When I was looking at schools, one of the things my dad, a Mechanical Engineer, said to me was “Engineering is engineering is engineering…you have to consider everything that comes with it.”  What my dad meant by this was that an engineering education is pretty similar from school to school – classes and the building blocks you need to earn a BS in engineering are pretty consistent across the board.  He meant that no matter which school I chose, I would have learned all of the technical skills necessary to succeed in the industry.  What my dad was suggesting with his statement is that it isn’t just technical skills that matter – it’s the experiences that happen outside of the classroom, the people I would interact with, the professors I would learn from, the city I would live in, and the organizations I would become involved in.

USC is an amazing school.  I’ve often met prospective students here who are at the top of their class in high school, students who have not only been admitted to USC, but have also been admitted to a number of prestigious universities, and want to know why USC is the place for them.  When I meet these students, what I try to tell them is exactly what my dad told me: engineering curriculum is pretty similar across the board, but USC can give you so much more than just an impressive diploma – it can give you a real education.

Throughout my time at USC, I have been able to supplement my studies with a number of activities that deepen my understanding of engineering.  Starting from my Freshman year, I was able to get involved in research.  Since then, I have been involved on 3 different research projects – one in Electrical Engineering related to MRI and disease detection, one in Mechanical Engineering to design micro-combustion structures, and one in Civil Engineering to create virtual realities and perform psychological studies.  My experience in research has drawn from the skills I was building in my classes, and forced me to apply those skills to real-world problems.  Getting involved in research is very common in Viterbi, and a great way that I, and many of my friends, have been able to supplement classes.  I have also been able to participate in a number of student organizations, including SC Racing (where we build cars) and the Society of Women Engineers.

For the past two summers, I have also secured internships at Walt Disney World in the engineering department.  Disney, and many other huge engineering companies, often recruits students from USC.  Just last week, the Viterbi Career Fair happened on campus, where students could network with some of the biggest names in the industry.  Los Angeles itself is a hub for engineering, and the Trojan Network and Trojan Family is very helpful in being able to secure these internships and jobs after graduation.

All of these things have just been a part of the holistic education USC provides.  I’ve learned a lot about being an engineer, but I find that I’ve also learned a lot about being myself.  USC is not just a top engineering school – it is a top film school, communication school, art school, business school – it excels in every discipline, and each academic program is just as strong as the next.  This is something so unique to USC – many of the schools I visited had amazing engineering programs, but struggled to find strengths in the arts and humanities.  Likewise, many of the schools I looked at had strong colleges for the arts and sciences, but weak opportunities for engineers.  USC is the only school where I felt that every single academic program was strong, and that students from every discipline were motivated, ambitious, and actively seeking opportunity.

In my time at USC, I have met so many incredible people that have helped me discover new passions and have inspired me to be the best version of myself.  Every student I have met here is so incredible, and everyone has something that they’re extremely passionate about.  I think that one of the best ways to learn is from people who are different from myself – that’s why I really didn’t want to go to a school that only offered engineering.  I wanted to be surrounded by a diverse population, so that I could learn new things from new people, and experience not only the best of engineering, but the best of every discipline.  This has been my experience exactly – I have been able to take film classes and art classes and humanities classes where I have been challenged to think differently than I do in my engineering classes.

USC is a place that has constantly challenged me in the best way possible.  Not only are my classes challenging, but the students here are constantly pushing me to do better, to be better.  Watching my friends get involved in different student organizations has motivated me to be just as involved; watching my friends excel in the classroom has motivated me to study just as hard; watching my friends seek internships has motivated me to prepare just as much for my future.  USC is a place where people are not pushed to be the best, but rather, they are inspired to be the best.

I could probably talk for days about why coming to USC was the best decision I ever made, but instead I’ll end my post with this: I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to study in a place where I am inspired by my education.  I am happy, I am confident, and I am focused on both my present and my future. I have grown so much since I started here at USC, and I firmly believe that my experiences here have shaped me into the person I am now.


Samantha Kaplan-2015

Samantha Kaplan-2015

Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2015, Learn more on her profile here!