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This is part 2 of a fairly long intro to the college admission process for USC Viterbi and how to get started for rising high school seniors in the Class of 2020.  If you haven’t already, check out PART 1 before picking up the *exciting* adventure below.

This is supposed to be the fun part: Shopping Schools

As I mentioned in my earlier post, stress is a common feeling in most high school seniors’ homes.  I understand it.  I had the same levels of pressure in my senior year.  From my perspective, the Shopping Schools part of this process is all about DREAMS.

  1. What are you dreaming about for your college experience?
  2. What do you dream of doing in college (including, but on top of your academic endeavors)?
  3. Who do dream to be after college?
  4. What upgrades to your current life do you dream about in college?

Answers to those questions involve all aspects of your college experience: Academics (aka, your major/minor, your involvements, the environment (weather, demograhics, geography, etc), the fun college experiences you may value (college athletics, greek life, etc.)  These can be jotted down in a notebook, placed on a bulletin board, or go all the way and make a vision board: My College Experience.

With those dreams in hand it’s time to shop.  Visit schools when you can.  When you are unable, absorb the schools’ websites and social media feeds as much as possible.  You will find (rather quickly) whether a school continues to interest you based on how well it aligns with your dreams above.  The moment you get turned off by a school (or lose interest) focus on the ones that are keeping you interested.  Believe it or not, this internal set of feelings is better than any college ranking you may find online or in print.


How do you best demonstrate interest for college admission?

I specifically wrote that heading to generate search traffic for this blog post.  While some schools may practice something called “demonstrated interest” in their admission process, USC does not.  A while back, this USC Admission blog post by Jessica Frey explained the scenario better than I ever could:


Every late August/early September, there are 5 or so emails in my inbox every morning with the subject “Introduction to USC.” These emails usually have the same general format. “Hello Jessica- just wanted to let you know that I go to ABC High School, I play baseball and I can’t wait to apply to USC. I’ve always wanted to be a student in the Marshall School of Business.” Ok great, but what am I supposed to say? Good luck with your baseball season? Every winter, I get similar emails with the subject “Update.” Students tell me how their first semester went, they got the lead role in the spring musical, and that USC is still their first choice. Awesome, but chances are I already saw your senior year grades (or will soon).


Whatever you do, please don’t send us emails like the examples above. Please.

That said, always reach out when you have questions or would like to learn more about our programs.  I and the rest of our staff are always happy to speak with you and your parents to help you better understand our programs and this process.  That is our job and why we are here in our relative positions.

While we will be sending you information and inviting you to programs, you don’t “get points” for attending.  We hold events and take your calls because we want you to have every opportunity to learn more about our campus, our students and faculty, our programs, and life at USC so you can determine whether you want to submit an application, or not.

We want to help you find out if USC is right for you.  If you want to learn more, we can’t wait to speak with you soon.


Wow, this is getting even longer than I had anticipated.  Let’s stop here and check back next week for the third and final part.


Paul Ledesma

As Executive Director, Paul oversees Undergraduate Admission for all programs at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He was born and raised in southern California and is a lifetime Dodgers fan. He enjoys traveling (Italy may be a second home), discovering new restaurants in LA (tacos anyone?), and while he may not qualify as a bonafide movie-buff, he loves movies (especially comic book movies). He studied Psychology for his bachelor's degree, minored in Public Management, and was active in leadership for community service groups Troy Camp and Dance Marathon while attending USC. When he's not working he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and rescued pup and kitty in Redondo Beach, CA. (well, maybe not the cat so much) Preferred Pronouns: he/him/his