I grew up in a town with only two stoplights – no streetlamps, no sidewalks, no commercial businesses. In a small rural community tucked in the corner of Connecticut, I experienced a childhood unlike many others. Weekends were spent hiking or making the 40-minute trek to the nearest mall, often surrounded by the same five friends I’ve had since pre-school. For the mere 9,000 residents of my town, these experiences likely sound all too familiar. Though I appreciate that my first 18 years were characterized by the epitome of small-town charm, this patch of green in Connecticut was not where I wanted to be as I took my first steps into adulthood.
My College Criteria
The thought of leaving the safe confines of my hometown filled me with an indescribable excitement – an enthusiasm so strong I sought a new life that was completely different in every way. The college application and selection process were at first daunting as my scope for what was acceptable began a bit too wide. Browsing sites organized by location, program, size, and academic fit, I compiled a long list of universities that satisfied at least half of my laundry list of requests (click here for more information on how to build a college list). Having seen the range of options available to me, I narrowed down my choices by prioritizing my requirements:
1) It had a strong business school with a concentration in marketing
2) It offered rigorous academics and exciting internship opportunities
3) It was a large school with a diverse student body and a winning school spirit
4) It was nothing like I was used to
I Needed a Tie-Breaker
Ultimately applying to nine universities (much less than some of my peers, yet more than I realistically needed to), I was fortunate enough to be accepted into nearly all of them. As is the case with most application processes, two of my nine threatened to drive me to insanity as I weighed their pros and cons. A popular East Coast school and the University of Southern California (USC) were the final contenders. Most who knew me assumed I would have immediately submitted my enrollment forms to the former, as it was my first choice throughout the entire application process. However, I could not ignore the full-tuition merit scholarship that accompanied my acceptance to USC. Despite receiving a “free ride” from USC, I wanted to explore their programs in more depth before making my final decision.
I visited both school’s Accepted Students Day (my second visit to both universities) – and it was these experiences that nudged me in the direction my indecisive mind needed. If I could offer any advice to rising high school seniors it would be to visit these schools after your acceptance. Touring dorms, strolling through the streets, and meeting current students of a school with the knowledge that you can call this place home for the next four years offers an entirely different perspective than your initial tour of the university.
Choosing My New Home
The biggest determinant for me throughout this process was the conversations I had with the students and the program presentations I attended. At the East Coast school, I received the standard advice that I should choose a school I feel comfortable at – one that will support me in all of my academic and social pursuits. Their business school presentation lacked the specialized academics and experiences in marketing that I was looking to pursue. Surprisingly, this starkly contrasted with the conversations I had with students of USC. Every individual that I spoke to enthusiastically tried to convince me that the University of Southern California is the school for me. They shared personal experiences both in and outside the classroom that fueled my passion for marketing and advertising. These conversations and presentations imbued an excitement that helped me to see what my next four years could hold at this Los Angeles-based school.
USC or Bust: Why Second Chances Are So Important
Surprisingly, I had these same conversations not more than four months ago during my first visits; however, understanding that I had a place at these universities transformed my perception. Running through my mind was, “This could be my dorm. This could be my community. This could be my home.” Without the uncertainty of acceptance, these statements felt so much more important.
Ultimately, I could not ignore the passionate pleas of my (now) fellow Trojans. I’ve come to love flashing my “Fight On!” hand signal. And if given the chance to go back, I am confident I would make the same decision all over again.
Samantha Schwear, a rising senior at USC, is a guest blogger for AdmissionsCheckup.com. She lives in Redding, CT.