When I try to sum up my reasons for choosing USC, I come up with three main reasons. Of course, there were smaller factors that influenced my decision in ways I’m not even aware of, but the following were definitely the most important.
1. A relieving lack of pocket protectors. Most people are probably aware of the “engineering stereotypes” — engineers are awkward, study all day and all night, and have a better understanding of the theory of special relativity than how to engage in conversation with another human being. Every time I visited SC, however, I met really friendly, personable engineers who were involved in all kinds of activities both in and outside Viterbi. I knew I didn’t see myself as the “stereotypical” engineer, but I easily saw myself as an engineer at USC.
2. The best of both worlds. When I started applying to schools, my mock trial coach told me that I should think about what size school I was interested in. Small schools tend to offer better advisement, smaller classes, and more personal attention while large schools usually have the better sporting events, more variety in classes and student organizations, and the ability to bring high profile speakers and musical guests to campus. At USC, I absolutely get the best of both types. Because I’m at USC, I get to take guitar lessons from world class musicians studying at the Thornton School of Music, go to pre-screenings of Hollywood blockbusters sponsored by the cinema school, and enjoy the huge festivals of Trojan Spirit that accompany every football game. At the same time, though, I get all the perks of a small school within Viterbi. Here we have a career center that focuses only on engineers, an academic resource center that provides free peer tutoring and one on one attention if I ever need help in a class, knowledgeable and accessible advisors, and unfiltered access to professors (just send them an email and you can set up an appointment for any reason, be it homework help or advice on your career or major). In the end, it came down to UC Berkeley, UCLA, and USC for me. My older sister had gone to a large UC, and had had really bad experiences with her advisors. She wasn’t able to get an appointment to see them, and when she did talk to them they gave her bad information that prevented her from getting the second major she was interested in. At SC, not only is it really easy to get appointments with my advisor, but she knows who am when I walk in the door and bends over backwards to make sure that I can do what some would consider crazy things — like switching my major halfway through sophomore year! Turns out you don’t have to choose between small and large.
3. Scholarships. Coming from a family of three kids, my parents had a budget for what they were willing to spend on me for college. Thanks to the large scholarship I received, I actually came in under this budget. I also was awarded a Merit Research Award that allows me to get paid for the time I spend doing research. These awards removed most of the worries that would have made my decision a lot harder than it was.
At the end of the day, I’m happy with the decision I made. Could I have been happy other places? Absolutely! Did I know everything there was to know about every school I got into? I still don’t know everything there is to know about the school I attend! Definitely take the time to learn as much as you can about the schools you’re deciding between and continually ask yourself “Can I see myself going to school here?” After all, you’re not just picking what school you’ll be able to write on your resume, but your home for the next four years.