Each February, USA TODAY honors 20 undergraduate academic all-stars as its All-USA College Academic Team. The students named to the All-USA College Academic First Team have their photos published and accomplishments spotlighted in USA TODAY's Life section as representatives of all outstanding undergraduates. They each receive a trophy and a $2,500 cash award. Forty more runners-up named to the Second and Third Teams receive certificates; their names are announced in the newspaper.
The All-USA College Academic Team honors full-time undergraduates who not only excel in scholarship but also extend their intellectual abilities beyond the classroom to benefit society. Criteria include grades, academic rigor, leadership, activities and most important, the student's essay describing his or her most outstanding intellectual endeavor done while in college.
Nominations open in September and are due in late November. The team is named in February.