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It’s that time of the year again: college decisions. Two years on from it myself, I still remember that nervous feeling in my stomach as I opened up each application portal and the weight that hung around me for those couple weeks when I was trying to decide on a final school to spend my next four years. It’s a lot of pressure to feel, especially with everything else going on in your life at that time, and can be somewhat overwhelming to think further ahead than the physics test you have the next day or that final project due the next week. 

If it can help anyone at all, here are the main reasons I had established for ultimately coming to USC and Viterbi.

The People

When I visited campus and got to interact with USC students, especially in Viterbi, I came away with one thought: I either want to their friend or be just like them. I was able to feel a sense of authenticity within everyone I met and the stories they shared. It didn’t feel like a squeaky-clean, put-on-for-show vibe at all; it felt genuine and like a place where all these individuals could truly express themselves. Viterbi especially stuck out to me in this sense because I was looking for a solid engineering program with a non-competitive atmosphere and well-rounded environment overall. That’s the essence of Viterbi to me: a group of incredibly interdisciplinary and multi-faceted students who have a passion for STEM but are excited to explore their niche interests and hidden talents, all while supporting one another in each of their pursuits. There’s a strong desire to succeed together and have fun while in a rather rigorous course of study. And that’s another thing: Viterbi engineers have a life. No engineering stereotypes are allowed here and you don’t have to be boxed into this singular idea of what an engineering student is. If you want to branch out and be more than “just an engineer”, you’re not only allowed to but encouraged to. 

The Spirit

You hear the idea of the Trojan Family and the Trojan Spirit all the time, but it’s sometimes hard to decipher what that really means. For me, there was a palpable energy on campus and among the students here that was impressive and inspiring to me. It was an energy that manifested itself is so many different ways:

  • Motivation to benefit the community around them
  • Dedication to seeing a vision come to life, whether that was a documentary film, biology research, business propositions, engineering service projects 
  • Fervor for USC sports and activities, wearing the cardinal and gold with pride
  • Enthusiasm for one another and a genuine desire to support fellow students and take part in their college journey as well 
  • A determination (or expectation almost) of impacting the world

The Resources

USC is a top-ranked school with lots of backing and incredible resources behind it and Viterbi specifically only adds to this. I won’t blabber on about everything because that could be it’s own blog post, but I’ll just mention those important to me.

  • Research opportunities: there are a wealth of ways to get involved with professor research and get experience as early as freshman year
  • Academics: the wide expanse of classes that are available to me and easily accessible for me to take is just crazy. I don’t know when else in my life I’d be able to take a class in animation from one of the top film schools in the country!
  • Professional and career development: navigating internships and engineering jobs is kind of overwhelming, but Viterbi’s career resources simplify the process and provide guidance all along the way so you aren’t just “thrown to the sharks” and having to figure it all out on your own
  • Mental health resources: mental health and self care are incredibly important to me and it is nice to have my school behind me with this thinking. There’s always room to improve in this, but I have felt supported by my professors and friends throughout the trials of the past two years and I appreciate that greatly

My final thought on all this is to trust yourself. As cheesy as this sounds, you know yourself the best and are the only person who can make this decision. Weigh the pros and cons, the perks and drawbacks of each university, but also pay attention to the gut feeling you have inside you about each one. For me, when I walked around campus and was coming to the final days of deciding, I didn’t have some great epiphany or meaningful dream that told me “This is the one.” It was more of a resounding feeling I had about my choice of USC and the environment I would become a part of: comfort. There were still so many unknowns lying ahead, but I felt a sense of contentment about where I was heading and the people I would be around. 

I hope you find that too wherever you end up choosing! College is a time for you and your personal development so try to drown out your outside pressures and decide on where you would be not only happy but proud to call home for the next four years.

Timothy Harrington