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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 supplement.

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 first and second-choice  majors, 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.

We are test-optional for the spring, summer and fall 2024 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 super score 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 supplement 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 supplement 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 supplement.

Personal interest statement: Share why you are specifically interested in joining the South Carolina Honors College. Consider the unique opportunities and resources the Honors College provides and how they align with your academic and personal goals. Discuss how you envision yourself contributing to and benefiting from the collaborative and engaging community that makes up the South Carolina Honors College. (150-300 words)

Thinking essay: The South Carolina Honors College seeks students who embody a deep intellectual curiosity and a passion for knowledge. Reflect on a specific academic experience or pursuit that has sparked your intellectual curiosity and had a significant impact on your personal growth. Describe how this experience has influenced your perspective, challenged your assumptions, or shaped your aspirations. Furthermore, explain how this intellectual curiosity drives you to explore new ideas, engage in critical thinking, and contribute to a diverse and vibrant intellectual community at the South Carolina Honors College. Provide concrete examples to support your reflections and convey the depth of your intellectual engagement. (500-1000 words)

Doing essay: Describe one of your most significant or personally meaningful leadership and involvement experiences outside the classroom. Reflect on your participation in an extracurricular activity, community service, club, organization, or any other initiative that has shaped your character and influenced your personal growth. Discuss the specific roles and responsibilities you undertook, the challenges you faced, and the lessons you learned through these experiences. How has this experience contributed to your development as a leader and helped you cultivate important skills such as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving? Please provide a specific example and anecdotes that showcase your passion, dedication, and capacity for growth, demonstrating how this outside-the-classroom experience has prepared you for meaningful contributions to the South Carolina Honors College community. (500-1000 words)

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 and have a complete application filed by Nov. 1 to get an early admissions decision.

  • November 15 deadline

    Honors College Supplement 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. Interviews will take place February 17-19 for S.C. residents and February 24-26 for nonresidents. 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 2023 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% - 3% Class Rank * 1% - 5% Class Rank * 4% - 16% Class Rank *
1520 - 1560 SAT ** 1430 - 1520 SAT ** 1340 - 1420 SAT **
34-35 ACT ** 32 - 34 ACT ** 30 - 32 ACT **

* Class rank ranges only include students whose high school provides a ranking.
**Test score ranges only include students who chose to have their test scores considered in the admission and scholarship process.


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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