I remember being about 12 years old when one of the most consequential decisions of my life was made. I was living in New Jersey, like I had for my whole life, and had very little personal connections to the matter, but for about 2 months, the only thing I was hearing or seeing about was this choice. The final pick was to be made on national television, and of course everyone you knew was tuned in. The set was elaborate, the hosts prestigious, and all eyes were on one man who would share 6 words devastating to some and life changing for others. I still remember the shock I felt after hearing LeBron proclaim that he was “taking [his] talents to South Beach.”
Come spring of my senior year, the gravity of my own looming decision felt the same. I had to choose where I would kickstart my adult life, beginning a new journey on my own. I was blessed to have many options at the time, and while I was grateful for all of the choices, this quickly made the selection process that much harder to handle.
My first instinct was to remove all emotion from the process, to make it a game of numbers like a true engineering student. For the schools that I was still interested in, I assigned scores for a few factors ranging from cost, population, acceptance rate, campus aesthetics and even food, while multiplying these numbers by how much I valued the aspect. The goal was to take everything into consideration, and have something else tell me what was the best option. So, I did my research to fill in the gaps in my memory, trying to recall the information thrown at me through information sessions and tours, and complete the decision matrix. The objective marks were simple. The numbers were the numbers, and they went from government websites into the Google Sheet. As I went to fill in the more opinionated cells, the emotion I tried so hard to keep out crept back in. All of the choices were relatively similar in the statistics, but one frontrunner kept on winning the rest, and it was the school that had my heart before I could even articulate it.
There was no debate that I would receive an incredible education at USC. The class sizes were right where I wanted them, they were one of the few to offer the academic program that I really wanted, and those somewhat arbitrary internet rankings backed up the claims of scholastic prestige. What I needed to know was if I would have enjoy my time there, if I would prosper academically and emotionally, if I would fit in.
Through my first year I’ve resorted to watching USC compete athletically from the comfort of my family room couch, but I could still feel the excitement as we conquered UCLA with a fourth quarter TD, or barreled our way to the Elite 8 in the March Madness Tournament. I knew that the sports would be there. On the other side of the social equation, I had spoken with alumni and current students and learned about the student organizations that they called home, some of which I have joined and found truth in their claims.
College is hard, and I knew that engineering especially would not be an exception. What I also found out, was the plethora of support options available for students, even in an online setting, to ensure that no one is left behind. Addressing another one of my concerns, I learned about the National Society of Black Engineers, and the chapter at USC that would be there for me academically when I needed it, but socially as well to ensure that I could be a part of the Trojan and Viterbi family.
A year ago, I also had to make “The Decision.” I felt like I had millions of people watching me when I finally committed to USC, but this was just the weight I had put on myself. My family and friends were there to support me the entire way through, and provided help while at the same time reassuring me that this was my choice. After a year, I’m certain that I made the right decision for me, to take my talents to Los Angeles. (Even LeBron agreed a few years later.)
Check out my take on the infamous Pop Culture moment here: