Resources for Student Veterans at USC

Each year, the University of Southern California admits student veterans from all branches of the military to our incoming freshman and transfer classes. In order to best accommodate their transition to and success here on campus, the school and its campus partners provide a number of different resources to address the academic, financial, social, or professional needs of this important population of USC students.

Departmental Supports

Since 2014, the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) has worked to support student veterans in all endeavors of college life ranging from outreach and admission all the way to graduation and job seeking. The center is a collaboration between multiple student affairs and administrative divisions and serves the nearly 1,200 veterans who enroll in USC classes each semester. The VRC provides students with a study space and access to computers and opportunities to socialize with fellow student veterans, check in with veterans certifying officers, find out about on-campus services, and participate in programs, such as the advisement luncheons offered at the beginning of the semester. The month of November heralds USC Military Appreciation Week, in which student veterans can receive professional advice (resumes, cover letters, networking and interviews), attend a job recruitment fair, enjoy catered luncheons, and receive complimentary tickets for sporting events!

Across campus, USC staff members in various academic and student affairs departments serve as direct contact points for student veterans to address any specific questions or requests that they may have as they navigate their educational journey. This includes the Career Center, the Office of Religious Life, Disability Services and Programs, the Counseling Center, and so on. Additionally, each of the admission counselors in the USC Office of Admission are able to answer general questions about the application and transfer credit processes. Admission counselors are assigned to applicants based on the high school they graduated from or the post-secondary institution they enrolled in pre- or post-military service.

Clubs & Organizations

To help student veterans make connections and build their social and professional networks both during and beyond their time at USC, there are multiple student and alumni associations to join. The USC Veterans Association is a student organization composed of undergraduate and graduate students and keep members informed of various opportunities and resources. On their active Facebook page, students can find out about upcoming social events and workshops, job openings and research opportunities, and apply for leadership positions within the group. The Marshall Military Veterans Association is a group for student veterans pursuing their MBA at the Marshall School of Business. In an effort to provide ongoing supports for student veterans as they transition to USC, the USC Student Veterans Support Network was created to help current and former students, staff and faculty connect with students. Lastly, the USC Alumni Veterans Network is open to all USC alumni who are veterans and are interested in staying involved with the Trojan Family long after graduation.

Financial Benefits

In addition to their GI benefits, student veterans have access to the same scholarships and financial aid resources utilized by all USC students. USC’s Office of Financial Aid and the Veterans Certification Office work with military veterans to help them understand their educational benefits, along with providing assistance with financial aid and other funding. They have also created an eight-minute video that explains this process more in-depth. USC is proud to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is open to post-9/11 GI Bill recipients and covers up to one-half of tuition and mandatory fees that are matched dollar for dollar by the VA. The Schoen Family Scholarship Program for Veterans was established in 1986 by William J. Schoen, a former U.S. Marine and USC alumnus (’60, MBA ’63), to provide additional funding for student veterans at USC. This scholarship is available to new and continuing students in the Marshall School of Business and the Viterbi School of Engineering who have served a minimum of three years of continuous, full-time, active duty in the previous ten years.

Research & Practice

In concert with meeting the needs of our student veterans on campus, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) is also committed to being at the forefront of research, education, and outreach for all veterans and their families. The CIR conducts a wide range of research projects, provides training seminars to behavioral health providers and clinicians, and works with community partners to address the issues that face today’s veterans and military families.

Student Perspective

Cesar Jimenez Jr., a transfer student from Pasadena City College, served 26 years in the Air Force and recently completed his first semester at USC as a Sociology and Non-Governmental Organizations and Social Change double major. “USC’s connection with the ROTC and military, along with the Veterans Resource Center” are some of the factors that initially attracted him to USC. He recommends that prospective student veterans attend the transfer student luncheons hosted by the VRC in order to meet with current students who will share their experiences on campus (Cesar attended two such events prior to applying). As applicants to the university, Cesar feels that veterans “have a competitive advantage because of their life experience, leadership experience, they have been given major responsibilities, and know what is expected of them [as students].” He is especially thankful for the resources that he has been able to access through the Disability Services and Programs office due to a traumatic brain injury he sustained during his service. This office, along with understanding professors, have enabled him to utilize the accommodations he needs to “be able to compete with an even playing field” and complete his first semester of college as successfully as he did.

USC is grateful for the sacrifices that our student veterans and their families have made to defend our country and we look forward to best supporting them as members of our campus community and the Trojan Family.

I’m Not a QuestBridge Match, What Does This Mean?

This time of year can be stressful if you’re a high school senior. You’re trying to successfully balance school work, your home life, and college applications. Some of you applied to USC through the QuestBridge National College Match process, but have recently been notified that you were not selected in the match. Not being a match with the college you wanted can be disappointing, but you should be very proud of all the work that it took for you to apply through QuestBridge, considering that this process requires that you be a bit more transparent and vulnerable about your background and story. If you ranked USC as one of your colleges, rest assured that we took the time to thoroughly review your QuestBridge application; we took the time to get to know you, your story, and your accomplishments. However, this process is extremely competitive and if you were not selected as a match that doesn’t mean that we didn’t like your application – it just means that we have a very limited number of spots for QuestBridge matches.

The good news is if you applied through the QuestBridge process and ranked USC for the College Match but did not match to a binding college we will automatically move your entire application into the USC Regular Decision process. You will want to submit an updated official transcript that includes recent grades, official test scores if you have new scores to report, and a midyear report once your fall semester grades are available. Having already submitted all of your application materials before our December 1st scholarship deadline means that you will also be considered for USC Merit Scholarships that are awarded through the USC Office of Admission.

If you applied through the QuestBridge process and did NOT rank USC you will have to do the following: you will have to use the QuestBridge Regular Decision form found on your Application Management page to select USC and have your QuestBridge application forwarded. The deadline to complete the QuestBridge Regular Decision form is December 11th. Once you have completed that form you will also have to submit the following materials: the Common Application and USC Writing Supplement, an official high school transcript, official SAT or ACT test scores, and a midyear report once your fall semester grades are available. The USC first-year deadline for submitting your application is January 15th.

As someone who did not rank USC in the QuestBridge process, you will also have to submit the appropriate financial aid materials. You will have to submit the following: the 2018-2019 CSS/Financial Aid Profile, 2016 federal tax returns and W-2 forms, the 2018-2019 FAFSA, and the USC Parent Income and Expense Form. If you are an AB-540 eligible California resident you will also have to submit the Dream Act application instead of the FAFSA. The USC financial aid deadline is February 13th.  You want to make sure that you submit all of your financial aid materials by the deadline to ensure that you are fully considered for financial aid. At USC, we meet each student’s full demonstrated financial need – this means that your financial aid package will cover the full cost of attendance through loans, grants, and work study.

We understand that paying college application fees can get expensive – if you feel that paying the application fee will be a financial hardship for you and your family, you can select the fee waiver payment option on the Common Application. All you have to submit to be granted the fee waiver is a letter from your counselor verifying that paying the application fee would be a financial hardship for you.

All of this information can also be found on the QuestBridge website. If you find this process confusing or have questions about what you need to submit please do not hesitate to contact the USC Office of Admission – you can contact your USC admission counselor and they will be more than happy to make sure that you are submitting all of the appropriate materials.

If you are a QuestBridge Finalist and are admitted to USC through our regular decision process, we want to ensure that you feel supported and part of the USC community. Scholars are coming from all across the country and are bringing their incredible achievements, talents, and experiences to campus where they have the opportunity to connect with other amazing Scholars through the USC QuestBridge Scholars Group. All students that are QuestBridge Finalists and are admitted to USC, as a Match or through our regular decision process, are welcome to join the USC QuestBridge Scholars group. This group puts on a variety of events throughout the year to bring Scholars together, events like a Welcome Back BBQ at the beginning of the school year, mixers, mentoring opportunities, and study days during finals with free food! At USC we have the largest chapter of QuestBridge Scholars which means that you will always have resources and a support system available to you.

BY: Maria Rodriguez
Senior Assistant Director of Admission

Student Highlight: Merit Scholar, Hima Rajana

Over the past few weeks our office has hosted a group of newly admitted students who are being considered for a merit scholarship. We wanted to highlight Hima Rajana, a sophomore and scholarship recipient from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is pursuing a degree in Neuroscience with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Computer Programming. This year, Hima is involved in the Trojan Scholars Society (TSS) as the Director of Service. Apart from TSS, Hima is involved with the USC Helenes, a spirit and service organization, serving as one of the official hostesses of the university. She is also a counselor with USC Troy Camp, a USC Dornsife Ambassador, a trip lead with Peaks and Professors, and a research assistant at the Brain and Creativity Center. In her free time, she enjoys conquering LA’s mountains, dreaming up endless combinations of sweet and savory oatmeal, and looking up photos of cute dogs.
-Natalie Guevara

January 26th, 2015.
I was running late to a meeting, and annoyed that my mother was making me get the mail before I left, so I didn’t think much of the big red package that took up most of our mailbox. My college applications had been done for a couple of months, and all there was left to do until March was wait. As I handed the mail to my mother in the garage, something made me stop and take a closer look at the package emblazoned with the University of Southern California seal. I ripped it open and skimmed the letter, my heart racing as I began to comprehend what this meant. I was in!! And even better, in the running for a scholarship! My mom and I squealed as we hugged each other, flipping through all of the shining pamphlets about all of the different programs at USC.
Three semesters into my time at USC, I could not be more grateful for that red envelope, because I wouldn’t have been able to come to USC without my scholarship. Every day, I am reminded of how lucky I am to attend this school. During my freshman year, I had the opportunity to live in Birnkrant Honors Residential College. As a scholarship student, from the orientation onwards, you are automatically a part of Trojan Scholars Society (TSS). TSS exists to serve the merit scholar community, from providing fun social opportunities, like attending movie screenings or scholarship retreats on Catalina Island, to platforms to serve the South Los Angeles community, like with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. TSS also hosts academic events to help scholars receive individualized attention with their resumes and cover letters, get involved in research, and prepare them uniquely for the real world.
Living at Birnkrant, I was surrounded by an incredibly diverse, bright, and motivated group of people at all times. This prompted thought-provoking late night conversations on everything from health as a social construct and the #Oscarssowhite hashtag to a meta-analysis of every contestant that had ever been eliminated from the Bachelor. We often congregated in the multi purpose room downstairs to watch some of the football away games, do homework, or participate in the trivia nights the residential assistants put on for us. Not to mention, I can now check living above a Starbucks off my bucket list! My freshman year was full of new experiences, including my first all-nighter for a biology lab report (do not recommend this!) and my first football game.
One of my favorite things about USC is its commitment to being a global university. Spending one full semester abroad is a huge commitment, and not everyone can do so because of their major, summer plans, or financially. However, USC has myriad opportunities to travel that are shorter than the full semester, such as our Maymester and Problems without Passports programs, which are about one month in length. In addition to (hopefully) studying abroad next year, I have had the opportunity to go abroad twice thus far. This March, I’ll be spending spring break at Oxford University through the Levan Institute for Ethics and Humanities, attending a conference on human rights after conflict.
Last summer, I took a Problems without Passports course on culture and health in Guatemala with Dr. Quinn. Problems without Passports courses are centered around problem-based learning, through which you conduct a research project to craft a solution to a societal problem in the country you’re studying in. As a scholarship student, I was able to combine my exceptional funding units with a summer undergraduate research fund grant to get my trip fully funded. Exceptional funding consists of up to 8 additional units of classes that are covered by your scholarship. This allows a lot of people to take summer courses, or take on additional units during the school year.
Throughout my time in Guatemala, I learned about health care through multiple lenses, from attending lectures on public health to touring hospitals. My trip to Guatemala made me aware of the importance of preventative measures of health, like education and access to contraception, and how these could often address the roots of the problems that doctors were struggling to treat, such as diabetes. I realized that there are more paths to working in healthcare than becoming a doctor. Growing up in Silicon Valley, I was quick to embrace the power of technology and declare a computer programming minor in college. This year, I have had the opportunity to delve further into my minor, and have learned how to code in C++ and Python. As I learn more about databases and the different structures in C++, I am more and more enthusiastic about the role of data science in health. The idea of medicine providing personalized information on how each individual responds to is absolutely fascinating to me. In the future, I hope to combine global health with data science to analyze the efficacy of public health interventions.
Looking back, my two years at USC have been some of the most exciting of my life. By taking advantage of the many opportunities here at USC, I have met incredible people, traveled around the world, and grown in ways I never thought possible. If I could go back in time and do it again, I would, 100 times over. Fight on!
-Hima Rajana