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3 years ago today, I was filled with excitement and stress. I’ve been checking different application portals daily, browsing reddit and college confidential to see when decisions were supposed to be released, and stressing over if I would get into top colleges. Being a native Californian, I naturally applied to many UC universities, some Cal State Universities, and a handful of private universities. I had my slam dunks that I knew I was going to get into based on my high school performance, but many of the top schools I was most excited about I had no clue if I would get in. Despite the worry and uncertainty of what would happen, I got into a handful of great universities that I now needed to choose from. Like most high school students in the pre-pandemic times, it was time to tour these different universities to see which one was the best fit for me.

Out of all the schools I got accepted into and were interested in, 4 of them were in southern California and one of them was on the east coast: 2 private and 3 public universities. At the baseline there were two major differences between the private and public universities. The public universities had significantly lower tuition than private universities, however, aid did help balance this a little better, and the private universities felt more personalized than the public universities. With this in mind, I went and toured the various schools I was interested in and started drawing a decision on where I would envision myself going for the next 4 years of my life.

As a lot of us like to compare apples to apples, I first started with deciding which public university I liked best and which private university I like best. When touring the different public universities, some of them felt very focused on academics and not as heavily focused on socialization and lacked what I envisioned my college experience would be. I did find one of them to be super fun and it made the top of my list of public universities. Now, looking at private institutions, I was between a traditional east coast university and USC. I always saw myself going further away from home for college and trying to experience new surroundings, but when comparing the two schools, I knew that USC was the one for me. The east coast school had fantastic facilities and a great engineering program, but what it lacked was everything else I wanted from college. I wanted a fun social life, football tailgates, a diverse student body, and most importantly, to be in a place that I can call home. USC ticked box after box. The marching band was playing the fight song through campus, students were everywhere just having a good time– whether it was hammocking or sitting in the Tutor Campus Center– and this felt right to me. Everything was upbeat and this was the place I saw myself spending the next four years of my life. It not only satisfied all my academic expectations but had this uplifting atmosphere that I felt so many colleges lacked.

Back to my original comparison, I now had to compare the apples to oranges. Do I go to a public university or private? This has got to be one of the most difficult decision because there are more factors than what school I prefer. After discussing with my parents and looking at the financial packages I would receive from both schools, I was able to decide based purely on what university I prefer. This had USC as a home run for me. Now, looking back to it, I can’t imagine myself going to any other university. USC has not let me down in any of the expectations I had going to school. Every football game is a blast hanging out with friends and cheering on our school. I was able to join academic clubs focused on engineering and working on real-world projects. I met so many students from all over the country and world with the most diverse interests. I have an amazing social life and continue to meet new people every year that I go to this school. As I mentioned earlier, the most important thing was finding a place I can call my home. USC hit the nail in the coffin on this. I love being around campus and in LA. I go to the beach at least 4 times a week to surf. Whenever I want to try a new restaurant, there are a plethora around me. My roommates and I made the apartment our home away from home. I feel comfortable here but am always excited to try new things. As you go through your college decision, keep in mind all the other aspects of the school. After going here, I see our alumni network in unparalleled, making career connections simplified, but so many schools have similar opportunities with their academic programs and career connections. What makes USC stand out is all the other aspects of college you are looking forward to. I was excited to meet new people, try new things, and have a fun time. This, USC most certainly has. That’s why I chose it. Your case may be different, but keep in mind the university you choose, you will be at for the next 4 years, so make sure it’s a place you see yourself having a good time and being happy!

Steven Louis