One of the choices open to you as an incoming freshman to USC will be what you do with your general education requirements. One of those choices will be to participate in Thematic Option.
Now let me give you a run down of the program in case you haven’t heard of it before. Thematic Option is USC’s honors alternative to general education. You have to apply to get in and the courses will satisfy your general education requirements. There are two major differences between the general education courses and the Thematic Option courses.
First, general education courses tend to focus more on specific issues, for example, Race and Class in Los Angeles or Russian Literature while Thematic Option courses are more broad, for example, “Authority, Love and Rebellion” or “Knowing, Marking, and Catching Monsters”. Thematic Option courses pick unifying themes for the course and explore those themes through a range of literature. The focus is on literature and the discussion of literature, while the general education courses act more as a lecture on a specific subject. My way of describing it is that Thematic Option courses are what you would think of as English classes in high school while general education courses are what you would call social studies or history classes in high school.
The second big difference is that the Thematic Option classes are small. The three of I’ve taken have had 25, 15, and 13 people respectively. They are a place for the people who love to speak their mind and can’t imagine sitting through a lecture about literature and not getting into a debate about it. You write a lot and you read a lot but it’s a great time and the classes are fantastic.
There are some other great things about Thematic Option as well, for example the Thematic Option conference, where I was able to present my research paper to a group of peers and professors for critique. The conference was a great opportunity to get up in front of a group and read my work. I was working on an original research paper and the feedback I got from the conference was invaluable in shaping my final argument.
I have had an amazing experience in Thematic Option but maybe it’s not for you. If it’s not, that’s the great thing about having a choice. No one will make you apply, because at USC, you can do things your way. But if you like the idea of reading more, writing more and talking more, go ahead and apply! We could always use more engineers.