To all the incoming USC freshmen this guide may concern:
Welcome to the Trojan Family! You all have rightfully earned your spot here at USC and in one of the nation’s top engineering schools, the Viterbi School of Engineering. In high school, you all probably were great students and involved in extracurricular activities. I expect the same (and more) once you step foot on SC’s campus. However, going to college is a big transition, bound to be fraught with a few bumps in the road. To avoid the bumps and the potholes, and to become the best SC student you can be, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Treat class in college like a job. Work from 9 to 5 on your course work, and spend the remainder of your time in student organizations and having fun.
I am not going to lie to you; college is a lot of work. However, college is much more than just your coursework. Especially at SC, there are too many exciting opportunities to stay cooped up in the library doing homework. Your freshman year, you should be going to a cappella concerts and football games. So, great a distinction between your work and social life. Set aside a certain number of hours each day that are working hours. For me, I have held myself to a work schedule of 9am to 5pm Monday through Thursday, with time added when necessary. During those hours, I work hard to finish the majority of my work, so I can spend the evenings and weekends exploring Los Angeles. Even on days when I do not have class until the afternoon, I wake up before 9am to stay on schedule. Hold yourself accountable to your work, and you will have a great college experience, both in the academic and social spectrums.
2. Use Google Calendar to manage your time and schedule your meetings.
As you will soon discover, college life is also extremely busy. As a freshman, you will probably have five classes and may join a variety of clubs and student organizations. The busier you get, the more trouble you’ll have keeping all those meetings straight in your mind. Use Google Calendar to keep everything straight. Schedule in all your meetings and classes for the week into the calendar Sunday night, and then sync the calendar to your smartphone so you are always aware of your schedule. Also, schedule your coursework hours (as described above) into your calendar so you know when not to schedule other meetings. Hopefully, you won’t miss any meetings and will manage your time well!
3. Explore Los Angeles, especially the restaurants.
This piece of advice is pretty self-explanatory. USC is located in the middle of Los Angeles, and I have loved going off-campus to check out everything Los Angeles has something to offer. From the Yardhouse in LA Live to Maccheroni Republic near Pershing Square, LA also has some great food. Even though you will be on the meal plan, you may want to save up some money to enjoy some of these eateries. And the best part? USC is right by a metro stop. Using the Los Angeles metro system, you’ll be able to easily get downtown, to Santa Monica (the Expo Line should be extended by 2016), North Hollywood, and Long Beach. For interesting places and restaurants not by the metro stops, there are plenty of Zipcars (a rental service for people under the age of 25) around campus. More commonly, you’ll make a friend with a car who would love to join you on an adventure around Los Angeles.
4. Participate in student organizations that you enjoy. Remember, your extracurricular activities should never feel like work.
Between classes and coursework, you will be pretty busy and a little stressed. Do not stress yourself out more with your extracurricular activities. Your extracurriculars should not be resume builders. Rather, use your extracurriculars to get your mind off class for a few hours and to build great friendships.
5. Get at least seven hours of sleep a night, especially before midterms.
You need sleep before exams. Unless you feel that you absolutely have no understanding of the course material, do not pull an all-nighter to study for the exam. Remember, many of these exams will test your critical-thinking skills and your ability to apply engineering concepts to scenarios. To tackle these types of questions, you will need a clear head that will be able to think quickly, and not sleeping will merely muddle your mind during the heat of the exam. I would suggest taking measures so that you feel confident the night before the exam and, therefore, do not feel the need to pull an all-nighter. Remember, the exam will be on material covered in class and on the homework, so if you go to class and understand the homework, you should do well on the exam. Also, you can never start studying for an exam too early. I normally start studying the weekend before the exam.
6. Make as many friends as possible. Remember, the Trojan Family continues long after college ends.
The worst thing you can do in college is make enemies. You go to USC; the students in your courses will be your coworkers and contemporaries in a couple of years. Make as many friends as possible, and build genuine connections with people. The Trojan Family will continue long after your time at SC, and you never know how past friendships may benefit you in the future.
7. Don’t be too nervous. Improve upon your old habits, and you’ll be fine.
Never forgot that you were accepted to the prestigious USC Viterbi School of Engineering for a reason! You all are already very smart and probably have good enough time management skills. So, don’t be afraid of failure! You will need to grow upon your past experiences and academic skills. But growth does not bar you from success. You came into USC with the strong foundation, and your experiences and coursework over the next four years will build upon that foundation.
Fight on, and good luck in your college decision.