It was January when I got the package. I remember it was a cloudy, cold day with a biting wind; while downtown earlier that day I’d been struck by the way the wind howled between the buildings and bit through my thick down coat. When I got home from school, I didn’t even see it, all I could think about was putting on pajamas and warming up by the fireplace. And that’s when I saw it.
When I saw the abnormally box, I thought it would just be more informational mailings and brochures. Little did I know that when I tore that box open, my life would, quite literally, change forever. A crimson folder. A letter congratulating me on my acceptance into the Viterbi School of Engineering. An invitation to interview for a scholarship on campus.
It was a dream come true; I can’t remember another day senior year when I was more excited. A tsunami of emotions overwhelmed me on that day in late January.
I first visited campus for my scholarship interview in March. Leaving behind frigid Omaha, visions of a film I’d recently seen played out in my head: La La Land. It would be my first time in LA in many years, and I couldn’t help but romanticize the city, a city where anything would be possible, where I could follow any dream I wanted, where I could find adventure and love and opportunity. As the plane’s wheels touched the LAX tarmac, I was listening to “Another Day of Sun,” excited to get to campus and explore this grand city.
It was nighttime when I got to campus. Though I didn’t explore campus that night, I met up with some other prospective students, got tacos nearby, and bonded with my potential future classmates. That night, I even met one of my best friends to this day.
The next two days were a whirlwind. When I first stepped on campus and took the official tour, I was immediately entranced by the elegant red brick buildings, the palm trees, and the sense of possibility which seemed to hang in the air. But what struck me the most were the people I observed, and the happiness which they emanated. I could feel their excitement like electricity hanging in the air, and subconsciously I already knew that this was the place for me.
I was blown away by the Viterbi presentation and the genuine interest that the admissions staff and current students had when I talked to them. Academically, I knew that USC would be a great fit and offer the opportunities I hoped to find both in and out of the classroom. And, I also could see that at USC, engineering meant more than just studying. It meant pursuing your passions and leading a balanced life in all senses.
The night before my interview, I spent more time roaming campus with my newly made friends. It was like a taste of college as I ate at Parkside Dining Hall with current USC students, attended a jazz performance at a campus performance venue, and spent time with other prospective students from across the country.
On the next day after my interview, I said goodbye to campus. However, by that day, it wasn’t a goodbye. It was a see you later, an until next time. My mind had been made up, and deep down I knew that in a few months I was going to be able to proudly call myself a Trojan.
What I hoped to do with this post was convey something more intangible about my college decision process. When I visited USC, there was a certain gut feeling that told me that this was the place for me. That I was meant to attend this institution, and that there wasn’t another school in the country where I’d be happier.
As you apply to and are accepted into different universities, I’d encourage you to research the academic programs, to listen closely at admitted students information sessions, and determine how the offerings align with your interests. But I’d also recommend you ask yourself a question: can you see yourself at the school? Because at the end of the day, the school you choose should be one where you can see yourself being happy both in and out of the classroom. For me, this was USC. It was a school that I fell in love with on every level, one where I could see myself living life to the fullest for the entirety of my college career. And I’m happy to say that that feeling that I had when I first toured campus hasn’t faded since.