Thank you for your interest in USC Viterbi’s Summer High School Intensive in Next-Generation Engineering – SHINE – program. Our program is designed for aspiring high school students with a strong academic record in STEM and research. This is a non-residential program; students from any school are welcome if they have a place to stay within commuting distance.

Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to have ready before you sit down to complete the online SHINE application; prepare these documents in advance, because it’s best to complete the application in one sitting. If you have questions, please review our FAQ page or contact us.

For your convenience, here is a printable PDF of this checklist: SHINE19 Application Checklist

Please also consider attending our information session on February 23.


Each applicant must be a rising sophomore, junior or senior in high school by fall semester, 2019, and needs to be willing to participate in lab research on the USC campus for at least 20 hours per week between June 17 – August 2, 2019, attending the cohort lunches each Friday for additional programming. Each lab will suggest the hours, days, and the amount of time for the SHINE student to participate, giving the SHINE student family as well as the USC professor’s research team the opportunity to discuss and adjust availability for a mutually agreed-upon schedule. This individualized agreement works best for students balancing SHINE and summer school or a part-time job.

Contact Information and Academic Background

  • You will be asked to provide contact information for you and your guardians (email, street address, phone). Please note that all follow-up communications will be sent to the legal guardian of the student applicant as well as to the applicant. (Divorced or separated parents with joint custody should each be listed on the application with contact info.)
  • We ask that you upload your unofficial academic transcripts as a PDF. We are looking for applicants who have a GPA of 3.4 or higher on a 4.0 (unweighted) scale.
  • Test scores (SAT, PSAT, ACT) are not required, but if you have them, the scores help us place you in the most appropriate lab. Please be prepared to upload a PDF of your latest results, so download the report issued by the testing organization to have it ready to add to the online SHINE application.

Your Research Preferences, Personal Statement and Supporting Materials

We recommend you begin these action items as soon as you’re interested in applying to SHINE. These steps require planning and careful thought:

  • Two letters of recommendation are required, both from teachers who discuss your academic qualifications in science, technology, engineering and/or math as well as your readiness to participate responsibly and somewhat independently in a research lab for seven full weeks.
    • Start talking to your teachers well in advance about your interest in SHINE and research. Please arrange for your letter writers to submit their letters of recommendation to with the subject line: “SHINE19 recommendation for LAST NAME_FIRST NAME” (for example, “SHINE19 recommendation for SMITH_JANE”). These letters must be received by the deadline for your application to be considered complete–that is Jan. 31 for early admission and March 4 for regular admission.
    • Before you begin the online application, be sure to have the names, title, and email addresses of your two recommenders.
    • A third letter of recommendation is optional; follow the same guidelines.
  • On the application, you’ll need to rank your top three preferences for the types of engineering research teams you would like to join. Please know that availability in each lab can vary; although we cannot promise you will be placed in your first or second choice, we will do our best to match you well. You can find out more about each of USC Viterbi’s academic departments here. Take a look at the 2016 SHINE students discussing their research as well as their final posters to get an idea of the projects.
  • Your personal statement gives us the chance to know you better, to find out why you’re interested in doing research at USC Viterbi School of Engineering over your summer vacation. Please put some time and effort into your personal statement as it is a key document in the professor’s decision to accept you in his/her lab.
    • In 500 words or less, write about a specific time when you used your STEM knowledge to solve a problem and a specific time when you realized that research was key to your future academic goals. Please take note: Statements with over 500 words will be disqualified from consideration. Please name your file: LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_PERSONAL STATEMENT and make sure your first and last name are also on all documents, which need to be in pdf format.
    • In your statement, be sure to review the types of research projects that will be open this summer and discuss any two or three of them to let us know how they most engage you. This is key to helping place you in the optimal lab.
  • You are also welcome to add one supplemental PDF that showcases your interest in research, e.g., an award, a technical paper, lab report, science fair essay, etc.
  • Additionally, please be prepared to submit the $35 application fee by the application deadline. Applications will not be processed until the fee and all materials are received.
    • To pay by credit card, please visit our our secure payment portal.
    • To pay by check, please make the payment out to the University of Southern  California. (Do not make out the check to SHINE). And send the check to:
      c/o Dr. Katie Mills
      USC Viterbi VAST Program
      1042 Downey Way, Denney Research Building #254
      Los Angeles, CA 90089-1111


We pass the applicant’s dossier on to the professor as soon as the application is complete (i.e., when materials are in, including teacher recommendations, etc.; note that this often takes longer than applicants realize); then the professor takes 1 – 5 weeks to decide, depending on the his/her travel and teaching schedule – we will do our best to accelerate this process. Notification of admission will occur via email to the applicant and her/his legal guardian, and admitted students must confirm their participation in SHINE and complete the $1,000 deposit within 2 weeks to secure their spot in SHINE.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Katie Mills,, 213­‐740‐0237