Our Story

The Need

Overcome Challenges

The USC Bovard Scholars program exists to help talented students from low-income families overcome challenges such as:


Limited access to college counseling at public schools due to systemic problems in the U.S. educational system

Belief that attending a highly selective university is unaffordable

Difficulty navigating the complex admissions process

Figuring out how to connect career aspirations to academic majors

Finding the best college for their specific needs and interests

Limited access to tools and resources which ensure their success in college and beyond

Our Approach

We encourage students to aim higher

Many outstanding students from educationally and economically under-resourced communities do not even apply to the nation’s best universities — despite the extreme likelihood not only of being admitted but also of receiving generous financial aid that often makes it less expensive than attending less-selective colleges.

Some 72 percent of students in America’s most competitive higher education institutions are from the top socioeconomic quartile, while only 3 percent hail from the bottom quartile, according to research from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

“High-achieving students who attend more selective schools graduate at higher rates, earn higher incomes, and are more likely to pursue a graduate degree. In other words, where you go to school matters.”

USC Bovard Scholars is designed to help level the playing field, encourage underserved students to aim higher and provide the support necessary to hit that target.

We are here to bolster an overburdened guidance system

The average ratio of high school students to guidance counselors in California public schools is an alarming 760 to 1, according to a 2015 report from the American Counseling Association. Students may receive only minutes of time with their drastically overworked counselors.

Further, increasing numbers of students from families unable to afford private college counseling are basically abandoned without a chart for steering their futures. What are general education requirements? What does it mean to declare a major? How does university differ from high school? Which majors are best for what careers? These and other crucial questions go unanswered at many high schools.

Coaches for USC Bovard Scholars provide the one-on-one guidance essential to helping you understand and navigate the complex college admissions process.

We help define dreams and make them reality

How do we expect young people to dream if they don’t know what to dream about? It is increasingly challenging for students to identify, assess and act upon their career options as they plan for college and their ultimate futures.

Opportunities for career exploration give high schoolers broader exposure to the working world they will one day enter, while helping them align their career goals with the appropriate academic pathways to help achieve them. Career exploration experiences and opportunities also have been shown to improve academic performance and persistence, motivating students to graduate with the skills they need for continued success in their careers and lives.

For all of these reasons and more, career exploration and planning is a pivotal component of the USC Bovard Scholars program.

We listen to students

In a Pell Institute study, first-generation college-bound students identified three crucial steps along the pipeline that were most helpful in successfully transitioning from high school to college:

    • Raising aspirations for college — including connecting academic pursuits to job and career interests, and perceiving themselves as college material
    • Navigating the college admissions process — including starting early, taking it step by step, learning how to pay and getting the family involved
    • Easing the initial transition to college by preparing academically, being acclimated to the college environment and helping students manage the financial aspects of higher education

This study echoed our own conversations with first-generation college students, and we built the USC Bovard Scholars program specifically to address these concerns and opportunities.

“Do not miss out on a wonderful experience. Not only do you leave feeling like you learned so much, but you leave with a huge network of people who care about you, and want you to succeed.”

—Rhondaya Fishburne, ‘17 Bovard Scholar, now at the University of Southern California