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Tips, Insights, Observations and Scoop on USC's top merit scholarships

madbeanmadbean Registered User Posts: 3,241 Senior Member
A large number of applicants to USC apply before the Merit deadline of December 1st (I think I read it was over 20,000 last year--Georgia Girl may have the exact number), so lots of students are thinking about how they might fare in the competition for these extremely generous awards. After watching these boards for many years, I thought I'd offer some observations, a bit of logical speculation, and a few kind words of warning. My motto is: be realistic while you dream big.

First, the difficult truth is that the same form of hyper-selectivity is at work at USC's top scholarships as in admissions to the most selective programs/universities in the world. The same pool of extraordinary HS students that are vying to get into Harvard and Stanford and Princeton, et al, also often apply to USC hoping to get a full-tuition merit scholarship. Some may think it's a smart safety plan (and yet each year, we find many ivy-type-stat students who, while admitted to USC, do not get an invitation to interview for scholarship and they are just stumped at how this can possibly be?). The reason is--among the top institutions and top merit scholarship competitions at the few very strong universities that offer them, the choices of excellent candidates are many and the spots are few. So each year, some may get into Yale or MIT or wherever and yet do not get a scholarship invitation at USC. Or vice versa. Some get offended by this, but it is what it is. Very competitive.

So, what IS my shot?

About 800 (rough estimate) are invited to interview out of a pool of over 20,000. Make that roughly 4% of the early applicants, who--by the very fact they bothered to apply before the scholarship deadline--would seem a very highly qualified group. 4% means just 4 out of 100 high stat-type applicants. Each year, about 300 are invited to interview for the Trustee, Stamps & Mork. That's about 1.5% of these early applicants will be asked to interview for the top scholarships, while another 500 or so will be invited for the Presidential. Of those who come to campus for the interview (not all do!--some may have received good news from SCEA schools like Stanford or ED at another school and they are consequently out of the pool), about 200 are actually awarded the Trustee, Mork or Stamps. That's about 1% or less of the original group of applicants before Dec 1. Of those, we see about 140 or so who end up matriculating to USC. Again, these are rough numbers to give an idea of how selective the process is.

To see what sort of applicants USC has honored in the past, check out the threads alamemom posted that show the admissions results for the past two years. The announcements/invitations to interview for these top merit scholarships go out around the end of January--to early February, so just look over the students who got their admissions packets during those dates to see the stats (self-reported, of course, so keep in mind this is not precise info).

http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/university-southern-california/1278469-usc-fall-2012-stats-only-decisions.html
http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/university-southern-california/1074764-usc-fall-2011-stats-only-decisions.html

You'll notice that there are a range of SAT scores/gpas that have been invited, and yet, we can tell you truthfully that there are students with similar (and higher) stats who do not get an invitation. So what sense can you make from that? Well, like admissions themselves, the selection of candidates for the top scholarships is a holistic process. Only the decision-makers and their criteria may be a little different since the invite list of finalists is made by major/School--not general admissions.

The Role of Major and School Applied To:

Each School at USC (and major within the school) seems to be allotted a certain number of Trustee/Presidential/Dean's Scholarships to award. How does an applicant become a contender? Each major/School will value certain special qualities over others. While the entire student's file is considered, and while objective criteria (gpa/scores) need to be excellent, the invitees will all offer something specific to each USC major. Since USC is basically using these awards to recruit extraordinary talent, accomplishments, leaders, self-starters, and seriously motivated high achievers, they have a history of admitting high-performance students and look for the X factor. Viterbi (engineering) may have dozens of 4.0 gpa/top AP scoring wonderfully accomplished students and all will be admitted, but they have a limited number of invitations for full or half-tuition scholarships to grant. They may reward the student who has successfully launched a very creative app (CS), done extraordinary work outside of HS in their field (research w/professor), etc. Marshall School of Business will look for a different sort of leader--perhaps someone who has used social media to raise money for a cause, and we'd expect the talent-based majors to be most interested in students who have special achievements in their fields. No matter the major/School applied to--even undeclared--they will reward those who have gone beyond HS achievements. They are looking for innovators, thought leaders, contributors to society and those who have shown sustained, significant and successful dedication to their passions. This is not rocket science. They anticipate that such students will continue these roles at the university and they will add greatly to the community once at USC, and they do.

But so do many many other USC students, all of whom are leaders and/or go-getters and great students, too. Like all things--there is just a little luck in this selection process as in any. So... do you feel lucky? (parents may get this reference to Clint Eastwood!!)

This is sort of the tip of the iceberg of info. If you have specific questions, please ask away.
Post edited by madbean on
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Replies to: Tips, Insights, Observations and Scoop on USC's top merit scholarships

  • CavmomCavmom Registered User Posts: 135 Junior Member
    So, if you are lucky enough to be invited to interview for a scholarship, you will find out the end of January....otherwise you will find out if you got in to USC the end of March?? If you are invited to interview for a certain scholarship, do you always receive that particular one? I have heard that they can revise it based on how the interview goes. Also, is there a chance you can not receive anything? Or does everyone walk away with something? But either way if you are invited to interview, you are definitely admitted, regardless of the $$ amount, correct?
  • madbeanmadbean Registered User Posts: 3,241 Senior Member
    Cavmom,

    1) At the end of January, early February, students selected to be interviewed will receive their official admissions packets, learn which major they were admitted to (in cases where more than one were listed on the application) and also get the code to a portal from which they may sign up for their interview from a selection of offered dates (usually late Feb). In recent years, USC has sent out a letter to those who applied by the Dec 1 deadline but were not selected for the interview a few weeks later (mid Feb or so) to let them know there status--which is they are among those being reviewed for admissions decisions. From personal observation, this isn't always the news many applicants would wish for, but many of the excellent candidates who are not interviewed will actually be awarded a Dean's Scholarship, a notification which comes with the end-of-March admissions packets. A Dean's is worth 1/4 tuition for 4 years. There are other, smaller, scholarships which are also awarded at that end-of-March date as well.

    2) Students who are invited to interview for a particular merit scholarship (Trustee, or Presidential) are finalists in the competitive process to award these prizes. Decisions are based on the interview, so some students will receive the scholarship they interviewed for, while others will not. Each year we observe that the majority of students are awarded the scholarship they are up for--maybe about 2/3 get the prize they are interviewed for would be my guesstimate from CC reports. A small number of Presidential interviewees get boosted up to the Trustee level, while a small number of Trustee interviewees may instead be awarded the Presidential award. And both Trustee and Presidential interviewees have been offered the Dean's or other scholarships. We have never heard about a finalist receiving nothing at all. USC notifies students of the merit scholarship they have been awarded at the end of March (it comes in a small envelope).
  • Georgia GirlGeorgia Girl Registered User Posts: 3,771 Senior Member
    Recent news from SC told about $20 million dollars in anonymous gifts to the university. Income from these funds will be awarded to outstanding students in three of SC's schools. At this time we volunteers do not have detailed information regarding the procedures for selecting the recipients. The good news is there will be additional scholarships awarded. Any official information from SC about these scholarships will be posted here as soon as it is received.
  • Georgia GirlGeorgia Girl Registered User Posts: 3,771 Senior Member
    According to numbers posted last year the number of freshmen who applied early to be considered for the most competitive merit scholarships was around 27,000.
  • rgosulargosula Registered User Posts: 638 Member
    This link from USC actually provides the number of each scholarship that gets of awarded.
    http://www.usc.edu/admission/undergraduate/private/1415/uscScholarships1415.pdf

    And the numbers on there seem much smaller than the ones provided on the first posting of this thread.
  • alamemomalamemom Registered User Posts: 6,389 Senior Member
    Hi rgosula,

    The scholarship guide you posted is an excellent resource! The numbers listed in the scholarship guide are targets for scholarship distribution. Due to an important admissions factor called "yield," the number of scholarships accepted cannot be precisely predicted and significantly more than the target numbers are offered (and therefore many more are invited to interview than ultimately accept the awards).

    The freshman profile, http://www.usc.edu/admission/undergraduate/apply/documents/FreshmanProfile2013FINAL.pdf , shows the number of each scholarship distributed Fall 2013. As you can see, each category varies somewhat from the target numbers. For example the scholarship guide targets 10 Mork Family Scholarships, but the freshman profile shows that 14 were accepted. The yield among those awarded large USC scholarships has historically been approximately 50% (as opposed to an overall 33% yield), so we can surmise that somewhere between 20 and 30 Mork scholarships were offered and 14 accepted by the student (remember that the students offered these scholarships have many fine offers, often including Ivies, so not all will accept the offer of a USC scholarship).

    Careful observers on this forum over the last 4 or 5 years have looked at the number of interview slots available (about 1,000) and that there appears to be sufficient room for all interested candidates. Combined with the reported number of those accepting scholarships (see the linked freshman profile) the regulars here have come up with a very good estimate of about 800 to 1,000 invited to interview.

    Hope this helps explain it!
  • madbeanmadbean Registered User Posts: 3,241 Senior Member
    rgosula, each year they will offer the scholarships to more students than will ultimately accept them. Some years they may over or underestimate the number matriculating, but they seem to get it remarkably close year after year. To get the real scoop, take a look at the 2 most recent years and the actual (not projected) numbers:

    Fall 2013 Entering Freshman Class -- New freshmen 2,922

    USC Mork Family Scholars (full tuition + stipend): 14
    Stamps Leadership Scholars (full tuition + stipend): 5
    USC Trustee Scholars (full tuition): 117

    Total full tuition merit awards: 136

    USC Presidential Scholars (half tuition): 353
    National Merit Scholars (half tuition): 249

    Total 1/2 tuition merit awards: 602

    USC Dean’s Scholars (quarter tuition): 156
    Recipients of other USC merit scholarships: 50


    Fall 2012 Entering Freshman Class - New freshmen 3,021

    USC Mork Family Scholars (full tuition + stipend): 20
    Stamps Leadership Scholars (full tuition + stipend): 5
    USC Trustee Scholars (full tuition): 114

    Total full tuition merit awards: 139

    USC Presidential Scholars (half tuition): 366
    National Merit Scholars (half tuition): 251

    Total 1/2 tuition merit awards: 617

    USC Dean’s Scholars (quarter tuition): 100
    Recipients of other USC merit scholarships: 75

    I think those numbers are very close to my rough estimates but, in any case, they are meant to give a general idea.
  • CorinthianCorinthian Registered User Posts: 1,793 Senior Member
    Curious: do the 353 Presidential Scholars include the 249 National Merit Scholars, or are they in addition to the NM's?
  • madbeanmadbean Registered User Posts: 3,241 Senior Member
    That's a great question, and one that I've not seen officially answered. I took the leap and added the two together in my post above because it's my guess that about 500 or more are invited to interview for the Presidential. And I would speculate that about 400 of those are offered the award, while perhaps 100+ Trustee interviewees are also offered Pres. Since the number of posted scholars is those who matriculated, I do think a yield of 350 attending from ~500 awards offered could seem a bit high, but would it be as low as ~100?
  • alamemomalamemom Registered User Posts: 6,389 Senior Member
    Like madbean, I have not seen/heard any official answer to that question. I tend to think that many of the NM scholarships are accounted for in the Trustee, Mork, Stamps and Presidential totals because of the notation on the freshman profile that:
    Nearly 25% of the 2013 entering freshman class
    received a merit-based scholarship from USC
    http://www.usc.edu/admission/undergraduate/apply/documents/FreshmanProfile2013FINAL.pdf
    If the NM totals are added together with the others, the percent of merit scholarships compared to the entering freshman class exceeds 25% (944/2922= 32.3%). It makes sense to me that at least some of the NM scholarships are accounted for in the other totals - not just the Presidential total - because those are some VERY qualified students!

    But it is only conjecture on my part!
  • Georgia GirlGeorgia Girl Registered User Posts: 3,771 Senior Member
    This is a new scholarship for a freshmen student entering the USC School of Dramatic Arts.
    The size of this scholarship was not included in the article, but the scholarship is called the Zobelein Endowed Scholarship. It is to be awarded to an incoming freshmen each year beginning in fall of 2014.

    Mr. Zobelein is an alumnus of USC. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. Most of his interests have been in the field of the performing arts.
  • CorinthianCorinthian Registered User Posts: 1,793 Senior Member
    edited January 2014
    Madbean, I was reading your thread on interviewing tips and I had a question which seemed to more properly belong on this thread. It sounds to me like one's odds of being asked to interview are decreased if you apply undecided. Would you agree?

    My D (currently a junior) really is undecided right now. Maybe that will change by this Fall. But I'm thinking that she's better off stating an intended major than applying undecided. Assuming she picks a major and is lucky enough to be asked to interview, are you in any way locked in to that major? She is thinking of possibly being premed (maybe biochemistry or chemistry?) but it's far from a firm decision. Thanks as usual for your thoughtful input.
  • MerlinTheCatMerlinTheCat Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    edited January 2014
    Hi All,

    I have been lurking on this thread for a while and thought I might be able to shed some light on the number of NMF and scholarships.

    First off, thank for all the great information and research that you all do it is fabulous!

    When I looked up the freshman profile for 2013, it reads as follows:

    Fall 2013 Entering Freshman Class -- New freshmen 2,922

    USC Mork Family Scholars (full tuition + stipend): 14
    Stamps Leadership Scholars (full tuition + stipend): 5
    USC Trustee Scholars (full tuition): 117

    USC Presidential Scholars (half tuition): 353

    USC Dean’s Scholars (quarter tuition): 156

    Recipients of other USC merit scholarships: 50

    National Merit Scholars: 249

    This data does NOT denote which scholarships the NMF got.

    I think it would be safe to assume that the NMF are included in the Presidential, Stamps and Trustee totals.
  • GeorgeBaileyGeorgeBailey Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    Thank you everyone for all of the great information. I really appreciate people taking the time to help educate the rest of us. Waiting for mailman up here in San Francisco….
  • camomof3camomof3 Registered User Posts: 846 Member
    Corinthian-- It is very easy to switch majors within Dornsife-- you can start the process at check in at orientation! I do think it is advisable to pick a major that works with what you have done during high school (academics or EC's). It helps build a stronger story about who you are and where you are going. Whether you end up still liking the same stuff in college is another story and USC seems very open to kids changing their minds.
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