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Graduate School

Rising Star Fellowship

The Rising Star Fellowship strives to increase diversity in the graduate school ranks by recruiting students from South Carolina's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Rising Star Fellows receive funding to offset the cost of tuition, health insurance and other associated fees.

The Award

Program Purpose & Aim

Through state-wide partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Rising Star Fellowship provides funding for HBCU students to pursue their graduate degrees at the University of South Carolina. Rising Star Fellows represent some of the brightest academic talent in our state. Through this program, the university strives to increase diversity in the graduate school ranks by encouraging these top scholars to remain in South Carolina for graduate study. The program is open to students pursuing Master’s and Specialist Degrees at USC.


As Rising Star Fellows, students will receive full tuition and fees, a full health insurance subsidy, and an annual stipend of $5000 per year for up to two years of enrollment in a USC graduate program.


  • The applicant enrolls in a 4+1 program or 3+2 program that is a partnership between the HBCU and USC.
  • The applicant enrolls in a Master's or Specialist degree program. Students enrolled in the following professional doctorate programs are also eligible: Doctor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Nursing Practice, and the Educational Doctorate.  All degree programs must fall under the purview of the Graduate School. All fellowships, regardless of degree only provide 2-years of funding.
  •  RSF Awards must be used to obtain master’s, specialists, or professional doctorate degrees only. 
  •  The applicant has received or will receive their undergraduate degree from a South Carolina Historically Black College or University (HBCU).
  •  The applicant enrolls full-time as a graduate student (if not in a 4+1 or 3+2 program) for summer or fall admission only.
  • The applicant is a new student and has been admitted for Summer or Fall 2023.

Program Requirements

  • Full-Time Enrollment
  • Remain in Good Academic Standing
  • Participate in the Rising Star Fellowship Cohort Experience
  • Attend Professional Development Workshops Each Semester
  • Complete Program of Study in 1-2 Years


  • Graduate Directors must nominate prospective fellows for the fellowship after they have been admitted to their graduate program. Graduate directors will then be responsible for submitting a funding recommendation request through the CollegeNet ADMIT system.
  • Academic Colleges will be limited to no more than four Rising Star Fellowships at any given time. While four awards per college is the set maximum, this number is not a guarantee. The awarding of fellowships will be contingent upon the availability of funds. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that one college will receive as many as four fellowships.
  • All master’s degree programs at the University of South Carolina can nominate RSF applicants. However, priority consideration is given to programs with no current RSF awardees during the current academic year. The selection committee will also consider the equitable distribution of awards across academic disciplines.

Application & Selection Process


RSF Fellowship applications will be accepted for two rounds in the Spring semester of each academic year.

  • Deadline 1: February 1st
  • Deadline 2: March 15th

Instructions for Graduate Directors/Nominating Departments

Nominations should be submitted by the Graduate Director. The Graduate Director is responsible for working with the student nominee to obtain all required materials. We encourage nominating departments to identify potential Rising Star Fellows early and to quickly make students aware of the nomination to secure any additional materials that may be needed from the student to complete the nomination. Graduate Directors can share the RSF website with potential students to ensure students are aware of the award details, deadlines, and required materials.

Required Nomination Materials
  • Resume (highlighting academic and professional achievements/experiences).
  • Personal Statement (highlighting community engagement, professional, and leadership activities. This statement can be extracted from the graduate admissions application, or you may ask nominees to write a brief supplemental statement to highlight their civic engagement, leadership activities, and professional achievements if those experiences are not reflected in the required admission documents).
  • Letters of Recommendation (should include all recommendations from the nominee’s graduate admissions application submitted).
  • Department Funding Letter and Funding Table (sample provided).
Optional Nomination Materials
  • Nominees should be notified of the opportunity to submit an updated resume and/or brief supplemental statement highlighting their civic and community engagement, leadership activities, and professional achievements/experiences. The graduate director will be responsible for collecting the supplemental materials to submit within the nomination portal.
Selection Committee

Applicants will be reviewed by a selection committee convened by the Graduate School. Members of the selection committee are drawn from colleges and units across the university. The RSF Selection Committee utilizes holistic evaluation practices and will prioritize evidence of applicant’s leadership development, professional experiences, civic and community engagement, and academic excellence.

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