The fall of my senior year of high school was definitely one of the most stressful times in my life and I can say that with confidence after taking several semesters of engineering coursework. I felt so much pressure to make all these big decisions about who I was and then write about it in vulnerable short answer responses to schools that I was desperate to get into. I honestly don’t know how I didn’t explode because on top of that I had to get up at 6:00 every day to go to school where I had AP classes, clubs and then dance class until about 10:00 pm everyday. Everything was stressful and then I had to figure out where I was going to spend the next four years of my life probably having to work even harder. It was such a terrifying thought, that for the first time I was going to be in control of what I did and where I went to school and I could very easily choose someplace that would make me miserable. I thought I wanted to do engineering, but I was terrified of not liking it and even worse being terrible at it.
I had visited a lot of schools that summer and the previous spring break so I knew that I definitely didn’t want to go to any school that had the word “tech” in the name. I was seriously just too afraid of all the stereotypes of what it was like to be a girl at one of those schools and not belong. On top of that I studied film production at a performing arts high school and was really passionate about the arts so I wanted to go to a school that had a strong arts program. So finding schools that were good engineering schools, had good arts programs, and made me feel like I belonged was not easy.
I looked for a longtime at Carnegie Mellon because they seemed to live up to my criteria; I felt like I belonged on campus and they seemed to be great at both art and engineering. However I realized that while they were strong in both areas, there wasn’t a lot of mixing between students. The engineers stuck to engineering and the artists stuck to art. A little disappointed in what I thought was a perfect school, I looked at other east coast schools that seemed to meet my criteria (something that was harder than I thought). A lot of the elite schools like the Ivies didn’t have strong engineering or arts programs specifically, and were much more focused on students who were going into the liberal arts. I liked Duke and UVA a lot and loved both of their engineering schools but I knew I probably wouldn’t grow as much as an artist if I went to either school. Disappointed in a lot of my options I turned to other universities where I could do a 3-2 program and get two degrees, one from a school without engineering and one that specialized in it. I could go to schools that I fell in love with like William and Mary or Drew. However I realized that I would be sacrificing a lot of what it means to be an engineer and I would have to get one of my degrees in something like physics or mathematics, which I was less than passionate about.
So while a lot of these schools stayed on my list and I struggled with finding a place that I felt like I belonged, my best friend from high school decided to apply to only one school and that was USC. I was honestly horrified by this and actually called his mom to make sure that he would apply to more schools, but I was also a bit fascinated in how he could have fallen in love so completely with one school. I went with him to see an USC admissions officer run an info session at our school and I was blown away. When it came to Viterbi he talked about engineering+ and how the engineers at USC participated in really diverse activities. That day when I went home I told my family how awesome USC is and how I wished my friend would get in because it was such a great school. So I added USC to my list even though I didn’t think I could go there because it was so far away from my home in Florida and it just made so much more sense for me to go to an east coast school.
Now I had a list of schools that all had their own pros and cons, but I needed to then write all the supplementary material to get into the schools. I had pretty much never written anything in the first person so it was a bit weird figuring out what to say to about myself. I started reading a lot of autobiographers and opinion pieces in things like The New Yorker because I hoped that some of their talent would flow into me. Unfortunately, that plan did not work at all and I ended up just using it as a way to procrastinate my essays. If I could go back I would probably change how I wrote all my supplements. I agonized over whether or not they were grammatically correct or sounded interesting and they really just ended up over polished and boring. I let so many people edit them and tell me what is interesting about myself. I didn’t really have any faith that what I thought was right so I just listened to what everyone else had to say.
However, that wasn’t the case for my USC application. Since I had added it on so last minute I didn’t have the time to give it to anyone else to proofread. The supplement also had a bunch of little questions that let me add a lot of personality and made me feel like I could really respond as a person not just some human resume. Before writing this I actually re-read a lot of my application, something hard to do since so much of it makes me cringe. When reading what I wrote for USC, everything was so cheesy but honest. With no one filtering me, I talk about how much I love dancing in the grocery store, why playing with barbie dolls is a lot like engineering, and why I am obsessed with YouTube. I really showed off who I was and while I cringe at reading it, I feel like it really did represent me. The other supplements sounded like an over serious thirty-year-old who cared way too much about being well-rounded.
That is probably why everything about USC just felt so natural, it was a last minute choice that ended up working out perfectly. Once acceptances came out, I agonized again about where I should go and what would be the right choice for me, but I think in the end it was always supposed to be USC. Yes, there was a bunch of other stuff that happened in the spring of my senior year where I thought I had to go again to every school and if I picked the wrong one my life would be over; but I didn’t, USC was the absolute perfect place for me, and I almost didn’t apply. So when looking at schools, writing supplements, even when taking all the standardized tests, go with your gut because often it is right.