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Leadership and Service Center

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Pillars for Carolina

This four-day summer program is designed for first-year students who want to explore Carolina and learn about student life before arriving on campus for the fall semester.


Get a head start on making Carolina home.

When you participate in Pillars for Carolina, you'll enjoy an unforgettable week of leadership and traditions while making lifelong friends. Registration opens in the spring and remains open until the program has reached full capacity.

Students who participate in the Pillars for Carolina program, which was founded in 2011, start their first year feeling more confident about life in the classroom, with a greater knowledge of campus and gain new friendships with student mentors, faculty and staff members.

Pillars Engage

A four-day program where participants will learn about campus, the ins-and-outs of Columbia, and themselves. Learn about yourself, your values, and finding your place at Carolina. Key events of this program include leadership development activities, an Amazing Race, learning traditions of Carolina, and meeting new friends.

Pillars Serves

A four-day program where participants will learn about the campus and local community through the lens of service. Learn about yourself, your values, and finding your place at Carolina. Key events of this program include leadership development activities, values exploration, meeting new friends, and service in the Columbia community.

Pillars Capstone Scholars

A four-day experience which provides a unique opportunity for incoming Capstone Scholars to get extra support as they transition into the Carolina community. We embrace the Capstone Scholars Program's commitment to experiential learning and use it to help students develop self-awareness, enhance relationships, and set goals in preparation for the fall semester.

Through Pillars Capstone Scholars, you will also have the opportunity to: spend three nights living in a residence hall, explore campus, volunteer with a local nonprofit, familiarize yourself with Columbia, and make new friends. This is a blend of activities from the Pillars Serves and Pillars Engage weeks.

To participate in this Pillars option, you must be a Capstone Scholar. Admissions sends notifications to students about the Capstone Scholars community in March. If you're unsure about whether you are a Capstone Scholar, reach out to


Participant Learning Outcomes 

  • Participants will develop a connection to the campus and community at Carolina
  • Participants will build meaningful relationships with first-year students and student mentors
  • Participants will reflect on personal values and identity
  • Participants will identify campus resources and opportunities


Common Questions about Pillars

All Pillars for Carolina programs cost $290

If you are interested in a need-based scholarship, please submit an application. Questions? Email

Once registration has been completed, refunds will not be provided.

Registrations will begin January 22, 2020  

Pillars Engage: July 14-17, 2020

Pillars Serves: July 21-24, 2020

Pillars Capstone Scholars: July 21-24, 2020

A Pillars XM is an eXtended orientation Mentor who is passionate about the Gamecock experience and working with incoming students. These mentors help facilitate program activities and lead small group discussions. They also assist students with questions or concerns. Many XMs also serve as a mentor throughout an incoming students’ first year.

Students will be housed at a residence hall on campus.

First-year students gain prior experience to college life before arriving in the fall. Students learn about valuable resources that are offered on campus and begin to create a network of friendships with fellow students who will also be attending in the fall.

Pillars for Carolina and New Student Orientation have different purposes and many students opt to attend the programs back to back. Pillars works with the Office of Orientation to ensure that both programs can be attended in a single week. Should you attend New Student Orientation before or after the Pillars week, Pillars staff members will direct you from one location to the other.

Attendees can check in between 3 and 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.

Check out is 9 a.m. on Saturday morning for Traditional and 5 p.m. on Friday evening for Serves.

We recommend the following:

  • Clothing for 5 to 6 days including modest t-shirts, tank tops and shorts. Columbia's average high temperature in July is 95° and students will be indoors and outdoors.

  • Bring a Garnet or Black T-Shirt for the opening ceremony and 1 Dressy Casual Outfit for the closing ceremony. 

  • Comfortable athletic shoes that can be worn during both community service and a range of athletic activities.

  • Raincoat or umbrella in case of bad weather.

  • Sunglasses or hat for outdoor activities.

  • Personal toiletries including shampoo/conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, etc.

  • Bed linens including a pillow, and a sleeping bag or twin XL sheets and a blanket.

  • 2-3 bath towels for the week.

  • Swimsuit, beach towel and sunscreen for free time at the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center outdoor pool.

  • Insect Repellent for use during outdoor community service projects.

  • Personal health insurance information in case of illness or emergency. 

  • Any regular medication you take or carry with you in case of an emergency,

  • A reusable water bottle to help you stay well hydrated.

  • Your charged phone with a chargerYour XM will be in contact with you throughout the week. Keep your phone charged in case they need to send you a message.

  • Supplementary snacks for in-between your 3 provided meals per day.

  • Some extra cash for shopping near campus on Main Street, at the University Bookstore, and at food vendors off-campus if desired.

1. The Columbia Metropolitan Airport is about 15 minutes away from the USC campus.

2. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is located an hour and a half from Columbia. Shuttle services are available first-come, first-served between Columbia and the CLT airport via Columbia Charlotte Shuttle and the cost is $55. Reservations are required.

Shuttles can drop off at 720 Bull Street Columbia, SC 29201.


I understand and acknowledge that any person required to register under Article7, Sex Offender Registry, is prohibited from living in campus student housing. S.C. Code of Laws § 23-3-465. In the event it is determined that any person in campus student housing is subject to the above registration requirement, law enforcement officials and appropriate University officials will be informed and such person shall be immediately removed from campus student housing without refund.


In consideration of being permitted to participate in Pillars for Carolina (“the activity”), I, in full recognition and appreciation of the dangers and risk inherent in such an activity, do hereby covenant not to sue, and hereby waive, release and forever discharge the University of South Carolina, its officers, agents and employees (collectively “the University”), from and against any and all claims, demands, actions, or causes of action, for costs, expenses or damages to personal property, or personal injury, or death, which may result from my participation in the activity, or while in transit to or from the activity, or in any place or places reasonably connected with the activity.

I acknowledge that my participation in the activity is voluntary. I also understand and acknowledge that the activity may be hazardous, that my participation is solely at my own risk, and that I voluntarily assume full responsibility for any resulting loss of property, injury, or damage, including death. I further declare that I am physically fit and capable to participate in the activity. I acknowledge and represent that I am at least eighteen years of age, that I have carefully read this document and that I sign freely and voluntarily.

I recognize that this Waiver of Liability and Release means that I am giving up, among other things, the right to sue the University for injuries, damages or losses I may incur as a result of my participation in the activity. I also understand that this Waiver of Liability and Release binds my heirs, executors, personal representatives, administrators and assigns. I further agree to indemnify and hold the University harmless from any loss, liability, damage or costs, including court costs and attorney’s fees, incurred as a result of my participation in the activity. This Waiver of Liability and Release shall be governed by and construed under the laws of the State of South Carolina.

I further consent to being the subject of photographs and/or video recordings taken by the University, and authorize the University to exhibit the photographs and/or video recordings as still photographs, video or other similar media either on the Internet or otherwise. I release the University, as well as any assignees, from any and all claims of damages for invasion of privacy or any other claim based on use of the above-described materials.

I agree to abide by the rules and regulations that the University of South Carolina and the Pillars for Carolina program have established or will establish. I have read this Waiver of Liability and Release, and I fully understand it and agree to be legally bound by it.

If under the age of 18, you must complete a waiver and bring it with you to check-in. Please email the Pillars team for a copy.



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