I remember when I applied to colleges — it was hectic, stressful, and a huge jump into an unknown outcome. However, although picking a college is not an exact science, there are some factors you can think about that will help you distinguish what makes a college “right” for you. I have discussed this topic in the past here, but I will refresh your memory by discussing it again below.

With all the different factors to consider – location, academics, prestige, and much much more – the college decision process is the opposite of easy. Although my story only applies to me, I hope you find some insight in your own college decision through my story!

Back when I applied to college (2008), I applied to a total of 10 schools and was accepted to 9 of them. I was accepted at USC, UCLA, UCSD, UCD, UCSB, Texas A&M, University of Illinois, University of Miami, and University of Maryland. My denial was the University of California Berkeley. I applied to Electrical Engineering at each school thinking that would be my major (and it stil is!!!!! see more here).

Between all the schools I was accepted to, the choice really came down to three schools: USC, Illinois, and Miami. From there, after narrowing down my options, I began to evaluate the different schools on important criteria: academic rankings (for engineering), family input, proximity to home, location, and “campus feel” – the most biased evaluator on the list but also the most telling of which school would be the best “fit” for me after having visited each campus.

Academic rankings (for engineering): Illinois was the clear winner, being consistently ranked a top 5 EE school for years. USC’s Viterbi School placed 2nd with a top 20 Engineering education and thus was not out of the realm of possibility. Miami being lackluster for engineering was a big mark against going there.

Family input: My mom wanted me to stay close to home, so Miami was a bit far as was Illinois in that you had to drive there from Chicago. My parents and I weren’t too worried about financial details, so USC was the best in this category. (Not to mention my uncle went to USC before — he was the first person to get me to check out USC for school)

Proximity to Home: See above. USC was definitely closest to home.

Location: Having lived in LA for 3 years now, I would say USC wins this category against almost any other school — I love Los Angeles and all the options for fun it has to offer. However, at the time, I would say Miami won because I did not know the differences between the LA metro area and South Beach. Illinois was in the middle of nowhere so that did not sound appealing to me… I am all for college towns but I like having the option to do and experience other things beyond campus.

Campus Feel: Like I said, it was the most important ranking. For this, Miami and USC tied. They both looked beautiful, both felt right for me, and both were very appealing.

In the end, between those categories and the fact my best friend and I were going to go to college at the same place, USC clearly came out on top, both with what it had to offer academically and what it had to offer for the overall college experience. The vibe on campus was great (the Trojan spirit is everywhere, every day), the classes looked challenging and appealing, and all in all it made sense with the categories I evaluated above. This decision does not even begin to describe the connections you will make at USC and the awesome people you will meet from all walks of life in all majors. USC, Viterbi, and Los Angeles have allowed me to broaden my perspective on life and mature from a high school student into a (soon to be, fingers crossed) working professional.

To this day I do not regret my decision at all. If you have more questions feel free to private message me, comment, or tweet at me!

I wish you all the best in your college decisions. Remember to pick somewhere that is right for you and gives you the best opportunity for a great college experience, both inside the classroom and outside of it.

I have included a picture below from me cheering at a USC football game my Freshman year… It encapsulates what it means to me to be a Trojan — spirited, part of the family, devoted, enthusiastic, and having fun!