On Dec. 1, 2014, approximately 28,000 students around the world applied to USC to be considered for USC merit scholarships. Last Friday, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions released the decisions to the 1,200 finalists.
Every student that applies to USC before the Dec. 1 deadline is considered for a merit-based scholarship. USC offers several scholarships, but there are four major awards that are need-blind: the Mork Family Scholarship, the Trustee Scholarship, the Stamps Scholarship and the Presidential Scholarship. The first three offer students full tuition, while the Presidential Scholarship offers a half tuition award. Students who are selected for these scholarships, however, have to go through an extra step in order to receive them — an in-person interview.
Interviews take place in late February and early March and will determine which students will win each award. Kirk Brennan, director of admission said that this year, the office has selected approximately 700 finalists for the Presidential Scholarship and fewer than 500 total for the other three. Brennan commented that the number of applicants this year is similar to those of previous years.
In total, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions is expecting approximately 52,000 applications, which is slightly more than last year, out of which they will accept about 9,000. Last year, the admissions rate for USC was about 18 percent; Brennan says the office’s main focus, however, is on enrolling and awarding scholarships to the correct students and not hitting a target admission percentage.
As to what they look for in candidates for these scholarships, Brennan said they want students “who will make the biggest impact here at USC,” and that can take many forms. Every candidate has excellent grades and test scores, but the Office of Undergraduate Admissions is looking for glowing letters of recommendation; demonstration of strong engagement not only in school but also in their community, and a strong character and good leadership skills in general. These students are expected to make contributions that will greatly impact and improve the university.
Alejandro Medina, a sophomore majoring in architecture and a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship remembers his experience of coming to campus for the interview. Medina explained that the program encouraged him to come visit the USC campus and stay in the dorms with a fellow Trojan for a whole weekend, in which he was able to meet people, experience the university firsthand and prepare for his scholarship interview.
“I was extremely excited when I received the notification that I was a Presidential Scholarship finalist,” Medina said. “Other universities only give you the money, but USC makes you feel like they really care, like they need you to be here. Not only do they make you feel special, but coming to campus gives you a feeling of what it means to be a Trojan; and that definitely shaped my decision of where to attend college.”
Medina explained that the interview process, though nerve-racking, made not only him, but also his parents, excited that he was soon to become a Trojan.
Finalists for these scholarships will be arriving on campus in late February and early March for their final round of interviews.
“We need the entire community to be aware of being good Trojans for the next generation of Trojans who are coming up,” Brennan said.
The remainder of the applicants that were not chosen as scholarship finalists will hear back from the university in early May.