Congratulations, you’re officially a USC Trojan! As a junior, I look back on my freshman year with fond memories, but there are definitely some things I wish I did differently too. Here are ten tips for all USC Freshmen, regardless of your major or background:
1. Sign up for (and read) emails from USC Offices.
You may receive a lot of Monday morning emails from various offices that are tempting to send to the trash. However, I have discovered many scholarship and internship opportunities by reading emails from places like the Career Center and Dornsife Career Pathways. Sign up for all newsletters possible-- you can always unsubscribe later if needed.
2. Start planning your next semester schedule ahead of time on WebReg.
You may have a late registration time as a freshman, but the schedule of classes is released months early. This gives you plenty of time to plan ahead and create your ideal schedule (with a few back up classes) to improve your chances of getting the classes you want once your registration time comes.
3. Go to office hours and tutoring if you are struggling in a class.
You are not a burden to professors when going to office hours---they are thrilled to interact with students who care. Hardly anyone goes, so you will probably get one-on-one time, which is the most helpful if you’re struggling in a class. If their office hour times don’t work for you, reach out and ask to make an appointment. Also, for some of the more notoriously difficult classes, USC offers free individual and group supplemental instruction (SI) tutoring sessions.
4. Use your RA.
Resident Assistants (RA’s) are mainly known for being spoilers of fun, but their role goes way beyond enforcing policies. If there is anything that you need-- emotional, social, or academic-- your RA will either know how to help or will know who to refer you to to get the help you need.
5. Check the USC dining hall menu ahead of time.
Eating at the dining halls every day isn’t all that bad if you do it right. USC posts their menu online, giving you the opportunity to check what’s being served ahead of time. This is a great way to avoid leaving a dining hall dissatisfied when another dining hall was serving your favorite dish.
6. Be a notetaker through DSP.
Go to DSP’s website and sign up to be a notetaker for your classes as soon as you get your schedule. Not only is this a great way to motivate yourself to take good notes and help out a fellow student, but you also get a stipend at the end for every class you’re assigned to.
7. Go to the USC Involvement Fair and join clubs.
Check out which clubs are going to which involvement fair ahead of time to be sure you make it to the booths you’re interested in. Always sign up for their newsletter. Follow them on social media to stay connected and hear about application deadlines and events. For some recommendations, check out my article on the best clubs to join at USC.
8. Understand the difference between high school and USC GPA.
If you’re trying to bring up a 3.5 GPA, a B+ (counted as a 3.3) won’t cut it. I know this seems completely unfair, but it also means no one expects you to get a 4.0 like they may have in high school. Try hard and learn the material, but remember that GPA is not everything. Getting involved on campus, working an internship, and spending time with friends is equally important to having a good GPA.
9. Take an active role in your education.
In college, there aren’t counselors holding your hand or teachers giving you extra credit if you need it. There are people here to help you, but you have to seek them out, prepare questions ahead of time, and schedule a meeting with them. Whether it’s by listening to college podcasts or by attending info sessions, be proactive and take charge of your own education and career path.
10. When it comes time to find off campus housing, do your research and know all the options. If you’re not sure what’s best for you, check out this article on the pros and cons of dorms vs off campus housing at USC.
Tripalink is an amazing housing option with fully-furnished apartments ready for move in. You can get your own private bedroom and bathroom for a reasonable price which is rare in the USC area.
Most of all, congrats on your admission to USC! Your hard work paid off and your college journey has begun. By following these ten tips, your freshman year will be a fantastic experience.
Once you’re settled in, there are so many cool study spots you can go to near campus and you can explore all the fun activities the South LA neighborhood has to offer. Fight on!