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Office of Undergraduate Admissions

  • Honors students on the horseshoe with an overlaid stamp stating "Nation's Best Public University Honors College"

Honors & Scholars Programs

Carolina Elite is a group of specialized programs within the University of South Carolina designed for high-achieving students. Home to three invitation-only programs — Top Scholars, Honors College and Capstone Scholars — Carolina Elite is a distinguished academic opportunity like no other.

Carolina Elite Programs


Applying to Carolina Elite Programs

After you submit your general university application, you may receive an invitation to apply to the South Carolina Honors College and our Top Scholars Award program. If you’re not automatically invited, you may contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at to request access to the Honors College application.

You are automatically considered for Capstone Scholars when you apply for freshman admission. No separate application materials are required for review. 


Required Materials

The following materials are required for admission consideration to the South Carolina Honors College and Top Scholars Award program.

You'll provide your high school courses/grades for your senior year only, choose your  major, complete the essay, and list your extracurricular activities, honors and awards. You will also decide whether you want us to consider your ACT / SAT scores in the review process.

All information submitted with your application will be used to determine admission and merit-based scholarship award decisions. For more information on the freshman application visit our freshman application page.

We recommend submitting your general USC Application or Common App by the Oct. 15 Early Action deadline if applying to the Honors College. This will allow you more time to complete the application and essays.

Regardless of which application you select, you must pay the non-refundable $65 application fee or use an ACT, College Board, NACAC, SCOIR or Common App application fee waiver, if eligible.

If you have an application fee waiver, upload it on the payment page before submitting the application.

Upload a legible unofficial copy of your high school transcript in JPG or PDF format. After you submit the application, we’ll review your uploaded transcript and let you know if we need an official one. The unofficial transcript must list grades through the end of your junior year and include your full name and high school name. Do not send an official high school transcript to the admissions office unless it is requested.

If you already graduated from high school, request to have your official transcript sent to USC’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Don't forget to list your senior year courses and credits on the application. You must list the exact amount of credit (full, half, trimester) for each course. You will also need to list all dual enrollment courses you are taking.

USC is test-optional for the spring, summer and fall 2025 terms. This means you are not required to submit SAT and / or ACT scores for admission to the University, South Carolina Honors College admission, or merit scholarship consideration. You will select “Yes” or “No” on the general application to indicate whether you want us to review your test scores as part of the admission process.

If you choose to report your scores on the general application, enter the highest scores for the ACT composite and / or the SAT total. If you took either test more than once, we will superscore using all tests taken. 

USC’s deadline for receipt of test scores is based on the credential deadline associated with your application type. If test scores are received by the credentials deadline, your application will be considered on a space-available basis. We require official scores only if you enroll in USC. Our SAT code is 5818 and our ACT code is 3880.

Review frequently asked questions about USC's test-optional policy. 

Students should answer a “yes / no” question on the general application to indicate their interest in applying to the South Carolina Honors College. The separate Honors College application will be added to the USC Admissions Portal approximately 48 hours after submitting the freshman application. Students will receive an email from our office once the application is available.

Students who originally answered “no” on the freshman application and change their minds may email to request access to the Honors College application.

The South Carolina Honors College application prompts will be available in early August.

A letter of recommendation is required by the Dec. 1 credentials deadline. There are two ways to submit the letter:

  • Your high school counselor can submit the letter on your behalf via a secure electronic service (including the Common App, Scoir and Naviance). This is our preferred method. 
  • Your recommender may email the letter to

Helpful Hints:

  • Ask someone who knows you best to write on your behalf. Recommenders can include teachers, school counselors, coaches, community leaders and even employers.
  • Only one letter of recommendation will be considered during the review process.
  • Please ask your recommender to only submit your letter once.


Important Dates

  • October 15 deadline

    Early Action Application Deadline

    Apply by Oct. 15 to get an early admissions decision.

  • November 15 deadline

    Honors College Application Deadline

    Apply by Nov. 15  to be considered for Top Scholars awards and the South Carolina Honors College.

  • December 1

    Application Credentials Deadline

    Send in all required materials by Dec. 1 to complete your application for admission.

Honors College admission notifications will be issued by mid-February. Official notifications are sent via email. If you are named a Top Scholar Candidate, you will be invited to participate in a mandatory interview weekend. Notifications for these awards will be mailed in late January.

Capstone Scholars invitations are released in March.


Application Review

The South Carolina Honors College and Top Scholar review is a holistic process that evaluates aspects from the student's application including, but not limited to, academic achievement, leadership potential, a commitment to serving others, intellectual curiosity, high school course rigor, interest in the university and a letter of recommendation.


Academic Profile

These ranges reflect the middle 50% of students who were admitted in 2024 and give you a general idea of where you fall within each academic range.

Top Scholars Honors College Capstone Scholars
4.7 - 5.4 HS GPA 4.5 - 5.1 HS GPA 4.3 - 4.9 HS GPA
1% - 2% Class Rank * 1% - 5% Class Rank * 3% - 14% Class Rank *
1520 - 1570 SAT 1430 - 1530 SAT 1340 - 1430 SAT
34 - 36 ACT 32 - 35 ACT 30 - 32 ACT

* Class rank ranges only include students whose high school provides a ranking.


After You Apply

You can check your application status on your USC Admissions Portal. You can also request changes to your application. Once we've made a decision on your application, you will receive an email instructing you to check your portal.

USC Admissions Portal

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