California Dreamin’ During the Deep-freeze of 2018! (Part 1: Oxy and USC)

Whenever the Northeast has harsh winter weather I tend to have a surge of student interest in colleges with year-round warm, sunny weather. Southern California has many terrific options. Last June I toured four schools in the Greater LA area with my HECA colleagues.

Our first stop was Occidental College. Oxy is a small liberal arts college with 2,100 undergrads located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of LA. Students here are encouraged to share ideas and celebrate differences. An interdisciplinary education is the Oxy focus, which begins with freshman seminars. Oxy offers 40 majors and minors. The most popular majors on campus are economics, psychology, biology, English, and international affairs. Our tour guide was a senior from Chicago majoring in theater and social justice and minoring in English and writing. Like most Oxy students  she was uber involved on campus.

Experiential learning is highly encouraged. Many students take advantage of the LA location and intern on Fridays in all areas of business, including the film industry. Nearly 70-percent of all students study abroad, and many choose to study away in one of the two Oxy domestic programs. One program is the Political Science department’s Campaign Semester. Students can join a political campaign and receive credit. Meanwhile, students have the opportunity to enroll in UN Program sponsored by the Diplomacy Department. This program is limited to 16 students per semester.

The overall vibe on campus is liberal and politically active. (Fun fact: President Obama attended Oxy for two years.) Many students are artsy and celebrate individuality. The arts are encouraged and celebrated on campus. Students from all majors can join the orchestra, choirs, a cappella, dance, and theater groups. Each spring 200-300 students participate in a dance production, which is the largest club on campus. Student athletes participate in division III athletics. Approximately 25-percent of all students join sororities and fraternities.

All students are required to live on campus for two years but most students live on campus all four years. There are three theme houses on campus. Currently there is an all female house. There is gender inclusive housing and bathrooms and safe spaces for transgender students. All students can have cars on campus and parking is free. However, students told us that there is no need for a car with the public bus stop just blocks from campus and the citywide bike sharing system. The local shopping district is just a 10-minute walk from campus.

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Next stop was University of Southern California. USC is huge and GORGEOUS! Over 18,000 undergraduates study at this private, highly selective university located in downtown LA. It’s the oldest research university in California.

Students must apply directly to one of the 16 schools of interest and may not apply undecided. Admissions is highly selective with an average overall admit rate of 16-percent. The student body is diverse, with 15-percent of all students international. When applying to the individual school/program, read the program specific requirements carefully. Students are encouraged to apply to more than one program for optimal chance of admittance.

Across the board academics are tops. However, I would like to highlight a few programs. The new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance is extremely selective, only admitting 16 students each year. Competitive students are pre-screened then invited to campus for an audition and interview. The Thornton School of Music has outstanding programs and attracts some of the most talented faculty in their fields. The Sol Price School of Public Policy is top-notch as well. The most popular majors within Price are Real Estate Development, Public Policy, and Urban Studies and Planning.

Perhaps one of the most selective and well-known schools at USC is The School of Cinematic Arts. It is consistently ranked the number one film school in the country. Acceptance into the school is 7.5-percent and the film and television division is only 4-percent. There are seven divisions within the school and the areas of study are both broad and deep. Most professors have “day jobs” in television and film studios. All of the equipment is industry standard, and there are nine sound studios as well. Impressive!

USC’s campus is located in the city, but the campus is insular with grassy quads. It is gated and closed to the public from 9:00PM to 6AM. All freshman residence halls have resident faculty. Housing is guaranteed for two year. The Village, the premier residential/retail complex, houses new dorms, the honors college, apartments, Trader Joe’s, Target and numerous dining options.

Not surprising, there’s a true California feel here. Students are eclectic and have a laid back appearance. I saw lots of skaters and bikers on campus. There’s no shortage of spirit, energy and school pride at USC. The on-campus athletic stadium is packed on game day. The alumni network is mighty and “Trojan Family” ties run deep.

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California Dreamin’
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