The college application and decision process is tough for everyone, and I was no exception. Being a relatively indecisive person, I had a really tough time even narrowing a list of colleges at first, not to mention choosing a major to apply to at each. For the longest time, I wasn’t even sure whether I wanted to remain close to home or go far away, live in a city or a small college town, or go to a big or small school. When decisions came out in the spring of my senior year, though, and I began to visit the schools I was admitted to, I soon found that USC had the best of all these criteria and more for me:

  1. Size. USC obviously has a huge undergraduate population—something I was pretty unsure if I wanted—but since coming here, I’ve found that this was definitely an added benefit. I’ve been able to form a smaller community around me through my involvements and the people I live around in my dorm, but there are also so many more interesting and accomplished people I’ve yet to meet. It’s really exciting to think about!
  2. Location. Nothing beats LA. While campus life (in normal times) is busy, vibrant, hectic, and almost any other adjective you can come up with, having the city to explore, mountains to ski/snowboard at on weekends, and the beach not far away brings a whole new element to student life.
  3. Viterbi and my major. There’s a lot to say about what makes Viterbi unique. First and foremost, Viterbi offered a major that I didn’t see in most other engineering programs I applied to—Industrial and Systems Engineering. In high school, I’d obviously heard of majors like mechanical, chemical, and civil engineering, but ISE was a new one to me. As my 17-year-old self first read the descriptions of this major on Viterbi’s admissions pages, I was enthralled by ISE. I knew it would allow me to expand my mind to tackle complex problems, and through it, I could pursue a wide variety of career paths. Among many other factors, another huge takeaway for me was the idea of Engineering+. Being a school with experts in all fields, the Viterbi school wants to encourage its students to explore academic life beyond engineering. Being extremely interested in film and other humanities in addition to engineering, it comforted me greatly that I wouldn’t be completely confined to math and science classes—I’d be able to have creative outlets too. 
  4. Personal Attention and Support. One thing that really set USC apart for me from other schools was that I knew I’d garner a lot more personal attention and benefit greatly from various USC offerings, like personal undergraduate advising, the post-graduation Trojan Network, and simply by having classes taught entirely by professors as opposed to TAs.
  5. Financial Aid. This was huge for me in my decision. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship here, and even before I received news of that, I was confident that even if I didn’t, USC’s vast financial resources to help low-income students could help me.
  6. The people! I am amazed by the community around me every day, and I’ve made some amazing friends in my time here.

Of course, there can be much more to take into account when making the college choice—it isn’t a decision one can take lightly—but these were the factors that stood out most to me before I arrived, and also that I’ve found to be the most true in my experience so far. If you’re a current high school student seeing this, I hope this clears some things up for you! Fight on!

Derek Jones

Derek Jones

MAJOR: Industrial and Systems Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Los Gatos, California PRONOUNS: he/him/his INSTA: @dmannjones On campus I have conducted environmental engineering research on water distillation methods, and you can currently find me serving as Vice President of my social fraternity and playing on the club volleyball team.

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