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April is such a fun time of year because students everywhere are getting their decision letters back from the colleges they applied to. As exciting as this can be, the pressure can be overwhelming for many students who now have a month to make a decision that can completely shift the direction of their lives. Two years ago, when I was making this choice I was also very nervous about choosing USC and I could not have made a better decision. Here’s is a list of the reasons why I chose USC and why I am still choosing USC:


  1. USC allowed me to have an extremely flexible and broad academic experience: Here I am able to be an astronautical engineering major while also minoring in photography. I get to craft my schedule of classes in a way that allows me to take classes that are of interest to me, so I can express myself and grow my worldview while simultaneously being immersed in high level engineering courses. USC has so many cool classes that any student can take whether the student is majoring in that course or not. Students love to take fitness classes like sailing, surfing, tennis and so many more to get moving and learn how to play new sports. Cinema classes where students watch movies or TV shows then discuss them in class are very popular. Dance and music classes are super fun too. So no matter what you declaring as your major, you can venture beyond just those required classes with ease. I have loved getting to take my photography classes as well as a sports biology class, a Los Angeles history class, and a drawing class over the past two years. Next year, I am looking forward to taking a Pilates class and a ballet class (because why not!)
  2. The sports: As a person who has played just about every sport throughout my life, I love consuming sports in any way shape or form, so being able to go to a school with some of the best athletes in history is so much fun. Games days are so energized and give me something to look forward to each week. It blows my mind that each day I am walking to campus there is a high chance I’ll walk past an Olymipian or a Heisman winner. Not only do I walk past these people each day, I have made friends with some of them and love getting to watch our Trojans dominate on the field, track, in the pool, on the court, etc. I also have access to many of the athletic facilities here on campus, so I am able to go to the gym, swim in the pool, and run on the track everyday if I’d like.
  3. The collaborative nature of the work environment: In my classes, on design teams, and in research, I get to work with other students (of all levels), professors, and more to accomplish a common goal. In class, students work together on homework, study together, and carry out group projects with each other. This makes the learning environment very collaborative as opposed to competitive. Vitebri also has a plethora of design teams that students can join where they work on a project together and gain engineering experience. These teams include, AeroDesign Team, ASCE steel bridge, USC autonomous underwater vehicle team, USC racing, USC Rocket Propulsion lab, and many more. The team I’m on, Rocket Propulsion Lab, designs, builds, tests, and flies solid propellant rockets and is undeniably the best undergraduate and amateur rocketry team (I may have a bit of bias). Here I have also been able to do research with USC’s Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) from day one. Through the CURVE (Center for Undergraduate Research in Viterbi Engineering) Fellowship I was able to get matched with a lab my freshman year where I got to work on developing a mechanism that would allow small satellites to dock to each other in order to share power and data.  This project will fly on the International Space Station later this year or early next year. The project I am working on currently is to design and develop a small satellite (cubesat) that will measure the magnetic field of the Earth while also testing 2D imaging and 3D imaging (basically holograms) in space. By being able to work in teams for all of these involvements I am able to work toward accomplishing some pretty cool things and grow as an engineer. USC has such an uplifting environment of students are constantly helping each other to achieve greatness.
  4. The insane surplus of resources: People always talk about the Trojan Family and I did not realize how prevalent it is until I got here. There are unlimited opportunities for career development and expansion just through the alumni network. Trojans are always looking out for other Trojans so many students are able to get connected with companies and other organizations through alumni. Alums also play a big role in the success of groups on campus. For example, in RPL alumni donate a lot of materials that we use to build our rockets and other equipment. In addition to the Trojan family, USC, especially in Viterbi, is willing to support any student interests so if you would like to start a club of some sort or create your own research project, all the resources are available. There are also so many resources to help students excel in the classroom like free tutoring, office hours, teacher assistant office hours, supplemental instruction sessions, and much more. At USC I never feel like I can’t succeed, I just have to seek the help I need.
  5. SO MANY MORE: The longer I’ve been at USC the more things I’ve gotten to love about it. There’s too many to add but here are some I didn’t talk about previously. I love living in LA. There are so many things to do here and so many aerospace related companies in the LA area to connect with. The weather is typically pretty nice and living in So Cal means I can go to the beach, the mountains, or the desert all within an hour drive or so. I’m close to home (Bakersfield, CA) but not too close. Ultimately, the people here have become my family and I love each and every person I have been able to interact with here at USC.

Fight on!

Kaleigh Ray

MAJOR: Astronautical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2025 HOMETOWN: Bakersfield, California PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @k.rayray03 Short Bio - I have been involved in research at the Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) as well as a member of USC’s Rocket Propulsion Lab. At SERC, I worked on developing a docking system for cubesats with project CLING and am currently work on project MAVERIC, designing the power system of a 3U cubesat. In RPL, I am on the composites team and design team. Outside of Viterbi, I have interned at Astrolab where I was a Structures and Mechanisms Engineering intern and helped with lunar mission development and payload prototyping. I also like doing intramurals and photography on my free time!