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This was posted elsewhere, and it was suggested it be added here, so:
We visited USC last week, and our D loved it as much as she expected to; unfortunately H and I loved it too. It's too far away from us for us to be comfortable, but I have to admit that for the right student, it's definitely the right school.
First, the location: we expected the campus to have a more urban feel, but it didn't. It's a completely contained, fenced in campus with no public streets. Absolutely beautiful campus, well landscaped. I liked their use of different looks; i.e., not the same trees or flowers, but rather an abundance of different plants so that each area had an integrated architectural look, but each area had its own color scheme and "look". It was like Boston College, in that the architecture all fit together in an integrated appearance overall, only with a southern californian style.
We simply did not realize a city was close, much less that it surrounded us. Then you get to the fence, and the city reappears.
We attended the admitted students' day, and overheard this from another family sitting nearby, after the day had ended: "We just did the admitted students' thing at UCLA. At UCLA they kept telling us that you're not a number at UCLA, but they treated us like we were. Not once did USC mention that, and we felt it was personal all the way - they don't talk about personal attention, they just give it."
I can't speak to UCLA at all, but we agreed that USC definitely has a personal feel. During the tour of the specific school, the person who walked us through had obviously reviewed the applications of each of the students on the tour (we had to reserve in advance), as once she was introduced, she called the students by name and seemed to know about them. Impressive homework. (And another example of USC's personal touch.)
Students on campus and administrators were all very friendly and helpful. The clerk in the bookstore went out of his way to help us hide the USC stuff we bought, with D standing nearby. Everyone seemed very personal. Probably our biggest and nicest surprise.
We had lunch in the big room, when the band suddenly came in playing the USC fight song - Now, that was fantastic. Wow, what an experience. For someone who had never experienced the Trojan thing, even I was blown away. The band was not just playing music - they were performing it. Their enthusiasm and energy was catching.
I do not understand why they have a statue to a dog eating a tire. Next visit, I vow to find that out. . . . [Note: since I wrote this, I have found out about the dog statue]
This was really important: USC appears (to someone who has seen many, many colleges now) to steer away from emphasizing any one school within the university. For example, NYU, where CAS and Steinhardt are clearly not at the level of Tisch and Stern, spends a lot of time simply referring to Stern and Tisch. At UMichigan (Ann Arbor), the campus is completed divided (Fine Arts, Music & Engineering are a significant commute away from central campus).
On the other hand, USC has different schools. But they don't speak predominantly about "CNTV" or "Marshall". They talk more about "USC". We liked that.
We found out that the only place you can buy a more expensive sweatshirt than in the USC bookstore, is if you bought the sweatshirt at Tiffany's, and it came with a diamond necklace.
USC admissions statistics seem to be high, and climbing (although it seems to me this is true of most top 2 tiers these days). They just got a $23 million gift for the School of Fine Arts. CNTV (Cinema and TV) is either #1 or at worst, #2 in the world. Viterbi engineering is extremely well regarded (in top 10 in the country). Marshall, the business school, is very strong. The "College", as they call their school of arts and letters, is strong.
One very important feature is that USC encourages students to major/minor across schools. Definitely not like Penn with Wharton, or NYU with Stern and Tisch, for example, where non-Tisch people are not encouraged to minor in Tisch. USC even has special scholarships for students who excel in two or more normally unrelated fields. This was really important to our D, who had trouble deciding between two majors that were located in 2 different schools.
So D loved the school. We mailed the enrollment deposit (gulp) today.