary Submission deadline is Friday, May 2, 2014. Applicants who submit by this deadline will only be considered for the Discovery Scholars designation. Secondary deadline applicants are not eligible for the Prize Competition.

7. Project evaluation and prize competition

Following each submission deadline, submitted work will be certified by a panel of experts within each respective school.  Depending on the nature of your work and the policies of your school, it may only be necessary to make a preliminary submission by the primary submission deadline. Check the criteria for your school to see whether a preliminary submission is allowed.

Students will be notified of their Discovery Scholars certification status within approximately two weeks of each submission deadline.

For the primary submission deadline, each school will nominate a short-list of Prize Finalists to advance to the university-wide prize competition. It is a significant honor to be recognized as a Prize Finalist – this indicates that the submitted research or creative work is among the most distinguished submissions by any student in the school.

Prize Finalists will have the opportunity to submit edits, updates, or augmentations to their original work prior to the prize panel review.  The Discovery Scholars Prize Selection Committee is comprised of faculty from across the University.  The Committee will convene to make the final prize selections prior to Commencement. 

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