A valuable trip to USC by Nguyen Yen Khe Grade 12

Nearing the ninety-minute mark in my drive to campus, a drive which should have only been twenty minutes had it not been for the infamous LA traffic, I wondered if all of this, the late nights writing application essays and the sixteen-hour plane ride, would be worth it. I had been selected to compete for USC’s presidential scholarship, worth half-tuition, and was required to fly to campus to interview. Half an hour later, I would find out that it was.

Driving through the tall black gates, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. The wide pavements and perfectly shaped shrubbery seemed to come straight out of a brochure. The atmosphere of the school itself was perfectly encompassed by the many students wearing business suits and simultaneously riding long boards. After being served pastries and coffee for breakfast, I was led into a large theater with the rest of the scholarship finalists, where we were personally welcomed by the Trojan marching band and the admissions counselors who chose us. Afterwards, professors from our prospective majors and the deans of our specific schools, who spoke to us as if we were old friends instead of gangly high school kids, shook our hands and took the time to personally answer the many questions we had. Although extremely professional and articulate, each had the laidback attitude stereotypically attributed to residents of LA. It was this that caused the interview, the one that we had all been stressing over for weeks, seem like a casual conversation in a coffee shop rather than in a private meeting room.

Though the campus was beautiful and the cupcake ATM was a pleasant surprise, it was my peers—a boy who had successfully launched his own tech startup, another who had written already written a memoir before his 18th birthday, several prospective computer science majors who had built their own websites from scratch, and many more—who had made the experience unforgettable.