One program that stood out to me as I was considering which school I ought to attend was USC’s Thematic Option program. Run out of the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences’s College Honors Programs office, Thematic Option provides an alternative to USC’s standard General Education curriculum, which is required for all undergraduate students. Although they require more time than GE courses, I have found all of my TO classes (I’m currently enrolled in my fourth one) to be interesting and stimulating.

Part of what makes TO classes special is the faculty. Professors are invited to teach a TO class, and it seems to be something of an honor for them; they know that they will have a class of 35 to 40 students who are committed to reading and thinking critically, and who will not be put off by the thought of reading, analyzing, and writing about long works that may only be covered in part in other classes.

The reason why I chose to apply for Thematic Option was twofold: (1) I knew that I could drop out of it at any time, but that I could not get in later, and I wanted to keep my options as broad as possible, and (2) I had heard that the writing program was excellent, and my mother told me that I needed help writing in a way that wouldn’t put people to sleep. Now that I’m in the program, I have no intention of quitting, and I can attest to the excellent writing instructors that the TO program provides.

TO classes vary significantly, as professors are encouraged to teach about something that they could otherwise not fit into a single class focused on one discipline. For that reason, there are a wide array of courses available, and students can choose the ones that suit them best and avoid the others. If you don’t mind reading a lot, definitely keep Thematic Option in mind. It provides an interesting contrast to engineering classes, and being part of the program is a rewarding experience on several levels.

If you have any questions on Thematic Option, just let me know!