Best Housing for Engineering Students

There are a lot of options for you as an incoming student to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.  Should you live in Birnkrant?  What about Pardee?  Did you hear that Fluor Tower was the best – or was it Parkside International?  Do you have to be a Arts & Humanities major to live in the Parkside Arts & Humanities building?  Wait… and what about these “special interest floors?”

This can get confusing, and I bet you are wondering what you should and should not be worried about.  Hit the jump to learn all the USC Housing secrets, and even see a video about the different options you have as an admitted student.

Housing For Engineering Students

First – there is no Engineering Dorm.  The university does not house by major – and this is a good thing!  You will get to know all of your engineering peers in classes, student orgs, and more… no need to live together as well.  USC is such a diverse place, it would be a shame to only know one type of student.  I hope your roommate is a different major than you – a very different major.  I can only imagine the conversations and ideas that may come out of an engineering student rooming with a cinema, arts, international relations, or even philosophy student.  The exchange of ideas can be easier and greater if you are in an environment that promotes such academic, cultural and social coalescence.

You will not have a housing option that is closer-to or farther-away from your classes.  Check out a map of campus.  You’ll notice there are three areas (Parkside, Fluor/Webb Area, McCarthy Quad Area) where you have options to live as an incoming freshman.  Those three points form a triangle in the campus…. in the middle of that triangle are your classes.  Plus, your classes are not in one building, they are spread across the campus.  Plus, this is a small campus – you will never be farther than a ten minute walk away from any of your classes as a freshman.  Additionally, each of these three areas have dedicated dining facilities associated with each.  You are not far from food either!


First – check out  you can see virtual tours, floor maps and more about each of the facilities – and this is in addition to the “Living At USC” brochure that was sent to you as part of your admission packet.

Ready for the secret?  Here it is:  All of the housing options are practically the same.  Yup, its true.  Now, there are big differences in styles – you should be deciding whether you want to live in an apartment, typical “dorm-style,” or a suite.  Those are big differences.  Beyond that…. here’s what you are looking at:  You are sharing a bedroom.  In that room there are two beds, two desks, two dresser-drawers, and a closet.  While some buildings may be older than others, all of the buildings are kept up to date and refurbished frequently – in fact most of the furniture in each building is exactly the same.

But, what’s the best?!

Rumors abound: one building is better for this, one building is better for that… but think about it for a second.  Practically everyone only lives there for their freshman year – you have no idea who will be in one building vs. another during your freshman year.  The personalities of the people each year will determine the personality of each building.

One thing is certain – you will meet some of your best friends in your residence hall next year.  You may not like everyone, but that’s just how it goes.  When I ask our students what the “best dorm” is, I often get ten different answers… and it almost always lines up with whatever building they lived in for their freshman year.

To help you a bit more the Viterbi Student Ambassadors made this video last year to show you a little more about all of your housing options:

Special Interest Floors

Your best barometer for the special interest floors is your “gut.”  Does it sound cool?  Its not about your academic interests, necessarily.  Do you share a passion for that idea, and want to live in a community where that theme will be part of your programming and activities.  If not, don’t worry about it!  All of our housing options have Resident Advisors who work tirelessly to make sure your experiences in the housing communities are robust.  You will have a number of things going on in your residence hall – so much so, you probably won’t even have the time to participate in everything!

Reserving your Spot

Read your “Living at USC’ brochure for all the details you need to make the decision, not to mention the resources we mentioned at  You do not need to commit to USC in order to get your housing preference submitted – you can send it in now for the nominal processing fee.  Either way, as long as you get your housing forms turned in by May, you will be guaranteed housing at USC for your freshman year.

If you still need more ideas, and want to see more – you should visit campus.  Check out our previous post on campus visit programs to learn more about your options in the coming weeks.

Paul Ledesma

About Paul Ledesma

Paul is currently the Director of Undergraduate Admission at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering. Although he is not an engineer, he loves working with engineering students and secretly wants to be one (they do so much cool stuff!). He watches way too many movies, is a self-admitted gadget-freak, comic book aficionado, and avid fan of all things Apple. Paul studied Psychology at the University of Southern California and "fell into" the college admission field after graduation in 2000.

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