When I first got to USC and also when applying to universities, I was really confused about all the college terminology: major, minor, B.S., concentration, etc. As you go by and follow along with the flow, you kind of get the gist of things; however, one thing that I think is very specific to Viterbi and you won’t see in many other schools (even across USC) is concentrations. I had a hard time figuring this one out and once I did, it fully changed my relationship with my major.
Concentrations are basically areas in which you can specialize in under your major. In my case, under Chemical Engineering, I had the option of choosing between Biochemical, Petroleum, Nanotechnology, Polymers/Materials Science, Environmental, Sustainable Energy, and the no concentration option. Once you add a concentration, you get to add a few classes to your course load that are specific to your area of interest within your major. A good thing about concentrations at USC is that (in most cases) you don’t have to declare yours until your Junior year. That gives you plenty of time to dabble in different areas and decide what your interests are and how you want to pursue them.
I decided to pursue the Biochemical track. From the very beginning of my USC career, I knew I wanted to pursue pharmaceuticals/biotechnology after graduation, so I was pretty set on this concentration as soon as I got admitted to USC. This track added Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Biochemical Engineering, and Intro to Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering to my course plan. Before taking these classes, one of my big frustrations was that I felt like either my classes were too broad or would focus on things I had no interest in and wouldn’t be using in my future career. Taking these classes allowed me to see a different side of Chemical Engineering that absolutely fascinates me. More importantly, it allowed me to see how they intersect with my other classes and how I can apply all the classes I have taken thus far to my future career.
I am really glad I took advantage of getting to tailor my course plan to better suit my interests. If you’re reading this and end up coming to USC one day, I recommend you reach out to your upperclassmen, do your research, figure out what your interests are, and take advantage of these classes to pursue what you’re passionate about!