Hello everyone! Let me start off by saying that I am so relieved to finally be done with midterms. I have never appreciated homework so much. This week was a great breather from the stress of exams. Definitely still a lot going on, but also time to do things I love like workout, hit up office hours, and see Seth Meyers perform standup comedy. Anyway, given my fantastic mood right now, I want to take this time to holla’ at all the freshmen considering coming to USC this fall, or anyone already committed to joining the Trojan family. I think no matter what you do your first year, you are going to have a good time. That being said, there are some key things you can do to heighten/maximize your experience. Many of these things involve laying a foundation for an excellent overall college experience. Some of these things are for your sanity, others for academic performance, and others just for fun. Given that I still find myself reminiscing back to freshman year on a weekly basis, and that I have all the same friends (and many more), I consider myself a bit of an expert on how to have a phenomenal freshman year. Without further adieu, here are some of my essentials for how you do it right, and do it big as a (Viterbi) freshman.
Step 1: Find the curve setters, leaders, and hardest workers in your Intro to _____________ Engineering Class.
Make friends with them first, and then slowly begin making friends with everyone else in your major. There are a lot of amazing things to be done in college, and a lot of objectives that you want to leave having achieved. If you’re like most freshmen, however, academic success is probably one of those objectives. It’s kind of hard to enjoy everything else that’s going on if that isn’t going right. So my first few tips are going to focus on locking that down, along with a social life within your major at the same time. It’s gEEnius (muahaha, get it? Ok, I’ll stop)! So basically, my freshman year, I made it a point to surround myself with the smartest people possible. Not only are smart people genuinely awesome and typically passionate about what they’re doing, but they are great friends to have once the going gets tough. Lucky for you, a place like USC has so many talented individuals (including yourself). So make it a point to surround yourself with intelligent, motivated people who inspire you to want to do more. While it can be hard to get this sense about a person without already knowing them well, chances are the hardest working people are among the most motivated. So seek them out! Introduce yourself to everyone. Form a study group and hit the ground running. This will put you ahead of the curve (in multiple ways). While classes freshmen year might not yet be so difficult to the point where work absolutely necessitates a group dynamic, trust me, it will! So by starting to work in teams with the right kind of people, you are getting a step ahead of the game. I made it a point to be kind of the glue among the EEs in my year. It’s nice knowing everyone, because not only are all my peers awesome, but I have this network of amazingly talented individuals that I can call upon for support whenever I need it. Plus, don’t we all on some level want to feel popular and well liked? It’s nice now as a junior being able to walk into class and hi-five/”Whaddup!” basically everyone.
Step 2: Sign up for absolutely everything that interests you at the involvement fair, try an event for each of them, and slowly identify the few that absolutely make your heart sing
I think USC is such a vibrant community full of individuals who are so spirited and passionate about what they do. Getting involved in some aspect of student life outside of the classroom will be invaluable to you. Whether it’s a design team applying classroom knowledge in a hands on setting, or a community impact group you can’t get enough of, or a professional, athletic, or religious society that allows you to reach out to more people with common interests, this aspect of college will be invaluable. Not only will it provide you with some of your fondest memories, but it can be a great talking point to land that kickass internship before you have other work experience to talk about in an interview, or at a sweet networking sesh. Plus, getting involved early gives you the best chance to take on a leadership role. This will be incredibly fulfilling, useful, and applicable later on in college and in life.
Step 3: Make it a point to talk to at least one of your professors in their office hours!
And keep doing it every semester thereafter. Professors are, generally speaking, friendly people who want to help you learn. Even if you don’t need help with his/her class (if you do, this is a perfect time to get it), going to talk to a professor about something will help them remember you and get to know you better. Ask about their research and their background if there’s nothing else that you have in mind. That usually tends to be really cool stuff to hear about, and you might be so interested that you think about joining them. If not, just taking the initiative to hear about what they do and hold a conversation about it can make it easier for that professor to write a letter of rec for you should you need one. It’s often difficult as a freshman to get letters of rec when you need them, because there might not be professors you know well enough or feel comfortable enough to ask. Avoid this by getting to know a few, so they have something more to say about you than just “He/She received an A in my class.” As a follow up to this, get into the habit of talking to people just for the sake of talking to them. If there’s one things Trojans pride ourselves on, it’s our networking abilities! This can start in the classroom, and extend well beyond that. You never know when you’re going to encounter a stranger that can change your life. Start by approaching your faculty, as many of them are well connected in industry. Don’t stop thereafter.
Once you have your basic USC involvement, academics, and an academic social life set up for success, get back to basics by
4. Taking care of yourself!
I won’t elaborate too much on this, because it means something different to everyone. But take whatever steps are necessary for you to make sure you feel wonderful. Freshman year is great time filled with meeting new people and learning new things. You want to look and feel your best for these experiences. Make time early on in your week for whatever activities and extra efforts you need to achieve that sentiment:)
5. Having fun
Lock it up in the classroom, but take plenty of time to go explore Los Angeles before school gets really crazy! Take advantage of all the awesome things right around the surrounding area (local eateries, USC sporting events, on campus concerts and events etc.), and in the greater los angeles area. Along these same lines, do your best to find a friend with a car! It’s always useful to know someone with a set of wheels, whether it be for exploring or emergency purposes! You never know when you might just need a ride. I know for me, it was the time I was coming back from San Diego for preview weekend at my internship. I took the train home, got to Union Station, and realized the inter-campus shuttle between Health Sciences Campus/Union Station and the regular campus didn’t operate on weekends. Thankfully, I had a friend to call to come get me.
Now, my list of specific things you shouldn’t miss out on as a freshman as USC (or really any other year).
1. Football/athletics games. Even if you think you don’t like/know about sports, give it a chance. If you don’t change your mind, you don’t have to get a season ticket the following year. And if you really aren’t a football person, some of our other teams are so fun to watch and cheer on. My person favorite after football and basketball is definitely volleyball. We even have a new sand volleyball team!
2. Conquest. Because who doesn’t want to witness fireworks, an awesome concert, a giant ferris wheel, and the whole USC community rallying together in a bout of school spirit.
3. Festival of Books. You should google it. It’s on our campus, and it’s awesome. Over the past few years, I’ve had books signed by Kareem Abdul Jabar, Laura Numeroff (If you Give a Mouse a Cookie), Marc Brown (the Arthur series), and I’ve seen readings by Julie Andrews, Judy Blume, Demetri Martin, Jamie Lee Curtis, R.L. Stine, and many more. It is so much fun to roam around the stages, hearing various authors, and to roam around the various tents browsing and shopping for books. It will make you want to start reading for pleasure again (if you were ever into that). At the very least, go for the freebies.
4. Surprising at least one of your friends at midnight on their birthday with some dessert and a signing of happy birthday with many people. It will start a tradition on your floor/in your suite etc. It makes everyone feel more loved their first year away from home.
5. Going to the California Science Center. It’s free, it’s right across the street, and they have a bunch of cool stuff to nerd out about/appreciate.
6. Getting onto the school of cinematic arts mailing list. Get subscribed or just troll their events page so you know when to RSVP for advance movie screenings/panels/all their amazing events. You will make all your friends at other schools jealous, and have a fabulous time doing so, while also learning so much! What more could you ask for? You will be set for four years.
7. Staying up really late some nights just because. This is how you build relationships. If you have a few nights over the course of the year, where you and some of your friends (or someone you are just getting to know) find yourselves staying up late simply talking, despite being done with work, don’t immediately cut out early. Listen to people’s stories, hear about their pasts, and learn about what they want from their futures. This is truly the best way to get to know people, and there won’t necessarily always be time for these things to happen. Sleep is important, but so is friendship. So every once in a while, let that 4 hour long conversation that goes until the crack of dawn just happen. You’ll be happy you did.
8. Taking a lot of pictures and video footage. They will be priceless to look back on by the time you are a senior.