I remember when I was curating my list of colleges to apply to early in my senior year of high school, I had put down the typical schools that people from my high school usually applied to. Schools like the UC’s, Cal Poly, Stanford, and some East coast schools sprinkled here and there. I put a lot of thought and effort into researching what kind of students these schools were looking for, how I could maximize the effectiveness of my essays, etc, etc, etc… But I remember when the USC merit scholarship deadline was approaching, I took one look at the essay questions and I instantly knew what to write. When I was writing for USC, it felt natural and seamless. I didn’t feel like I had to strategize or game the essays. I remember finishing the essays and thinking to myself “Wow, these essays are fire and they totally represent who I am as a person on so many different levels”. I couldn’t say the same about other schools that I wrote about, those essays seemed much more structured and unnatural. I wrote strong essays for my other schools, but those essays felt like I wrote them for the university I was applying for, while my USC essay felt like I was writing it for myself as a reflection of all the hard work I had put in the past.
Then in early January, when the college application process seemed to slip my mind, I remember getting home after school and seeing a white box on my door. I approached it thinking it probably was something my dad ordered online, but as I got closer I saw the USC logo marked on it. For a split second I thought to myself “why tf would they send more advertising stuff it’s like January can they chill dude I already applied”. But then I realized that this might be more than just any normal package. I opened it and freaked out so hard my mom thought I had been attacked by a snake (she’s deathly afraid of snakes).
After getting my white package in the mail, the next step was visiting USC of course. I booked a flight and soon enough I was flying into LAX (queue Miley Cyrus). I remember when I first got to the campus I was overwhelmed, the buildings were massive and there were so many things going on. There were so many students walking and skating to class, there was a student org selling krispy kreme donuts, and people taking photos with Tommy the Trojan. At that moment, my only concern was finding the Campus Center so that I could check in and figure out what tours to join. I took me a while to find the campus center because I neglected to read any signs for about 15 minutes (lol), but I eventually found it and toured the campus and did some activities.
Eventually, we were paired with students and went off to eat dinner. Eating dinner with the students was one of the most memorable moments of my campus visit. I remember my host sat me down next to his friends, and I had a super casual and fun dinner at EVK. I had a great conversation with them and they were super receptive to answering my questions, we even shared memes and had a ball! The next day, I walked around campus with a friend I met and we ran into the startup career fair that is run by the org Spark SC. We ran into one a student who was in the club, and we had a great conversation there and he told us his raw unfiltered opinion about his experience so far! We did some more activities around campus but after that I had to fly back to the bay.
After visiting USC, I had a very favorable opinion of the school. I had so many great interactions with the students and I really felt a sense of connection that I couldn’t describe. I finally understood what it meant to find a “great fit” for a school. I got into some California public schools and some private east coast schools, and my choice eventually boiled down to full price at Columbia and USC with a merit scholarship. It was a really hard choice to make, and there were many factors to consider. Old established prestige is very alluring, but to me the promise of all the opportunities and connections I could make with peers at USC seemed more important. I felt a real sense of community and care at USC, and that’s something I couldn’t see at other schools. Fast forward a couple years, and I am perfectly content with my choice and couldn’t see myself being happier at any other school :).