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USC Viterbi SHINE 2023 - Our Review

In today's competitive academic landscape, high school students are seeking unique ways to stand out in college applications. USC Viterbi's Summer High School Intensive in Next-Generation Engineering (SHINE) offers a solid opportunity to distinguish oneself by engaging in cutting-edge engineering research. This detailed guide will take you through every facet of the SHINE program, along with our review, allowing you to decide if it's worth the hype.

What is SHINE about?

SHINE is a pre-college program that provides high school students with 7weeks of hands-on experience in cutting-edge engineering research. Students have the opportunity to join a USC Viterbi professor's research team, delving into fields as diverse as biomedicine, robotics, aerospace, and more.

What sets SHINE apart is its emphasis on experiential learning – a 'learning by doing' approach that immerses students in real-world engineering challenges. Each student collaborates with an assigned professor and a dedicated mentor, typically a Ph.D. student or post-doctoral researcher.

This intensive mentorship ensures students receive personalized training in experimental lab work or computational research, promoting knowledge acquisition through active engagement. It's not a program of mere theoretical study but a platform for students to work on authentic and immersive lab projects within their chosen area of cutting-edge research.

Is it prestigious?

SHINE is a prestigious program that utilizes a competitive application process.It's important to note that this program’s associated fees may recognize itself as a program that is not solely based on academic and personal merit. However, while the program requires payment, it is not solely defined by its cost.

The opportunities associated with SHINE provide a wide array of invaluable research experiences that can uplift your background in STEM research. As mentioned earlier, aspects to consider such as mentorship, lab work, computational research, and experiential learning all aid in your resume as you consider applying to universities.

What is the acceptance rate for USC Viterbi’s SHINE?

The process strives to provide students with enriching research experiences. In the previous year, approximately 25% of applicants were accepted into the SHINE program.

What can I expect as a participant in SHINE?

Over seven weeks, students become integral members of a USC Viterbi professor's research team, delving into the diverse landscape of engineering applications, ranging from biomedicine to robotics and aerospace. Each student receives personalized guidance, working closely with an assigned professor and a dedicated mentor, often a Ph.D. student or post-doctoral researcher. This mentorship focuses on experiential learning, emphasizing hands-on involvement in experimental lab work and computational research.

Apart from research work, SHINE places a strong emphasis on community building. Weekly activities with the entire cohort create a close-knit network where students are not only exposed to the core principles and ethics of creating new knowledge but also engage in social and intellectual networking. They gain valuable insights into college preparation and gain extensive experience in science communication. It's more than just academic growth; it's a holistic approach to shaping the engineers of the future.

How am I assigned to a Lab?

In the Lab Placement process, applicants can specify their top three engineering research areas, such as Aerospace, Computer Science, or Electrical Engineering. They also can express interest in specific projects outlined by professors within these areas. While SHINE aims to accommodate preferences, it's important to note that lab availability may vary. Although there are no placement guarantees in the first, second, or third choice, every effort is made to find a suitable match for each student. Final selection for the summer research group is at the discretion of the professors leading the research. If a professor believes an applicant isn't the right fit for their group, the application may be forwarded to another professor to optimize placements.

What are the Key Dates for the 2024 Application Cycle?

  • Program Dates: SHINE 2024 will take place from June 10 to July 26, allowing students to immerse themselves in research during these seven weeks.

  • Application Status: The application process for SHINE 2024 will open soon, providing aspiring students a chance to participate.

  • Check out the timeline documents linked here!

  • For more information on the application process, see the "What are the eligibility requirements" section below or attend an information session!

What are the eligibility requirements?

To complete the online SHINE application, ensure you have the following elements prepared:

1. Pre-Qualifications:

  • Applicants must be a freshman, sophomores, or junior in high school.

  • You must commit to at least 20 hours per week from June 10 to July 26, 2024, for research on the USC campus.

  • Most research teams meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the flexibility to adjust schedules to accommodate students balancing SHINE with summer school or part-time work.

2. Academic Background:

  • Applicants should have a minimum GPA of 3.4 on a 4.0 unweighted scale.

3. Recommendations from STEM Teachers:

  • Two letters of recommendation are required from teachers who can discuss your qualifications in STEM fields and your readiness for a research team experience.

4. Personal Statement Section:

  • The personal statement is a key component of the application.

  • Respond to Prompt 1, covering a specific instance where you applied your STEM knowledge to solve a problem or realized the importance of research for your academic goals. You can address either or both.

5. Supplemental Material Section:

  • You can include one supplemental PDF showcasing your interest in research, such as an award, technical paper, lab report, or science fair essay.

6. Application Fee and Payment Information:

  • Be prepared to submit a $50 application fee.

  • The fee may be waived for students who meet specific income eligibility criteria by emailing proof before the deadline.

  • Payment options include online payments through a secure portal or mailing a check to USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

7. Important Dates and Deadlines:

  • Application Deadline: February 16, 2024.

  • Letter of Recommendation Deadline: February 28, 2024. It is recommended for recommendations to arrive by 2/26/2024.

Your application details will then be forwarded to professors for matching. If a professor finds an applicant unsuitable for their research group, the application may be reassigned to find the best match. Notifications of admission will be sent to applicants and their legal guardians usually within six to eight weeks, with some notifications potentially arriving earlier or later.

Are there scholarships available?

SHINE extends a limited number of scholarships for students capable of demonstrating their eligibility through financial need and strong academic performance. Qualification for these scholarships is assessed based on the following criteria:

  1. Financial need: This is established by presenting relevant documentation, such as proof of Title 1 status for students from public schools or a letter signed by a school principal outlining the student's financial need.

  2. Application sections: The application includes dedicated sections for expressing the need for a scholarship and uploading the required documents to verify the applicant's eligibility based on financial need.

Academic Excellence and Pathways to Top Engineering Schools

SHINE graduates don't just use their program experience to get into top schools like USC Viterbi, MIT, Harvard, CalTech, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, UPenn, and others. They apply the skills gained to work on impactful projects, showcasing these achievements in their applications. Their success highlights how SHINE doesn't just offer knowledge but also practical abilities that set students apart in the academic world.

Pros and Cons to Consider When Applying


  • You will gain hands-on experience in cutting-edge engineering research This program allows you to apply your STEM knowledge to real-world problems and acquire valuable practical skills.

  • The program expects you to engage in close-knit community and intellectual networking Building strong connections with peers and mentors while preparing for college and enhancing your communication skills is a key factor in this program.

  • You will receive personalized mentorship Working closely with professors and researchers fosters experiential learning and helps you develop confidence and competence in engineering.

  • The program has led to positive admission outcomes for its participants The program has a strong track record of alums gaining admission to prestigious engineering schools and universities, demonstrating its effectiveness in nurturing future engineering leaders.


  • It may not cater to your interests Lab placement is not guaranteed, and preferences may only sometimes align with available opportunities, potentially resulting in students not getting their first or second-choice research areas.

  • It's a very competitive process The competitive application process means that not all aspiring students will be accepted, which can lead to disappointment and a sense of missed opportunity.

  • Financial aid is limited The $50 application fee may be a barrier for some students, and while fee waivers are available, the financial aspect could still hinder those who need to meet the eligibility criteria.

  • There is a large time commitment Participation requires a substantial time commitment of at least 20 hours per week over seven weeks, which may conflict with other summer activities or work, limiting flexibility for some students.

Our Review of USC Viterbi’s SHINE

If you're a high school student with a passion for STEM and a desire to make a meaningful difference, USC Viterbi's SHINE program might be the gateway to your future in engineering. With the program's emphasis on experiential learning, supportive mentorship, and access to top-notch research projects, it's worth considering SHINE as a solid step in your educational journey. Explore the possibilities, uncover the potential, and get ready to shine.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on various topics in STEM, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Tenzing Dolma is a Masters student specializing in research following the Nechung Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelors in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is currently completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!

Image Source: SHINE logo


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