Four years ago, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I decided which college I was going to attend for the next four years.

To start, it was a very difficult decision because I (like a proper budding engineer) tried to make the decision quantitatively. I was cross-referencing every website and news source about their ranking of programs given different parameters. No matter how I redid my “formula” I could never get a clear-cut answer. The indecision paralysis was intense and very present.

Finally, after days of getting nowhere in my search, I decided to take a step back and look at schools qualitatively. I asked myself, “where was I the most excited to get in?”. The answer then was simple: USC. The second word got out that I was accepted, I was bombarded with congratulations from members of the Trojan Family. My brother, my third grade teacher, and my favorite swim coach all individually called to congratulate me. I wasn’t just an application profile turned into a USC ID — I was a person USC saw potential in and was willing to help learn and grow.

I committed to USC that night, and I have never regretted that decision.

The biggest thing I learned from that experience is that seeing yourself at a school or feeling “at home” is so much more powerful than a program’s ranking. Engineering is tough, and I definitely had my missteps and mistakes along the way. However, that Trojan Family was at my side the entire way through, helping me become a better engineer and a better person day by day. Knowing I had a safe space to express myself and experiment allowed my ambition to flourish. In four years, I went from a relatively quiet kid to an outgoing engineer with fond memories from conducting research, studying abroad, and taking advantage of everything LA has to offer.

I am closing my undergraduate chapter in just 28 days, but it is not a sad experience. Instead, I think about how much USC has allowed me to grow as an individual, and I am excited for what lies ahead. The best advice I can give to anyone looking for a clear-cut formula or divine intervention in their college decision process? Just breathe. Take a step back. Think about where you feel like you can make a home. That is the best choice you can possibly make, and it will set you up for success in school and beyond.

Nick Bortolon

Nick Bortolon

MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Alamo, California PRONOUNS: he/him/his INSTA: @nick_bortolon On campus I am a Student Ambassador (better known as a Tour Guide) and I am part of the USC Club Rock Climbing Team. In my free time, I like to ride roller coasters, compose music for piano, and explore Los Angeles.

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