I've said this in another thread, but I've been rejected from USC's Thematic Option Program, which was...depressing. Just a bit.
I absolutely love the concept of interdisciplinary learning and writing-intensive courses. I believe that T.O. is really one of the best general education possible, and although I was upset at the rejection, I knew that the competition was intense.
Or at least, I thought it was. However, I've researched through the CC's threads on USC's T.O. program, and it seems that my rejection seemed...strange? I was invited to apply, am a Presidential Scholar, and have an SAT of 1460 (CR + W). I believed that my essays were pretty strong, but apparently they aren't? Is it suddenly really competitive this year?
I've emailed the T.O. staff asking if there is a waitlist or anything like that, but I saw on the website that they are are still considering applications on a space available basis. Should I ask to reapply? Or even possibly appeal the decision?
TO is vastly overrated and I'm certain it will be terminated soon, especially given that the typical freshman nowadays has high test scores and gpas. TO was created decades ago to attract top students who were far and few at USC. It's time really has passed so don't fret about it. You will be able to fulfill your GE requirements with a group of very select freshmen and enroll in interdisciplinary classes. Congratulations!
SeattleTW, I think you misunderstood? I didn't apply to TO because of the desire to be with a whole bunch of smart people. I understand that just attending USC will do just that.
What I'm really interested in is the curriculum of the program itself. T.O. courses are reading and writing intensive; that is my dream education! Plus, with the extra small classes and one-on-one writing tutorial system, it sounds like an amazing deal.
On another note: I received a reply from the T.O. staff, who told me that they will consider appeals after May 1st and throughout the summer. It's a start!
thematic option historically was a program designed to cater to usc's best students. now that the average student has a profile similar to those within the program, the program is truly obsolete. I am certain the TO professors are trying to maintain its relevancy by offering things that traditional general education courses do not. I would not let the marketing, however, mislead you. you can find everything you're searching for in the non program courses. incidentally, I had friends in t o who left the program after choosing their majors. I believe the program should be dissolved because usc no longer needs it.
The T.O. program has a 14 to 1 student/prof ratio in the writing course and lower-than-average ratio (28 to 1) for the other T.O. courses.
You also get top professors teaching those courses.
There are distinct privileges to being in this program.
There is more work involved, and that may be one of the reasons why some students dropped the program.
Unfortunately, not everyone is invited into this program.
Do you "need" this program? That's a personal choice.
The program will continue to exist simply to attract those students who are comparing offers from the Ivy Leagues and other elite universities. They may give USC an extra nod knowing that they will be in this selective program with others who could have otherwise attended those select elite universities.
TO is a joke. I had top professors in all of my GE and major courses. The friends of mine who dropped out did so because they found it too insular and boring. It's time passed a long time ago, so, unless you think it's some exclusive club, which it is not, don't sweat it. PS, one of my roomies was in TO and he was not a good student or that bright. And I got into Stanford so I disagree it's some rarified program...
phuynh94, I encourage you to be persistent and continue to reapply to TO.
TO is amazing and was one of the top reasons I chose USC. My TO classes were excellent - among the best classes I had at USC - and I feel having my TO writing courses my first year improved the quality of my work for all of my classes throughout my four years. There are only 200 spots and many more than that apply, so it is clear TO is going strong and in no danger of being discontinued. In looking at Seattle's post history and profile, it appears he graduated from USC about 20 years ago and did not participate in TO, so it is understandable that he is not familiar with the benefits of TO to students currently entering, but his historical perspective is appreciated.
If you want TO, write an email to the program director and express your deep interest and ask if there is any way they can re-look at your application or if you can reapply. You might mention your interest in writing and any HS honors, awards that make you think you'd thrive in this reading/writing intensive program.
I am not trying to denigrate those who have gone through the thematic option program. But you are correct I am trying to put the program in historical perspective. 25 years ago, there was a very tiny group of the stellar incoming freshman. I think there were something like 25 trustee scholars when I was at USC. I don't know how many there are today, but I would venture to guess it is far more. At that time, USC needed a program to attract students who otherwise might go to other elite universities. We also had the Faculty in Residence program that was similar in a residential context. Today, the average incoming freshman has exam scores and gpas that exceed those of the average person who participated in that program 25 years ago. This is significant, because today everyone in the thematic option program is no different than every other student at USC in terms of academic backround. The problem is how to keep the program relevant in light of the changing profile of the typical USC freshman. The TO faculty and staff are desperately trying to do so in the face of fundamental change. I'm not surprised because that's the nature of entrenched academics. They need to justify their relevance. So don't believe TO is better than the more traditional GE curricula; it's not.
Seattle, as the total pool of great scholars attending USC goes up, so too does the average TO student. You are certainly right about the accomplishments of the students at USC today, and also about the quality level of the regular GE courses--which are taught by great professors and have small discussion sections as well. However, the students in TO are now Ivy caliber students (as in, they choose USC over those ivies) who want a very rigorous top LAC style curriculum. That's the most important point to TO, IMO. It offers that choice to those who want more rigor. It's not that TO classes are better, it's that they are taught in a different style, require much more deep reading, and many students think it's wonderful that USC offers such a program to those whom it fits best.
Of course, those who are less intense about the classes in their core curriculum (and this may include those who are avidly intense about their major, their ECs, their sports, or any other great passion), get a lot out of the GEs. Both programs work.
I have heard no rumors that USC is thinking of changing their honors program. Since they seem to sincerely be backing ($$) highly gifted students (NMF, Trustee, Presidential, et al), I expect they know that TO is a draw to these top academic kids. The fact that so many in the program stay in the program would argue that it is still relevant.